Still surrounded by sorrow, William King finished the last of his theological studies and exams and accepted an appointment as missionary to Canada. But first he needed to return to Louisiana. His father-in-law had also died that year and King – now Rev. King – was named executor, along with Mr. Phares’ widow. “I could know see the dispensation which appeared so dark and mysterious to me at the time that I lost my whole family that it was preparing the way for me to manumit the slaves that were coming to me by inheritance. By my being appointed Executor of my Father-in-law’s estate and the death of my own family I was left free to do what I pleased with all the slaves that belonged to me which I could not have done had my family been living.” (62)
Things were not going well on the plantation King owned. “The cotton crop had been destroyed during two years by the Army worm, that great pest of the cotton plant. They are so numerous when they come that a large field of cotton will be eaten bare with them in a few days.” (65) King sold the plantation, paid the debt and placed the slaves on his father-in-law’s estate until matters could be settled with it. The widowed Mrs. Phares (his father-in-law’s second wife) was young. She “expected that King would settle down in the south and become a Planter, put an overseer on the Plantation, take a church and preach to the Planters.” (65) But Rev. King had other ideas. He turned down an offer of $9,000 for his slaves and another to hire them out at $900/year. He announced that he was taking them to Canada where he would free them. “They seemed not to understand what was meant by going to Canada. Most of them thought it was some new plantation that I had purchased. I explained to them that Canada was a free country, that there were no slaves there and that when we reached that Country I would give them their freedom and place them on farms where they would have to support themselves by their own industry.” (68) “They had come to consider that slavery was their normal condition. They did not know what freedom meant. They thought that to be free was to be like their master, to go idle, and have a good time.“ (69)
“One of my slaves had married a woman in my absence in Edinburgh. The woman belonged to the Estate of my Father-in-law and had a child two years old. In the division of the slaves, the woman fell to me but the child fell to another of the heirs. The woman came to me with tears and asked if I would not buy her child that she might take it with her. The heir had agreed to sell it for $150. I told her I did not see it my duty to buy children and set them free. However the woman was so distracted about leaving her child that I bought it. Here is a bill of sale, a curious document in its way. He is warranted to me to be a slave for life although I was going to set him free in a few weeks.” (69) This was the boy Solomon.
I invite you to tell of a time when you turned down money because it would involve selling your soul.
* This photograph is a story in itself. To learn more about it see http://www.mirrorofrace.org/carol.php