During the great excitement in Boston, relative to the fugitive
slave fizzle, a good-natured country gentleman, by the name of Abner
Phipps; an humble artisan in the fashioning of buckets, wash-tubs and
wooden-ware generally, from one of the remote towns of the good old Bay
State, paid his annual visit to the metropolis of Yankee land. In the
multifarious operations of his shop and business, Abner had but little
time, and as little inclination, to keep the run of latest news,
as set forth glaringly, every day, under the caption of Telegraphic
Dispatches, in the papers; hence, it requires but a slight
extension of the imagination to apprise you, dear reader, that our
friend Phipps was but meagerly posted up in what was going on in this
great country, half of his time. I must do friend Phipps the favor to
say, that he was not ignorant of the fact that Old Hickory fout well
down to New Orleans, and that Old Zack flaxed the Mexicans clean out
of their boots in Mexico; likewise that Millerism was a humbug, and
money was pretty generally considered a cash article all over the
But what did Phipps know or care about the Fugitive Slave bill? Not
a red cent's worth, no more than he did of the equitation of the earth,
the Wilmot proviso, or Barnum's woolly horsenot a red. He came
to Boston annually to see how things were a workin'; pleasure, not
business. The very first morning of his arrival in town, the hue and
cry of slave hunters, was raisedShadrack, the fugitive, was
arrested at his vocationtable servant at Taft's eating establishment,
Corn Hill, where Abner Phipps accidentally had stuck his boots under
the mahogany, for the purpose of recuperating his somewhat exhausted
inner-man. Abner saw the arrest, he was quietly discussing his
tapioca, and if thinking at all, was merely calculating what the
profits were, upon a two-and-sixpence dinner, at a Boston
restaurateur. He saw there was a muss between the black waiter and
two red-nosed white men, but as he did not know what it was all about,
he didn't care; it was none of his business; and being a part of his
religion, not to meddle with that that did not concern him, he
continued his tapioca to the bottom of his plate, then forked
over the equivalent and stepped out.
As Phipps turned into Court square, it occurred, slightly, that the
niggers had got to be rather thick in Boston, to what they used to be;
and bending his footsteps down Brattle street, once or twice it
occurred to him that the niggers had got to be thickdarn'd
thick, for they passed and repassed himwalked before him and behind
him, and in fact all around him.
Yes, says Phipps, the niggers are thick, thundering thicknever
saw 'em so thick in my life. Ain't they thick? he soliloquized,
and as he continued his stroll in the purlieus of slightly soiled
garments, vulgarly known as second-hand shops, mostly proprietorized by
very dignified and respectable col'ud pussons, it again struck
Phipps quite forcibly that the niggers were a getting thick.
Godfree! but ain't they thick! I hope to be stabbed with a
gridiron, said Phipps, if there ain't more niggerslook at
'emmore niggers than would patch and grade the infernal regions
eleven miles! Guess I've enough niggers for a spell, continued Phipps,
so I'll just pop in here, and see how this feller sells his notions.
And so Abner, having reached Dock square, saunters into a gun, pistol,
bowie, jack-knife, dog-collar, shot-bag, and notion-shop in general.
The stiff-dickied, frizzle-headed, polished and perfumed shop-keeper
was on hand, and particularly predisposed to sell the stranger
something. Just then a nigger passed the door, and looked in very
sharply at Phipps, and presently two more passed, then a fourth and
fifth, all looking more or less pointedly at the manufacturer of
wooden doin's, and white-pine fixin's.
That's a neat collar, says the shop-keeper, as Phipps, sort
of miscellaneously, placed his hand upon a brass-band, red-lined
Collar! don't call that a collar, do you?
I do, sir, a beautiful collar, sir.
What for, solgers? asks Phipps.
Soldiers, no, dogs, says the shop-keeper, puckering his mouth as
though he had sampled a lemon.
