Half Title
 Title Page
 General editor's preface
 Title Page
 Chapter I
 Chapter II
 Chapter III
 Chapter IV
 Chapter V
 Chapter VI
 Chapter VII
 Chapter VIII
 Chapter IX
 Chapter X
 Chapter XI


Digitization of this item is currently in progress.
Trial and imprisonment of Jonathan Walker, at Pensacola, Florida, for aiding slaves to escape from bondage
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00101148/00001
 Material Information
Title: Trial and imprisonment of Jonathan Walker, at Pensacola, Florida, for aiding slaves to escape from bondage
Abbreviated Title: Bicentennial Floridiana reprint series
Physical Description: xcvi, 119, 8 p. : ill. ; 19 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Walker, Jonathan, 1799-1878 ( Author )
Richardson, Joe M. ( Introduction, Index )
Publisher: University Presses of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 1974
Copyright Date: 1974
Edition: Reproduction of 1845 edition
Subjects / Keywords: Fugitive slaves -- United States   ( lcsh )
Slavery -- Fugitive slaves -- United States   ( lcsh )
Walker, Jonathan -- 1799-1878   ( lcsh )
 Record Information
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 1054247
lccn - 74019173
isbn - 0813003717
System ID: UF00101148:00001


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Table of Contents
    Half Title
        Page i
        Page ii
    Title Page
        Page iii
        Page iv
        Page v
        Page vi
    General editor's preface
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
        Page x
        Page xi
        Page xii
        Page xiii
        Page xiv
        Page xv
        Page xvi
        Page xvii
        Page xviii
        Page xix
        Page xx
        Page xxi
        Page xxii
        Page xxiii
        Page xxiv
        Page xxv
        Page xxvi
        Page xxvii
        Page xxviii
        Page xxix
        Page xxx
        Page xxxi
        Page xxxii
        Page xxxiii
        Page xxxiv
        Page xxxv
        Page xxxvi
        Page xxxvii
        Page xxxviii
        Page xxxix
        Page xl
        Page xli
        Page xlii
        Page xliii
        Page xliv
        Page xlv
        Page xlvi
        Page xlvii
        Page xlviii
        Page xlix
        Page l
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        Page liii
        Page liv
        Page lv
        Page lvi
        Page lvii
        Page lviii
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        Page lx
        Page lxi
        Page lxii
        Page lxiii
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        Page lxv
        Page lxvi
        Page lxvii
        Page lxviii
        Page lxix
        Page lxx
        Page lxxi
        Page lxxii
        Page lxxiii
        Page lxxiv
        Page lxxv
        Page lxxvi
        Page lxxvii
        Page lxxviii
        Page lxxix
        Page lxxx
        Page lxxxi
        Page lxxxii
        Page lxxxiii
        Page lxxxiv
        Page lxxxv
        Page lxxxvi
        Page lxxxvii
        Page lxxxviii
        Page lxxxix
        Page xc
        Page xci
        Page xcii
        Page xciii
        Page xciv
        Page xcv
        Page xcvi
    Title Page
        Page a-i
        Page a-ii
        Page a-iii
        Page a-iv
        Page a-v
        Page a-vi
    Chapter I
        Page 7
        Page 8
    Chapter II
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
    Chapter III
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
    Chapter IV
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
    Chapter V
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
    Chapter VI
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
    Chapter VII
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
    Chapter VIII
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
    Chapter IX
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
    Chapter X
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
    Chapter XI
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
        Index 1
        Index 2
        Index 3
        Index 4
        Index 5
        Index 6
        Index 7
        Index 8
Full Text




Reproduced from the frontispiece
of the 1846 edition.













Library of Congr, ea -'in in Publication

Walker, Jonatha t 79-i878, -
Trial and imp ent of Jnhan Walker.
(Bicentennial lo diana facsi il~ series)
Facsim. of the ~ablished by the Anti-slavery
Office, Boston.
Includes bibliograp ences.
1. Slavery in the United States-Fugitive
slaves. 2. Slavery in the United States-Florida.
3. Walker, Jonathan, 1799-1878. I. Title. II. Series.
E450.W15 1845a 345'.73'0231 74-19173
ISBN 0-8130-0371-7



published under the sponsorship of the


SAMUEL PROCTOR, General Editor.





Governor Reubin O'D. Askew, Honorary
Lieutenant Governor Tom Adams, Chairman
Pat Dodson, Vice Chairman
Shelton Kemp, Executive Director

George I. Baumgartner, North Miami Beach
Wyon D. Childers, Pensacola
Johnnie Ruth Clarke, St. Petersburg
A. H. Craig, St. Augustine
Dorothy Glisson, Tallahassee
James A. Glisson, Tavares
Jack D. Gordon, Miami Beach
Richard S. Hodes, Tampa
Joe Lang Kershaw, Miami
Ney C. Landrum, Tallahassee
Mrs. Raymond Mason, Jacksonville
Mrs. E. D. Pearce, Coral Gables
Charles E. Perry, Miami
W. E. Potter, Orlando
Samuel Proctor, Gainesville
Ted Randell, Fort Myers
F. Blair Reeves, Gainesville
George E. Saunders, Winter Park
Don Shoemaker, Miami

Don L. Spicer, Tallahassee
Harold W. Stayman, Jr., Tampa
Alan Trask, Fort Meade
Ralph Turlington, Tallahassee
W. Robert Williams, Tallahassee
Lori Wilson, Merritt Island


THE letters SS-Slave Stealer-were burned
onto the right hand of Jonathan Walker in
Pensacola in 1844. This cruel punishment
placed him at once in the forefront of the
American abolitionist movement. Walker, a
poor and modest man who lived in obscurity all
of his life, was convicted in a Pensacola court
of helping slaves escape. Always an egalitar-
ian, Walker had experienced little personal con-
tact with slavery until he came to live in the
South. He abhorred oppression. He resented
the way that men and women were brutalized
and humiliated. His opposition to slavery was
buttressed by the things that he saw on every
hand. To him, the institution of slavery was
completely devoid of either justification or vir-
tue. The Declaration of Independence had de-
creed "that all men are created equal," and
this affirmation became Walker's creed. As he
saw it, slavery was not only a black tragedy
but it debased and corrupted all people, what-
ever their color or creed. That all men should
have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit
of happiness was the philosophy that had de-

manded political liberty in 1776 and had given
birth to our nation. This was Jonathan Walk-
er's philosophy of life.
In Pensacola, Walker agreed to take several
blacks by boat to Nassau. Overtaken in the
waters near Key West by a wrecking schooner,
he was transported back to Pensacola to stand
trial. He pleaded "not guilty" on grounds that
assisting men to escape from slavery was not
a crime. "How could peaceably aiding those
robbed of their liberty be considered steal-
ing?" he asked. "Guilty" was the jury's ver-
dict. In addition to a fine, fifteen days impris-
onment, and standing in the pillory for one
hour, Walker was to be branded. A roar of
protest inflamed public opinion. In the North,
Walker was hailed as an abolitionist martyr,
as the "scarred veteran of the liberty war."
Even in the South there were those who were
repelled by this unnecessary harshness and
cruelty. Released from imprisonment in Pen-
sacola, Walker was immediately drafted for
the anti-slavery lecture circuit. He had not
only a story to tell but a brand to show.
Walker's hand became even more famous when
John Greenleaf Whittier wrote a poem about
it. The poem and a picture-"an exact repre-
sentation" of the hand-were printed in dozens
of papers throughout the United States. The
poem was also set to music and became a great
favorite at countless anti-slavery gatherings.

0 0 0


The "Branded Hand" was recited by many
generations of schoolchildren.
Walker described his Florida experiences in
Trial and Imprisonment of Jonathan Walker,
at Pensacola, Florida, for Aiding Slaves to Es-
cape from Bondage, with an appendix contain-
ing a sketch of his life, published in Boston in
1845. Some critics compared it with Frederick
Douglass's autobiography, and it was indeed
significant in the anti-slavery movement. It
was a simple story, told without embellishment,
and readers admired Walker's courage and
honesty, and particularly his commitment to
The book is a valuable source for the study
of Florida history, and for this reason it was
selected as one of the twenty-five volumes to
be published in the Bicentennial Floridiana
Facsimile Series. Completion of this series of
rare, out-of-print books will make a substantial
contribution to Florida history and to scholar-
ship in general. Scholars like Professor Joe M.
Richardson of Florida State University, author
of the Introduction to Walker's Trial and Im-
prisonment, were asked to do an introduction
and to compile an index. In addition to the fac-
similes, the Florida Bicentennial Commission
will publish a series of monographs, pamphlets,
and books on Florida for use in the classroom
and for the general public. The Commission is
also sponsoring many state and local-level



programs aimed at achieving "goals that will
make a lasting contribution to the welfare and
betterment of the people of Florida and the
United States." The Commission was set up by
the Florida legislature to plan the state's in-
volvement in the national celebration.
Professor Richardson points out in his In-
troduction that unlike some abolitionist tracts
of the period there was little exaggeration in
Trial and Imprisonment of Jonathan Walker.
He describes it as "a measured, judicious, and
forgiving treatment of his trial and imprison-
ment as he perceived it." Walker makes many
observations about slavery and the attitudes
of white Floridians, but he rarely condemns
individuals. His ordeal did not turn him into a
bitter man. As Walker pointed out, and as
Professor Richardson quotes, he endeavored
to avoid "all false coloring and deviation from
the simple truth." The strength of the book,
according to Richardson, lay in its "strict ad-
herence to the truth." This characteristic, he
suggests, makes the book "more useful as a
document for later historians than as an anti-
slavery polemic."
Joe Martin Richardson is professor of his-
tory at Florida State University and special-
izes in Reconstruction and black history. A
native of the state of Missouri, he received his
undergraduate education at Southwest Mis-
souri State College and his masters and Ph.D.

degrees at Florida State University. He is the
author of The Negro in the Reconstruction of
Florida, 1865-1877, published by the Florida
State University Press, and reprinted by Trend
House. His history of Fisk University has been
accepted for publication. He has published sev-
eral articles dealing with various aspects of
the Negro and Reconstruction history in pro-
fessional and scholarly journals.

General Editor of the
University of Florida


Jonathan Walker was an obscure man who
performed one notable act and then lapsed
back into obscurity after several years of re-
sulting notoriety. Born March 22, 1799 of a
poor family in Harwich, Massachusetts,
Walker spent his first sixteen years on a small,
sandy, subsistence Cape Cod farm. His formal
education was meager.1 To his parents, work
on the farm was more important than study in
the schoolroom.
At age seventeen Walker went to sea. From
that time until 1835 he was a sailor, with oc-
casional interruptions for work on shore in the
ship yards. Though uneducated, Walker was
intelligent and observant and undoubtedly
learned much of the world. He shivered
through Russian winters and wilted under a
burning equatorial sun. In 1818 he lay danger-
ously ill with a raging fever for more than
twenty days in an East Indian village. Desti-
tute and totally dependent, he was cared for
by an alien people whose language he could
not speak. Probably he would later remember
their kindness when he came in contact with
American slaves.
While he failed to distinguish himself par-


ticularly as a sailor, Walker believed that "a
more than ordinary Providence" had attended
him throughout his sailing career. Less than
a year after his recovery from the earlier sick-
ness, he almost lost his life in a severe gale in
the English channel. While working the pumps
Walker was knocked unconscious and washed
into the lee scuppers of the ship. The storm
staved in the bulwarks, taking Walker and all
that was movable along. When the water
cleared the deck, he was found crawling out
between the lanyards of the lee main rigging.
If not seized by his mates, he would soon have
been washed overboard to certain death. Sev-
eral months afterward, he was catapulted over-
board from the fore top-sail yard arm. It was
a dark, cold night. Fortunately, he came into
contact with the bottom of the vessel, acci-
dentally caught a rope, and was dragged along
until the captain heard his shouts. No one
knew he had fallen, and again he was miracu-
lously rescued. In 1824 Walker was in Havana
during the yellow fever epidemic. Dozens of
people succumbed to the dread disease. Walker
was prostrated, but after several days' flirta-
tion with death, he recovered. A simple and
religious man, Walker perhaps came to believe
that God had a special reason for permitting
him to live.2
There is no way to determine absolutely
how or if Walker's life at sea affected his atti-



tude toward slavery. It is reasonable to sur-
mise that his association with other peoples
and black sailors may have been important
factors. Blacks served conspicuously on United
States vessels. Walker, definitely an egalitar-
ian, probably formed friendships with black
men and shared their resentment at discrim-
inatory treatment in southern ports. It is pos-
sible also that his experiences as a seaman
strengthened his tendency to despise all types
of oppression. He strongly believed that next
to the slave, the sailor was "thrown most
shamefully into the scale of oppression, wrong,
and neglect." Sailors were commonly subjected
to scurrilous language, threats, floggings, and
waving pistols, Walker said, and if the ordi-
nary seaman attempted to defend himself or
his mates "from violent abuse or blows from
an intemperate, overbearing, foul-mouthed"
captain, he was charged with mutiny and
thrown into prison "to undergo a mock trial
with overwhelming prejudice and power ar-
rayed against him." Walker personally knew
the feeling of being subject to virtually un-
limited power and authority.
In none of his writings did Walker indicate
what event or events turned him into an abo-
litionist. He claimed only that he became an
abolitionist in 1831 and thereafter acted upon
those principles.3 Circumstantial evidence
points to William Lloyd Garrison as playing a



role in his public declaration of antislavery.
Garrison, in Walker's view, was the pre-
eminent antislavery agitator, the "straight-
forward, unwavering, unflinching Editor,
fronting the hottest of the battle for universal
freedom and right." In his strictures against
slavery Walker quoted Garrison more often
than any source other than the scriptures. He
was distinctly Garrisonian in his views to-
ward slavery, abolition, the church, and politi-
cal action. Garrison's Liberator began publica-
tion the same year Walker reputedly declared
himself an abolitionist. Working out of Mas-
sachusetts, Walker undoubtedly was familiar
with the Liberator. Perhaps he had heard Gar-
rison speak or had talked with him personally.
Whatever the reasons, by 1831 he had strong
antislavery sentiments. One of his friends
later said that Walker was a conductor on the
underground railroad from around 1832, but
there is no proof for the claim.4
During the first thirty-five years of his life,
Walker experienced little personal contact with
slavery, but a decision made in 1835 resulted
in his living several years in the South. In
early 1835 he corresponded with Benjamin
Lundy, who had recently secured a 138,000-
acre land grant in the Mexican province of
Tamaulipas. Lundy intended to establish a
refuge for blacks who wished to escape Ameri-
can slavery and prejudice.5 Walker, impressed



