THE MOSES OF HER PEOPLE
SARAH H. BRADFORD
"Farewell, ole Marster, don't think hard of me,
I'm going on to Canada, where all de slaves are free."
"Jesus, Jesus will go wid you,
He will lead you to His throne,
He who died has gone before you,
Trod de wine-press all alone."
The title I have given my black heroine, in this second edition of
her story, viz.: THE MOSES OF HER PEOPLE, may seem a little
ambitious, considering that this Moses was a woman, and that she
succeeded in piloting only three or four hundred slaves from the
land of bondage to the land of freedom.
But I only give her here the name by which she was familiarly
known, both at the North and the South, during the years of terror
of the Fugitive Slave Law, and during our last Civil War, in both
of which she took so prominent a part.
And though the results of her unexampled heroism were not to free
a whole nation of bond-men and bond-women, yet this object was as
much the desire of her heart, as it was of that of the great
leader of Israel. Her cry to the slave-holders, was ever like his
to Pharaoh, "Let my people go!" and not even he imperiled life and
limb more willingly, than did our courageous and self-sacrificing
Her name deserves to be handed down to posterity, side by side
with the names of Jeanne D'Arc, Grace Darling, and Florence
Nightingale, for not one of these women, noble and brave as they
were, has shown more courage, and power of endurance, in facing
danger and death to relieve human suffering, than this poor black
woman, whose story I am endeavoring in a most imperfect way to
Would that Mrs. Stowe had carried out the plan she once projected,
of being the historian of our sable friend; by her graphic pen,
the incidents of such a life might have been wrought up into a
tale of thrilling interest, equaling, if not exceeding her world
renowned "Uncle Tom's Cabin."
The work fell to humbler hands, and the first edition of this
story, under the title of "Harriet Tubman," was written in the
greatest possible haste, while the writer was preparing for a
voyage to Europe. There was pressing need for this book, to save
the poor woman's little home from being sold under a mortgage, and
letters and facts were penned down rapidly, as they came in. The
book has now been in part re-written and the letters and
testimonials placed in an appendix.
For the satisfaction of the incredulous (and there will naturally
be many such, when so strange a tale is repeated to them), I will
here state that so far as it has been possible, I have received
corroboration of every incident related to me by my heroic friend.
I did this for the satisfaction of others, not for my own. No one
can hear Harriet talk, and not believe every word she says. As Mr.
Sanborn says of her, "she is too real a person, not to be true."
Many incidents quite as wonderful as those related in the story, I
have rejected, because I had no way in finding the persons who
could speak to their truth.
This woman was the friend of William H. Seward, of Gerritt Smith,
of Wendell Phillips, of William Lloyd Garrison, and of many other
distinguished philanthropists before the War, as of very many
officers of the Union Army during the conflict.
After her almost superhuman efforts in making her own escape from
slavery, and then returning to the South nineteen times, and
bringing away with her over three hundred fugitives, she was sent
by Governor Andrew of Massachusetts to the South at the beginning
of the War, to act as spy and scout for our armies, and to be
employed as hospital nurse when needed.
Here for four years she labored without any remuneration, and
during the time she was acting as nurse, never drew but twenty
days' rations from our Government. She managed to support herself,
as well as to take care of the suffering soldiers.
Secretary Seward exerted himself in every possible way to procure
her a pension from Congress, but red-tape proved too strong even
for him, and her case was rejected, because it did not come under
any recognized law.
The first edition of this little story was published through the
liberality of Gerritt Smith, Wendell Phillips, and prominent men
in Auburn, and the object for which it was written was
accomplished. But that book has long been out of print, and the
facts stated there are all unknown to the present generation.
There have, I am told, often been calls for the book, which could
not be answered, and I have been urged by many friends as well as
by Harriet herself, to prepare another edition. For another
necessity has arisen and she needs help again not for herself, but
for certain helpless ones of her people.
Her own sands are nearly run, but she hopes, 'ere she goes home,
to see this work, a hospital, well under way. Her last breath and
her last efforts will be spent in the cause of those for whom she
has already risked so much.
For them her tears will fall,
For them her prayers ascend;
To them her toils and cares be given,
Till toils and cares shall end.
Letter from Mr. Oliver Johnson for the second edition: