My mother always wildly decorates her home for the holidays. This year she has sent us pictures of her fantastical decorations because my husband and I have decided that it wouldn’t be prudent to travel. We haven’t put up a tree at our house. However, we’ve decorated the larger houseplants with lights and hung the kids’ stockings.
As I was looking for something to post on my blog, I came across the description of this melancholy Christmas from 1914, found in My War Diary, by Mary King Waddington.
Mary was born in New York City in 1833 and later moved with her family to France. There, she became the second wife of William Henry Waddington. William later served as the Prime Minister of France in 1879 and then as the French Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Mary wrote several books about her experiences as a French statesman’s wife.
In My War Diary, which takes place after her husband’s death, she chronicles her experiences in France during WWI. During the time of the excerpt below, she is living with her daughter-in-law, Charlotte, in Paris, while her son Francis is away at war.
Charlotte and I went out this morning to do a little, very little shopping. She won’t have a Christmas tree, which the boys quite understand. “War times” explains everything. But they have their crèche as usual, as all the animals and rois mages are there; and hung up their stockings–one for father, and we will send him a Christmas paquet, with a plum-pudding.
Our dinner was as cheerful as it could be under the circumstances.
We had a small tree in the middle of the table, just to mark the day. We tried not to miss Francis too awfully; choked a little when we drank to our men at the front. I wonder what next Christmas will bring us, and how many places will be empty at the Christmas dinner. But we mustn’t look forward, only be thankful that after five months of war none of our men are touched.
The days are so exactly alike. Time slips by without our realising how fast it goes.
I am writing late, just to see the old year out. The street is perfectly quiet and dark. No balls, no réveillons. This tragic year finishes in darkness and silence. Certainly, if Paris had become too frivolous and pleasure-loving, she is expiating it now. The people themselves are so changed. They are not sad; that isn’t the word, but serious, engrossed with the men in the ranks and the women and children left behind them.
Paris is caring well for all her children. There are ouvroirs and free meals (very good) everywhere.
Dans un hôpital du Nord de la France, le décor de Christmas (Noël). 1914.
I’m excerpting from a very special book today. You may recognize the story as you read along. I won’t display the book’s title and authors until the end of the post.
MY wife and myself were born in different towns in the state of Georgia, which is one of the principal slave States. It is true, our condition as slaves was not by any means the worst; but the mere idea that we were held as chattels, and deprived of all legal rights—the thought that we had to give up our hard earnings to a tyrant, to enable him to live in idleness and luxury—the thought that we could not call the bones and sinews that God gave us our own: but above all, the fact that another man had the power to tear from our cradle the new-born babe and sell it in the shambles like a brute, and then scourge us if we dared to lift a finger to save it from such a fate, haunted us for years.
My wife’s first
master was her father, and her mother his slave, and the latter is still the
slave of his widow.
Notwithstanding my wife being of African extraction on her mother’s side, she is almost white— in fact, she is so nearly so that the tyrannical old lady to whom she first belonged became so annoyed, at finding her frequently mistaken for a child of the family, that she gave her when eleven years of age to a daughter, as a wedding present. This separated my wife from her mother, and also from several other dear friends. But the incessant cruelty of her old mistress made the change of owners or treatment so desirable, that she did not grumble much at this cruel separation.
My old master had the reputation of being a very humane and Christian man, but he thought nothing of selling my poor old father, and dear aged mother, at separate times, to different persons, to be dragged off never to behold each other again, till summoned to appear before the great tribunal of heaven. But, oh! what a happy meeting it will be on that day for those faithful souls. I say a happy meeting, because I never saw persons more devoted to the service of God than they. But how will the case stand with those reckless traffickers in human flesh and blood, who plunged the poisonous dagger of separation into those loving hearts which God had for so many years closely joined together—nay, sealed as it were with his own hands for the eternal courts of heaven? It is not for me to say what will become of those heartless tyrants. I must leave them in the hands of an all-wise and just God, who will, in his own good time, and in his own way, avenge the wrongs of his oppressed people.
My old master also
sold a dear brother and a sister, in the same manner as he did my father and
mother. The reason he assigned for disposing of my parents, as well as of
several other aged slaves, was, that “they were getting old, and would
soon become valueless in the market, and therefore he intended to sell off all
the old stock, and buy in a young lot.” A most disgraceful conclusion for
a man to come to, who made such great professions of religion!
This shameful conduct
gave me a thorough hatred, not for true Christianity, but for slave-holding
My old master, then, wishing to make the most of the rest of his slaves, apprenticed a brother and myself out to learn trades: he to a blacksmith, and myself to a cabinet-maker. If a slave has a good trade, he will let or sell for more than a person without one, and many slave-holders have their slaves taught trades on this account. But before our time expired, my old master wanted money; so he sold my brother, and then mortgaged my sister, a dear girl about fourteen years of age, and myself, then about sixteen, to one of the banks, to get money to speculate in cotton. This we knew nothing of at the moment; but time rolled on, the money became due, my master was unable to meet his payments; so the bank had us placed upon the auction stand and sold to the highest bidder.
