Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Loguen Responds to Former Master

Thank goodness Jermain Loguen had the nerve to respond to his former mistress's letter, otherwise we would be left to speculate what he thought about her pent-up sentiments in the two plus decades that had passed since he had fled bondage.

As one might image Loguen's response letter is harsh and bitter, especially as it concerns her attempt to extort money from him for his escape. He too heaps scorn upon his father, Manasseth Logue, who Loguen assumes has since died, but remembered the "sins against my poor family." I will leave it to him to express:

SYRACUSE, N. Y., March 28, 1860.
        MRS. SARAH LOGUE:--Yours of the 20th of February is duly received, and I thank you for it. It is a longtime since I heard from my poor old mother, and I am glad to know she is yet alive, and as you say, "as well as common." What that means I don't know. I wish you had said more about her.
        You are a woman; but had you a woman's heart you could never have insulted a brother by telling him you sold his only remaining brother and sister, because he put himself beyond your power to convert him into money.
        You sold my brother and sister, ABE and ANN, and 12 acres of land, you say, because I run away. Now you have the unutterable meanness to ask me to return and be your miserable chattel, or in lieu thereof send you $1,000 to enable you to redeem the land, but not to redeem my poor brother and sister! If I were to send you money it would be to get my brother and sister, and not that you should get land. You say you are a cripple, and doubtless you say it to stir my pity, for you know I was susceptible in that direction. I do pity you from the bottom of my heart. Nevertheless I am indignant beyond the power of words to express, that you should be so sunken and cruel as to tear the hearts I love so much all in pieces; that you should be willing to impale and crucify us out of all compassion for your poor foot or leg. Wretched woman! Be it known to you that I value my freedom, to say nothing of my mother, brothers and sisters, more than your whole body; more, indeed, than my own life; more than all the lives of all the slaveholders and tyrants under Heaven.
        You say you have offers to buy me, and that you shall sell me if I do not send you $1,000, and in the same breath and almost in the same sentence, you say, "you know we raised you as we did our own children." Woman, did you raise your own children for the market? Did you raise them for the whipping-post? Did you raise them to be drove off in a coffle in chains? Where are my poor bleeding brothers and sisters? Can you tell? Who was it that sent them off into sugar and cotton fields, to be kicked, and cuffed, and whipped, and to groan and die; and where no kin can hear their groans, or attend and sympathize at their dying bed, or follow in their funeral? Wretched woman! Do you say you did not do it? Then I reply, your husband did, and you approved the deed--and the very letter you sent me shows that your heart approves it all. Shame on you.
        But, by the way, where is your husband? You don't speak of him. I infer, therefore, that he is dead; that he has gone to his great account, with all his sins against my poor family upon his head. Poor man! gone to meet the spirits of my poor, outraged and murdered people, in a world where Liberty and Justice are MASTERS.
        But you say I am a thief, because I took the old mare along with me. Have you got to learn that I had a better right to the old mare, as you called her, than MANASSETH LOGUE had to me? Is it a greater sin for me to steal his horse, than it was for him to rob my mother's cradle and steal me? If he and you infer that I forfeit all my rights to you, shall not I infer that you forfeit all your rights to me? Have you got to learn that human rights are mutual and reciprocal, and if you take my liberty and life, you forfeit me your own liberty and life? Before God and High Heaven, is there a law for one man which is not law for every other man?
        If you or any other speculator on my body and rights, wish to know how I regard my rights, they need but come here and lay their hands on me to enslave me. Did you think to terrify me by, presenting the alternative to give my money to you, or give my body to Slavery? Then let me say to you, that I meet the proposition with unutterable scorn and contempt. The proposition is an outrage and an insult. I will not budge one hair's breadth. I will not breath a shorter breath, even to save me from your persecutions. I stand among a free people, who, I thank God, sympathize with my rights, and the rights of mankind; and if your emissaries and venders come here to re-inslave me, and escape the unshrinking vigor of my own right arm, I trust my strong and brave friends, in this City and State, will be my rescuers and avengers.
Yours, &c.,
J. W. Loguen.


  1. This letter is an amazing glimpse into Loguen. I've always loved it.

    It's a real shame that he's been lost to the popular imagination. In the era, he was in essence another Frederick Douglass in popularity and speaking skill.

  2. Wow! What a writer. Now I want to read his memoir! Thank you for alerting me to it.

  3. I have enjoyed reading both letters, from Mistress to Logue and
    his reply.. - great to read, verify and remind her of "how it was" for he and others.."...
    I wonder from these letters, has anyone checked the courthouse records for the sale of siblings & land, that was listed? Or any follow ups on this "unfortunate" slave mistress and family?.