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"The Devil's Frying Pan" (80)
Harper's Weekly, May 7, 1864

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Synopsis

1864

One night, a misshapen black man boards a naval sloop with information that a Confederate ship is going to run the blockade the next night. The naval men question the man, and discover that he and his family, all free, live on a small island in the Altamaha River. The Confederate men plan on having a celebration before their ship leaves, so the man and the naval officers set up a trap. The next night, the naval officers surprise the Confederates, and, after a brief struggle, overpower them. The misshapen man then asks if the officers will take him, his brother and a runaway slave girl North with them. The girl ran away because she was pretty, and did not want to lose her chastity to her master. The misshapen man loves her, but knows that she will never love him. She loves the brother, yet the man is determined to serve her and his brother any way he can. The naval officers agree to help them, and one, a doctor, marvels at the man’s strength of character.

Harper's Text

"The Devil’s Frying Pan"
May 7, 1864, pages 294 (2) – 295 (3)

History

"The Slavery Question"
December 7, 1861, page 770 (2)

Military Background

"In Dixie"
April 4, 1863, page 219 (4)

Illustrations


"The Last Men at Beaufort, S.C.,"
November 30, 1861, page 768 (3-4)


"’Work Over’: Scenes Among
the Beaufort Contrabands,"
December 21, 1861, page 801 (1-4)


"Arrival of a Federal Column at
a Planter’s House in Dixie,"
April 4, 1863, page 220 (1-4)

Commentary

"The Old Story" August 1, 1863, page 482

The stain of the late riots on the history of the city of New York is indelible. The utter meanness of the hunting and bloody massacre of the most unfortunate class of the population is not to be forgotten. The burning of an orphan asylum is infamous beyond parallel in the annals of mobs. And how entirely undeserved this mad hatred of the colored race is, every sober man in this country knows. No class among us are and have been so foully treated as the black, yet none furnishes, in proportion, so few offenders against the laws. Proverbially a mild, affectionate, and docile people, they have received from us, who claim to be a superior race, a treatment which of itself disproves our superiority.

How the more intelligent persons among the enemies of this race console their consciences under the awful fate which their incessant and sneering depreciation of the colored people has at last brought upon those unfortunates, it is impossible to say. Yet we observe that some of them clutch at the old subterfuge, and declare that it is the unwise attempt to elevate the blacks "above their sphere" which is responsible for their late fearful martyrdom. Look at this statement a moment. Its argument is that to insist upon personal liberty, as the natural right of every innocent human being, only tends to create jealousy among other human beings. To state the argument is to smother it in ridicule.

Put in another form, the same plea is that God has made the black race subservient to the white, and that to declare their right to personal liberty is to advocate their social equality, to erect them into rival laborers, and to disorganize society. The reply to this is, that God has made the black race subservient to the white in the same way that he has made Jews subservient to Christians, and the Irish to the English, and in no other. It used to please Christians to call the Jews "dogs," and to injure and murder them in every way—and to this day to call a man "Jew" is only less offensive than to call him "nigger." It used to please the English to consider the Irish unclean beasts, and treat them accordingly. Does any body seriously defend this kind of persecution as any thing more than the basest and most criminal prejudice? Coleridge professed the same instinctive hatred of a Frenchman that so many among us profess of a negro. Was it an evidence of Coleridge’s wisdom or folly?

The argument we are considering amounts to this—that you must not befriend the unfortunate lest you provoke the ignorant and brutal; you must not defend the rights of the oppressed lest the oppressors should wax wroth. It is an argument for tyrants, cowards, and sneaks—not for men.

 

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