Lydia Maria Francis Child.

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A True Life




[Illustration: Isaac T. Hopper]

Thine was a soul with sympathy imbued,
Broad as the earth, and as the heavens sublime;
Thy godlike object, steadfastly pursued,
To save thy race from misery and crime.









This biography differs from most works of the kind, in embracing
fragments of so many lives. Friend Hopper lived almost entirely for
others; and it is a striking illustration of the fact, that I have found
it impossible to write his biography without having it consist largely
of the adventures of other people.

I have not recounted his many good deeds for the mere purpose of
eulogizing an honored friend. I have taken pleasure in preserving them
in this form, because I cherish a hope that they may fall like good seed
into many hearts, and bring forth future harvests in the great field of

Most of the strictly personal anecdotes fell from his lips in familiar
and playful conversation with his sister, or his grand-children, or his
intimate friends, and I noted them down at the time, without his
knowledge. In this way I caught them in a much more fresh and natural
form, than I could have done if he had been conscious of the process.

The narratives and anecdotes of fugitive slaves, which form such a
prominent portion of the book, were originally written by Friend Hopper
himself, and published in newspapers, under the title of "Tales of
Oppression." I have re-modelled them all; partly because I wished to
present them in a more concise form, and partly because the principal
actor could be spoken of more freely by a third person, than he could
speak of himself. Moreover, he had a more dramatic way of _telling_ a
story than he had of _writing_ it; and I have tried to embody his
unwritten style as nearly as I could remember it. Where-ever incidents
or expressions have been added to the published narratives, I have done
it from recollection.

The facts, which were continually occurring within Friend Hopper's
personal knowledge, corroborate the pictures of slavery drawn by Mrs.
Stowe. Her descriptions are no more fictitious, than the narratives
written by Friend Hopper. She has taken living characters and facts of
every-day occurrence, and combined them in a connected story, radiant
with the light of genius, and warm with the glow of feeling. But is a
landscape any the less real, because there is sunshine on it, to bring
out every tint, and make every dew-drop sparkle?

Who that reads the account here given of Daniel Benson, and William
Anderson, can doubt that slaves are capable of as high moral excellence,
as has ever been ascribed to them in any work of fiction? Who that reads
Zeke, and the Quick Witted Slave, can pronounce them a stupid race,
unfit for freedom? Who that reads the adventures of the Slave Mother,
and of poor Manuel, a perpetual mourner for his enslaved children, can
say that the bonds of nature are less strong with them, than with their
more fortunate white brethren? Who can question the horrible tyranny
under which they suffer, after reading The Tender Mercies of a
Slaveholder, and the suicide of Romaine?

Friend Hopper labored zealously for many, many years; and thousands have
applied their best energies of head and heart to the same great work;
yet the slave-power in this country is as strong as ever - nay, stronger.
Its car rolls on in triumph, and priests and politicians outdo each
other in zeal to draw it along, over its prostrate victims. But, lo!
from under its crushing wheels, up rises the bleeding spectre of Uncle
Tom, and all the world turns to look at him! Verily, the slave-power is
strong; but God and truth are stronger.



Allusions to his Parents.
Anecdotes of Childhood.
Allusions to Sarah his Wife.
Allusions to Joseph Whitall.
Anecdotes of Apprenticeship.
His Religious Experience.
Tales of Oppression and Anecdotes of Colored People.
Anecdotes of Prisoners and of Vicious Characters in Philadelphia.
His Love of Fun.
Allusions to his Private Life and Domestic Character.
Anecdotes connected with Quakers.
Schism in the Society of Friends.
Anecdotes connected with his Visit to England and Ireland.
Anti-Slavery Experiences in New-York.
His Attachment to the Principles and Usages of Friends.
Disowned by the Society of Friends in New-York.
His Connection with the Prison Association of New-York.
His Illness, Death, and Funeral.


