The Netherland Negro Again

    Source citation
    “The Netherland Negro Again,” New York Times, 10 October 1857, p. 2.
    Newspaper: Publication
    New York Times
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    The Netherland Negro Again
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    Cara Holtry
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    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.


    Rev. Mr. Sawyer’s Reply to the Letter of Col. Netherland.

    To the Editor of the New-York Times:
    Mr. Editor: The statement of Col. NETHERLAND in the Presbyterian Witness, bearing date Sept. 15, which was transferred to your paper, has just attracted my attention, and it seems proper, under the circumstances, that, in noticing it, I should claim some space in your columns. I regret exceedingly that my circular to the public – an abstract of which you gave your readers a month since – was to so great an extent destroyed. I stood responsible for that statement, and am willing to meet that responsibility at any time, under any circumstances, and before any tribunal. I believed it a truthful document, drawn up in a Christian spirit, using language respecting certain rumored offences in sorrow rather than in anger. Two unimpeached and unimpeachable witnesses, for many years ruling elders in the Church, concurred in its general correctness, and did not hesitate a moment in giving it their indorsement. Nothing that Mr. NETHERLAND could say would invalidate their testimony. He may writhe under the pressure of public sentiment, and, in his pride try to feel that he has “done no wrong,” and skillfully endeavor to raise collateral issues, but he cannot change the facts, and so long as he stands up to their defence, the verdict of the civilized world will be pronounced against him.
    Furious threats were made by the Netherland party after my “Circular” was published, such as commitment to the Penitentiary under the Tennessee statutes of 1835, and personal violence; but “none of these things moved me,” as I had determined neither to run away nor to be driven away from the line of duty. The negro-trader, Mr. BLEVINS, assaulted me in a store at Rogersville with a heavy yardstick, but Elder Johnston interposed, and, as some one observed, “could have easily done it if he had continued the assault.” Disappointed in the result of this attempt at intimidation, Mr. NETHERLAND’S nephew undertook a cowhiding. Remonstrances were in vain. He struck at me twice with the cowhide, and then in self-defence I chocked him some time against the counter, which moderated his zeal so that he abandoned the idea. Mr. NETHERLAND’S brother-in-law went so far, it was said, as to remark that he “could stand by and see me garroted on the streets of Rogersville,” and all because I had called the attention of the Church to the offences in which Col. N. was implicated, but which, to my utter astonishment, they as a family were disposed to justify. The family, in connection with the negro-traders and a few others, in all about one-tenth of the members of the church, determined that I should not preach my farewell sermon in our church, and they arbitrarily locked the church door against the Sunday School, and a part of the Elders, and a majority of the church members and congregation who disapproved of such proceedings.
    And yet Mr. NETHERLAND would have the public believe that he has throughout these rumored cruelties and church disturbances acted the part of the moderate, a reasonable and a Christian man. Throughout his statement the reader, if he can wade through its miserable grammar and wretched composition, will perceive that he has kind and gracious words and gentlemanly address for the negro-trader, but the absence of all these when speaking of a minister of the Gospel. I must allude, however, more definitely to what he has written.
    If anything was needed to corroborate the essential truthfulness of my Circular, it has been supplied by this statement Col. NETHERLAND. The cruel whipping of ANTHONY, as stated, he could not deny. That ABE received THREE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-ODD blows under the circumstances mentioned, he had not the hardihood to call in question. His whole communication, therefore, may be regarded, and will be regarded, as a confession of judgment against himself, with an awkward attempt to justify, or at least to palliate, the criminality with he is charged. His friends need no longer deny his connection with the whipping of the old family servant ANTHONY, or ABE, since he has clearly and unequivocally admitted it, and in his own language, “fully approved” of it. The negro-trader is not charged with going beyond his instructions, and whatever inhumanity or brutality there was in the case, Mr. NETHERLAND shoulders it all, asserting that he has “done no wrong.” He is welcome to his reflections after such a declaration.