My poor sister was
sold first: she was knocked down to a planter who resided at some distance in
the country. Then I was called upon the stand. While the auctioneer was crying
the bids, I saw the man that had purchased my sister getting her into a cart,
to take her to his home. I at once asked a slave friend who was standing near
the platform, to run and ask the gentleman if he would please to wait till I
was sold, in order that I might have an opportunity of bidding her good-bye. He
sent me word back that he had some distance to go, and could not wait.
I then turned to the auctioneer, fell upon my knees, and humbly prayed him to let me just step down and bid my last sister farewell. But, instead of granting me this request, he grasped me by the neck, and in a commanding tone of voice, and with a violent oath, exclaimed, “Get up! You can do the wench no good; therefore there is no use in your seeing her.”
On rising, I saw the
cart in which she sat moving slowly off; and, as she clasped her hands with a
grasp that indicated despair, and looked pitifully round towards me, I also saw
the large silent tears trickling down her cheeks. She made a farewell bow, and
buried her face in her lap.
My wife was torn from
her mother’s embrace in childhood, and taken to a distant part of the country.
She had seen so many other children separated from their parents in this cruel
manner, that the mere thought of her ever becoming the mother of a child, to
linger out a miserable existence under the wretched system of American slavery,
appeared to fill her very soul with horror; and as she had taken what I felt to
be an important view of her condition, I did not, at first, press the marriage,
but agreed to assist her in trying to devise some plan by which we might escape
from our unhappy condition, and then be married.
We thought of plan
after plan, but they all seemed crowded with insurmountable difficulties. We
knew it was unlawful for any public conveyance to take us as passengers,
without our master’s consent. We were also perfectly aware of the startling
fact, that had we left without this consent the professional slave-hunters
would have soon had their ferocious bloodhounds baying on our track, and in a
short time we should have been dragged back to slavery, not to fill the more
favourable situations which we had just left, but to be separated for life, and
put to the very meanest and most laborious drudgery; or else have been tortured
to death as examples, in order to strike terror into the hearts of others, and
thereby prevent them from even attempting to escape from their cruel
taskmasters. It is a fact worthy of remark, that nothing seems to give the
slaveholders so much pleasure as the catching and torturing of fugitives. They
had much rather take the keen and poisonous lash, and with it cut their poor
trembling victims to atoms, than allow one of them to escape to a free country,
and expose the infamous system from which he fled.
The greatest excitement prevails at a slave-hunt. The slaveholders and their hired ruffians appear to take more pleasure in this inhuman pursuit than English sportsmen do in chasing a fox or a stag. Therefore, knowing what we should have been compelled to suffer, if caught and taken back, we were more than anxious to hit upon a plan that would lead us safely to a land of liberty.
But, after puzzling
our brains for years, we were reluctantly driven to the sad conclusion, that it
was almost impossible to escape from slavery in Georgia, and travel 1,000 miles
across the slave States. We therefore resolved to get the consent of our
owners, be married, settle down in slavery, and endeavour to make ourselves as
comfortable as possible under that system; but at the same time ever to keep
our dim eyes steadily fixed upon the glimmering hope of liberty, and earnestly
pray God mercifully to assist us to escape from our unjust thraldom.
We were married, and prayed and toiled on till December, 1848, at which time (as I have stated) a plan suggested itself…
slaveholders have the privilege of taking their slaves to any part of the
country they think proper, it occurred to me that, as my wife was nearly white,
I might get her to disguise herself as an invalid gentleman, and assume to be
my master, while I could attend as his slave, and that in this manner we might
effect our escape.
After I thought of the plan, I suggested it to my wife, but at first she shrank from the idea. She thought it was almost impossible for her to assume that disguise, and travel a distance of 1,000 miles across the slave States. However, on the other hand, she also thought of her condition. She saw that the laws under which we lived did not recognize her to be a woman, but a mere chattel, to be bought and sold, or otherwise dealt with as her owner might see fit. Therefore the more she contemplated her helpless condition, the more anxious she was to escape from it. So she said, “I think it is almost too much for us to undertake; however, I feel that God is on our side, and with his assistance, notwithstanding all the difficulties, we shall be able to succeed. Therefore, if you will purchase the disguise, I will try to carry out the plan.”
But after I concluded to purchase the disguise, I was afraid to go to anyone to ask him to sell me the articles. It is unlawful in Georgia for a white man to trade with slaves without the master’s consent. But, notwithstanding this, many persons will sell a slave any article that he can get the money to buy. Not that they sympathize with the slave, but merely because his testimony is not admitted in court against a free white person.