His birth.
Anecdote of his Grandmother's Courage.
His Childish Roguery.
His Contest with British Soldiers.
His Violent Temper.
Conscientiousness in Boyhood.
Tricks at School.
Going to Mill.
Going to Market.
Anecdote of General Washington.
Pelting the Swallows.
Anecdote of the Squirrel and her young ones.
The Pet Squirrel.
The Pet Crow.
Encounter with a Black Snake.
Old Mingo the African.
Boyish Love for Sarah Tatum.
His Mother's parting advice when he leaves Home.
Mischievous Trick at the Cider Barrel.
He nearly harpoons his Uncle.
He nearly kills a Fellow Apprentice.
Adventure with a young Woman.
His first Slave Case.
His Youthful Love for Sarah Tatum.
Nicholas Waln.
Mary Ridgeway.
William Savery.
His early Religious Experience.
Letter from Joseph Whitall.
He marries Sarah Tatum.
His interest in Colored People.
Charles Webster.
Ben Jackson.
Thomas Cooper.
A Child Kidnapped.
James Poovey.
David Lea.
The Slave Hunter.
William Bachelor.
Levin Smith.
Etienne Lamaire.
Samuel Johnson.
Pierce Butler's Ben.
Daniel Benson.
The Quick-Witted Slave.
James Davis.
Mary Holliday.
Thomas Harrison.
James Lawler.
William Anderson.
Sarah Roach.
Poor Amy.
Slaveholders mollified.
The United States Bond.
The tender mercies of a Slaveholder.
The Foreign Slave.
The New-Jersey Slave.
A Slave Hunter Defeated.
Mary Morris.
The Slave Mother.
Colonel Ridgeley's Slave.
Stop Thief!
The Disguised Slaveholder.
The Slave of Dr. Rich.
His Knowledge of Law.
Mutual Confidence between him and the Colored People.
Mercy to Kidnappers.
Richard Allen, the Colored Bishop.
The Colored Guests at his Table.
Kane the Colored Man fined for Blasphemy.
John McGrier.
Levi Butler.
The Musical Boy.
Mary Norris.
The Magdalen.
The Uncomplimentary Invitation.
Theft from Necessity.
Patrick M'Keever.
The Umbrella Girl.
The two young Offenders.
His courageous intercourse with violent Prisoners.
Not thoroughly Baptized.
The puzzled Dutchman.
Hint to an Untidy Neighbor.
Resemblance to Napoleon.
The Dress, Manners, and Character of Sarah, his wife.
The Devil's Lane.
Jacob Lindley's Anecdotes.
Singular Clairvoyance of Arthur Howell, a Quaker Preacher.
Prophetic Presentiment of his Mother.
The aged Bondman emancipated.
A Presentiment of Treachery.
The Quaker who purchased a Stolen Horse.
Elias Hicks and the Schism in the Society of Friends.
Pecuniary difficulties.
Death of his Wife.
Death of his son Isaac.
Journey to Maryland, and Testimony against Slavery.
His marriage with Hannah Attmore.
Removes to New-York.
Matthew Carey's facetious Letter of Introduction.
Anecdotes of his visit to England and Ireland.
Anecdote of the Diseased Horse.
Visit to William Penn's Grave.
The Storm at Sea. Profane Language rebuked.
The Clergyman and his Books.
His Book-store in New-York.
The Mob in Pearl-Street.
Judge Chinn's Slave.
One of his sons mobbed at the South.
His Letter to the Mayor of Savannah.
His Phrenological Character.
His Unconsciousness of Distinctions in Society.
The Darg Case.
Letter from Dr. Moore.
Mrs. Burke's Slave.
Becomes Agent in the Anti-Slavery Office.
His youthful appearance.
Anecdotes showing his love of Fun.
His sense of Justice.
His Remarkable Memory.
His Costume and Personal Habits.
His Library.
His Theology.
His Adherence to Quaker Usages.
Capital Punishment.
Rights of Women.
Expressions of gratitude from Colored People.
His fund of Anecdotes and his Public Speaking.
Remarks of Judge Edmonds thereon.
His separation from the Society of Friends in New-York.
Visit to his Birth-place.
Norristown Convention.
Visit from his Sister Sarah.
Visit to Boston.
Visit to Bucks County.
Prison Association in New-York.
Correspondence with Governor Young.
Preaching in Sing Sing Chapel.
Anecdotes of Dr. William Rogers.
Interesting Cases of Reformed Convicts.
Letter from Dr. Walter Channing.
Anecdotes of William Savery and James Lindley at the South.
Sonnet by William L. Garrison.
His sympathy with Colored People turned out of the Cars.
A Methodist Preacher from the South.
His Disobedience to the Fugitive Slave Law.
His Domestic Character.
He attracts Children.
His Garden described in a Letter to L.M. Child.
Likenesses of him.
Letter concerning Joseph Whitall.
Letters concerning Sarah his wife.
Letter to his Daughter on his 80th Birth-day.
Allusions to Hannah, his wife.
Letter resigning the agency of the Prison Association.
His last Illness.
His Death.
Letter from a Reformed Convict.
Resolutions passed by the Prison Association.
Resolutions passed by the Anti-Slavery Society.
His Funeral.
Lucretia Mott.
Public Notices and Private Letters of Condolence.
His Epitaph.

