Helen Maria Williams

In Iowa, Where the Plan for an Attack...

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Dear friends, let me to you relate
A plan that I begot of yore,
A plan to conquer, extirpate
Slaveholding now and ever more.


When I survey the times to see
What is the best to meet our ends,
That plan always recurs to me
The visions of my hope extends.


It drives away all doubts and fear,
And fills my mind with prospects bright
"Free now, thank God," I seem to hear
From every Negro under sight.


But, ah! me what, alone am I,
With vast designs without your heart,
For want of help stern purpose high
Can only play a meagre part.


Contrivances for human good
Though creatures of the greatest mind,
Do need the all nutritious food
Of Charities and aid combined.


So gather round -- stand at my back
As you used to do in Kansas
'Tis all I want -- naught else I lack
For God will ne'er forsake us.


Not for my sake but for the cause
Of freedom through our native land,
The cause for which in Kansas wars
You made such bold, successful stand.


The cause for which the Pro-slave press
Denounced us all as robbers,
But with our God and the oppressed,
Our names are Christian laborers.


We are true "Soldiers of the Cross"
And followers of the "Lamb,"
And Christlike try to save the lost,
The weak, the poor and the damned.


But here we are too far away
From the Hell of master and slave,
Too distant here the one to slay,
The other one to save.


From the shores of the Atlantic,
The Gulf and the Mississippi,
I hear in mournful rhetoric
The prayers of the unhappy.


Hear husband, wife, "From morn to eve
We toil and strive the live-long day
Till evening shades our limbs relieve --
Half-fed, half-clad, and with no pay.


"Our daughters ravished 'fore our eyes,
Our sons pursued by raging hounds,
No hands to help them dare arise
Even afar nor on the grounds.


"Our poor little, darling infant,
Snatched, bundled and sold away
Hence, forever more too distant
Upon our loving arms to lay.


"We, too, will soon be sold apart,
Never to know where each will be
To bear through life a heavy heart,
But ne'er each other's face to see."


From the plains of old Virginia
They beseech us, they beseech us,
In the "cry of Macedonia
Come over to us and help us."


Hear the echo of their prayers
Ascending unto the heaven,
In voices of despair and tears,
"When shall rest and peace be given."


We cannot here with empty words
Nor on the fields of Kansas,
Perform with noises, guns and swords
The work that is before us.


Now to conquer this great monster
This devil of human bondage,
We need our forces to center
In a place of better vantage.


We need our forces near enough
Or right upon his sinful ground,
To cut aloose his stolen serf
And throw his wicked kingdom down.


Now my plan is for us to go
Somewhere on old Virginia soil,
And there attack their monster foe
There free his slave, his wealth despoil.


There to begin and never cease
Till death, yes, death or freedom come,
We want no peace, we'll have no peace,
Unless it come with freedom.


Some think this plan too rash to take,
Too dangerous, too difficult.
What other effort can we make
To reach the longed for good result?


'Tis nigh unto a century
Since men began to talk and write
Against the evil of slavery
With all their heart and all their might.


When I was but a little boy
Near fifty years or more ago,
I used to hear with hope and joy
That slavery soon would have to go.


Our fathers, blessing to their name,
Abolished it early and freely,
And thought Virginia whence it came
Would imitate them duly.


But when about manhood I grew
How changed was that opinion,
For slavery was in open view
Fast spreading his dominion.


Rooted and fixed in the Southland
He grew ambitious and prosperous,
For room and power stretched his hand
And for the future got anxious.


The old Missouri Compromise
For the time obstructed his raid,
Confined her territorial size
To the region his greed had made.


Bound up in his legal limit
With no one to question him there,
He invigorated that spirit
To tyrannize, scorn and to dare.


The bad blood of his evil heart
Found arteries West and North
To circulate through every part
To scatter, and bring strength forth.


To rob more room in spite of law,
Led on by evil ambition,
He plunged us all into a war
Upon the Mexican Nation.


Our citizens of the old free states
Are now no longer free men,
They all obey as he dictates,
His throne they all defend.


His powers reach beyond the South,
Far away in the Northern lakes,
With brazen face and saucy mouth
Our laws he alters, makes or breaks.


Day after day he is growing
In powers and immunity,
And night after night preparing,
To live throughout eternity.


All his vices seen so often
And talked of much more so,
Soon they will embrace and soften
The heart of many a foe.


What else then but some mighty blow,
Hurried on by valiant hand,
Can this great monster overthrow
And hurl from our good land.


Just like a small poisonous tree,
Nurtured and kept by foolish hand,
Unnoticed in its infancy
It flourished and weakened the land.


The husbandman finds that its fruit
Is poisonous to human taste,
Gets his good ax and cuts the root
With all his might and all his haste.


Again I ask what other plan
Can pull this haughty monster down
And also raise his servant man
From under his merciless frown.


The good old Abolitionists,
For twenty-seven years or more,
To help this cause worked hardest
Of all that labored before.