with Lundy's scheme, agreed to accept an invi-
tation to join him but decided to examine the
promised land before moving his family. As a
result, in November 1835 Walker, accompanied
by his twelve-year-old son and a mechanic, set
sail from New Bedford, Massachusetts, in a
twelve-ton vessel for Mexico. After a rough,
stormy passage, the party arrived in Mata-
moras to find the country in an unsettled state
and experiencing a growing prejudice against
American citizens because of the Texas-
Mexican War.6 Following a futile wait for
others of the Lundy party to join him, Walker
contracted with several Matamoras mercantile
houses to carry mail for them to and from
New Orleans.7 On a return trip from New Or-
leans, June 6, 1836, Walker landed on the coast
and was attacked by a band of robbers while
disembarking. Walker's mechanic, R. Marble,
fled, pursued by two armed men. Walker never
saw him again. Walker's son dived into the
surf and swam out to sea. Walker himself re-
ceived two musket balls, one through the wrist,
the other in the abdomen. He asked for mercy,
but quickly deciding that none was forthcom-
ing, plunged into the sea after his son. For-
tunately, the attack occurred at sundown. By
divesting themselves of their clothing, Walker
and his son were able to keep their heads
above water until darkness permitted them to
elude their attackers and come ashore some



distance from their vessel. Fearful of return-
ing to Matamoras they started toward the
small village of Rancho, some forty miles dis-
tant at the mouth of the Rio del Norte. Trav-
eling afoot, suffering from pain, lack of water,
and loss of blood (he could stanch the bleeding
only by holding his wrist above his head),
Walker and his son staggered into the village
on the evening of June 7. Local citizens gen-
erously provided medical aid, food, water, and
Always poor, Walker now was destitute. His
boat and all provisions had been lost. Since his
wounds prevented immediate travel or work,
he was once again dependent upon the charity
of a kindly and foreign people. After his
wounds healed sufficiently (his arm was ever
afterward lame), he built another boat and re-
turned to the United States. In order to earn
desperately needed money, Walker determined
to engage in the Alabama-Florida coastal trade
rather than proceeding immediately to Massa-
chusetts. While involved in this venture he re-
putedly assisted several slaves who chanced to
come aboard in obtaining their freedom.
Eventually Walker settled in Pensacola, Flor-
ida. A resident remembered later that he had
arrived in town in a "little sloop" loaded with
bricks, potatoes, beets, and other notions. He
rented a house and began retailing his cargo.
In early 1837 Walker moved his family to Pen-



sacola, where he now remained for five years.9
Walker's abhorrence of oppression was
strengthened and deepened by his stay in the
South. At every opportunity he studied the
operations and effects of the peculiar institu-
tion. He "scrutinized it in the parlor and in
the kitchen, in the cottage, and in the field, in
the city and in the country." He saw slaves
brutally beaten, men and women treated as
children or sometimes as animals. He read
southern slave codes, saw advertisements for
runaways, and viewed the humiliating spec-
tacle of men and women being poked and
prodded and forced to perform before being
sold at public auction. Walker came to believe
as did Thomas Jefferson that "the whole com-
merce" between master and slave was "a per-
petual exercise of the most boisterous pas-
sions; the most unremitting despotism on the
one part, and degrading submission on the
other." His observations confirmed his earlier
views that slavery "ranked with the highest
wrongs and crimes that ever were invented by
the enemy of man." It was "ingeniously con-
trived to destroy the social and kind feelings
existing between man and man." Furthermore
the institution was detrimental to "the virtue
and morals of both master and slave." Slavery
was, Walker believed, "a family, community,
political, and national poison." It obstructed
the "circulating friendly and Christian sym-



pathy" and gave "vent to the worst passions
and most debasing and corroding feelings that
human nature" could experience.10
Walker's reasons for opposing slavery were
simple. There were many evils and no virtues
in the institution. He firmly believed the lan-
guage of the Declaration of Independence:
"That all men are created equal; that they are
endowed by their Creator with certain un-
alienable rights; that among these are life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Walker
believed that God had "made of one blood all
nations of men to dwell on the face of the
whole earth," and that slavery was the "most
heinous, unjust, oppressive and God-provoking
system that ever cursed" mankind. Slavery, he
said, nourished jealousy and discord in the
country, "poisoning the life-streams" of the
union and destroying "the mental and moral
faculties of one portion" of the nation while
corrupting and debasing the other.11
While in Pensacola Walker worked as a car-
penter, sailor, boatbuilder, and mechanic. On
one occasion he contracted to build a portion
of a proposed railroad, and when the railroad
failed he was employed to live at the depot and
care for the company's property. In the course
of his work he was able to overcome his re-
pugnance to slavery sufficiently to hire a num-
ber of men from their owners to assist him.
These black men boarded in his home on terms



of equality with the rest of the family. At
meal time they ate with Walker while his wife
and daughter waited the table. Although
Walker was affiliated with no church in Flor-
ida, he was a religious man and invited his co-
workers to join in family prayers and services.
John M'Kinlay, editor of the Pensacola Ga-
zette, charged that Walker preached to blacks,
saying they were as good as he and that color
was insignificant. He was suspected of hav-
ing been accessory to the escape of at least
two slaves.12
Some of Walker's white neighbors strongly
objected to his practice of "social equality."
He listened to their complaints but quietly pur-
sued his former course. On two different oc-
casions, city officials warned him that his viola-
tion of local customs regarding black-white re-
lations might place him in danger, and, if so,
they would be powerless to protect him from
his neighbors' wrath. Walker made no attempt
to disguise his antislavery feelings. He con-
tinued to treat blacks as equals, visited jailed
slaves to pray with them, and frequently gave
utterance to his abolitionist views.
The case of William Cook was an example of
Walker's inability to understand white-Florida
views. Cook, a free black man from Virginia,
came to Pensacola without his free papers.
Immediately he was thrown into jail by Peter
Woodbine, the jailer, and advertised as a pos-



sible runaway. Walker talked with Cook, who
convinced him that he was free. A lawyer was
retained to find proof of freedom. Cook was
kept captive for several months, first in the
jail and then chained in the attic of Wood-
bine's house. He had been a prisoner almost a
year before his papers could be secured. By
this time a serious illness and constant con-
finement resulted in dropsy. Walker took Cook
into his home and treated him with cayenne,
lobelia, and steam until the unfortunate man
was restored to health. Walker urged his guest
to leave Pensacola as quickly as he was able,
but when Cook did so he was again seized.
The physician who had treated him in jail, a
lawyer, Woodbine, and the Pensacola Gazette
had bills against him for more than two hun-
dred dollars. The Gazette charged him more
than thirty dollars for advertising him, and
Woodbine billed him thirty-seven and one-half
cents per day for board during his confine-
ment. Cook, unable to pay, was hired by the
United States government to work in the local
navy yard to meet his obligations. To Walker
this was one of the many southern examples
of the irrationality of color prejudice and
Despite his antislavery views, Walker's sin-
cerity and honesty won him the respect of
many Pensacola whites. A local editor wrote
that Walker "seemed a very devout Christian,


and by his apparent uprightness and integrity
had gained the confidence of many highly re-
spectable members of our community." An-
other resident said later that "before the com-
mission of the offense for which he is confined,
his conduct had been exceptional, except in so
far as he was influenced by the blind spirit of
infatuation and false philanthropy."14 J. T. W.
Brow of Pensacola informed the Charleston
Courier that Walker "by his demure counte-
nance, his sanctified air and speech, and his
apparent devoutness and humility as a Chris-
tian . had secured the confidence of several
highly respectable gentlemen of this city."15
Christian was a word frequently used by his
friends to describe Walker.
It is difficult to determine how large a role
religion played in Walker's abolitionist views.
He frequently invoked the name of God in at-
tacking slavery, but he was not certain there
was a God, at least a personal one. In his early
years he had belonged to the Harwich Baptist
church, but he later disdained church member-
ship. Since the Bible was used by Southerners
to defend the "peculiar institution," he re-
jected it "as being the super-naturally inspired
word of God." Whatever in the Bible appealed
to him he accepted, but not necessarily as
divinely-inspired truth. Miracles were rejected
as an impossible violation of natural law, yet
he believed that a "special providence" had




accompanied him through his life. More im-
portant to his antislavery views was his high
esteem for Jesus. While Walker discounted his
miraculous birth as legend, he regarded Christ
as the world's greatest reformer. He had
great admiration for Jesus' work among the
lowly, poor, and oppressed. This to Walker
was much more significant than a divinely-
inspired Bible, a personal God, or miracles.
The minister who officiated at Walker's funeral
claimed that Walker was not "technically a
Christian. He did not even call himself one.
He was not indeed a theological Christian, but
far better, he was a practical one."16 The
characteristics most often emphasized by
Walker's acquaintances were his generosity,
empathy, and concern for the unfortunate. His
Harwich neighbors knew him as a man of
"sterling worth; for goodness of heart and
acts of disinterested benevolence, he hardly
has his equal. He has ever manifested . a
deep interest for the poor, the defenceless, and
the oppressed." Joseph Marsh, who was un-
acquainted with Walker, inquired of his neigh-
bors and concluded that he was "a worthy
man-a blessing to any community-a chris-
tian man." Another friend described him as
"kind and affable in manners ... and whoever
found his acquaintance could not fail to dis-
cover that his was a warm, generous and sym-
pathising heart."17 Those who knew him were


not surprised that he would take risks to help
slaves escape.
After five years in Pensacola, Walker de-
cided to return North. When he first moved
South he had been inclined to make his per-
manent home in Florida. The climate appealed
to him; the South was most favored by nature
and the easiest part of the country in which
to make a living, he claimed. With the excep-
tion of slavery, southern customs were no more
repugnant to him than northern ones. He de-
cided, however, that he did not wish his chil-
dren to grow up amidst the influences of slav-
ery. Little is known of Walker's family. His
long-suffering wife, Jane, apparently grace-
fully accepted his frequent movements about
the country with and without her. Certainly
she agreed with her husband's views on slav-
ery and always strongly supported his actions.
The names of their three youngest children-
William Lloyd Garrison, William Wilberforce,
and Lydia M. Child-reflected family senti-
Walker moved his family, now numbering
six children, to Harwich, Massachusetts, where
he continued his association with sailing, some-
times as shipwright, sometimes as captain of
a fishing vessel. Always willing to work, yet
itchy to be on the move, Walker decided in the
late fall of 1843 to return temporarily to the
South. There are two versions of how he got




there and why he went. One indicated that he
purchased a boat in Harwich, intending to sell
the boat in the South and to return to Massa-
chusetts by the way of the West. He had long
been interested in that part of the country
and did eventually emigrate to Wisconsin. Ac-
cording to another version, he and his twenty-
year-old son took passage to Mobile and pur-
chased a boat there. It is certain that he went
to Mobile and while there had a vessel twenty-
five to thirty feet long "with plenty of beams,
clinker built, very light and schooner
rigged."18 Walker worked the winter and
spring as a shipwright in Mobile. On June 2,
1844, he sailed in his boat for Pensacola, os-
tensibly to raise part of a nearby wrecked ship
to secure the copper on it. Unable to reach
agreement with the wreck's claimant, he went
several miles up the coast to visit friends for
a few days. He then returned to Pensacola and
rented a room near the beach from a free
black woman. The editor of the Pensacola
Gazette intimated that during this time
Walker shunned white company, associating
only with blacks. Walker claimed that he in-
tended to stay in Pensacola a few days and
then return to the North.19 His son had al-
ready gone home, and Walker's family ex-
pected him to follow shortly.
Soon after his arrival in Pensacola, Walker
was contacted by some slaves who had worked



and lived with him during his former resi-
dence in the city. They asked his assistance in
going North. Walker was fearful of detection
on a long coastal trip to the North in his small
boat and declined, but he offered to share the
risk of a trip to Nassau, from which the men
could go in any direction they pleased. Walker
insisted that he had not planned such an es-
cape plot; the men made a simple request and
he responded. The editor of the Pensacola
Gazette, on the other hand, claimed that
Walker had negotiated with the men one by
one, told them he could help them secure their
freedom, and he wanted only men "stout and
lively .. of good character, who did not get
drunk." This charge laid the basis for subse-
quent local rumors that Walker had stolen the
men with the intention of selling them.20
After agreeing to participate in the escape,
Walker began to prepare for the journey. He
collected several barrels of fresh water, con-
siderable bread and meat, a supply of small
stores, a binnacle and compass. When local
whites noticed his preparations, he said he was
going to Mobile to sell his boat and then re-
turn to Massachusetts by way of a western
route.21 On the evening of June 22, 1844,
Walker and seven black men-Moses Johnson,
Charles Johnson, Anthony Catlett, Silas Scott,
Harry Scott, Charles Phil, and Len Johnson-
left the harbor and started eastward.



