Page images

Mr. Dresser was one of those students who could not brook this arbitrary measure, and left immediately, as did some seventy other students, being a great proportion of all the school at that time contained. He now commenced attending the medical lectures in Cincinnati, and the pursuit of medical studies as a preparation for that missionary service to which he intended to devote his life. His health, however, soon failing him, and having a much loved uncle in Mississippi, he resolved on making a visit to that State. To pay the expenses of his journey and raise funds for the completion of his education, he determined on taking with him an assortment of useful books, from the sale of which he might hope for profit.

The results of this journey form not only an important chapter in the biography of Amos Dresser, but an interesting though not very creditable page in American history. Mr. D. proceeded as far as Nashville, when he was seized as an incendiary, and after a trial before a self-constituted committee, sentenced to receive twenty lashes. The following extract from a Narrative published by Mr. D. soon after this event, will afford the reader a knowledge of the crimes of which he was accused, the evidence in support of the charges made against him, his defence, the sentence under which he suffered, and the manner in which he bore himself during the infliction of his punishment :

"We repaired to the court room, which was at once crowded full to overflowing. The roll of the committee, (sixty in number,) was called, and the names of the absentees proclaimed.

"The meeting being called to order, the Mayor stated that he had caused me to be arrested and brought before the Committee, in consequence of the excitement produced by the periodicals known to have been in my possession; and that he had also taken into his charge my trunk, which he had delayed opening till my return. The trunk was then produced before the Committee, and a motion made and carried that I should be interrogated as to its contents before opening it. On being interrogated accordingly, I replied, as the trunk was before them, I preferred they should make the examination for themselves. It was then resolved, (the whole house voting,) that my trunk should be examined. The officer first laid before the Committee a pile of clothing, which was examined very closely then followed my books, among which was found one copy of the Oasis,' one of 'Rankin's Letters on Slavery,' and one of Bourne's Picture of Slavery in the • United States.' These, I informed the Committee, I had put in my trunk for my own perusal, as I wished to compare what had been written with the result of my own observation while in the slave States, and that no individual had seen them besides myself. A careful inspection was made of the books, also. Then was presented my business and private letters, which were read with eagerness, and much interest. Extracts were read aloud.

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

"Great stress was laid on these extracts, and I was questioned very minutely as to the authors of the letters. They labored much to prove I was sent out by some Society, and that I was under the guise of a religious mission, performing the odious office of an insurrec tionary agent.

[ocr errors]

My journal was next brought in review, but as it had been kept partly in short hand and in pencil mark, the memoranda short and hastily written, it served them very little purpose. It was laid down again by the Mayor who had attempted to read it aloud, with this remark, It cannot be read, but it is evidently very hostile to slavery.' "A witness was now called forward, by whom it was proved that an anti-Slavery periodical of some kind had been left by some individual on the counter of the Nashville Inn. That it was left with a copy of the Cottage Bible, at the time I arrived. On being ques tioned by me, it turned out to be a number of the Emancipator, used as an envelop or wrapper to the Bible. Other witnesses were called, but this is the substance of all they proved against me.

[ocr errors]

"The trial continued from between 4 and 5 o'clock P. M., till 10 o'clock, when I was called upon for my defense. The perplexity I must have felt in making it may well be imagined, when it is recollected that I was charged not with transgressing any law of the State or ordinance of the city, but with conduct, to which, if the law had attached the penalty of crime, its forms were totally disregarded, and this, too, before an array of persons banded together in contravention of law, and from whose mandate of execution there was no appeal. However, I took the opportunity thus offered to declare my sentiments fully on the subject of slavery. Whilst I told them I believed slaveholding to be inconsistent with the gospel, and a constant trangression of God's law, I yet said that in bringing about emancipation, the interests of the master were to be consulted as well as those of the slave. And that the whole scheme of emancipation contemplated this result, that the slave should be put in possession of rights which we have declared to be inalienable from him as a man ; that he should he considered as an immortal fellow being, entrusted by his Maker with the custody of his own happiness, and accountable to him for the exercise of his powers; that he should be treated as our neighbor and brother. In reference to my demeanor towards the slaves, that in the few instances in which I had casually conversed with them, I had recommended quietness, patience, submission; teaching them to render good for evil,' and discountenancing every scheme of emancipation, which did not, during its process, look for its success in the good conduct of the slaves whilst they remain such, and to the influence of argument and persuasion addressed to the understandings and consciences of slaveholders, exhorting them to obey God in doing justice and showing mercy to their fellow men.