Therefore, with little difficulty I went to different parts of the town, at odd times, and purchased things piece by piece, (except the trowsers which she found necessary to make,) and took them home to the house where my wife resided. She being a ladies’ maid, and a favourite slave in the family, was allowed a little room to herself; and amongst other pieces of furniture which I had made in my overtime, was a chest of drawers; so when I took the articles home, she locked them up carefully in these drawers. No one about the premises knew that she had anything of the kind. So when we fancied we had everything ready the time was fixed for the flight. But we knew it would not do to start off without first getting our master’s consent to be away for a few days. Had we left without this, they would soon have had us back into slavery, and probably we should never have got another fair opportunity of even attempting to escape.
Some of the best slaveholders will sometimes give their favourite slaves a few days’ holiday at Christmas time; so, after no little amount of perseverance on my wife’s part, she obtained a pass from her mistress, allowing her to be away for a few days. The cabinet-maker with whom I worked gave me a similar paper, but said that he needed my services very much, and wished me to return as soon as the time granted was up.
However, at first, we
were highly delighted at the idea of having gained permission to be absent for
a few days; but when the thought flashed across my wife’s mind, that it was
customary for travellers to register their names in the visitors’ book at
hotels, as well as in the clearance or Custom-house book at Charleston, South
Carolina —it made our spirits droop within us.
So, while sitting in
our little room upon the verge of despair, all at once my wife raised her head,
and with a smile upon her face, which was a moment before bathed in tears,
said, “I think I have it!” I asked what it was. She said, “I
think I can make a poultice and bind up my right hand in a sling, and with
propriety ask the officers to register my name for me.” I thought that
It then occurred to
her that the smoothness of her face might betray her; so she decided to make
another poultice, and put it in a white handkerchief to be worn under the chin,
up the cheeks, and to tie over the head. This nearly hid the expression of the
countenance, as well as the beardless chin.
The poultice is left
off in the engraving, because the likeness could not have been taken well with
My wife, knowing that she would be thrown a good deal into the company of gentlemen, fancied that she could get on better if she had something to go over the eyes; so I went to a shop and bought a pair of green spectacles. This was in the evening.
We sat up all night discussing the plan, and making preparations. Just before the time arrived, in the morning, for us to leave, I cut off my wife’s hair square at the back of the head, and got her to dress in the disguise and stand out on the floor. I found that she made a most respectable looking gentleman.
My wife had no
ambition whatever to assume this disguise, and would not have done so had it
been possible to have obtained our liberty by more simple means; but we knew it
was not customary in the South for ladies to travel with male servants; and
therefore, notwithstanding my wife’s fair complexion, it would have been a very
difficult task for her to have come off as a free white lady, with me as her
slave; in fact, her not being able to write would have made this quite
impossible. We knew that no public conveyance would take us, or any other
slave, as a passenger, without our master’s consent. This consent could never
be obtained to pass into a free State. My wife’s being muffled in the
poultices, &c., furnished a plausible excuse for avoiding general
conversation, of which most Yankee travellers are passionately fond.
When the time had arrived for us to start, we blew out the lights, knelt down, and prayed to our Heavenly Father mercifully to assist us, as he did his people of old, to escape from cruel bondage; and we shall ever feel that God heard and answered our prayer. Had we not been sustained by a kind, and I sometimes think special, providence, we could never have overcome the mountainous difficulties…
Read more about William and Ellen Craft’s courageous journey to freedom, which took them all the way to England, in their book.
Last week I decided that I needed an organizer to help my poor addled mind. Rather than purchase one, I fired up Photoshop and created some custom pages based on my own needs. Of course, I couldn’t be satisfied with just words and lines, so I went hunting in Google Books for some pretty illustrations. I came across a volume of The Delineator, published in 1909. Amid all the lovely fashion images, I found this little article on the British Children Act of 1908.
I’m adding images of children up for adoption in 1909. The Delineator helped place children each month. Their stories are heartbreaking.
~ The Day of the Child
IT HAS come at last. While we have been pondering, in this country, the evils which affect child life, our mother, the ever aggressive England, has taken the great forward step. While here one devoted band of enthusiasts has been fighting for child-labor restrictions, and another for Child Hygiene and a third for Child Rescue, our great mother nation across the sea has been formulating and has now passed a drastic act, revolutionary in its provisions, which must bring joy and heartfelt relief to all those who have long since realized the import of proper legislation in regard to the child. To quote the newspaper reports of this great forward step:
“It provides for the stricter prevention of cruelty to children and the better safeguarding of infant life, institutes children’s courts, arranges for the segregation of juvenile offenders and undertakes a wider parental control of the morals of children.”
Pawnbrokers may not accept articles in pawn from children under fourteen years of age. Innkeepers may not allow them in their barrooms. Tobacconists may not sell cigarettes to boys apparently under sixteen, and constables must confiscate cigarettes or tobacco in their possession.