The ill-fated trip proved to be an agonizing
one for Walker. For the first several days head
winds, rain, and frequent squalls slowed prog-
ress. Walker had been ill before departure, he
thought from sun stroke, and day and night
exposure in the open boat made him worse.
By the 26th, the party had arrived at St.
Andrew's harbor where they stopped to dry
clothing, cook food, and take on more water.
Walker was still unwell and took an emetic.
The 29th found them at St. George Island,
where they again stopped to secure water and
cook. By July 1, when nearing Cedar Key,
Walker was so ill he was unable to attend the
boat; on occasion he was delirious. Several
days later (Walker had lost count of the time),
he and associates landed at St. Martins Key,
where they cooked some food but were unable
to find fresh water. For several days Walker
apparently believed he might die. He continued
to administer emetics and large doses of cay-
enne pepper and bitters to himself. Because of
these remedies, or perhaps in spite of them,
his health improved, though he was weak, cov-
ered with sores, and much reduced in weight.
Still unable to exert himself, he could now at
least supervise the boat.22
Just as it began to appear that the escape
could be successfully completed, disaster
struck. Walker's health had improved, and
even though short of water, the group had



managed to sail within about fifty miles of
Cape Florida. From that point the fugitives
planned to cross the Gulf to freedom. Unfor-
tunately, about sunrise on July 8 Walker's
boat was hailed by two wrecking vessels sail-
ing out of Key West. Richard Roberts, captain
of the schooner Eliza Catharine, had spied the
vessel with seven blacks and one white man
and became suspicious that they were run-
away slaves. He went alongside, tied the
smaller boat to his, and requested that Walker
and associates come aboard. Four of the men
had boarded the Eliza Catharine when Walker
advised against it. One immediately returned,
but the other three were detained. Captain
Roberts extracted a confession from one of the
men that he was indeed an escaped slave. All
were then taken aboard, transported to Key
West, and turned over to authorities. Walker
and the slaves had sailed and rowed more than
seven hundred miles-almost to freedom; an
hour sooner or later in passing that point, and
they would never have been detected. Had
Walker not been ill, the trip might well have
been concluded two days sooner.23
On July 9 Walker was taken before a Key
West magistrate. Too weak to walk alone, he
had to be assisted by two men. Unable to give
the $1,000 bail required by the judge, Walker
was committed to the jail. He .remained there
for three days, but local excitement over his



"crime" resulted in his being escorted by the
district attorney, sheriff, and constable to the
soldiers' barracks. The following day he was
placed aboard the United States steamer Gen-
eral Taylor, his hands and feet in irons, to be
transported to Pensacola. His boat and friends
had already been sent to Pensacola on the
sloop Reform.24
In the meantime, Robert C. Caldwell, Byrd
C. Willis, and George Willis, the slaves' own-
ers, had posted a reward of $1,000 for Walker's
capture and $100 each for the return of the
blacks. It was assumed that Walker was im-
plicated in the runaway plot. He was known as
an opponent of slavery and had been seen
talking with some of the men who dis-
appeared.25 The June 29 issue of the Pensacola
Gazette contained a lengthy article on the re-
puted kidnapping. "The most daring and im-
pudent outrage upon the peace and dignity of
the territory is thought to have been perpe-
trated, by the abduction of seven negro slaves,"
the editor raged. Walker, identified as the vil-
lain, was described as "a man of large frame,
about six feet high, with dark hair and dark
complexion, a suspicious countenance, slouchy
person, stooping shoulders, and a swinging
rolling gait-is lame in one arm from a gun-
shot wound." The slaves were reported to
have taken most of their clothing, especially
their winter attire, as if they intended to go



North. The editor apparently assumed that
slaves would not leave of their own volition.
The abduction had "set an intelligent friend"
to thinking of "the probable connection be-
tween this event" and the presence in Pensa-
cola sometime recently of northern newspaper
agents. Local citizens were advised to be on
guard against men from the North. The editor
then questioned the efficiency of local officials:
"Where is our police? Where is our patrol?
How is it that numbers of negroes can prowl
unmolested the limits of the corporation and
from our very dwellings, while persons are in
the pay of the corporation to see that no negro
is at large after the bell rings?" The editor
was convinced that "this most daring outrage
will induce the adopting of more vigorous
measures on the part of the mayor and alder-
men and stir up the watchmen to greater vigi-
lance." Other Florida newspapers noted the
escape and expressed pleasure when Walker
and slaves were recaptured.26
The local populace was so aroused by the
time Walker was returned to Pensacola on
July 19, that a friend wrote later that on his
way to the Pensacola jail the abolitionist
"would have been lynched by the frenzied
crowd but for the persistent determination of
the sheriff and the deputy, who, with drawn
revolvers, kept the infuriated mob at bay." A
local resident informed the Liberator that a



large number of people gathered and made
threats. The Emancipator reported that "the
people were so exasperated against him that
they sought his life, and were intimidated
only by the firmness and courage of the sher-
iff, who was determined to defend him at every
hazard." Walker himself said only that there
was a large, "talkative," and sometimes "noisy"
collection of people at the wharf, but no vio-
lence was attempted.27 Taken directly to court,
Walker was ordered to give bail of $10,000 or
be remanded to jail.
Though still weak from his illness, Walker
was determined to go to jail in a dignified
manner under his own power. He started the
trip walking between the marshal and con-
stable but collapsed on the way and had to be
hauled in a cart. Upon arriving at the jail he
was attached to a ring bolt by a large log
chain and a shackle around his leg. For the
first several days the floor served as his bed,
table, and chair. Still suffering from chills and
fever, headache, and stomach distress, he doc-
tored himself by eating large numbers of red
peppers. Within three months his health was
nearly restored, although in the meantime he
suffered considerably.28 Years later Walker
wrote his granddaughter about his imprison-
ment. His friends, he said, would hardly have
recognized him those first few weeks in jail.
Illness and "severe treatment in jail reduced


me very near to a skeleton. Many a time have
I grasped around my leg above the knee joint,
over my pants, with one hand so as to meet
thumb and finger." Unable at first to eat the
prison fare, he tried unsuccessfully to get
some local grocers to supply him with food.
Finally a Danish grocer agreed to let his son
deliver food to the jail, and his health began
to improve. Walker, who was accustomed to
vigorous work, also complained of the lack of
exercise. The chain prevented even his walk-
ing about the small room.29 He was also agi-
tated by having to listen to the screams of the
jailer's slave cook, who was whipped almost
daily. Walker never seemed to entertain any
hostility toward Pensacola residents or those
who captured and convicted him, but he al-
ways remembered the jail as "that woman-
whipping shop in Florida."30
Despite the unpleasantness, Walker accepted
his imprisonment with good grace. He wrote
his wife and children of the attempted escape,
his capture, discomfort, and ill health, and
admonished them to trust in Jesus. "The Lord
Jesus has been abundantly good to me through
all my afflictions thus far," he told them, "and
I feel and trust that his spirit will accompany
me through." He boldly told the jailer and all
others who would listen of his antislavery sen-
timents and openly proclaimed that he would
take the same action again if placed in similar



circumstances.31 His obvious sincerity and
stoic acceptance of his fate evoked sympathy
from a number of proslavery Pensacolans.
Walker's plight quickly came to the attention
of northern abolitionists. On July 15, 1844,
the Boston Emancipator and Weekly Chronicle
had a brief notice about him, followed by an
August 2 statement in the Liberator. For the
next several years, Walker's name appeared
constantly in abolitionist newspapers. The most
popular antislavery martyr at that time was
Charles T. Torrey, a Congregationalist min-
ister who had resigned a pastorate in Provi-
dence, Rhode Island, to take up the cause and
who was in a Baltimore jail for assisting a
slave family to escape. Walker's escapade be-
gan to supplant Torrey in the news.32 Joshua
Leavitt, editor of the Emancipator, and Wil-
liam Lloyd Garrison of the Liberator both
seemed to take a special interest in the Walker
case. Garrison especially was responsible for
making it a major issue. In late July, black
Bostonians met to consider Torrey's difficulty
and to pass resolutions of sympathy. When
Garrison mentioned Walker, a resolution was
also passed sympathizing with both of those
"worthy but unfortunate friends of the human
race," and pledging cooperation to provide aid
and counsel for Walker. In August a resolu-
tion concerning Torrey was received from
abolitionists in Glasgow, Scotland. Garrison




said it was a pleasure to receive the letter,
"but as yet, the still more afflicting and hope-
less case of the unfortunate Walker . ap-
pears to attract very little attention." Some-
thing should be done for him immediately,
Garrison said. "Every town on Cape Cod
[Walker's home] ought to hold a public meet-
ing and pass strong resolutions on the sub-
ject."33 Support for Walker quickly began to
grow. A New Bedford, Massachusetts resident
wrote Garrison asking what he and his friends
could do. James Fuller of Skandatales, New
York, sent him sympathy and twenty dollars.
Samuel E. Sewall proclaimed that "Walker
must be defended. He is a fellow soldier with
us in the great moral warfare against slavery.
. Neither money nor labor must be spared
to obtain his deliverance." Lewis Tappan,
noted abolitionist and treasurer of the Ameri-
can and Foreign Antislavery Society, printed
an appeal for money.34
By late August and early September, indig-
nation meetings were being held throughout
New England. Citizens of Harwich, Massa-
chusetts, assembled at the town house on Au-
gust 26 to consider the case of Walker, "a
worthy and respectable citizen of this town."
After commending him as an honest, upright,
generous man, they passed five resolutions
sympathizing with Walker, his destitute wife
and eight children, and the aged parents de-



pendent upon him. Since the Declaration of
Independence declared all men created equal
and with certain unalienable rights, one reso-
lution read, the part taken by the federal gov-
ernment (Walker had been transported from
Key West to Pensacola on a United States
steamer) was "base prostitution of the powers
delegated to them by the people; and is de-
serving of our unqualified rebuke." Harwich
citizens further declared that the seizure of
Walker by the captain of the Eliza Catharine
was an act of piracy. They concluded their ses-
sion by calling upon "friends of freedom"
throughout the country to call public meetings
to protest and collect funds for Walker's de-
fense. A three-man committee was appointed
to arrange other meetings in the county.
Shortly thereafter, a meeting was called for
Malboro Chapel in Boston. Joshua Leavitt pre-
sented several resolutions similar to those
passed at the Harwich meeting. A new element
was added, however, that became an important
point in the Walker controversy. Florida was
a territory, and Congress had no authority to
establish or permit slavery in territories. Doz-
ens of meetings used the same argument. A
later Boston session resolved "that as Florida
is a territory of the United States, and conse-
queritly, under the control of the general gov-
ernment, having imprisoned one of our fellow
citizens (taken upon the high seas) for obey-



ing the law of God, and doing an act of kind-
ness, deserves to be looked upon by the civi-
lized world as a nation favoring piracy and
robbery." The Boston meeting called upon
Massachusetts to interpose to assist Walker.
A collection of $108 was taken and a perma-
nent committee established to raise funds to
employ counsel and aid Walker's family.35
Scores of towns and counties held meetings
and collected small sums of money.36 Some of
the best-known abolitionists, men such as
Garrison, Wendell Phillips, and Frederick
Douglass, made speeches urging others to ac-
tion. Most people, apparently unaware that
Florida's law concerned with assisting slaves
to escape did not decree the death penalty,
believed that Walker's life was at stake. It
was widely agreed that should he be convicted,
his case should be appealed up to the United
States Supreme Court. An impassioned letter
to the Barnstable Patriot concluded with the
plea, "Let public meetings be called all over the
Cape . to accomplish the noble object, viz:
best counsel be employed, and if need be, carry
the case to the Supreme Court of the United
States. Let us see whether the law under
which Capt. Walker was arrested is constitu-
tional."37 By November, the Boston Committee
had collected more than seven hundred dollars,



and other societies had accumulated anywhere
from five to one hundred dollars. Some of the
money went to Walker's family; the remainder
was set aside to employ counsel.
Considerable pressure was brought upon the
governor of Massachusetts in Walker's be-
half. A Harwich Committee, "deeply feeling
that the case of Capt. Walker, who has re-
cently been piratically taken by a Southern
wrecker, and has since been confined in Pen-
sacola jail" was "in entire opposition to the
laws of the United States," demanded that the
"sovereign voice of Massachusetts" be raised
in his behalf. A Boston group sent a memorial
to the governor and his council asking execu-
tive interference and later met with a council
committee. The council sympathized with the
demand but doubted that the governor had
constitutional power to appropriate money
without legislative authorization. The council
advised the governor that he had no jurisdic-
tion in the matter, no authority to provide
counsel or use public funds in the ways asked
by the memorials. The governor could, how-
ever, direct the secretary of state to write the
governor of Florida on the subject.38
On October 2, 1844, Secretary of State John
G. Palfrey wrote to Governor John Branch of
Florida. He had been informed, the secretary
said, that Walker's confinement was attended
by hardship, irons, poor health, and other



severe treatment. He understood that Walker
was poor and unable to secure legal assistance
without aid, which took time. The governor of
Massachusetts was interested in the case, the
secretary continued, and suggested a delay in
the trial. Governor Branch was asked to use
his influence "to prevent the exercise of need-
less severities in the case by subordinate offi-
cers, and to cause the legal proceeding to be
delayed for a sufficient time to afford the ac-
cused party every reasonable advantage for
establishing his innocence." Branch was urged
"to take care that he [Walker] may be re-
lieved from any illegal or unusual severity in
the manner of his confinement." Branch re-
ferred the letter to Walker Anderson, United
States attorney for West Florida, with the
statement that he had not and probably would
not take any official notice of it. Anderson,
Branch added, was at liberty to make such use
of it as he thought proper. The governor ex-
pressed "entire confidence" in Anderson's "dis-
cretion and ability to do justice to a subject
which seems to excite the sensibility of the
good people of the Commonwealth, and which
can not be one of indifference to the southern
slave-holder." Anderson answered that the
Massachusetts governor had been misinformed
about Walker's suffering. It was true that
Walker was in irons, but such action was con-
sidered necessary. The law violated by Walker



was a grave one, Anderson said, "and the ex-
ecutive officers of our court have looked to that
law for their guidance, rather than to the
opinions of those to whom they at least owe
no accountability."
While Branch reacted publicly to the letter
with initial calm, his message to the legisla-
ture demonstrated his anger. Massachusetts,
the governor said, "had tried to interpose and
stay the proceedings of a co-ordinate depart-
ment of this Government, to gratify the mor-
bid feelings of Northern fanatics, thereby im-
peaching the impartiality and purity of our
highest judicial tribunals." Anderson's re-
sponse to the letter, Branch continued, was
"full of instructive admonition to those de-
luded victims of a vicious credulity; and it is
hoped that their incendiary and disorganizing
intermeddling with our domestic institutions
will stand rebuked by his calm and dignified
refutation of their unfounded calumnies." The
governor believed that penalties for men such
as Walker ought to be harsher. "Death is the
punishment provided by law for such offenses
in the slaveholding states generally, and it
ought to be so in Florida."39
In the meantime, the Walker story continued
to attract attention. More and more meetings
were held, and additional resolutions were
passed. Even the British Foreign and Anti-
Slavery Society took notice. At its October 4



meeting the society passed a resolution of
sympathy for Walker and Torrey. "Many
hopes are entertained," the society proclaimed,
"and most fervently do we share in them, that
the numerous and important legal questions
which arise out of the cases of Torrey and
Walker, will be decided in favour of humanity
and freedom." John Scoble, secretary of the
British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society,
wrote Walker expressing sympathy for his
affliction and hoping that the "efforts which
are to be made for your deliverance from the
power of evil men and evil laws will be suc-
ceeded by the divine blessing."40 In the United
States, the Walker Committee in Boston sent
notices to ministers throughout the North ask-
ing them to devote a service to a discussion of
Walker and the collection of funds for his
counsel and family. Amos B. Merrill was en-
gaged by the committee to go to Pensacola
and defend Walker. Merrill turned the money
and duties over to T. M. Blount, who arrived
in Pensacola after the trial was over.41
While Blount was slowly making his way to
Pensacola, Walker was being tried. On Novem-
ber 11, 1844, he was taken to the courthouse,
placed in the prisoner's box, and asked if he
had a lawyer. Walker replied in the negative.
He was too poor to afford counsel, he said,
but he was daily expecting advice and assist-
ance from friends. The judge informed him