    Mr. NETHERLAND makes some singular revelations in his statement. He tells us that ANTHONY had been a most unprincipled servant – had been the property of a number of masters, owing to his “badness,” to use a common phrase, and yet when this unprincipled servant sent him word that he wished he would buy him, “as a matter of feeling,” “to gratify” the negro, he bought him. And afterwards, when he was offered a good price for his services, he tells us that he hired this very negro as the servant of the Rogersville Female College, where a large number of young ladies “boarded and slept from our own and adjoined States,” whose purity and welfare he seems to have now so much at heart. It may seem singular that he would hire so bad a servant in the midst of so many young ladies. Perhaps he has yet some explanations to offer on this point. From his harping so much on ANTHONY’S being at the College, one might think this was the most important item that was suppressed or omitted in the Circular. Perhaps if ABE had been hired there also, so as to bring some money to his owner, we would never have heard any objection to his being at the College.
    He makes some discoveries, too, as to the depravity of ABE. He refers to his knocking a man down for trying to induce his wife to marry him (his perhaps in the sentence is artful, but without truth,) and he charges ABE in this connection with committing rape, as if it were possible for a man to commit rape with his own wife. But admit his statement to be true, what shall we think of Mr. NETHERLAND’S claim to respectability and principle, if from motives of avarice merely, he would consent to send a slave, who had perpetrated crimes for which laws of his own State would condemn him to the gallows, to disturb the peace and purity of Mississippi homes? Whichever way he turns he involves himself in a serious dilemma. If anxious to give the whole truth on this subject, why did no Col. NETHERLAND inform the public that ABE was a member of the Kingsport Presbyterian Church and of the Rogersville Churches – that he was principal colored servant in preparing for our Church suppers and the entertainment of social parties, and no one then dreamed of being afraid of him? Why did not he state that an Elder of the Presbyterian Church, who had known ABE from childhood, sent word to the negro trader, after the whipping, to fix his price on him, and he would lay him? And why did he not add, that a Presbyterian minister of a sister Church, and a slaveholder, said, if he had the money to spare, and money would buy him ABE should not go away from East Tennessee? It might not have answered his purpose quite so well to have mentioned these things, but it would have been left an impression more in harmony with the truth.
    And here I will notice his specifications of falsehood, in which he takes such pains to divert the public from the real issue. They are eight in number, though, miserably jumbled together. Let us see where the guilt is:
    1. He says it is untrue that the negro ABE was blindfolded and cruelly whipped. He seemed to be afraid to risk either the assertions by itself, and so he has linked them together. A member of the Baptist Church told me that he saw ABE blindfolded preparatory to the whipping, and a credible member of the Presbyterian Church bore similar testimony. They are competent to decide whether they could have been mistaken.
    On the question of cruelty, Mr. NETHERLAND is an interested witness. There is nothing like facts, however, some one has said, to determine such questions. If Col. N. will suffer himself to be blindfolded or not will matter little, and he willing to receive three hundred and thirty odd blows on the bare skin, with a similar leather strap, similarly laid on, he may then be a more impartial and a more competent witness as to the matter of cruelty. Until he is willing to submit to this operation, the public will be apt to stand by its present position.
    2. Col. NETHERLAND convicts himself of uttering an untruth when he affirms that a magistrate did not say that, “if an attempt had been made to whip ABE the second day, he supposed they would not have got through with it.” This was said before the witnesses, and Col. N. has but involved himself in his eagerness to criminate others.
    3. As to the third specification that ANTHONY was whipped “on suspicion,” I may say that I stated in the circular what was currently reported in the community, and reported, too, it is believed, on the authority of Col. NETHERLAND himself. Unless he has differently statements for different individuals, and to suit any change of circumstances, we suppose this specification will of course, go by the Board. How much better for him to have relieved himself, if within his power, of the odium which now attaches to him, as the planner and defender of these outrages against humanity.
    4. If ANTHONY was not “dutiful and exemplary” as a servant, as Mr. NETHERLAND professes to have long known, what shall we think of his master’s integrity and honor in hiring him as a servant by the year to the Female College? Actions, certainly, speak louder than words.
    As to ANTHONY nursing him – we do not suppose that he suckled him, if that is the dodge he is after; but we have heard it repeatedly stated, by those who professed to know, and had the best means of knowing, that ANTHONY was one of the family servants that helped bring up Col. NETHERLAND; and we have more than once heard ANTHONY speak of helping bring up “Massa JOHN,” and of his feelings when “Massa JOHN” first went to the College, when he returned home, &c, &c.
