The Unionist 1:45 or 1:46
(June 12 or 19, 1834)
[From the Brooklyn Unionist.]
Canterbury decency exemplified.—It may not be known to many of our readers that the Junior editor of this paper (W.H. Burleigh) has, for several weeks past, been engaged as an instructor in Miss Crandall’s school. Such, however, is the fact. We did not pause to enquire whether the benevolent and christian people of Canterbury would be pleased or displeased with it—or what other people might say or think about it—the conviction that we could be useful—that we could by our influence, limited though it be, and by our example and by our labors assist in the moral and intellectual elevation of a race long and grievously oppressed, was sufficient to induce us to take the step we have taken. We knew the shameful persecutions which Miss Crandall had endured, and were ready to expect that we also might receive a share of obloquy. We are willing to receive the censure of a certain class. The hate of the bad is the highest commendation a good man can receive.
On Tuesday evening last, as we were returning after the labors of the day, to our lodgings about a quarter of a mile south of the village, we were saluted, when opposite the house of an opposer of the school, by a volley of addled eggs. They poured in upon us like grape shot from a seventy-four—but luckily no one hit us. The miscreants who made the assault were concealed, like cowards, behind the wall, and owing to this and the dimness of the night, we were unable to discern any one. We quickened our pace, and was soon beyond the reach of the missiles. As we passed the barn of the individual above referred to, however, we perceived that the great door fronting the street was wide open, and we made up our mind to receive another volley from the garrison which we had reason to suspect was within. Nor were we disappointed. Canterbury arguments, in the shape of addled eggs, again poured in upon us; but we passed rapidly on, and were soon beyond their reach. We know not how it happened, but for some reason we escaped untouched, though many were thrown and some struck very near us.
We have a few remarks to make upon this shameful and unprovoked attack. To say it is in perfect keeping with the past course of Canterburians is to say nothing new. When fathers offer to help tear down the house, and assert that they had rather their children should go to hell, than to go to school to Miss C. in case she should ever take a white school again—when fathers conspire together to starve the school out, and reckless miscreants are thus encouraged to attempt to burn it out—when fathers look with complacency, nay, with delight upon the depredations already made on Miss C’s property—it is not to be wondered at that their children, previously depraved as they are, should venture in the darkness of the night to attack an unarmed individual who was known not only to favor Miss C’s project, but to assist her in the accomplishment of her designs. We are not disappointed. Addled eggs are fit instruments for such people—and such people, when engaged in robbing their neighbor’s hen-roosts to obtain them, and afterwards skulking behind the walls and in the barns to thrown them at the passer by, are engaged in an avocation for which their capacities seem to be peculiarly adapted. We envy them not the distinction which they will inevitably acquire. But it would become the parents of such promising youths, if, instead of casting impediments in the way of the instruction of others, they would instruct their own children in good morals and good manners, and if they cannot render them useful, at least render them decent. A portion of their leisure time devoted to the laudable object of checking the precocious depravity of their offspring, may save them the future anguish of witnessing that offspring dangling from the gallows. We hope our advice will be taken kindly by Canterbury people.
This article is intended for those only whom it fits. No others will understand us as meaning them. We cannot forbear adding, however, as a quieter to the vague fears of the parents of Canterbury, that there can be no danger of their sons ever marrying any of the colored girls of Miss C’s school even if they were so inclined. They must become far more refined, in mind and in manners, before they would be able to come in competition with the most ignorant and least refined scholar in school.
Unionist Keyword Categories:
1. Canterbury Female Academy
2. African-American Students
3. Prudence Crandall
4. Canterbury White Opposition
5. Peace and Non-Violence
Egging is still a racist vigilante tactic ☞
from The Liberator, June 21, 1834, p. 100 (4:25:100)
The Liberator at the Fair Use Repository
Commentary and Analysis
This piece, clearly written by William Burleigh - the victim of the vigilante attack - tells us two important biographical details about him. First, he describes himself as the Unionist's "junior editor" and second, he announces that he has become a co-teacher at the Canterbury Female Academy for "several weeks past." This would place his teaching at the school sometime in May 1834; we know he continued in that role until the school closed in September of 1834. Burleigh states that his reasoning came from an anti-racist position (albeit one still couched in the standard nineteenth-century language of uplift): "by our example and by our labors assist in the moral and intellectual elevation of a race long and grievously oppressed." The patronization here, though, is, to my ears, offset by the concluding paragraph's wry sarcasm, in which William Burleigh says that the white male youth of Canterbury need have no fear of the Black women students marrying them, as the young Black women, even the weakest of the pupils at the Academy, are "far more refined, in mind and in manners" than the ruffians of the village.
The pacifist doctrines of the Burleigh family and Crandall are not mentioned explicitly here, but are clearly invoked in William's decision to not respond at a physical level nor to engage the vigilantes. As can be seen in many other historical instances of non-violence, the lack of a physical response does not mean that the intended victim lacks a strong, sharp critique of his attackers. It is odd, though, that Burleigh raises the possibility of the gallows as a future fate for miscreant young men whose parents do not reel in their misbehavior; opposition to the death penalty is one of the areas in which the Unionist's senior editor, Charles C. Burleigh, made his fame.
At a technical level, it is not possible from the vague "last week's Unionist" label from the Liberator to ascertain whether this came from the June 12 or June 19 issue of The Unionist. The publication dates for the two papers - Thursday for The Unionist and Saturday for The Liberator, make it possible for this content to have come from the June 19 issue, The internal evidence is mixed. There had been a teaser article about this story published in the previous Liberator, which places the attack itself on June 10, 1834. There are some language similarities between that short notice and this longer letter from Burleigh. But it is also possible that Burleigh needed some time to write the letter with equanimity. So I have placed this tentatively as content from the June 19, 1834 Unionist.