that he could select anyone from the local bar
(there were three lawyers in Pensacola) to
defend him, but agreed to his request for a
postponement. The trial was delayed until
November 14. When no attorney had yet ar-
rived on that date, Walker selected Benjamin
D. Wright for his defense. Soon after he had
been committed to jail, Walker had sent a note
to Wright requesting an interview. Wright
responded several weeks later, explaining why
he had not called on him. "In common with all
who know you as a citizen here, I was very
indignant," Wright wrote, "not so much at
the injury which your offense occasioned, as at
the insult which it implied to the whole com-
munity." The indignation was still strong, he
added, but was giving way to "gentler im-
pulses." Wright believed after thinking the
matter over several weeks that he would de-
fend Walker if asked. Walker had good cause
to doubt that he would receive a vigorous
Walker was charged with four indictments:
assisting Silas Scott in running away, enticing
Charles Johnson to attempt to escape, and one
each for stealing Anthony Catlett and Moses
Johnson. Wright objected to four indictments,
whereupon the judge decided that one case
would be tried first. Walker pleaded not guilty
on the grounds that assisting men to escape
from slavery was not a crime. He asked rhe-



torically how peaceably aiding those robbed
of their liberty could be considered stealing.
Robert Caldwell, one of the owners of the es-
caped slaves, testified that he had met Walker
when he was returned to Pensacola, that
Walker said Silas Scott came to his boat and
got in with some others, and that he, Walker,
had determined that he would assist slaves if
given the opportunity. Captain Richard Rob-
erts testified to finding Walker and the seven
black men, and that some had confessed to
being runaway slaves. The jury was charged
and returned in a half hour with a guilty ver-
dict and penalty of branding on the right hand
with the letters SS. The same jury was then
resworn and presented with the other three
indictments. After more than two hours' de-
liberation, they returned a verdict of guilty
and added to the sentence standing in the
pillory for one hour, fifteen days imprison-
ment, and a fine of $150. Walker was then
returned to jail to await formal pronounce-
ment of and execution of sentence. On Novem-
ber 16 the judge sentenced him to one hour
in the pillory; he was then to be brought into
the courthouse to be branded, returned to
prison for fifteen days, and to remain there
until his fine of $150 plus court costs was
The first part of the sentence to be exe-
cuted was standing in the pillory. When a



deputy marshal placed a handkerchief over
Walker's head to shield him from the sun,
George Willis, owner of two of the men who
had escaped, snatched the cover off and pelted
him with rotten eggs.44 This act reputedly
"excited a burst of indignation from many
present." At the end of the hour Walker was
given water to wash off the rotten eggs and
taken into the courthouse to be branded. The
brand was applied by United States Marshal
Ebenezer Dorr, formerly of Maine, now a
southern slaveholder.45 Walker was placed in
the prisoners' box and his hand tied to the
railing. He assured Dorr he would hold his
hand steady while it was branded, but the
marshal thought it best to tie him. The mar-
shal then took the red-hot branding iron and
placed it on the ball of Walker's hand for
about twenty seconds.46 The glowing iron
made a splattering noise as it burned into the
flesh the SS mark that Walker carried to his
grave. Most of those who watched Walker in
the pillory apparently had little desire to ob-
serve the branding, though George Willis ob-
served with apparent glee. An eyewitness of
the proceedings wrote that Walker remained
silent throughout the ordeal except for casual
conversation with Marshal Dorr. He seemed
in good spirits, the reporter continued, "and
thinks that, if it is for the best, he shall
weather the storm by and by."47 After exe-


cution of sentence Walker was returned to
jail, but not placed in irons as previously.
Walker's troubles were far from over.
Within a few hours he was served with three
writs for trespass and damage upon the prop-
erty of Robert C. Caldwell, Byrd C. Willis, and
George Willis, to the amount of $106,000.
Byrd Willis and Caldwell asked $3,000 each,
while George Willis demanded $100,000.
Walker was ordered to appear at the May,
1845, court session.48 He had no money with
which to pay his fines and court costs; indeed
he was unable to get a statement of the
amount of costs until December 6. Fine and
costs amounted to $423. He knew that friends
were collecting money for an attorney, but no
lawyer or funds had yet arrived. His frustra-
tion was undoubtedly increased by the knowl-
edge that it took approximately forty days to
send a letter to Massachusetts and receive an
The attorney secured by Walker's friends
proved to be of no assistance. Blount arrived
in Pensacola soon after the trial but failed to
visit or confer with Walker until after he had
been in town thirteen days. On December 2 he
appeared at the jail for a few minutes to ask
Walker if he cared to appeal. Walker said yes,
if he could be bailed in the meantime. Blount
returned in a few days to report that an ap-
peal was impossible, but that he was going to




New York to attempt to stir up Walker's
friends to get him released. If not actually
dishonest, Blount was certainly at least in-
competent. He apparently had been detained
on his original trip by high water on some of
the southern rivers, but when he did arrive
he took no action. As the Anti-Slavery Stan-
dard reported, "pocketing the fee ($750) was
the only part of the business that he thought
it worth his while to attend to." Much of the
money collected for the cause was thus dis-
sipated. Walker himself claimed that employ-
ing Blount as his counsel "was nearly the
greatest insult that friends at the North could
impose on me." Walker "knew him to be void
of any good principle. . ." He was known by
many as "a very corrupt minded man and a
base common swindler."50
The northern reaction to Walker's capture
and imprisonment was mild compared to the
indignation generated by his branding. The
uniqueness of the punishment enhanced his
fame-probably a long prison sentence would
have stirred less anger than branding. Walk-
er's story "sizzled through the North like the
branding iron on his skin."51 Within a few
weeks the entire nation knew of his punish-
ment, and scores of abolitionists were dis-
cussing it at public meetings. Before, Walker
had evoked sympathy for his principles and
courage. The brand made him a true abolition-



ist martyr. For the next two years probably
no other abolitionist was in the news as much
as this "scarred veteran of the Liberty War."52
The New Bedford (Massachusetts) Bulletin
claimed that "the heartless, cold-blooded
wretches who inflicted the inhuman outrage"
upon Walker believed they would thereby for-
ever disgrace him. Not so, the editor said.
Walker was respected and cherished by his fel-
low citizens, and the brand in the future would
serve him as a passport to favor and distinc-
tion.53 Garrison vowed that "If Walker can
only be suffered to return to the North, THAT
BRANDED HAND must be held up in the presence
of all people . to fill their bosoms with in-
dignation and horror, and to unite them for
the overthrow of the diabolical slave system."
The Christian Citizen annointed the "amiable,
noble-hearted" Walker a part of "a new order
of knighthood in this heroic age of philan-
thropy." He was a member of the Legion of
Order devoted to God, the Citizen added, one
who was unafraid of "stripes and bruising
and branding irons." His hand was "daguerre-
otyped in the chancery of heaven; where, we
ween, it shall be shown in pride to every
angel that comes to look into the record of
human actions."54 Wendell Phillips declared
that the SS imprinted upon Walker's hand
meant Slave Savior. A short-lived newspaper,
devoted to the "cause of these hoble anti-



slavery martyrs," began publication in late
1844 in Providence, Rhode Island: the name,
The Branded Hand.55
By November 1844 the Walker meetings
had begun to wane, but after the branding
they again increased. Walker was still in jail.
A damage suit had been brought against him,
and it appeared that more punishment was
possible. There was a flurry of meetings to
advertise Walker's plight and collect funds for
him and his family. Frederick Douglass and
Charles L. Redmond went on a speaking tour
for Walker. Scores of meetings were held. In
Boston a Martyr's Fund was established for
families of Walker and Torrey and others who
might find themselves in similar circumstances.
The idea spread from Boston throughout New
Englaiid and theri to the midwest and north-
west. Gerrit Smith made the first contribution.
A group from New Bedford petitioned the
United States Congress to1 refund Walker's
fines and "likewise pay him,' as far as it can be
done, for the imprisonment, and branding, and
loss of usefulness to his family." Walker's
case was used to point up federal government
complicity. David Ruggles, a black and now
blind opponent of slavery, wrote: "The man-
ner in which Jonathan Walker was captured,
ironed, imprisoned, sentenced, and tortured,
by"agents of the general government, shows
beyond all question the pro-slavery position of


the government and the people who sustain
it."56 Naturally, support for Walker was not
universal. Democratic newspapers often con-
demned him or refused even to mention the
case. Others advocated obeying the law, what-
ever it might be. The New York Herald in
discussing Walker and Torrey remarked that
southern states were "determined to give a
few practical lessons to the wild enthusiasts
among the abolitionists who visit their terri-
tories." Abolitionists were cautioned to con-
duct themselves with propriety when visiting
the South. The Boston Christian Witness sug-
gested that if Walker did not appreciate Flor-
ida slave laws, he should never have gone
there. The Reverend Henry Jackson of New
Bedford, Massachusetts, a town strong in sup-
port of Walker, announced that "Walker had
no more than his just deserts for breaking the
laws of the government."57
While his friends were making speeches
and collecting funds, Walker was facing an-
other trial. The damage suit had been dropped,
but he was once again indicted for assisting
slaves to escape. The first trial had been based
on the escape of four men. He was now to be
tried for inducing the other three to leave their
owners. Fear of the trial's results provoked
Walker into a futile attempt to escape. Al-
ready disappointed at the failure of his friends
to effect his release, Walker was considerably


depressed by the news of another bout with
the court.58 On February 6, 1845, he was in-
formed by a friend that late in the afternoon
he would be taken by the marshal to appear
before a magistrate on other charges. Walker,
fearful that this might be a device of enemies
dissatisfied with the court's initial decision,
hinted to his informant that some extra-legal
punishment was in the offing. The reply:
"They are going to play the devil with you."
His suspicions were increased by the knowl-
edge that the judge was away. When the mar-
shal arrived at 4:00 P.M. Walker refused to
accompany him, insisting that any examina-
tion take place at the jail. Marshal Dorr left
and soon returned, saying that the magistrate
refused to come to the jail. Walker still de-
clined to leave, whereupon the marshal read
him a letter from the district judge instructing
that Walker be taken before a magistrate to
be examined on charge of assisting the three
slaves. Faced with the prospect of remaining
in jail until the May court session and repeat-
ing the expensive process of a trial, making
his release even more difficult, and prolonging
the separation from his family as well as
forcing them to remain on charity of friends,
Walker decided to escape.59
Getting out of jail proved to be simple. He
had not been chained since the conclusion of
the first trial, and with a pick axe provided


by an unnamed friend, Walker easily opened
the door. Unfortunately, the jailer who slept
just above him heard the noise and quickly
apprehended him. Walker was widely censured
by his friends. Apparently martyrs were not
supposed to break jail. Even Garrison ex-
pressed disappointment. "We are sorry that
such a hopeless attempt should have been
made," Garrison wrote, "when arrangement
had been made to free him at the earliest
practical period." The Boston Emancipator
editor thought the attempt incredible, "as Mr.
W. must have been aware of the efforts of his
friends, to supply him with the funds neces-
sary for his release." The editor proclaimed,
however, that it was no crime to attempt to
escape "from the fangs of the slaveholder, or
his merciless bloodhounds."60 As a result of
the abortive escape, Walker's friends were
spurred to greater activity, and large num-
bers of Floridians were greatly angered.61
When the jailer apprehended Walker he
searched him and found the two letters sent
by the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery So-
ciety. They were forwarded to Governor
Branch in Tallahassee, who reacted angrily.
Apparently the governor suspected the British
of being a part of a widespread plot against
Florida. In a communication to the legislative
council, Branch accused the Society of "clan-
destinely co-operating with authorities of Mas-



sachusetts, in fiendish machinations against
our domestic institutions." Under such cir-
cumstances, the governor added, "further for-
bearance on our part, not only ceases to be a
virtue, but .. an abandonment of our vital
interests." Branch believed the time had ar-
rived "when Florida has a right-nay, would
be false to herself, were she not to demand
from the Federal Government a prompt en-
forcement of the Federal Constitution." The
Cincinnati Philanthropist ridiculed the gov-
ernor, suggesting that an extra session of the
United States Congress should be called to deal
with the "horrible plot the disclosure of which
calls for prompt and decisive action on the
part of the General Government." Perhaps, the
paper added, Branch should urge Secretary of
State James Buchanan to make formal de-
mands of Lord Aberdeen for those "vile in-
cendiaries and fugitives from justice . .
charged with fiendish machinations against
the domestic institutions of Pensacola." The
British lion would probably crouch and still
its roar when it learned that Branch had con-
cluded that forbearance was no longer a vir-
The legislative council found much less
humor in Branch's communication than did
the Cincinnati Philanthropist. The report of a
joint committee of the legislative council re-
flected the general Florida attitude toward



