Clotel; or, The President's Daughter
Chapter 3. The Negro Chase
WE shall now return to Natchez, where we left Currer in the hands of the Methodist
parson. For many years, Natchez has enjoyed a notoriety for the inhumanity and barbarity
of its inhabitants, and the cruel deeds perpetrated there, which have not been equalled in
any other city in the Southern States. The following advertisements, which we take from
a newspaper published in the vicinity, will show how they catch their Negroes who
believe in the doctrine that "all men are created free."
"NEGRO DOGS.--The undersigned, having bought the entire pack of Negro dogs (of the
Hay and Allen stock), he now proposes to catch runaway Negroes. His charges will be
three dollars a day for hunting, and fifteen dollars for catching a runaway. He resides
three and one half miles north of Livingston, near the lower Jones' Bluff Road.
"Nov. 6, 1845."
"NOTICE.--The subscriber, Lying on Carroway Lake, on Hoe's Bayou, in Carroll parish,
sixteen miles on the road leading from Bayou Mason to Lake Providence, is ready with a
pack of dogs to hunt runaway Negroes at any time. These dogs are well trained, and are
known throughout the parish. Letters addressed to me at Providence will secure
immediate attention. My terms are five dollars per day for hunting the trails, whether the
Negro is caught or not. Where a twelve hours' trail is shown, and the Negro not taken, no
charge is made. For taking a Negro, twenty-five dollars, and no charge made for hunting.
"Nov. 26, 1847."
These dogs will attack a Negro at their master's bidding and cling to him as the bull-dog
will cling to a beast. Many are the speculations, as to whether the Negro will be secured
alive or dead, when these dogs once get on his track. A slave hunt took place near
Natchez, a few days after Currer's arrival, which was calculated to give her no favourable
opinion of the people. Two slaves had run off owing to severe punishment. The dogs
were put upon their trail. The slaves went into the swamps, with the hope that the dogs
when put on their scent would be unable to follow them through the water. The dogs soon
took to the swamp, which lies between the highlands, which was now covered with
water, waist deep: here these faithful animals, swimming nearly all the time, followed the
zigzag course, the tortuous twistings and windings of these two fugitives, who, it was
afterwards discovered, were lost; sometimes scenting the tree wherein they had found a
temporary refuge from the mud and water; at other places where the deep mud had pulled
off a shoe, and they had not taken time to put it on again. For two hours and a half, for
four or five miles, did men and dogs wade through this bushy, dismal swamp, surrounded
with grim-visaged alligators, who seemed to look on with jealous eye at this
encroachment of their hereditary domain; now losing the trail--then slowly and dubiously
taking it off again, until they triumphantly threaded it out, bringing them back to the
river, where it was found that the Negroes had crossed their own trail, near the place of
starting. In the meantime a heavy shower had taken place, putting out the trail. The
Negroes were now at least four miles ahead.