Richmond (VA) Dispatch, "The Late Tragedy," October 16, 1855

    Source citation
    "The Late Tragedy," Richmond (VA) Dispatch, October 16, 1855, p. 2: 1.
    Newspaper: Publication
    Richmond Daily Dispatch
    Newspaper: Headline
    The Late Tragedy
    Newspaper: Page(s)
    Newspaper: Column
    Date Certainty
    Zak Rosenberg, Dickinson College
    Transcription date
    The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and other typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.

    The Late Tragedy.

    The late tragedy in this city, a full account of which given in yesterday's "Dispatch," is an impressive, practical illustration at our own doors of abolition love for the negroes. The freedom it offers is the freedom of the grave; either by the slow process of starvation, or the more rapid agencies of strychine and the bowie-knife.

    The murderer, Francis Auburn, (as he calls himself,) was, we have no doubt, as he represented to the negreos whom he had entice from their master, an agent of an abolition society at the North.-It is clear that men who engage in such an employment, who come to Virginia for the purpose of aiding in the abduction of slaves, must be men willing to hazard their own lives, and, therefore, equally reckless the lives of others. It is also obvious that no man would undertake all enterprise so perilous except with the prospect of a reward corresponding to the dangers of the vocation. But the abolition societies are not in a financial condition to pay large sums to their agents, and hence, we may expect those agents, whilst contracting with their employers for a reward nominally small, to avail themselves of every opportunity to obtain a sum that will compensate them for the extraordinary risks and labors. Thus, if a negro come in their hands, having an amount of money sufficient to tempt their cupidity, they would rob him, on the underground railroad, without hesitation' and, having robbed him, they would kill him, lest he should expose their crime to their abolition employers, and thus procure their discharge from service. It is only such bad, bold men as Auburn that would or could engage in such an enterprise. He was the agent of an abolition society, but looked after his own interests first, and had hardly commenced his vocation, before, to obtain some money, he murdered one of the negroes he had enticed from his master, and evinced a disposition so inhuman and reckless of life, that the other negro feld, fearing for himself a similar fate.

    It must be acknowledged that this abolition agent commenced his operations on a very considerable scale. Think as stranger coming to the capital city of Virginia, and in one of the most populous parts of its principal thoroughfares, leasing a three story house as a depot for an underground railroad, and a butcher shop for negroes with money! How long he might have pursued without suspicion his nefarious traffic; how many occupants the cellar of that house might in time have had; what new branches of business he might have added to the kidnapping and murdering of servants, it is impossible to conjecture. It is a question of much more practical moment whether the "underground railroad" has not other agents of the same sort in this city, who have run off and are still running off negroes to the North or to the grave, as their interests dictate.

    Were this man Auburn added to the hideous potraits pictured by De Quinecy, in "Murder, as one of the fine arts," he would make the most infernal figure in the whole collection. All the circumstance connected with the slaughter of the poor negro and with his own suicide, showed him a most depraved and hardened villian. He adminsters poison to the wretched creature with the jocular remark that it will soon do him good; mangles and cuts him open after death, in the most shocking manner, informing the negro surviving that he wishes to examine the effects of strychnine upon the human system; snaps a pistol at one of the arresting party, thus attempting another murder; blows strychnine upon the faces of some of the watchmen, and recommends them to drink a little water to save themselves from harm; swallows the deadly poison himself, and in reply to a question from the physicians as to the contents of the phial, ironically remarks: "Perhaps it is morphine, with a little flour in to make it taste bitter;" and dies, and goes to his own place. Such is a brief summmary of one chapter in the history of Francis Auburn, the late representative and agent of abolitionism in the capital of Virginia.

    How to Cite This Page: "Richmond (VA) Dispatch, "The Late Tragedy," October 16, 1855," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,