Walker and other abolitionists. The rights to
define crimes and pass laws to punish such
crimes, the committee reported, were among
the most valuable and obvious rights of free
people; foreign interference with that right
was "insulting and unwarrantable," and
should be "promptly and indignantly" re-
pelled. This "undeniable" principle acquired
additional importance in the Walker case, the
committee added, because "systematic and
powerful influences are at work throughout a
large portion of Europe and many parts of our
own country, the direct tendency of which is
to impair our rights of property." Vicious
fanatics were prowling around Florida's bor-
ders, "invading our inmost sanctuaries" with
the intention of deluging "our very hearth-
stones in blood" and destroying "all that is
precious to us as freemen and dear to us as
men." The most sanguine southerners, the
report continued, were painfully aware of the
unfriendly feeling of some Americans. The
southern mind had "been roused to a state of
distrust and watchfulness, which augured ill
for that harmony which is becoming between
members of the same great family." Its posi-
tion had been one of self-defense. "They would
be recreant to themselves . if they were to
falter in the assertion of their rights and
their resistance to this foul injustice." The
South had been patient, the committee de-


dared, and the nation's common bonds promp-
ted still further forbearance, even though
"millions of bosoms" were "throbbing under a
sense of the injury and outrage which have
been so wantonly inflicted upon us by our
Northern brethren." But any southerner
would "unhesitatingly fling to the winds all
the cherished recollections of the past . .
rather than bow down in slavish abasement to
the demands of those who seek to sacrifice us
upon the shrine of their unholy fanaticism."
The committee noted that the sentiments
which prompted forbearance under injuries
done by northern "abolition incendiaries" did
not obtain to "foreign incendiaries, who inter-
meddle with our domestic institutions and seek
to interfere with the administration of our
laws." Such "false and intrusive philanthropy"
provoked unmingledd resentment" and Florida
must resist, "and in the most effectual manner,
all their efforts to control us in our internal
police." After deliberate consideration, the
committee concluded that the only way to
counteract foreign "hostile designs and to
avert danger to ourselves" was to increase pen-
alties for law breakers and to control the black
population more closely. It was unfortunate,
the committee added, that punishment should
fall upon "the less responsible agent" who was
motivated by "ignorant fanaticism" or desire
for gain rather than upon "the more wicked




and intelligent felon, who plots his cowardly
schemes ... in the security of a foreign coun-
try." The committee further regretted that
Florida should be "constrained, in self-defense,
to cut off some of those indulgences to our
Slaves, which has made their situation hitherto
one of happy contentedness." But increased
penalties were not the fault of Floridians, the
committee added. Rather, abolitionists, both in
the North and in Europe, by "ignorant and
wicked intermeddling" with the affairs of
which they knew but little were responsible.
The Walker case, "where the offence was fla-
grant and the evidence conclusive," showed
that slave-stealing had been punished in Flor-
ida with leniency. His "slight" punishment in-
dicated that Floridians had not in any way
been acting out of "undue resentment," the
committee said. Unfortunately, the report con-
tinued, such punishment-branding, fine, im-
prisonment-failed to deter men such as
Walker. Slave stealers were upheld, even en-
couraged and aided, by important men who
inspired them to new feats. Therefore, in the
future inducing slaves to leave their masters
could not be considered simple larceny but
treason against the State-"a direct assault
upon the very existence of our institutions."
Florida's safety necessitated the death penalty
for slave stealing or aiding in slave stealing.63
Death for liberating slaves would not com-


pletely solve the problem. Walker's case had
convinced the committee that there were evil-
disposed Floridians who allowed "themselves
to be made channels of intercourse between
the convicted felons in our prisons and their
accomplices abroad, and in other ways lend
their aid to the dissemination of unsound and
dangerous doctrines on the subject of slavery."
Such offenders must be punished unsparingly.
However, fearing that laws necessary to con-
trol the population might prove embarrassing
at a time when the territorial status of Florida
was being considered, the committee recom-
mended postponing such legislation until the
meeting of the first General Assembly when
Florida was a state.64 Incidentally, the chair-
man of the committee was Walker Anderson,
the prosecutor at Walker's trial.
The Walker case had a strong impact on
Florida. Although there was considerable an-
noyance when he was first captured, there was
no great excitement. Slave escapes were not
too unusual. But when praise began to be
heaped upon Walker from the North and
England, and when there was widespread dis-
cussion of "evil laws and evil men" in Florida,
the annoyance turned to anger and fear. Aid-
ing slaves to escape was made punishable by
death, the patrol system was at least tempo-
rarily tightened, and Floridians became more
suspicious of each other.65 After all, there had



to be some white sympathizers in Pensacola.
Who was the unnamed friend who supplied the
pick axe? Why was there a burst of indigna-
tion when Walker was smashed with rotten
eggs? Who were the eyewitnesses who wrote
to the Liberator and other abolitionist media?
The introduction to Walker's narrative of his
imprisonment stated that "many interesting
and illustrative incidents" had to be sup-
pressed "out of regard to the safety of indi-
viduals whose liberties and lives their publica-
tion would endanger." Apparently this state-
ment applied to those in Pensacola who sym-
pathised with and assisted Walker.
Fortunately for Walker, the angry reaction
did not affect him personally. The day after
his escape attempt, he was taken to court, in-
dicted for enticing three men to leave their
bondage, and ordered to appear for trial in
May. Bail was set at $3,000. Unable to pay,
he was returned to jail and this time placed
in irons. Before the trial Walker was quite
confident. It seemed to be local opinion, Walker
wrote a friend in Harwich, that the second
trial would result in nothing more than a
nominal verdict. He believed there had been "a
revulsion of public feeling in his favor," and
apparently he was correct.66 On May 8 Walker
was taken to the courthouse. Since he still had
no counsel, the judge appointed two local law-
yers, Alfred L. Woodward and W. W. J. Kelly,




to defend him. His attorneys claimed to know
little of the case, so the trial was postponed
until next day. The district attorney presented
three indictments for assisting slaves. Walk-
er's counsel questioned "the validity of the law
in the multiplication of punishments" for the
same act. The judge decided that he could be
tried separately for each man assisted, even
though there was but one act committed.
Robert C. Caldwell, the only witness, gave vir-
tually the same testimony as in the first trial.
The district attorney attacked "fanatical abo-
litionists," talked of the magnitude of Walker's
crime, and told the jury about strict penalties
in other cases in other states. Kelly claimed
the penalty already inflicted had been severe:
Walker had been confined for many months in
chains and his destitute family needed him.
Woodward appealed to the "magnanimity and
humanity" of the jury, reminding them that
the defendant had already been punished, that
he had "quietly submitted, without a murmur,
to the heaviest punishments the law could in-
flict upon him."
Walker seemed more satisfied with his de-
fense in the second trial than in the first. The
jury was charged by the judge to find the de-
fendant guilty, not to let sympathy prevent
the infliction of strict justice. "The rights,
safety, and honor of the country demanded
justice" from the court. The trial lasted only



about two hours. While the jury retired to
deliberate, Walker was returned to jail. The
following morning a note from Kelly informed
him that the jury had found Walker guilty in
each of the three cases and assessed a fine of
fifteen dollars.67 Walker was, of course, pleased
with the results. The maximum penalty in
Florida provided for imprisonment not exceed-
ing six months, standing in the pillory,
branding, or a fine of not more than $1,000 at
the jury's discretion. Based on the judge's in-
terpretation, the penalty could have been im-
posed for each of the seven men assisted.
Walker attributed the small second sentence
"to the magnanimous and humane" jury. They
acted, he wrote a friend, "as men untrammelled
by prejudice or revenge; and have shown the
world that they delight not in the accumula-
tion or aggravation of the misery of their un-
fortunate and helpless fellow being." All
things considered, Walker continued, the jury
did "great honor to themselves and their
country, and will ever be entitled to the es-
teem of Jonathan Walker and his destitute,
afflicted family."68
Walker believed his punishment proved that
"vengeance has not yet buried humanity, nor
destroyed all the sympathy" existing between
men whose opinions differed. The judge, dis-
trict attorney, his counsel, and some of the
jury were slaveholders. Yet Walker found the



jury an intelligent one, and claimed that he
submitted his case "confident that the verdict
would be as mild as their responsible situation
would admit." He did believe the judge dem-
onstrated considerable prejudice against him
in the last trial. Walker thought that by the
second trial "there was a strong abhorrence"
on the part of many local citizens to any fur-
ther punishment. They might disapprove his
act, but they believed that though wrong he
was acting on principle and had been suffi-
ciently punished. Pensacola did not reflect
general Florida opinion, Walker proclaimed.
Many citizens were of French or Spanish de-
scent and "not generally so irresistibly de-
voted to the system of slavery as the Ameri-
can born and bred citizens were: and this
Creole population manifested more sympathy
for me than the rest of the community did."69
Although the second sentence was mild, Walker
spent several more days in chains. He had to
remain in jail until fines and court costs,
which amounted to $597.05% were paid.70
Lawyers' fees brought the total to $1,400. His
friends finally were able to get the required
funds to Pensacola, and on June 16, 1845,
Walker was freed.71
Walker returned North to a hero's welcome.
Upon arrival in New York on July 11, he was
immediately taken in hand by local abolition-
ists who reported that his health had obviously



suffered and his clothing indicated the hard-
ships of prison. All were eager to see his
branded hand, which he styled the "coat of
arms of the United States." Even before his
release from jail it was obvious that Walker
would be drafted for the antislavery lecture
circuit. He had not only a story to tell, but a
brand to show. The Boston Emancipator pro-
claimed, "His branded hand must be seen all
over Massachusetts." Garrison informed read-
ers that Walker soon would return-a return
that would "create a thrilling sensation in the
breasts of thousands who had deplored the im-
prisonment of the noble Walker as among the
blackest atrocities of the age." Garrison longed
"to see this Christian martyr, face to face,
that we may thank him for what he has done,
and bless him for what he has suffered, in the
cause of God and Liberty. As soon as prac-
ticable," Garrison added, "we hope he will
make his appearance before thronging multi-
tudes . and lift up THAT BRANDED
HAND in their presence, that thus a fire may
be kindled against slavery that shall not cease
to burn till the shackles of every slave be
melted, and the trump of jubilee sounded
throughout the land."72 Though Garrison
would later be disappointed at the response to
Walker, the "hero of Pensacola" spent the next
several years on the antislavery circuit, and
for about a year he was perhaps the most


sought after speaker at abolitionist meetings.
Walker's first large meeting was at Lynn,
Massachusetts, July 27, 1845. The gathering
had been arranged as a welcome for him, and
though there were many speakers, the enthusi-
astic crowd of approximately fifteen hundred
anxiously awaited the introduction of slavery's
most recent martyr. After several speeches
praising him, Walker was introduced and went
to the podium "amid the long-continued cheer-
ing of the audience." He held up his famous
hand, assuring the thrilled spectators that it
would be lifted against slavery as long as the
system continued. The house rocked with ap-
plause. "The whole audience were deeply im-
pressed with the sincerity and honesty of his
appearance, his manly dignity and strong
good sense." Garrison assumed that Walker's
hand was "designed by God to write the doom
of slavery as effectually and legibly, as did that
of old the condemnation of Belshazzar on the
palace wall." When slaveholders saw that what
they meant as a mark of infamy was indeed a
"passport to the society of all the true friends
of God and man," their knees would "smite
together, as did their predecessors."73
Walker went from Lynn to Waltham on
August 1 to an antislavery picnic celebrating
West Indian Emancipation. People came as far
as fifty miles to see the man "who had so hon-
orably distinguished himself." He was there,




"shocking, fit to be gazed at with round eyes,
confirming in his own person" what the audi-
ence had heard of slavocracy. Walker made a
brief speech after warning the audience that
he was "but a rough sailor and unpracticed"
in public speaking. He concluded his short talk
by saying, "I repent not of what I have done.
As long as life remains in me, this hand and
this voice shall be raised against slavery, that
shameful violation of all the rights of man and
all the laws of God." Audiences reacted with
sympathy for Walker and indignation at slav-
ery when this "honest looking, hardy son of
New England" told them in simple, sincere
words of his tribulation and the suffering of
slaves.74 Frederick Douglass, who worked with
Walker for a time, wrote years later, "I well
remember the sensation produced by the exhi-
bition of his branded hand. It was one of the
few atrocities of slavery," Douglass added,
"that roused the justice and humanity of the
North to a death struggle with slavery." Doug-
lass remembered that "looking into his simple,
honest face, it was easy to see that on such a
countenance as his no trace of infamy could
be made by stocks, stripes, or branding irons.
. His example of self sacrifice moved us all
to more heroic endeavor in behalf of the
slaves." The Walker meetings were sometimes
emotional. To the audience it seemed that this
"solid, blue-eyed . son of their own," was


asking them to give to the struggle against
slavery, but "asking them to give a hundred
times less than he had."75
Walker's hand became even more famous
when John G. Whittier was inspired to honor
him in verse. On August 6 the Boston Emanci-
pator printed "an exact representation" of the
branded hand copied from a daguerreotype.
Accompanying the picture was a statement by
editor Joshua Leavitt. "Ponder it, fellow citi-
zens," Leavitt advised, "and as you burn and
blush, and weep, at the disgrace of our country,
the indignity done to a worthy neighbor and
the misery of the poor slaves, let the fire burn
until your soul is enkindled to the high re-
solve, that the letters on Jonathan Walker's
hand shall be made to read-Salvation to the
Slave." The picture and comment were fol-
lowed by Whittier's offering.

The Branded Hand
Welcome home again, brave seaman! with
thy thoughtful brow and grey,
And the old heroic spirit of our earlier,
better day-
With that front of calm endurance, on
whose steady nerve, in vain,
Pressed the iron of the prison, smote the
fiery shafts of pain!
Is the tyrant's brand upon thee? Did the




brutal cravens aim
To make God's truth thy falsehood, His
holiest work thy shame ?
When, all blood-quenched, from the tor-
ture the iron was withdrawn,
How laughed their evil angel the baffled
fools to scorn!
They changed to wrong, the duty which
God hath written out
On the great heart of humanity too legible
for doubt!
They, the loathsome mortal lepers,
blotched from foot-sole up to crown,
Give to shame what God hath given unto
honor and renown!
Why, that brand is highest honor! -that
its traces never yet
Upon old armorial hatchments was a
prouder blazon set;
And thy unborn generations, as they
crowd our rocky strand,
Shall tell with pride the story of their
father's BRANDED HAND!
As the templar home was welcomed, bear-
ing back from Syrian wars
The scars of Arab lances, and of Paynim
The pallor of the prison and the shackle's
crimson span,
So meet thee, so we greet thee, truest
friend of God and man!



He suffered for the ransom of the dear
Redeemer's grave,
Thou for His living presence in the bound
and bleeding slave;
He for a soil no longer by the feet of
angels trod,
Thou for the true Shechinah, the present
home of God!
For, while the jurist sitting with the
slave-whip o'er him swung,
From the tortured truths of freedom the
lie of slavery wrung,
And the solemn priest to Moloch, on each
God-deserted shrine,
Broke the bondman's heart for bread,
poured the bondman's blood for wine-
While the multitude in blindness to a far
off Savior knelt,
And spurned, the while, the temple where
a present Savior dwelt;
Thou beheld'st Him in the task field, in
the prison shadows dim
And thy mercy to the bondsman, it was
mercy unto Him!
In thy lone and long night watches, sky
above and wave below
Thou did'st learn a higher wisdom than
the babbling school-men know;
God's stars and silence taught thee as His
angels only can,
That, the one, sole sacred thing beneath


the scope of heaven is man!
That he, who treads profanely on the
scrolls of law and creed,
In the depth of God's great goodness may
find mercy in his need;
But woe to him who crushes the SOUL
with chain and rod,
And herds with lower natures the awful
form of God!
Then lift that manly right hand, bold
ploughman of the wave!
Its branded palm shall prophecy 'SALVA-
Hold up its fire-wrought language, that
whoso reads may feel
His heart swell strong within him, his
sinews change to steel.
Hold it up before our sunshine, up against
our Northern air-
Ho! men of Massachusetts, for the love
of God look there!
Take it henceforth for your standard-
like Bruce's heart of yore.
In the dark strife closing round ye, let
that hand be seen before!
And the tyrants of the slave land shall
tremble at that sign,
When it points its finger Southward along
the Puritan line:
Woe to the State-gorged leeches, and the
church's locust band,



When they look from slavery's ramparts
on the coming of that hand!