    5. Whatever Mr. NETHERLAND may say to the contrary, it is true, and he knows it, that he was unwilling to come before the Church Session to give the desired explanation, and if possible exonerate himself; and the best proof it is, that he has not done it to this good day. At Rogersville his declaration, on this point, will be regarded by the majority of the community as the grossest and most deliberate falsehood. He was exceedingly offended because I told Elder CALDWELL, after I had resigned, that I still thought he (Col. N.) should go before the Session, and if possible, relieve himself of the rumored charges of inhumanity – that in my judgment the peace and union of the Church depended in a great degree upon his adopting the plan.
    6. After his statement of Sept. 16, few will need further proof that he defended his course upon the chattel ground. With what heartlessness and desperate daring he justifies the whipping of ABE and ANTHONY! With what cool effrontery he speaks of the two elders, whose humanity led them to protest against such chattelism as the brute view of Slavery which he espouses and defends! Indeed, the charges once admitted, and the chattel ground was the only ground upon which he could defend himself; for, if he was willing to be called to account for his treatment of ANTHONY, how could he possibly censure his minister for insisting upon giving him the opportunity.
    Perhaps it was appropriate that Mr. NETHERLAND should come to the defence of the doctor, who had with such havoc to his own reputation, yet so valiantly, defended him. But we can say to Col. N. that, unfortunately, he has committed another serious blunder, for in our statement to the public we gave the very language Dr. CARMICHAEL used before the Presbytery – officially certified.
    7. In his seventh specification Mr. N. perils his reputation again, as a truth man. In reply, we might refer him to an able editorial which recently appeared in the Presbyterian witness in reference to the Knoxville Southern Commercial Convention, confirming the view we presented. His fling at the convenient doctor is too impotent and puerile to need any notice at our hands.
    8. I did not, as Col. N. seems to affirm charge his brother-in-law with writing any article in the papers, advocating the “Chattel ground.” I stated what was true, that the article in question had by some been attributed to him, partly from its style, and partly because no one but a member of the family was thought to feel interest enough in the matter to volunteer such an article. The doctrine of Chattelism was in the article, and the family were understood cordially to approve of it.
    It is humiliating that a man of Mr. NETHERLAND’S age and experience should take such infinite pains, and out of such slender materials, to make out so serious a charge. As he is so ready to impeach the veracity of others, he must, of course, have a high regard for his own. But let us look at a short docket made from his statement.
    1. When Mr. NETHERLAND classes me with the Abolitionists of the North, he penned, what he knew to be, as he has often admitted, a false charge. In the circular which he and his friends were so anxious to suppress, my position on the Slavery question is clearly defined. I distinctly repudiate the abolition sin per se doctrine and the chattel doctrine, and state what I believe to be the only scriptural and defensible view of Slavery. Doubtless Col. N. was aware that, once fix the charge of Abolitionism on a man in the South, whether true or flase, he might then, peradventure, have full sweep to say anything else he pleased, to make out his case without fear of contradiction.
    2. No language can adequately express the infamy of the false and slanderous insinuation of Col. NETHERLAND, that I put the negroe on equal grounds with the white man, “even to associate with their families, and intermarry with their daughters.” There are few men in East Tennessee abandoned enough to make such reckless assertions. It might here be appropriate to ask Col. NETHERLAND, as he may be able to tell us, whose Anglo-Saxon Blood rolls through the veins of the mother of ABE’S children? If general rumor can be relied on, the less he turns the attention of the public to his personal and practical views of amalgamation, the more comfortable will be his own feelings.
    3. Mr. NETHERLAND utters what he knows to be untrue, when he says I objected to his being requested to give the session the information that was desired. His blunder was, that he wished to be treated with uncommon consideration. He thought I should have called on him privately, and he could have satisfied me that all was right, without troubling the Session with any inquiry into the case. I regarded the matter at the outset as a reprobation deep upon his brow, and satisfy him with the emphasis, that however inhumanly he may treat black people, the white people of the country do not belong to him, and are not under this control.
    Hope that Mr. NETHERLAND may yet see the folly and wickedness of his course, and receive the gifts of hearty repentance and genuine reform,
    I remain yours, very truly, SAMUEL SAWYER.



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