[ocr errors]

"After my remarks were ended, the crowd were requested to withdraw whilst the Committee deliberated on the case."

The result of the deliberations of this Committee is thus described in the Narrative referred to:


[ocr errors]

'My suspense was at length terminated on being summoned to hear the decision: it was prefaced by a few remarks of this kind by the chairman, that they had acted with great caution and deliberation, and however unsatisfactory their conclusion might be to me, they had acted conscientiously with a full recognition of their duty to their God;'-that they had found me guilty, 1st, of being a member of an anti-Slavery Society in Ohio: 2d, of having in my possession periodicals published by the American anti-Slavery Society;' and 3d,' they BELIEVED I had circulated these periodicals, and advocated in the community the principles they inculcated.' He then pronounced that I was condemned to receive twenty lashes on my bare back, and ordered to leave the place in twenty-four hours.

The account of the finale of the affair is thus given :

"I entered the ring that had been formed; the chairman (accompanied by the committee) again called for an expression of sentiment in relation to the sentence passed upon me; again the vote was unanimous in approbation of it, and again did he express his gratification at the good order by which the whole proceeding had been characterized. While some of the company were engaged in stripping me of my garments, a motion was made and seconded that I be exonerated altogether from the punishment. This brought many and furious imprecations on the mover's head, and created a commotion which was appeased only by the sound of the instrument of torture and disgrace upon my naked body.

[ocr errors]

"I knelt to receive the punishment, which was inflicted by Mr. Braughton, the city officer, with a heavy cow skin. It was now the same hour of the night in which Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God,' and I felt that the foundations of the prison walls [of slavery] were shaken.' The Sabbath - emblem of that rest that remaineth for the people of God, was just commencing. Nearly one half of the committee who condemned me were members of the different churches in Nashville. Two of them were preachers, (one a Methodist, the other a Disciple,) a large number of them were members of the Presbyterian church, with whom I sat at the communion table about three weeks before, several of them elders of that church from whose hands I received the bread and the cup in remembrance of the sufferings of Christ; and one of those elders now stood and held my clothes while I was scourged. These circumstances, together with the calm serenity of the midnight hour, and the thought of meeting that immense crowd at the bar of God, gave feelings better imagined than described. To give vent to these feelings I attempted to raise my voice to heaven in prayer. The death

[ocr errors]

like silence that prevailed for a moment, was suddenly broken with loud exclamations, ' G―d d—n him, stop his praying." I was raised to my feet by Mr. Braughton, and conducted by him to my lodging, where it was thought safe for me to remain but for a few moments. "And though most of my friends were at the camp ground, I was introduced into a family of entire strangers, from whom I received a warm reception and the most kind and tender treatment. They will ever be remembered with greateful emotions.

"On the ensuing morning, owing to the great excitement that was still prevailing, I found it necessary to leave the place in disguise, with only what clothing I had about my person. Leaving unsold property to the amount of nearly three hundred dollars, and sacrificing at least two hundred on my barouche, horse, &c., which I was obliged to sell. Of my effects at Nashville I have heard nothing since my return, though I have frequently written to my friends concerning them."