“A mother may not leave a child under seven in a room where there is an open fire. Every child put out to nurse for more than forty-eight hours must be registered, and foster-parents may not insure the lives of children in their care. Severe penalties are imposed for the ill-treatment or exposure of children. The suffocation of a child of less than three years as the result of “overlying by a person under the influence of drink is cause for prosecution. It is a punishable offense to permit a child to beg, or to live in evil surroundings. No liquor may be given to a child under five except in extraordinary circumstances. A vagrant may be punished for permitting a child to wander about with him.”
Isn’t that comforting?
And, what is more: “Persons under sixteen must be tried in special juvenile courts from which the public is excluded. After January first next a child may not be sentenced to death or to penal servitude or committed to prison in default of the payment of a fine or damages. Special ‘places of detention are instituted for young offenders, where they will be free from association with adult criminals, and reformatories and industrial schools are provided.”
Much along this line has already been done in the United States, but surely here for the first time is the children’s charter, and this is truly the day of the child. While we in this country have been fighting to arouse the American sense to the fact that there is a problem which concerns the child, England has solved it. She has blazed the way. We will come along some day with a “Children’s Secretary,” there will be a “bureau” to gather data concerning the child. We will have uniform State child-labor laws and child-hygiene laws and child-rescue laws, and when we do we will have great cause for rejoicing. But meanwhile England has preceded us, and in the matter of sound forward legislation on this all-important topic we are only beginning. England has given us the Magna Charta of the Child.
Welcome back! In part one of this post series, we examined the facts around the opium trade between India and China as brokered by the East India Company. Now we are going to take a more personal and in-depth look at the damage done to the Chinese populace. The below article can be found in The Merchants’ Magazine and Commercial Review, Volume 23, 1850. I have edited out sections that medically explain opium’s effect on the body.
As carried between India and China, including a sketch of its history, extent, effects, etc.
OPIUM is one of the oldest and most valuable articles in the Materia Medica. It is used in medicine, in its various preparations, under a greater variety of circumstances, and to accomplish more important results, than any other single article. Strike out this drug from the list of therapeutical remedies, and it would be very difficult for the whole class of narcotics or sedatives, or even both combined, to make good its place. The immortal Sydenham once remarked, that if he could be allowed only two weapons with which to combat disease, in its multifarious forms, opium would be his first choice. So on the other hand, the evils growing out of its abuse, surpass in magnitude, permanency, and extent, those of all other medicinal agents combined, unless it be that of ardent spirits.
Twenty, thirty, forty and more years ago, there were those who earnestly protested against England’s connection with the opium trade as then carried on with China. Their efforts to arouse public attention seemed unavailing. Few apparently gave heed.
It is otherwise now. Motions in Parliament, resolutions adopted in Convocation, in Church Congresses, Wesleyan Conferences, Congregational and Baptist Unions, and in public meetings all over the country, condemnatory of England’s connection with the opium trade, are so many indications of the awakening of the public conscience to the national sin committed by England in forcing the Government of China to admit our Indian opium.
As carried between India and China, including a sketch of its history, extent, effects, etc.
Few persons in this country are aware of the extent of traffic, or amount of capital invested in what is called the “opium trade,” and carried on mostly in South Eastern Asia. China expends for this single article, annually, more money than the entire revenue of the United States from all sources whatever, and a larger sum than any one nation on the globe pays to another for a single raw material, with the exception of what Great Britain pays to this country for cotton. The traffic is yet comparatively new——has grown with unparalleled rapidity, and is almost unknown, except to those personally concerned in it.
Opium is a production of the common English poppy, originally a native of Persia, but it may now be found growing as an ornamental plant in gardens throughout the civilized world. Most of the opium used for medical purposes in Europe and America is exported from Turkey; but India affords a far more extensive field for its cultivation. It is estimated by good judges, that more than 100,000 acres of the richest plains of Central India, are occupied for this purpose, giving employment to many thousands of men, women, and children. Formerly these same grounds were used for the production of sugar, indigo, corn, and other grain; but these useful crops have yielded to the more profitable culture of the poppy. It appears that a mild climate, rich soil, plentiful irrigation, and diligent husbandry, are absolutely necessary for its successful cultivation. The seed is sown in November, and the juice is collected during February and March. The falling of the flowers from the plant is the signal for making incissions, which is done by the cultivators in the cool of the evening, with hooked knives, in a circular direction, around the capsules. From these incisions, a white, milky juice exudes, which is concreted into a dark brown mass by the heat of the next day’s sun, and this, scraped off every evening, as the plant continues to exude, constitutes opium in its crude state. It is then converted into balls or cakes, covered with dried poppy leaves, and packed in chests of mango-wood, made expressly for the purpose, each chest containing from 125 to 150 pounds.