chapter  3
6 Pages

Sojourner's Childhood and Youth

Among Isabella’s earliest recollections was the removal of her master, Charles Ardinburgh, into his new house, which he had built for a hotel, soon aft er the decease of his father. A cellar, under this hotel, was assigned to his slaves, as their sleeping apartment-all the slaves he possessed of both sexes, sleeping (as is quite common in a state of slavery) in the same

room. She carries in her mind, to this day, a vivid picture of this dismal chamber; its only lights consisting of a few panes of glass, through which she thinks the sun never shone, but with thrice refl ected rays; and the space between the loose boards of the fl oor, and the uneven earth below, was oft en fi lled with mud and water, the uncomfortable splashings of which were as annoying as its noxious vapors must have been chilling and fatal to health. She shudders, even now, as she goes back in memory and revisits this cellar, and sees its inmates, of both sexes and all ages, sleeping on those damp boards, like the horse, with a little straw and a blanket; and she wonders not at the rheumatisms, and fever-sores, and palsies, that distorted the limbs and racked the bodies of those fellow-slaves in aft er-life. Still, she does not attribute this cruelty-for cruelty it certainly is, to be so unmindful of the health and comfort of any being, leaving entirely out of sight his more important part, his everlasting interests-so much to any innate or constitutional cruelty of the master as to that gigantic inconsistency, that inherited habit among slaveholders, of expecting a willing and intelligent obedience from the slave, because he is a MAN-at the same time every thing belonging to the soul-harrowing system does its best to crush the last vestige of a man within him; and when it is crushed, and oft en before, he is denied the comforts of life, on the plea that he knows neither the want nor the use of them, and because he is considered to be little more or little less than a beast.