I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched

When the ear heard me, then it blessed me: and when the eye saw me, it
gave witness to me:

Because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him
that had none to help him.

The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me: and I caused
the widow's heart to sing for joy. Job xxix. 10, 11, 12, 13.


Isaac Tatem Hopper was born in Deptford Township, near Woodbury, West
New-Jersey, in the year 1771, on the third day of December, which
Quakers call the Twelfth Month. His grandfather belonged to that
denomination of Christians, but forfeited membership in the Society by
choosing a wife from another sect. His son Levi, the father of Isaac,
always attended their meetings, but never became a member.

A family of rigid Presbyterians, by the name of Tatem, resided in the
neighborhood. While their house was being built, they took shelter for a
few days, in a meeting-house that was little used, and dug a pit for a
temporary cellar, according to the custom of new settlers in the forest.
The country at that time was much infested with marauders; but Mrs.
Tatem was an Amazon in physical strength and courage. One night, when
her husband was absent, and she was alone in the depths of the woods
with three small children, she heard a noise, and looking out saw a
band of thieves stealing provisions from the cellar. They entered the
meeting-house soon after, and she had the presence of mind to call out,
"Hallo, Jack! Call Joe, and Harry, and Jim! Here's somebody coming." The
robbers, supposing she had a number of stout defenders at hand, thought
it prudent to escape as quickly as possible. The next day, her husband
being still absent, she resolved to move into the unfinished house, for
greater security. The door had neither lock nor latch, but she contrived
to fasten it in some fashion. At midnight, three men came and tried to
force it open; but every time they partially succeeded, she struck at
them with a broad axe. This mode of defence was kept up so vigorously,
that at last they were compelled to retreat.

She had a daughter, who was often at play with neighbor Hopper's
children; and when Levi was quite a small boy, it used to be said
playfully that little Rachel Tatem would be his wife, and they would
live together up by the great white oak; a remarkable tree at some
distance from the homestead. The children grew up much attached to each
other, and when Levi was twenty-two years old, the prophecy was

The young man had only his own strong hands and five or six hundred
acres of wild woodland. He grubbed up the trees and underbrush near the
big white oak, removed his father's hen-house to the cleared spot,
fitted it up comfortably for a temporary dwelling, and dug a cellar in
the declivity of a hill near by. To this humble abode he conducted his
young bride, and there his two first children were born. The second was
named Isaac Tatem Hopper, and is the subject of this memoir.

Rachel inherited her mother's energy and courage, and having married a
diligent and prudent man, their worldly circumstances gradually
improved, though their family rapidly increased, and they had nothing
but land and labor to rely upon. When Isaac was one year and a half old,
the family removed to a new log-house with three rooms on a floor,
neatly whitewashed. To these the bridal hen-house was appended for a

Isaac was early remarked as a very precocious child. He was always
peeping into everything, and inquiring about everything. He was only
eighteen months old, when the new log-house was built; but when he saw
them laying the foundation, his busy little mind began to query whether
the grass would grow under it; and straightway he ran to see whether
grass grew under the floor of the hen-house where he was born.

He was put to work on the farm as soon as he could handle a hoe; but
though he labored hard, he had plenty of time and strength left for all
manner of roguery. While he was a small fellow in petticoats, he ran
into a duck-pond to explore its depth. His mother pulled him out, and
said, "Isaac, if you ever go there again, I will make you come out
faster than you went in." He thought to himself, "Now I will prove
mother to be in the wrong; for I will go in as fast as I can, and surely
I can't come out any faster." So into the pond he went, as soon as the
words were out of her mouth.