On leaving Nashville, Mr. D. returned directly to Cincinnati and found the city in great commotion on account of what had transpired in relation to himself. All the newspapers were out against him, or maintained a timid silence, and he had great fears of personal violence. Not a word from him would be admitted in self defence until Mr. Hammond, editor of the Gazette, at the time absent, returned to the city, when the columns of his paper were opened, and the subject discussed in such a manner that public sentiment powerfully reacted in favor of Mr. Dresser. This was the martyr age of anti-slavery, and Mr. Dresser's name will ever be honorably associated with those whom Providence has called at different times to suffer in behalf of an enslaved and unfortunate race.

Soon after this Mr. D. went to Oberlin and commenced study and teaching. In the Fall of 1836 he accepted a commission as one of the seventy lecturers sent forth at that time by the American AntiSlavery Society, and continued lecturing Winters and studying Summers till the Fall of 1839, when he married Adeline Smith of Ulster County, N. Y., and sailed as a missionary to Jamaica. Here he labored with zeal and diligence among the emancipated slaves, until both himself and wife were so broken down in health, that they were compelled to relinquish the field and return to the United States. Here it may be remembered that Mr. D. went out on his mission on his own responsibility. The Am. B. C. F. M. were so connected with slavery as, in his opinion, to make it improper for him to labor under their auspices, and no Free Missionary Society then existed. After his return, Mr. D. resided two years near Cincinnati, as pastor of a church; after which he removed to the Olivet Institution in Michigan, and engaged in teaching. The location however proved very unhealthy, and his wife suffered so severely from the fever and ague as never to be able fully to recover from its effects. As soon however as they were sufficiently recovered, Mr. D. commenced labors in the cause of peace, as an agent of the League of Brother

hood, then carrying on extensive and vigorous operations, under the leadership of Elihu Burritt.

Into this work Mr. D. entered with great energy and success. Nothing could be more congenial to his feelings, or better adapted to his peculiar abilities. His field was principally the Western Reserve, which he traversed in its length and breadth. While thus engaged he was called to endure the great affliction of consigning to the grave his beloved wife, a most estimable woman, and two little children. He continued to labor, with some interruption, till 1851, when he married Ann Jane Gray and sailed for Europe to attend the great Peace Congress to be held in London, to which he had been elected a delegate. While abroad Mr. D. delivered several lectures in different parts of England and Scotland, and was everywhere well received. We have before us a notice of his labors, taken from one of the Glasgow papers, in which he is spoken of as follows:

"From the private and social intercourse we enjoyed with Mr. Dresser we observed much that fits him for the sphere he has chosen -that of opposing the principles by which war, slavery and intemperance are perpetuated and preaching the gospel. The respect with which he speaks of those from whom he differs, in advocating the abolition of slavery, and with whom he can no longer cooperate on account of the notions they hold regarding the sacred scriptures, betokens a heart filled with divine love · — a heart that can give others credit for their philanthropy and honesty of purpose, however much he may differ from the principles they hold."

Since his return from Europe, Mr. D. has settled as a pastor at Farmington, Ohio, where he has a very interesting field of labor and is much esteemed by the people of his charge. Probably, in no previous period of his life, has he ever been more eligibly situated or more usefully employed.

From the foregoing facts and incidents in the life of Mr. Dresser, the features of his character will be readily inferred. A kind and benevolent heart, impulsive and full of sympathy for the unfortunate and suffering, the downtrodden and oppressed; a deep religious sentiment, cultivated from his earliest youth, and kept in constant exercise by the vocation of his life; a quick and acute perception of moral truths, and a conscientiousness which makes him bold and fearless in the advocacy of whatever he believès to be right; a zeal without bigotry or censoriousness; earnestness without intolerance or impatience; a physical and intellectual organization that qualifies him for great activity and long continued labor. These characteristics qualify him to be, what for the last twenty years he has been, an ardent, wholesouled, uncompromising reformer; and the peculiar circumstances of his life have had a strong tendency to develop these characteristics in all their fullness; his experience at Lane Seminary, his adventures in Tennessee, his mission to Jamaica, and his constant encounters with the opponents of temperance, freedom and peace.

« PreviousContinue »