Like the apostles of old time
They worked with love and patience,
But what they taught was too sublime
To reach the Nation's seared conscience.


Forbearing witness to the truth
Of brotherly love and freedom
All men, their kindred, too, forsooth
Poured on them curse and odium.


Wherever they went, far or near
In search of mercy for the slaves
Women and men would laugh and jeer
Or beat their heads with stones and staves.


All their lives long, through scorn and pain,
For poor humanity they plead,
With faith and courage, but in vain,
For the Nation's conscience was dead.


Yes, dead in sin and it to wake
Needs some blows as well as prayers,
Needs such a blow as men can make
When they put away doubts and fears.


You see the works of these good men
Availed this cause no lasting good,
'Tis even farther from the end
Than where in infancy it stood.


It is not worth a precious while
To ponder o'er the politicians,
For they are like the weathers child
Too inconsistent in their missions.


But from the holy Church of God
We should expect a righteous course,
That she would spread the truth abroad
Of freedom pure with all her force.


With that good Bible in her hand
The book for right among all men,
This holy Church throughout the land
Slaveholders wrong and lust defend.


That rock of justice and mercy
On which the Saviour built her,
She wandered off in heresy
For tyranny, slaves and lucre.


"Let us then be up and doing"
In the words of freedom's poet,
Leave the priests and statesmen hoading
What the sins of slavery profit.


Remember Ossawatomie;
Think, too, of that terrible day,
When we went against the enemy
To engage in murderous fray.


Just like a cloud they covered the plain
Armed and equipped was every man,
They showered volleys of shot like rain
Upon our small and feeble band.


Though few in number yet we stood
And drove away unnumbered host,
Their slain ones dyed the field in blood
And the victory was our boast.


Think of the night they sneaked their way
To us, unawares, at Black Jack;
The thoughts of that terrible day
Disheartened and turned them back.


And as we drove Missourians
By our valor and devotions,
So can we shatter Virginians
And slavery's institutions.


But we will not be all alone,
Recruits are waiting on the ground,
Those who suffer, work and mourn
Are ready allies to be found.


With them we'll have a vantage ground
The enemy's prop and stronghold,
And will succeed to pull him down
Partially and on the whole.


Judge not that they so long in bond
Possess a superstitious fear,
And could nor would not join us on
Against the heavy load they bear.


Bound up in the house of bondage,
They are armless, helpless and weak,
But just like animals in cage
For open holes they long and seek;


Or like strong Sampson of the past,
Sightless and meek they thought him weak,
But when good fortune came at last
He vengeance on his tyrants wreaked.


So has it been with all mankind
Whose lot in slavery was found
They sought the good time to unbind
The galling chains that held them down.


The Negro race would do likewise,
If chance and help to them would go,
Kept down by law, by men despis'd,
How to be free they do not know.


In New York city long ago
Some one made known a "Negro Plot"
To raze with fire the city low
And win their freedom on the spot.


Longing hard for freedom's riches,
They began in Carolina,
Years ago to lay in ashes
Charleston city and its harbor.


Nat Turner, the true and the brave,
Tired waiting for rights to come,
Aroused and led his brother slave
To the jaws of death for freedom.


These plans were nipped just in their buds
For want of outside helping hand,
But yet they show much more than words
That with our band the slave would stand.


I was assured by their own mouth
Sometime before our fight in Kansas,
That if we should go in the South
Their race would never forsake us.


Yes, hundreds of them I beheld,
Called fugitives but were heroes,
For tears would fall to hear them tell
Their stories of flight and of woes.


So glad were they to reach free land
Off from the vale of human lust,
They gave God thanks with uplift hand
Mindless of hunger, rags and thirst.


In moods of pity one would speak,
"I run from old Virginia State,
O'er rivers, hills, I come to seek
Some refuge from the worst of fate.


"These bruises and scars are marks I brought
From the hands of my old master,
Borne down by work the woods I sought,
My sore weary limbs to shelter.


"But could not stay there very long
For hounds were soon upon my track,
I took this way with courage strong
To come or die ere I go back.


"To rest and sleep day after day
I made my bed in swampy wood,
But all night long I hunt the way
Or ramble round in search of food."


Say to me not that men like these
Would not revolt for slavish fear,
If aid would come they would be pleased
All the horrors of war to bear.


Their struggle and their privation
For themselves and for our country,
Merit from this unkind Nation
The patriots richest bounty.


In all the wars our country had
As many historians say,
Unto its guard the blacks did add
Without murmurings and delay.


Let us go on and strike the blow
Not blacks alone will rise and come,
Others will come who were before
Indifferent as to freedom.


Our timid friends that fear our course
Will then shake off their doubts and fear,
Will fall in line with all their force
Seeking the front and not the rear.


We go with gladness, oh! my God,
To duty where duty we see,
Easy or hard, home or abroad,
To do and leave the rest to Thee.

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Helen Maria Williams