The representation and Whittier's poem
were later reprinted in the Liberator and
dozens of other papers. Juxtaposing the pic-
ture and the poem had a great impact. Whit-
tier wrote Leavitt, saying "the picture was a
capital idea-it is worth far more than my
lines; it tells its own tale, a startling hiero-
glyphic! It is like sending Walker himself
with his 'hand-writing' over the whole coun-
try." The Christian Citizen made one of its
many attempts at eloquence when commenting
upon the picture. "There is the hand of that
great-hearted hero . opening its branded
palm to the reader, into which are burned
those letters of mighty and immortal signifi-
cance, SS-'Salvation to the Slave.'" A new
order of knighthood had been created, the
Citizen added, "and its burning and bloody
badge" would open to the wearer a fellowship
with humanity and command a reverence
greater than that of any other order. "That
Branded Hand! Look at it, ye Belshazzars en-
throned on the necks of three million of God's
human children," the Citizen continued, "no
transient opposition that; no mystic, vapory
characters of ambiguous meaning has it
traced upon the crumbling walls of
slavery . ."7



Whittier was not the only poet moved to
verse. In the August 25 issue of the Boston
Emancipator and Weekly Chronicle, T. D. P.
Stone tried his hand as follows:

The castled lord, in days of yore,
When foemen challenged at his door,
Sent heralds through each peaceful glen
To summon forth his warlike men.
The signal bonfire gleamed at night
Its warning to the men of might,
The trumpet swelled its martial sound,
While steeds and champions gathered round,
And quivering lance, and plume, and spear,
Proclaimed a fearful contest near.

The peasant, then unknown to fame,
As swift the flying courier came,
Saw, at a glance, his country's need,
And armed him for some daring deed.

The matron bade her son prepare
To show what sons like hers' could dare;
The maiden set her lover's plume,
And wished him "conquest, or the tomb."



Then followed deeds which told in story;
And scrolled those names in lines of glory.

Freemen! a courier scours our land,
His signal is "the branded hand."
0 See Slavery; See Shame,
Rouse thee-redeem our country's fame.

Farmer! in thy harvest field,
Hark,-the freeman's trump has pealed,
Haste thee,-by thy banner stand,
See-there comes "the branded hand."
Smith, lay down that heated bar,
Hark-the trumpet sounds from far-
"Liberty through all the land"-
March-here comes "the branded hand."

"Shut the water from the wheel;"
Girls,-hush, hear that trumpet peal,
Quit the mill-join freedom's band-
Look-here comes "the branded hand."

Cooper, let that humdrum cease,
Cordwright, give that twist release,
Silence in each shop command,
For here comes "the branded hand."

Move on, move on;-from eye to eye,
Let like lightening fly,
Till the picture drawn by light,
Shall each freeman's soul incite,
Not to deeds of bloody death,-
Not to words of vengeful wrath,
But to action till one slave
Shall no more your pity crave.



Neither Whittier's nor Stone's poems were
particularly good, but they were widely read
and appreciated by abolitionists. George W.
Clark set Whittier's poem to music and sang it
"with thrilling effect" at numerous antislavery
gatherings. The "Branded Hand" was for
years declaimed as a schoolroom classic of
antislavery poetry.77
Walker's fame caused him to be in great de-
mand, and for the next year he was constantly
on tour. He worked with many of the import-
ant abolitionists, including Garrison, Wendell
Phillips, Theodore Parker, Stephen S. Foster,
Parker Pillsbury, Whittier, Douglass, Lydia
Maria Child, and Charles Sumner. In August
1845, he and Douglass spoke together at a
meeting in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
Walker "appeared before the audience in his
simple manner, and told his simple tale." He
was followed by Douglass, who turned on the
oratory. For the next several months Walker
was scheduled to speak almost every day. Most
Massachusetts towns were graced with "the
Branded Hand."78
In September 1845, publication of Walker's
narrative of the attempted escape and result-
ing trials temporarily enhanced his popularity
on the antislavery lecture circuit. Though it
never became as famous, it was at the time
compared with Douglass's autobiography.
Garrison said Walker's book and that of Doug-



lass, "containing most vivid and faithful pic-
tures of slavery as it is," should be circulated
throughout the land. The National Anti-
Slavery Standard proclaimed that "we have in
Frederick Douglass's book, life on a Southern
plantation; a fitting companion will be a year
of a freeman's life in a Southern prison."
Maria Weston Chapman in writing the intro-
duction to Trial and Imprisonment made a
similar comparison.79
Even though it was not of the quality of
Douglass's classic narrative, Trial and Im-
prisonment was significant in the antislavery
movement. It was widely advertised, and, for
a time, widely read. Walker's simple, unem-
bellished story probably had greater impact
than many diatribes written at the time.
Readers admired his courage, his honesty, his
forgiving spirit, and his commitment to eman-
cipation. There were no real villains or heroes
in the book, but it was difficult to read it with-
out experiencing considerable sympathy for
those in bondage. It increased Walker's pop-
ularity, and along with his speeches and the
publicity attending his trial and punishment,
contributed to the intensification of abolitionist
and sectional sentiment. Miss Chapman urged
publication of Walker's manuscript because
she hoped that others would be "touched by
the excellence of the example." Apparently it
had the desired effect.


The book remains a valuable source for the
study of abolition and Florida history, espe-
cially the latter. Unlike some tracts of the
period, there was little exaggeration in Walk-
er's narrative. It was a measured, judicious,
and forgiving treatment of his trial and im-
prisonment as he perceived it. The author
made numerous enlightened observations about
slavery and white attitudes in Florida, and
individuals were rarely condemned. Walker
endeavored to avoid "all false coloring and de-
viation from the simple truth." He did not
write "at the expense of truth, or in a spirit
of ill-will to any." The reader learned that
there were good as well as evil men in Florida,
that there was a surprising degree of sym-
pathy for Walker in Pensacola, and that a
slaveholding jury could show mercy to an
avowed enemy of the peculiar institution. The
strength of the book lay in Walker's strict ad-
herence to the truth, and this characteristic
may have made the book more useful as a doc-
ument for later historians than as an anti-
slavery polemic.
Trial and Imprisonment was only one of
Walker's journalistic endeavors. In 1846 he
published, A Brief View of American Chattel-
ized Humanity and Its Supports, a vigorous
denunciation of slavery and those who main-
tained it. Africans in America had never in
any way forfeited their liberty, Walker said,




and the Declaration of Independence should
apply to all. Yet Africans were mangled, im-
prisoned, starved, tortured, and degraded.
Walker then described various slave codes and
ways in which they were implemented. Slaves
"suffer all that can be inflicted by wanton
caprice, by grasping avarice, by brutal lust,
by malignant spite and by insane anger." He
denied the southern claim that slaves were
happy and contented. The system could be sus-
tained only with "cow-hides, gags, and thumb
screws; with chains, prisons, and starvation;
with edgetools, halter and buckshot; with
branding irons, muskets and blood hounds
teeth." These crimes against slaves were mild,
though, as compared to the greatest outrage
of all. "When man is unmade, when he is chat-
telized, when his humanity is taken away and
he becomes a thing," Walker said, "then the
greatest possible wrong is done to the man."
After illustrating the horrors of slavery with
a number of atrocity stories, Walker asked by
whose support were slaves held in bondage?
All Americans were responsible. Not only the
"baby scourgers and woman polluters" of the
South but Northerners also. The constitution
had been drawn by slave tyrants. The three-
fifths compromise and the fugitive slave clause
demonstrated clearly that the government "was
designed and adapted" to hold a part of the
inhabitants "as slaves in the condition of


chattels personal." The same government that
had enslaved Americans had brutalized the
Indians and had annexed Texas. War had been
waged against Mexico, where slavery had long
been abolished, "to gratify a few steel hearted
slave-breeders, and human flesh mongers."
Americans could not shield themselves from
blame or individual accountability by hiding
behind the government and southern political
power, Walker contended. Being a member of
an organized body in no way relieved individ-
ual responsibility.
Obviously Garrisonian in thought, Walker
condemned the church as being as guilty as
the government. He denounced the present
church and government as being anti-christian
and anti-republican, "being in covenant with
death, and in agreement with hell-using their
combined, oppressive, hypocritical and bloody
measures to crush the lingering surviving
hopes of the unfortunate and the helpless."
The two were league together, in Walker's
view. "Was not this government when formed
cemented to the system of slavery by the
prayers and precepts of the church ?" he asked;
and had not the government ever since with all
"its pollution and blood guiltness" been re-
ceiving plaudits of the church? Walker was
filled with "unutterable loathing" when he
contemplated that man stealers were ministers,
women whippers were missionaries, and cradle




plunderers were church members. "The man
who wields the blood-clotted cow-skin during
the week fills the pulpit on Sunday and claims
to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus."
Those who claimed it a religious duty to read
the Bible, nevertheless denied slaves the right
to read. The religious advocates of marriage
robbed "millions of its sacred influence, and
leaves them to the ravages of wholesale pollu-
tion." The defenders of family relationships
divided mother, father, and children. In short,
Walker said, religion and robbery were allies
-"devils dressed in angel's robes, and hell
presenting the semblance of paradise." Church
members would be shocked at fellowship with
a sheep thief, but hugged "to their communion
a man-stealer."so
Terrible as the picture drawn by Walker
was, he still believed that slaves could be re-
stored to their rightful owners: themselves.
And the people capable of doing that were
working men and women. The pamphlet was
an appeal to the working classes: others were
"merely stumbling blocks and drones, not pro-
ductive of good to any extent." The laboring
class, Walker proclaimed, owed a duty to the
slave, their country, their children, and their
God. The chain that secured the limbs of
southern slaves was attached on the other end
to "working people." The chain must be thrown
off. Working men and women must no longer



shield themselves behind the government.
They were the government, and their action
could cleanse the United States.81 Walker, a
modest and usually only a mildly critical man,
offended large numbers with this thirty-six
page pamphlet. Never popular on the church
circuit, he soon found even more church doors
closed to him.
Walker next wrote an abolitionist tract for
children, entitled A Picture of Slavery For
Youth. His child readers were informed that
slavery was so terrible it could be known only
by seeing and feeling its cruelty as did the
slaves. In graphic language he emphasized the
cruelty of slavery. Newspaper advertisements
of slaves for sale were quoted. He noted that
black men without regard to age or ability
were called "boys." Children were forcibly
dragged from clinging, weeping mothers. He
had personally been in sight of slave auctions,
but had always turned away because it made
his "heart ache to see them sold." Certainly
his method of combining advertisements, com-
ments, and pictures must have created indig-
nation in many a youth. Runaways, Walker in-
formed, were sometimes hunted with dogs and
"not infrequently, the poor fugitives are shot
badly, their flesh is torn in pieces by savage
bloodhounds, and they are left in the wood to
die." Brutal whippings and torture in which
"the skin and flesh give way as the bloody


scourge meets the naked parts of the body of
the helpless victim" were not rare. Children
were implored to make slavery their cause.
Walker believed that hope lay in reaching
children while they were yet impressionable.
"Just as the twig is bent, the tree's inclined"
he stated in his introduction.82
Although his writings received some atten-
tion, Walker's speeches and displays of his
branded hand attracted more notice. Through-
out 1846 he toured constantly, much of the
time in Maine and New Hampshire, making
brief, modest talks, showing his brand to the
curious, and trying to sell his narrative in
order to repay publication expenses. But the
excitement over the Walker story soon began
to pale.83 No one seemed interested in seeing
a branded hand more than once, and Walker's
oratory contained too little bombast to excite
crowds. He met many discouragements and
barely collected enough to support his family.84
He found that many Northerners were as un-
concerned with the evils of slavery as his Pen-
sacola neighbors. The southern "slave breeders
and female polluters," with John C. Calhoun
at their head, were no more disgusting to
Walker than "the cringing time-serving, and
hypocritical politicians and religionists" of
New England, "whose hinges are always on the
squeak in turning to the nod ... or dictation
of the speculators of their own species."85




By 1847, Walker's large family was ap-
proaching complete destitution. Walker re-
ceived no pay for his anti-slavery labors, and
he lived on what little he could make selling
abolitionist literature. Walker was neither an
orator nor a scholar. He was not a polished
speaker and was unable to electrify an audience
by dealing in "thoughts that breathe and
words that burn." Had he been blessed with
the gift of speech and charisma to accompany
his martyrdom, he could have created a greater
sensation and perhaps made a modest liveli-
hood. But as it was, the battered mariner
passed from town to town, now somewhat ob-
scurely, resolutely distributing publications
and bearing faithful testimony against human
bondage. The once famous hand still excited
some curiosity but stirred no general indigna-
tion. Garrison feared that even thousands of
branded hands would fail to make a lasting
impression in the North. People had "grown
callous to all sufferings inflicted by the Slave
Walker was not dissuaded by his lack of
financial success. In November 1847, he and
John S. Jacobs, a self-emancipated slave, set
out for a tour of New York state. Their ac-
tivities consisted primarily of giving short
speeches and selling literature. Their reception
was not always good. In Herkimer, with a pop-
ulation of 3,500, about fifteen adults attended



their meeting, and only one of the seven local
clergymen appeared. The collection amounted
to fifty-six cents. Their room rent for the night
was one dollar. While speaking earlier in East
Hamilton, Walker had been "sprinkled with a
shower of musket shot, but as they were not
buried in powder, they fell harmless." He and
Jacobs persevered until April 1848, reaching
a few people and earning just money enough
to supply room and board. In 1849 Walker was
back in New England, still speaking and as-
saulting the church in letters to newspapers.
In a note to the Liberator he attacked Sabbath
day laws which required special observance.
He advocated repeal of these "partial, despotic,
and unchristian" laws, but he believed "the
strength of early education and old supersti-
tion, matured and nursed by sectarian bigotry
and a selfish, corrupt priesthood" would keep
them on the books.87
In February 1850 Walker apologized for his
inactivity in the antislavery cause. His family
required his presence at home. Yet his recent
"inactivity" included a three-week tour of Mas-
sachusetts, two weeks in New Hampshire, a
few days in Connecticut, and three weeks in
Vermont. At the time of the writing he was in
Montpelier, Vermont, which he found a "hard"
place for introduction of antislavery. Eventual-
ly he decided his Vermont trip had been a
success, though in some towns he was unable



to find anyone who would give him accommo-
dations. The Compromise of 1850 provoked a
new series of letters and speeches from
Walker. He criticized Daniel Webster's Seventh
of March speech, but had "no vials of wrath
to pour on the poor man's devoted head, for his
lamentable exhibition," because Webster was
a mere tool for northeastern manufacturing
and mercantile interests who were allied with
the slave power. Any who expected Webster to
make a bold defense of freedom and equal
rights in the Senate had mistaken their man,
Walker claimed. Webster was unequal to the
task, he lacked the independence and moral
courage. Walker added that intellects such as
Webster, Clay, and Calhoun were "prostituted
to prop up" the infamous, inhuman, slave sys-
tem. Walker also attacked the recently enacted
"inglorious" Fugitive Slave Bill which, he
said, converted the entire free population into
slave catchers, forcing them "to become sub-
stitutes for Southern trained blood-hounds, to
bark on the track of the panting fugitive from
degradation and chains."88 Walker advocated
disobedience of the law.
After a two and one-half month tour of Ver-
mont in late 1850 and early 1851, Walker in-
formed Garrison that he probably would have
no more reports on his antislavery tours, as
circumstances prevented his further labors.
He did continue to attack the Fugitive Slave


