The Beautiful Slave” was one of the few pieces about race to appear in the Youth’s Magazine (Cincinnati, Ohio) in 1837. Reprinted from a New York newspaper, it’s a melodramatic little piece. The light-skinned woman beloved by the man who owns her, the creditor who apparently plans to install her in his house for nefarious purposes—the elements were combined by many a novelist and playwright. The story certainly intrigued Nathaniel Willis, who reprinted it in the July 28, 1837 issue of Youth’s Companion.
“The Beautiful Slave” (reprinted from the New York Sun; from Youth’s Magazine, September 1837; pp. 310-312)

A gentleman of fortune in this city, (N. Y.,) has received a letter from his brother, who is president of one of the Mobile banks, who entions, among other matters relative to the present distressing times, some interesting incidents touching the sale of the effects of a late merchant of that city, Mr. N****. This gentleman was possessed of a beautiful female slave, about eighteen years of age. At the north she would have been taken for a brunette, being as unlike the French Creoles as possible. Indeed it was said that she had not a drop of French, and but precious little African blood in her veins. Nevertheless she was a slave at the time of her master’s failure, and as such became the property of his creditors. An individual, a broker, to whom he owed some $10,000, determined to possess himself of this girl, if possible; and it was likewise the intention of the

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broken merchant to redeem her at all hazards. All the creditors except the broker agreed that N. might retain his slave, on giving a good endorsed twelve-month’s note for $1,500, with interest. He alone demanded the sale of the girl under the hammer, and the unfortunate merchant was compelled to submit; determined, however, to have some of his friends buy her for him. The day of the sale having arrived, Mr. N. was under no apprehension but that he could retain his Martha for something less than $2,000, and he had made arrangements to meet that sum in full, and commissioned one of his friends to make the purchase for him. But what was his surprise and indignation to see his refractory creditor make the first bid $2,500! He was not thus to be baulked, and, under instructions, his friend bid $2,600. The creditor, however, persisted in overbidding, until the beautiful Martha was struck off to him at $4,500!

It was utterly impossible for the broken merchant to raise money even for the last bid he had made upon his Martha, had it succeeded in purchasing her, and his creditor would doubtless have still outbid him had he gone higher. He must therefore loose her, or pay the full amount of the $10,000 debt, which it was impossible for him to do. What was then to be done? He had purchased her on his first arrival at the south more than eight years ago, at her own request. She was then living about twenty miles from Mobile. He had given her every advantage of education, and brought her up as tenderly as though she were his own daughter; and now she would sooner part with life itself than become a slave!

Her feelings on learning her situation (for N. had carefully concealed the announcement of the sale from her,) were probably similar to those which the proud daughter of any citizen would experience in a like predicament; for the fact of her being a slave was known to but few in Mobile. She therefore sent word to her purchaser that she would never consent to leave her present abode alive. In answer to this message, he sent two officers to take her into custody. Meantime Mr. N. had encouraged her that she should certainly escape her doom, and embark for New York, whither he would join her in a short time, never again to return; and he would there marry her. Martha was shortly after this placed in the common jail at Mobile as a stubborn servant; but fortunately the keeper interested himself in her behalf, and she enjoyed equal comforts with those of her master’s servants.

Just ten days after this, Martha signified her consent to leave the prison, and take up her abode with her new master, the heartless creditor of N.—With pleasure and surprise she was liberated by the purchaser, who appropriated a handsome apartment in his own house to her use. The same night she started for Savannah per express, unknown to any one save the faithful N. $1000 reward was immediately offered for her apprehension and the detection of those who had aided in her escape; and on the fifth day the reward was doubled; messengers also having been sent to New Orleans, and in several

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other directions. A fortnight passed, and no tidings of the beautiful slave Martha. Every one suspected, though none could prove, that her former master had aided in her escape. Mr. N. had now nearly arranged his affairs, and was about to leave Mobile. His stubborn creditor had tried by every means in his power to procure an indictment against him, but without success; when on the evening before N’s departure, his friend, at his desire, called upon the creditor, to endeavor if possible to purchase a release of the title to Martha. ‘No,’ replied the broker, ‘I would sooner spend $10,000 than be tricked by the infernal Yankee!’ N. took his leave, depositing $800 with his friend, which was all the spare money he had, instructing him to purchase with it the freedom of Martha if possible.

Within one month from the time N. left Mobile, the extensive house of R. M. & brothers, cotton brokers, stopped payment; and in due time, the sale of their personal property devolved upon an auctioneer. Among the living chattels disposed of, the title to the beautiful slave Martha, then absent, but who cost $4,500, was struck off to the friend of N. for sixty-two dollars!

This narrative is no fiction—the writer of the letter first mentioned being the identical purchaser of the slave Martha. His immediate object in writing to the gentleman who furnished us with the above, was to ascertain the whereabouts of his friend N., as he had been unable to hear from him since his important purchase, though he had immediately written to New York, acquainting him with it. We have been promised an introduction to the heroine of this narrative, and her now happy husband.

Copyright 1999-2024, Pat Pflieger
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