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Rev. Nehemiah Adams of Boston graduated from Harvard University and Andover Theological Seminary, and for 44 years pastored the Union Congregational Church in Boston. In 1854, immediately after signing a remonstrance against the extension of slavery into the Kansas and Nebraska territories, and undertaking other anti-slavery activity, he set out for the South, expecting to see “the whole black population cowed down.” During his visit of three months, taken for his health, Rev. Adams was very surprised by the cheerful behavior of the slaves, starting with his arrival at the dock in Savannah, Georgia. Rev. Adams was astounded, especially by the sobriety, safety, manners, Christian devotion and humility of African-Americans at worship services. The treatment and life of slaves showed a much better and humane side than he had ever imagined.
Rev. Adams observed “the amount of happiness among them compares favorably with that among the same number of people elsewhere. If there are some evils to which they are exposed, there are others from which they are exempt.” Slaves, he found, were virtually exempt from alcohol abuse, concern about the future or old age, pauperism, mobs, labor and sectarian strife, involvement in crime, and incarceration; were better clothed, better paid, and more content than he previously thought; and were more devout Christians than many educated people in the North. Slaveholders he discovered did a much better job of spreading the Christian gospel than employers in the North, and were personally much closer to their servants. “Boys and men cannot abuse another man’s servant. Wrongs to his person are avenged.”
Rev. Adams watched the slave auction of an infant and an older girl and was very much upset. Later, he found out that the infant was being purchased by the owner of the infant’s mother, and that the girl was being auctioned to clear her title, to vest 100% ownership in the master who already owned a three-quarters interest in her. The auctioneer told Rev. Adams of their great success in keeping slaves out of the hands of unscrupulous men, honoring the wishes of the slaves as to their ownership, keeping local slaves from being sold away, and keeping families together.
Rev. Nehemiah Adams of Boston noticed the happiness of slaves while observing their choral performance. “The impression here made upon me, or rather confirmed and illustrated afresh, was, that the slaves, so far as I had seen, were unconscious of any feeling of restraint; the natural order of life proceeded with them; they did not act like a driven, overborne people, stealing about with sulky looks, imbruted by abuse, crazed, stupidly melancholic. People habitually miserable could not have conducted the musical service of public worship as they did; their looks and manner gave agreeable testimony that, in spite of their condition, they had sources of enjoyment and ways of manifesting it which suggested to a spectator no thought of involuntary servitude.”
Dr. Adams of Massachusetts observed the pass system keeping slaves at home after 8:00 PM in the city was not all bad. These rules were “theoretically usurpations, but practically benevolent . . . for [a]round the drinking saloons there were white men and boys whose appearance and behavior reminded me of ‘liberty and pursuit of happiness’ in similar places at the north; but there were no colored men there: the slaves are generally free as to street brawls and open drunkenness. . . I had occasion to pity some white southerners, as they issued late at night from a drinking-place, in being deprived of the wholesome restraint laid upon the colored population."
This 1854 book was a major reference source for the 2010 book, "Prison & Slavery - A Surprising Comparison."