Act and formed a vigilance committee in Ply-
mouth, Massachusetts, to assist runaways. He
urged each town to form a vigilance commit-
tee and to resist the Fugitive Slave Act with
"all physical and mental means that can be
sanctioned by sound morality and reasonable
philosophy." In Plymouth, Walker apparently
was virtually a one-man committee. In May
1851 he had several fugitive slaves sharing
the "rough and humble cabin" with him and
his family. They had been there three weeks
and as yet had been unable to find jobs or
better places to live. In the meantime the old
sailor was working in "mud-docks, under the
bottoms of vessels, in all possible positions
S. in order to meet the demands of hunger,
cold and oppression."89 In late 1851 Walker
moved his family to Washington, Vermont.
Though he worked with a local vigilance com-
mittee and tried to create antislavery senti-
ment locally, he never again was significant on
the lecture circuit.
Always on the outlook for a better place to
live and greater opportunity, Walker moved
west in 1853, eventually settling in Sheboygan
County, Wisconsin. He continued his activities
against slavery, but in moving west be began
the drift back into the obscurity which had
veiled the first forty-five years of his life.
Only rarely was he mentioned in abolitionist
newspapers after 1853. In 1854 he and his




wife, Jane, advertised for antislavery migrants
to come to Sheboygan County to form an aboli-
tionist community. There was little response.
Again in 1856 Walker wrote the Liberator,
describing how migrants were arriving in his
area of Wisconsin from the eastern states and
Germany. He once more called for the forma-
tion of "a social community of Equality." A
few months later he attacked abolitionists who
gave money to promote armed insurrection for
the forcible overthrow of slavery. He favored
giving peaceful means "preference in settling
difficulties with our erring brothers." He had
long believed that any means short of violence
should be used to destroy slavery. He sus-
pected that using force was attacking one evil
with another.
Though his activity was local, Walker con-
tinued to sustain the antislavery movement
with speeches, any money he could spare, and
occasional letters to the Liberator and Eman-
cipator. In 1864 he made his last major at-
tempt to assist his black brethren. Numerous
slaves were congregated at Fortress Monroe,
Virginia, many working for the army, others
employed on government farms. Walker be-
lieved his experience in agriculture and me-
chanics could be useful. He arrived in the East
in April. General Benjamin Butler, then in
command in Virginia, was away and had left
orders that no civilians were to be admitted


to the area in his absence. After waiting about
three weeks, Walker accompanied two teachers
of the American Missionary Association to
Norfolk, where he was given a pass by the
military and orders for employment on a gov-
ernment farm. When he arrived at the farm,
the overseer informed him that he was not
needed. Walker then went to Fortress Monroe
and observed the American Missionary Associ-
ation school. He was much impressed with the
ability of black students. Soon he received
orders to go to another farm. Upon arriving
he noticed the overseer putting his musket in
working order. In response to Walker's ques-
tion about local game, the overseer said there
were some "damn niggers" he would be pleased
to shoot. Walker and the overseer obviously
could not work together. His health failing
and unable to locate a place to labor, Walker
returned home wondering if black folk had
made much gain in exchanging Southern mas-
ters for United States Army overseers.90
After the war Walker lived quietly and
humbly on a small fruit farm in Muskegon
County, Michigan.91 Though he never lost in-
terest in the reforms important to him-
rights for blacks, women's rights, and improve-
ment of conditions for seamen-he never again
attracted national attention. When he died at
age seventy-nine on April 30, 1878, many who
knew Whittier's poem "The Branded Hand"




were unaware of the man who had inspired it.
Yet there were those who did remember. A
friend, the Reverend Photius Fiske of Boston,
paid for a monument to be erected to the old
antislavery warrior. About six thousand per-
sons attended the unveiling on August 1, 1878,
appropriately enough the anniversary of eman-
cipation in the West Indies. Many of his for-
mer antislavery friends were dead or too ill
to attend. A letter from Frederick Douglass
read at the ceremony probably described
Walker as accurately as possible. "Yes I knew
Jonathan Walker, and knew him well," Doug-
lass wrote, "knew him to love him and to honor
him as a true man, a friend to humanity, a
brave but noiseless lover of liberty, not only
for himself but for all men; one who possessed
the qualities of a hero and martyr, and was
ready to take any risks to his own safety and
personal ease to save his fellow-men from
slavery." Walker was not "less entitled to
grateful memory than the most honored of
them all."92
Always shy of publicity and preferring the
approval of his own conscience to the ap-
plause of his fellows, Walker was quickly for-
gotten. But for several years he had been a
major figure in the antislavery movement. He
had been an asset to abolitionists, as were
other martyrs. His experiences and their re-
cital intensified antislavery and sectional feel-



ing. The modest granite monument at Muske-
gon was a fitting memorial to the modest
Walker. On one side is a quotation from Whit-
tier's poem. On another side are Walker's birth
and death dates, and on the eastern face of
the shaft is a replica of his branded hand.93

The Florida State University


1. Facts about Walker's first forty-five years
are scarce. The numerous newspaper articles
about him after he became famous failed to fill in
many of the missing details of his early life.
Mabel Weekes, The Man with the Branded Hand
(pamphlet, 1902) p. 7; Frank E. Kittredge, The
Man with the Branded Hand. An Authentic Sketch
of the Life and Services of Capt. Jonathan Walker
(pamphlet, 1899), p. 12; A Short Sketch of the
Life and Services of Jonathan Walker, The Man
with the Branded Hand, with a poem by John G.
Whittier and an address by Hon. Parker Pills-
bury, one of Walker's Anti-Slavery friends, and
a funeral oration by Rev. F. E. Kittredge (pamph-
let, 1879), pp. 1, 9.
2. Kittredge, The Man with the Branded Hand,
p. 12; Jonathan Walker, Trial and Imprisonment
of Jonathan Walker, at Pensacola, Florida, for
Aiding Slaves to Escape from Bondage, with an
Appendix Containing a Sketch of His Life (Bos-
ton, 1845), pp. 105-7.
3. Liberator, 8 Aug. 1845, p. 126; Walker, Trial


and Imprisonment, pp. 115, 117.
4. Kittredge, The Man with the Branded Hand,
p. 12; Jonathan Walker, A Brief View of Amer-
ican Chattelized Humanity and Its Supports
(Boston, 1846), pp. 33-34.
5. Merton L. Dillon, Benjamin Lundy and the
Struggle for Negro Freedom (Urbana, Ill., 1966),
pp. 177-219.
6. Walker, Trial and Imprisonment, p. 108;
Sketch of the Life and Services of Jonathan
Walker, p. 1; Weekes, Man with the Branded
Hand, p. 8.
7. The other settlers never arrived. The Texas
victory at San Jacinto, 21 April 1836, disrupted
Lundy's plans. After the battle, Mexican troops
withdrew south of the Rio Grande, and Texas ex-
tended its authority to that river. As a result,
Lundy's grant of land now lay in Texas, and
Lundy was aware that Texans were unsympa-
thetic to his abolitionist scheme. Dillon, Benjamin
Lundy, p. 219.
8. Walker, Trial and Imprisonment, pp. 108-10;
Sketch of the Life and Services of Jonathan
Walker, p. 1; Liberator, 27 Sept. 1844, p. 154;
Joseph March to Joshua Leavitt, 10 Sept. 1844,
in Boston Emancipator and Weekly Chronicle,
16 Sept. 1844.
9. Liberator, 8 Aug. 1845, p. 126; Sketch of the
Life and Services of Jonathan Walker, p. 1;
Pensacola Gazette, 29 June 1844.
10. Liberator, 16 Aug. 1844, p. 129; 8 Aug.
1845, p. 126; Walker, Trial and Imprisonment,
pp. 8-10; Walker, American Chattelized Human-
ity, p. 13.
11. Walker, Trial and Imprisonment, pp. 85,
93, 101.
12. Pensacola Gazette, 29 June 1844; Liberator,
8 Aug. 1845, p. 126; Henry Wilson, History of




the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America,
3rd ed., 3 vols. (Boston, 1875-77), II: 82-83;
Henrietta Buckmaster, Let My People Go: The
Story of the Underground Railroad and the
Growth of the Abolition Movement (Boston: Bea-
con Press, 1959), p. 130.
13. Liberator, 8 Aug. 1845, p. 126; Walker,
Trial and Imprisonment, pp. 9, 21-22; Walker,
American Chattelized Humanity, p. 8.
14. Boston Emancipator and Weekly Chronicle,
23 Oct. 1844; Pensacola Gazette, 29 June 1844.
15. Quoted in Boston Emanicpator and Weekly
Chronicle, 23 Oct. 1844.
16. Jonathan Walker to Dear Wife and Child-
ren, 29 July 1844, quoted in Boston Emancipator
and Weekly Chronicle, 27 Aug. 1844; Sketch of
the Life and Services of Jonathan Walker p. 7.
17. Loring Moody to Joshua Leavitt, 2 Aug.
1844, in Boston Emancipator and Weekly Chron-
icle, 7 Aug. 1844, 11 Sept. 1844; Joseph Marsh
to Editor, Barnstable (Mass.) Patriot, 11 Sept.
1844; Joseph Marsh to Joshua Leavitt, 10 Sept.
1844, in Boston Emancipator and Weekly Chron-
icle, 16 Sept. 1844.
18. Loring Moody to Joshua Leavitt, 21 Aug.
1844, in Boston Emancipator and Weekly Chron-
icle, 7 Aug. 1844; see also Boston Emancipator,
15 July 1844; Walker, Trial and Imprisonment,
p. 9.
19. Walker, Trial and Imprisonment, p. 10;
Pensacola Gazette, 29 June 1844; Kittredge, Man
with the Branded Hand, p. 14.
20. Walker, Trial and Imprisonment, p. 10;
Pensacola Gazette, 27 July 1844; Liberator, 8
Aug. 1845, p. 126; Boston Emancipator and Week-
ly Chronicle, 7 Aug. 1844.
21. Pensacola Gazette, 29 June 1844; Boston
Emancipator and Weekly Chronicle, 14 Aug. 1844;



Kittredge, The Man With the Branded Hand, p.
22. Walker, Trial and Imprisonment, p. 12.
23. Boston Emancipator and Weekly Chronicle,
27 Aug. 1844; Barnstable (Mass.) Patriot, 18
Sept. 1844; Liberator, 2 Aug. 1844, p. 123;
Walker, Trial and Imprisonment, pp. 13, 36.
24. The men who attempted to escape were
punished less harshly than Walker. Robert C.
Caldwell, who claimed three of the escapees, said
he did not intend to punish them, and as far as
can be determined, he did not. The other four men
were placed in the Pensacola jail, July 28, and
on August 5 they were each whipped fifty blows
with a paddle. When they were released August
8, they reportedly could walk only with difficulty.
Walker, Trial and Imprisonment, pp. 14-15, 24-
25; Boston Emancipator and Weekly Chronicle,
27 Aug. 1844; Liberator, 2 Aug. 1844, p. 123.
25. Boston Emancipator and Weekly Chronicle,
15 July 1844; Pensacola Gazette, 25 June 1844,
quoted in Kittredge, The Man with the Branded
Hand, p. 14.
26. Pensacola Gazette, 25 June 1844; St. Au-
gustine Florida Herald and Southern Democrat,
23 July 1844.
27. It was not the sheriff and his deputy who
escorted Walker through the crowd but U.S.
Deputy Marshal James Gonzalez. Liberator, 13
Sept. 1844, p. 147; National Anti-Slavery Stan-
dard, quoted in Boston Emancipator and Weekly
Chronicle, 13 Aug. 1845; Kittredge, Man With
the Branded Hand, p. 17; Walker, Trial and Im-
prisonment, p. 16.
28. Walker, Trial and Imprisonment, pp. 16-17.
29. During his time in the Pensacola jail, 256
days were spent in solitary confinement-173 of
them in irons.