A girl by the name of Polly assisted about the housework. She was
considered one of the family, and always ate at the same table,
according to the kindly custom of those primitive times. She always
called her mistress "Mammy," and served her until the day of her death;
a period of forty years. The children were much attached to this
faithful domestic; but nevertheless, Isaac could not forbear playing
tricks upon her whenever he had opportunity. - When he was five or six
years old, he went out one night to see her milk the cow. He had
observed that the animal kicked upon slight provocation; and when the
pail was nearly full, he broke a switch from a tree near by, slipped
round to the other side of the cow, and tickled her bag. She instantly
raised her heels, and over went Polly, milk-pail, stool, and all. Isaac
ran into the house, laughing with all his might, to tell how the cow had
kicked over Polly and the pail of milk. His mother went out immediately
to ascertain whether the girl was seriously injured. - "Oh, mammy, that
little rogue tickled the cow, and made her do it," exclaimed Polly.
Whereupon, Isaac had a spanking, and was sent to bed without his supper.
But so great was his love of fun, that as he lay there, wakeful and
hungry, he shouted with laughter all alone by himself, to think how
droll Polly looked when she rolled over with the pail of milk after her.

When he was seven or eight years old, his uncle's wife came one day to
the house on horseback. She was a fat, clumsy woman, and got on and off
her horse with difficulty. Isaac knew that all the family were absent;
but when he saw her come ambling along the road, he took a freak not to
tell her of it. He let down the bars for her; she rode up to the
horse-block with which every farm-house was then furnished, rolled off
her horse, and went into the house. She then discovered, for the first
time, that there was no one at home. After resting awhile, she mounted
to depart. But Isaac, as full of mischief as Puck, put the bars up, so
that she could not ride out. In vain she coaxed, scolded, and
threatened. Finding it was all to no purpose, she rode up to the block
and rolled off from her horse again. - Isaac, having the fear of her whip
before his eyes, ran and hid himself. She let down the bars for herself,
but before she could remount, the mischievous urchin had put the bars
up again and run away. - This was repeated several times; and the
exasperated visitor could never succeed in catching her tormentor. His
parents came home in the midst of the frolic, and he had a sound
whipping. He had calculated upon this result all the time, and the
uneasy feeling had done much to mar his sport; but on the whole, he
concluded such rare fun was well worth a flogging.

The boys at school were apt to neglect their lessons while they were
munching apples. In order to break up this disorderly habit, the master
made it a rule to take away every apple found upon them. - He placed such
forfeited articles upon his desk, with the agreement that any boy might
have them, who could succeed in abstracting them without being observed
by him. One day, when a large rosy-cheeked apple stood temptingly on the
desk, Isaac stepped up to have his pen mended. He stood very demurely at
first, but soon began to gaze earnestly out of the window, behind the
desk. The master inquired what he was looking at. He replied, "I am
watching a flock of ducks trying to swim on the ice. How queerly they
waddle and slide about!" "Ducks swim on ice!" exclaimed the
schoolmaster; and he turned to observe such an unusual spectacle. It was
only for an instant; but the apple meanwhile was transferred to the
pocket of his cunning pupil. He smiled as he gave him his pen, and
said, "Ah, you rogue, you are always full of mischief!"

The teacher was accustomed to cheer the monotony of his labors by a race
with the boys during play hours. There was a fine sloping lawn in front
of the school-house, terminating in a brook fringed with willows. The
declivity gave an impetus to the runners, and as they came among the
trees, their heads swiftly parted the long branches. Isaac tied a
brick-bat to one of the pendant boughs, and then invited the master to
run with him. He accepted the invitation, and got the start in the race.
As he darted through the trees, the brick merely grazed his hair. If it
had hit him, it might have cost him his life; though his mischievous
pupil had not reflected upon the possibility of such a result.

There was a bridge across the brook consisting of a single rail. One
day, Isaac sawed this nearly in two; and while the master was at play
with the boys, he took the opportunity to say something very
impertinent, for which he knew he should be chased. He ran toward the
brook, crossed the rail in safety, and instantly turned it over, so that
his pursuer would step upon it when the cut side was downward. It
immediately snapped under his pressure, and precipitated him into the
stream, while the young rogue stood by almost killing himself with
laughter. But this joke also came very near having a melancholy
termination; for the master was floated down several rods into deep
water, and with difficulty saved himself from drowning.

There was a creek not far from his father's house, where it was
customary to load sloops with wood. Upon one of these occasions, he
persuaded a party of boys to pry up a pile of wood and tip it into a
sloop, in a confused heap. Of course, it must all be taken out and
reloaded. When he saw how much labor this foolish trick had caused, he
felt some compunction; but the next temptation found the spirit of
mischief too strong to be resisted.

