Wayland Attitudes Toward Slavery, 1861;

Early enlistment meetings were not without controversy.  From a letter to Lucy Osgood from Lydia Maria Child in Wayland Historical Society


Wayland May 7th, 1861


“My very Dear Friend,


When I received your letter saying, ‘Not a booby is to be found so stupid as not to know that this war is on account of slavery, and nothing else,’ I had just finished reading a long and elaborate editorial in the Boston Advertiser, to prove that slavery had nothing whatsoever to do with this war, and that it was altogether absurd to suggest that it had; it was a war to (preserve the union), not to meddle with slavery, and that everybody ought to remember that ...  Here in the drowsy village of Wayland, last week, David attended one of the fashionable meetings for furnishing aid to the U.S.  He was very violently treated, and almost mobbed, for saying something about the duty of the U.S. toward slaves that might offer to fight on its side.  He was told the war had nothing to do with (slavery); the war was to preserve the Union, that’s what they were fighting for.”


Later writing to fellow abolitionist Eliza Scudder from Wayland, Friday April 22, 1864, the tone has changed:


 “Another encouraging thing is the marvelous and constantly increasing change in public opinion on the subject of Slavery...Captain Wade, of the U.S. Navy, who bought a house for his wife in this town, has been a bitter pro-slavery man, violent and vulgar in his talk against abolitionists and (blacks).  Two years ago, he was for having us mobbed because we advocated emancipating and arming the slaves.  He has been serving in the vicinity of N. Orleans, and has come home on a furlough, an out-spoken abolitionist.  He not only says it in private; but has delivered three lectures in town, in which he has publicly announced the total change in his sentiments since he has had ‘an opportunity to know something on the subject.’  A few days ago, he was going in the cars from Boston to Roxbury, when a colored soldier entered the car.  Attempting to seat himself, he was (turned back) by a white man, who rudely exclaimed, ‘I’m not going to ride with (blacks).’  Captain Wade, who sat a few seats further forward, rose up, in all the gilded glory of his naval uniform, and called out, “Come here, my good fellow!  I’ve been fighting along side of people of your color, and glad enough I was to have ‘em by my side.  Come and sit by me.’


Two years ago I would not have believed such a thing possible of him.  So the work goes on, in all directions.  There are two sides to the shield; one dark as midnight, the other bright with the Rising Sun...So keep up a good heart.”


LM Child wrote about William Grout’s views in a letter to a friend: “I have also been a mile, to a brook in the woods, to see the miller, who constructed a telescope for himself. I sat on a log by the mill wheel and settled the affairs of the nation with him, much to our mutual satisfaction. To him the war means emancipation.”


In June 1876 The Unitarian Women produced an issue of Our Whatnot (price 5 cents) that had an article by L. Maria Child on the Underground Rail Road for its lead story. She tells the story of Quakers in Oberlin during Fugitive Slave Law days that “boasted that no master ever did, or ever should, get a slave out of Oberlin.” So eight or ten slave holders from Kentucky arrived to challenge this boast, and they came with guns, knives and a constable. The Kentuckians patrolled all the streets and didn’t turn up any slaves. When they saw several abolitionists going into the woods at night, the slaveholders followed them. A cat and mouse game followed, but the slaveholders didn’t catch anyone. Then they saw a covered wagon driven by an abolitionist with people hidden inside, and the chase began. At a farm house, the wagon stopped and the slave holders drew pistols and inspected the interior of the wagon where they found four colored men and two colored women. They were rudely pulled out, handcuffed and brought to jail. A trial was to take place early in the morning. “When the master approached the jail room they heard songs and laughter. “ …The door was unlocked and opened and lo, not a darkey was there! The room was occupied by four white men and two white boys. …Faces had been blackened for the occasion, and washed before morning; and while this farce was being enacted, the real slaves had been safely conveyed away in another direction.”