30. Liberator, 6 Mar. 1846, p. 39; Boston
Emancipator and Weekly Chronicle, 21 May
1845; Sketch of the Life and Services of Jonathan
Walker, p. 4; Walker, Trial and Imprisonment,
p. 20.
31. Walker to Dear Wife and Children, 29 July
1844, quoted in Liberator, 6 Sept. 1844, p. 144;
Boston Emancipator and Weekly Chronicle, 13
Aug. 1844.
32. Louis Filler, The Crusade against Slavery,
1830-1860 (New York, 1960), pp. 163-64; Wilbur
H. Siebert, The Underground Railroad From
Slavery to Freedom (New York, 1898), pp. 168-
33. Liberator, 9 Aug. 1844, p. 126; 23 Aug.
1844, p. 135; Boston Emancipator and Weekly
Chronicle, 28 Aug. 1844.
34. Boston Emancipator and Weekly Chronicle,
25 Sept. 1844; Liberator, 6 Sept. 1844, p. 143.
35. Barnstable (Mass.) Patriot, 18 Sept. 1844;
Boston Emancipator and Weekly Chronicle, 2,
11, 18, 25 Sept. 1844; Liberator, 27 Sept. 1844,
p. 154; 29 Nov. 1844, p. 189.
36. For descriptions of several meetings and
copies of resolutions passed, see Liberator and
Boston Emancipator and Weekly Chronicle,
August-December, 1844.
37. Joseph Marsh to Editor, Barnstable
(Mass.) Patriot, 11 Sept. 1844.
38. Liberator, 11 Oct. 1844, p. 163; 7 Feb.
1845, p. 23; Boston Emancipator and Weekly
Chronicle, 16 Oct. 1844.
39. John G. Palfrey to John Branch, 2 Oct.
1844; John Branch to Walker Anderson, 25 Oct.
1844; Walker Anderson to John Branch, 9 Nov.
1844, quoted in Florida Senate Journal, 1845, pp.
27-28 in appendix.
40. British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Reporter,



2 Oct. 1844, 189-90; Aug. 1845, pp. 159-60; John
Scoble to Walker, 8 Oct. 1844, quoted in Walker,
Trial and Imprisonment, p. 84.
41. Boston Emancipator and Weekly Chronicle,
23 Oct., 6 Nov., 4 Dec. 1844.
42. Walker, Trial and Imprisonment, pp. 72-73.
43. National Anti-Slavery Standard, quoted in
Boston Emancipator and Weekly Chronicle, 13
Aug. 1845; Barnstable (Mass.) Patriot, 14 May
1845; Walker, Trial and Imprisonment, pp. 34-
40; Liberator, 6 Dec. 1844, p. 195.
44. Willis was arrested as an offender "against
good order." He was later tried in an adjoining
county and fined six and one-quarter cents.
45. Dorr and Walker had been relatively close
acquaintances and Dorr apparently performed his
duty as marshal reluctantly. In September 1844,
Dorr had written, "I am extremely sorry, as well
as almost every other person in this community,
that a man so much respected as Capt. Walker
was in this city, should have placed himself in so
terrible a situation." Boston Emancipator and
Weekly Chronicle, 23 Oct. 1844.
46. Marshal Dorr had no branding iron, and
one had to be made. Reportedly the first black-
smith asked to make the iron indignantly refused,
claiming that brands were for animals not men.
His shop was nearest to the courthouse, but he
refused to permit his forge to be used for the
branding. National Anti-Slavery Standard, quoted
in Boston Emancipator and Weekly Chronicle, 13
Aug. 1845; Weekes, The Man with the Branded
Hand, pp. 10-11.
47. An eyewitness to H. W. Williams, ? Nov.
1844, quoted in Boston Emancipator and Weekly
Chronicle, 9 Dec. 1844; Boston Evening Tran-
script, 6 Dec. 1844; J. P. Nickerson to editor, 7
May 1845, in Barnstable (Mass.) Patriot, 14



May 1845; National Anti-Slavery Standard,
quoted in Boston Emancipator and Weekly Chron-
icle, 13 Aug. 1845.
48. An eyewitness to Henry W. Williams, 17
Nov. 1844, in Liberator, 6 Dec. 1844, p. 195.
49. J. P. Nickerson to editor, 7 May 1845, in
Barnstable (Mass.) Patriot, 7 May 1845.
50. Anti-Slavery Standard, quoted in Barn-
stable (Mass.) Patriot, 2 July 1845; Boston
Emancipator and Weekly Chronicle, 19 Mar., 30
June 1845; Walker, Trial and Imprisonment, pp.
45, 102-4.
51. Henrietta Buckmaster, Let My People Go,
p. 131.
52. Boston Emancipator and Weekly Chronicle,
6 Aug. 1845.
53. New Bedford (Mass.) Bulletin, 13 Aug.
54. Christian Citizen, quoted in Liberator, Sept.
1845, p. 141, 6 Dec. 1844, p. 195.
55. Carleton Mabee, Black Freedom: The Non-
violent Abolitionists from 1830 through the Civil
War (London, 1970), p. 269; Liberator, 10 Jan.
1845, p. 7.
56. Liberator, 3 Jan. 1845, p. 3, 22 Aug. 1845,
p. 135.
57. Boston Christian Witness, quoted in Liber-
ator, 3 Oct. 1845, pp. 157-58, 17 Jan. 1845, p. 9,
22 Aug. 1845, p. 135.
58. His friends had tried to secure his release.
They had collected money for an attorney, and
when he proved worthless, Walker's Harwich
neighbors concluded to forgo the appeal and
secure his freedom. The fine and court cost
amounted to $423. A letter was sent to Captain
Samuel Smith, Jr., of Harwich, who was then in
Florida with his ship, authorizing him to pay as
much as $500, provided Walker could accompany



him. When the captain received the message, his
ship was loaded, ready to sail. Furthermore, the
marshal was away for several days and nothing
could be done without his presence. Since mail
traveled so slowly, Walker had been reindicted
before other means could be attempted. J. P.
Nickerson to editor, 7 May 1845, in Barnstable
(Mass.) Patriot, 4 May 1845.
59. Jonathan Walker to J. P. Nickerson, 31
Mar. 1845, in Barnstable (Mass.) Patriot, 4 May
1845; Walker Trial and Imprisonment, pp. 47-48.
60. Boston Emancipator and Weekly Chronicle,
26 Feb. 1845; Liberator, 28 Feb. 1845, p. 35;
Pensacola Gazette, 8 Feb. 1845.
61. When commenting upon Walker's escape
attempt, the Pensacola Gazette remarked that "It
is a subject of no little wonder here, that the zeal
and benevolence of W's abolition friends abroad,
have not yet lead to his being supplied with the
funds necessary for his relief." Such a comment
from Florida, widely reprinted in northern
papers, irritated abolitionists, and they began to
ask the same question of each other and in news-
papers. Pensacola Gazette, 8 Feb. 1845; George
W. Brewster to editor, 28 Apr. 1845, in Barn-
stable (Mass.) Patriot, 30 Apr. 1845; Boston
Evening Transcript, 28 Feb. 1845.
62. Cincinnati Philanthropist, quoted in Liber-
ator, 28 Mar. 1845, p. 50; Boston Emancipator
and Weekly Chronicle, 19 Mar. 1845; Florida
Senate Journal, 1845, p. 148.
63. At the time the report was made, the Flor-
ida Senate was already considering a bill to make
slave stealing punishable by death.
64. Florida Senate Journal, 1845, pp. 174-77.
65. On March 10, 1845, a new law was passed
which declared that "any person convicted of
stealing a slave shall suffer death." Naturally it



would not apply retroactively to Walker's case.
Leslie A. Thompson Compp.), A Manual or Digest
of the Statute Law of the State of Florida, of a
General Character, in Force at the end of the
Second Session of the General Assembly of the
State, on the Sixth Day of January, 1847 (Bos-
ton, 1847), p. 492.
66. Walker to J. P. Nickerson, 31 Mar. 1845, in
Barnstable (Mass.) Patriot, 14 May 1845; Boston
Emancipator and Weekly Chronicle, 13 Aug. 1845.
67. Walker, Trial and Imprisonment, pp. 52-
55; Boston Emancipator and Weekly Chronicle,
13 Aug. 1845.
68. Walker to J. P. Nickerson, 10 May 1845, in
Barnstable (Mass.) Patriot, 28 May 1845.
69. Walker, Trial and Imprisonment, pp. 55,
102; Boston Emancipator and Weekly Chronicle,
6 Aug. 1845.
70. Of the total cost to Walker, $87.50 was for
guarding the jail. (Between 1793-1857 the United
States coined a copper half cent.) Previous to his
first trial there was a special guard at the jail
each night. At first Walker was told the guard
was there to prevent his being molested by local
citizens; on another occasion he was informed
that the guard was employed to prevent his es-
71. Walker, Trial and Imprisonment, pp. 99-
100; Liberator, 25 July 1845, p. 118.
72. Liberator, 18 July 1845, p. 115, 25 July
1845, p. 118; Boston Emancipator and Weekly
Chronicle, 6 Aug. 1845.
73. Liberator 25 July 1845, p. 119, 1 Aug.
1845, p. 173.
74. It is interesting to note how descriptions
of Walker in New England differed from the one
in the Pensacola Gazette. While the Gazette
portrayed him as having "a suspicious counte-
nance, slouchy person, stooping shoulders,"



northern newspapers depicted him as "a tall,
stout, fine looking specimen of a Cape Cod skip-
per with a countenance expressive of good sense
and benevolence," and an "honest looking" man,
"just such a man as would be likely to have his
sympathies awaked in behalf of the oppressed
and downtrodden." Essex (Mass.) Transcript,
quoted in Liberator, 10 Oct. 1845, p. 162; New
Bedford (Mass.) Bulletin, 13 Aug. 1845.
75. F. Douglass to P. Fiske, 15 July 1878,
quoted in Sketch of the Life and Services of
Jonathan Walker, 14-15; Liberator, 8 Aug. 1845,
p. 126; Buckmaster, Let My People Go, p. 131.
76. Christian Citizen, 13 Aug. 1845; Boston
Emancipator and Weekly Chronicle, 6, 13 Aug.
1845; Liberator, 15 Aug. 1845, p. 132.
77. Siebert, Underground Railroad, pp. 171;
Alice Felt Tyler, Freedom's Ferment: Phases of
American Social History from the Colonial Period
to the Outbreak of the Civil War (New York:
Harper Torchbooks, 1962).
78. Walker's speaking schedule was usually
printed in the Liberator. Between 17 August and
25 August he spoke in eight different towns. His
schedule continued at the same intensive pace
throughout 1845.
79. Liberator, 19 Sept. 1845, p. 152; National
Anti-Slavery Standard, quoted in Boston Eman-
cipator and Weekly Chronicle, 13 Aug. 1845;
Walker, Trial and Imprisonment, p. v.
80. Many of Walker's strictures against the
church were drawn from the speeches and writ-
ings of Frederick Douglass.
81. Jonathan Walker, A Brief View of Amer-
ican Chattelized Humanity, and Its Supports
(Boston, 1846).
82. Jonathan Walker, A Picture of Slavery For
Youth (Boston, n.d.).
83. There was still a strong desire to see



Walker in areas other than New England. In
1847 he was urged to come West: "thousands
will flock to hear his story and see his Branded
Hand," an abolitionist wrote from Cincinnati.
Liberator, 7 Apr. 1847, p. 57.
84. Liberator, 23 Jan. 1846, p. 15, 12 June
1846, p. 95, 7 July 1846, p. 115.
85. Walker to S. H. Gray, 3 March 1847, in
Liberator, 9 Apr. 1847, p. 57.
86. Liberator, 9 Apr. 1847, p. 58.
87. Ibid., 3 Dec. 1847, p. 195, 11 Feb. 1848, p.
23, 14 Apr. 1848, p. 58, 26 May 1848, p. 83, 30
Nov. 1849, p. 191, 14 Dec. 1849, p. 199.
88. Ibid., 1 Mar. 1850, p. 36, 8 Mar. 1850, p.
39, 29 Mar. 1850, p. 52, 10 May 1850, p. 76, 31
May 1850, p. 87, 11 Oct. 1850, p. 163.
89. Mabee, Black Freedom, p. 298; Liberator,
14 Feb. 1851, p. 28, 6 June 1851, p. 92.
90. Weekes, Man With the Branded Hand, p.
11; Liberator, 22 Apr. 1853, p. 63, 18 Aug. 1854,
p. 131, 13 Oct. 1854, p. 163; 11 Jan. 1856, p. 8,
May, 1856, p. 74, 2 Sept. 1864, p. 143.
91. He left Wisconsin and settled in Muskegon
County in 1863.
92. Frederick Douglass to P. Fiske, 15 July
1878, in Sketch of the Life and Services of Jon-
athan Walker, pp. 9-14.
93. Sketch of the Life and Services of Jonathan
Walker, pp. 11-12; Kittredge, Man With the
Branded Hand, pp. 11-12.







"All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even
so unto them. For this is the law and the prophets."

25 Oornhill.

Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1845, by
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Massachusetts.

Stereotyped by

14 Devonshire Street.


ON his return from Florida, after his release, Captain
Walker called on me with the manuscript narrative of his
trial and imprisonment. In common with very many of the
members of the American Anti-Slavery Society, I had long
known his character as a man of the strictest veracity and
the highest conscientiousness; and his narrative seemed to
me to cast so strong a light upon the religious, the moral,
and the political condition of the United States, from the
practical workings of their great organic law--the constitu-
tion-down to the minutest of the territorial usages and
enactments which result from that law; and to exhibit in
so clear a view the contrast between the principles and
ideas which at present govern the public mind, and those
which are beginning to struggle for the mastery, that I
could not but warmly urge this publication.
There are those who doubt whether the North is as
guilty as the South with respect to slavery; whether the
system is degrading to the slave and disgraceful to the mas-
ter; whether the slave is cruelly treated; whether the
system is injurious to the reputation of this country, a
reproach to its Christianity, and ruinous to the character of
its people.
There are also those who, while they condemn slavery,
at the same time assert that its extinction may be best pro-
moted by studied silence, and by a quiet waiting for the
gradual operations of a moral and religious system which
declares that it is not in its nature sinful, and justifies it
from the Scriptures; and of a political and governmental
system which is a solemn guaranty in its favor.
There are those, too, who believe the abolitionist to be


instigated by a bitter, unkind, fanatical and insurrectionary
spirit; hostile to law and order, sectional in their views, and
possessed by one idea.
And there are others, who, honoring the holy cause, and
respecting the disinterestedness of abolitionists, yet justify
themselves in standing aloof from the movement, under the
idea of being better able to befriend the cause by refusing to
be numbered among its adherents, and suffering themselves
to be counted in the ranks of the opponents.
It was for the sake of all these classes that I most
earnestly urged Captain Walker to give to the public, whose
great majority they compose, the manuscript which he had
prepared for the satisfaction of his friends.
When they see, in its unstudied pages, the good, forgiving,
self-denying spirit of the Christian, the indomitable deter-
mination of the Freeman, and the severe devotedness of the
Puritan, all uniting in an unconscious exhibition of the
uncompromising Abolitionist, I cannot but hope that their
hearts will be touched by the excellence of the example.
It is to be lamented that many interesting and illustrative
incidents must be suppressed, out of regard to the safety of
individuals, whose liberties and lives their publication would
endanger; yet what could, better than such a fact, illustrate
the condition of slaves and freemen in the United States of
North America; or better plead the cause of those few of
the inhabitants who are pronounced by the rest to be over
zealous, because they have been the first to perceive what all
will soon be obliged to acknowledge,-that the liberties of
our land are gone ? It was a deep observation of facts that
led Montesquieu to say, I" A republic may lose its liberties in*
a day, and not find it out for a century." The day that sunk
ours, was that of the adoption of the Federal Constitution-
the day when we perpetrated, as a nation, an eternal wrong
for the sake of guilty prosperity and peace. But it now
begins to be very plainly discerned, that between slavery
and freedom there can be no covenant. The futile hope of