Coming home from his uncle's one evening, he stopped to amuse himself
with taking a gate off its hinges. When an old Quaker came out to see
who was meddling with his gate, Isaac fired a gun over his head, and
made him run into the house, as if an evil spirit were after him.

It was his delight to tie the boughs of trees together in narrow paths,
that people travelling in the dark, might hit their heads against them;
and to lay stones in the ruts of the road, when he knew that farmers
were going to market with eggs, in the darkness of morning twilight. If
any mischief was done for miles round, it was sure to be attributed to
Isaac Hopper. There was no malice in his fun; but he had such
superabounding life within him, that it _would_ overflow, even when he
knew that he must suffer for it. His boyish activity, strength, and
agility were proverbial. Long after he left his native village, the
neighbors used to tell with what astonishing rapidity he would descend
high trees, head foremost, clinging to the trunk with his feet.

The fearlessness and firmness of character, which he inherited from both
father and mother, manifested itself in many ways. He had a lamb, whose
horns were crooked, and had a tendency to turn in. His father had given
it to him for his own, on condition that he should keep the horns
carefully filed, so that they should not hurt the animal. He had a small
file on purpose, and took such excellent care of his pet, that it soon
became very much attached to him, and trotted about after him like a
dog. When he was about five or six years old, British soldiers came into
the neighborhood to seize provisions for the army, according to their
custom during our revolutionary war. They tied the feet of the tame
lamb, and threw it into the cart with other sheep and lambs. Isaac came
up to them in season to witness this operation, and his heart swelled
with indignation. He sprang into the cart, exclaiming, "That's _my_
lamb, and you shan't have it!" The men tried to push him aside; but he
pulled out a rusty jack-knife, which he had bought of a pedlar for
two-pence, and cut the rope that bound the poor lamb. A British officer
rode up, and seeing a little boy struggling so resolutely with the
soldiers, he inquired what was the matter. "They've stolen my lamb!"
exclaimed Isaac; "and they shan't have it. It's _my_ lamb!"

"_Is_ it your lamb, my brave little fellow?" said the officer. "Well,
they shan't have it. You'll make a fine soldier one of these days."

So Isaac lifted his lamb from the cart, and trudged off victorious. He
had always been a whig; and after this adventure, he became more decided
than ever in his politics. He often used to boast that he would rather
have a paper continental dollar, than a golden English guinea. The
family amused themselves by exciting his zeal, and Polly made him
believe he was such a famous whig, that the British would certainly
carry him off to prison. He generally thought he was fully capable of
defending himself; but when he saw four soldiers approaching the house
one day, he concluded the force was rather too strong for him, and
hastened to hide himself in the woods.

His temper partook of the general strength and vehemence of his
character. Having put a small quantity of gunpowder on the stove of the
school-house, it exploded, and did some injury to the master. One of the
boys, who was afraid of being suspected of the mischief, in order to
screen himself, cried out, "Isaac Hopper did it!" - and Isaac was
punished accordingly. Going home from school, he seized the informer as
they were passing through a wood, tied him up to a tree, and gave him a
tremendous thrashing. The boy threatened to tell of it; but he assured
him that he would certainly kill him if he did; so he never ventured to
disclose it.

In general, his conscience reproved him as soon as he had done anything
wrong, and he hastened to make atonement. A poor boy, who attended the
same school, usually brought a very scanty dinner. One day, the spirit
of mischief led Isaac to spoil the poor child's provisions by filling
his little pail with sand. When the boy opened it, all eagerness to eat
his dinner, the tears came into his eyes; for he was very hungry. This
touched Isaac's heart instantly. "Oh, never mind, Billy," said he. "I
did it for fun; but I'm sorry I did it.. Come, you shall have half of my
dinner." It proved a lucky joke for Billy; for from that day henceforth,
Isaac always helped him plentifully from his own stock of provisions.

Isaac and his elder brother were accustomed to set traps in the woods to
catch partridges. One day, when he was about six years old, he went to
look at the traps early in the morning, and finding his empty, he took a
plump partridge from his brother's trap, put it in his own, and carried
it home as his. When his brother examined the traps, he said he was sure
_he_ caught the bird, because there were feathers sticking to his trap;

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