O! says Phipps, suddenly realizing the fact. I ain't got
no dogs; bad stock; don't pay; tax 'em up where I live; wouldn't pay
tax for forty dogs. More niggers passed, repassed, and looked in at
Phipps and the storekeeper.
I say, ain't the niggers got to be thickinfernal thick, in your
Well, I don't know that they are, replied the shop-keeper;
getting rather scarce, I think, since the Fugitive bill has been put
in force over the country, sir, but it does appear to me, said the
shop-keeper, twiging sundry and suspicious-looking col'ud gem'en
passing by his store, gaping in rather wistfully at the door, and
peeping through the sash of the windowsit does appear to me, that a
good many colored persons are about this morning; yes, there is, why
there goes more, more yet; bless me, there's another, two, three, four,
why a dozen has just passed; they seem to look in here rather
curiously, I wonderonly look; what has stirred them up, I want to
know! the fluctuation of the Congo market completely attracted
the handsome man's attention; his surprise finally assumed the most
tangible shape and complexion of fear, for the niggers, one and all,
looked savage as meat-axes, and began to get too numerous to mention.
[Illustration: What dat! got pistils in your pocket, eh? says one
of two big buck Niggers, shying up alongside of the new velocipeding
up-country artisan. What dat! got de hand-cuffs in he pocket!
Well, guess I'll be goin', says Phipps, after fumbling over some
of the shooting-irons, jack-knives, etc.; reaching the street, he was
more fully impressed with the fixed fact, that the niggers were all
sorts of thick. They fairly crowded him; one buck darkey rubbed slap up
against Phipps, as he moved out of the store. Look here, Mister, says
Phipps, ain't all this street big enough for you without a crowdin'
The nigger stopped, looked arsenic and chain lightning at Phipps,
and then moved off, saying in a sort of undertone
Gorra, I guess you'll be crowded a wus'n dat afore dis day is
Will, eh? responded Abner Phipps, slightly mystified as to the why
and wherefore, that he should, in particular, be crowded,
especially by an Ethiopic gentleman.
I guess I won't then, resumed Phipps; if any body ventures
to crowd me, just a purpose, I guess I'll be darn'd apt, and mighty
quick to squash in their heads, or whoop'm on the spot.
What dat? got pistils in your pocket, eh? says one of the two big
buck niggers, shying up alongside of the now velocipeding up-country
artisan. Phipps looked back, the negroes were following him. Pistils?
who's talkin' about pistils, mister? he ventured to ask.
Dat's him, watch'm.
Why, we see'd you goin' in dar, dat pistol shop; want to lay in a
stock of dirks and pistils, eh? says the negro.
Youyou got any hand-cuffs in you' pocket? inquired another.
What dat? got de hand-cuffs in he pocket?
Pistils and bowie knibes! says a third.
Dat's him! watch'm!
Knock'm down, put dat white hat ober his eyes! Hoo-r-r!
The negroes now fairly beset our victimized friend Phipps; he
stopped, buttoned his coat, the negroes augmented; glared at him like
demons; he fixed his hat firmly upon his head; the negroes began to
grin and move upon him; he spat upon his hands; the negroes began to
yell, and to close in upon him; with one grand effort, one mighty
gathering of all the human faculties called into action by fear and
desperation, Phipps bounded like a Louisiana bull at a gate post; he
knocked down two, square; kicked over four, and rushing through
the now very considerable and formidable array of ebony, he broke
equal to a wild turkey through a corn bottom, or a sharp knife through
a pound of milky butter; and it is very questionable whether Phipps
ever stopped running until his boots busted, or he reached his
bucket factory on Taunton river. His negro deputation waited on him
with a rush clear outside of town, where the speed and bottom of Abner
distanced the entire committee. The key to this joke is: Phipps was
dogged from Tafts'by the vigilant committee, as an informer, or
slave-hunter at least, and hence the delicate attentions of the col'ud
pop'lation paid him. I have no doubt, that if Abner Phipps be asked,
how things look around Boston, he would observe with some energy,
Niggersniggers are thickGodfree! a-a-a-in't they thick!