Cato, A Pilot,
Enslaved by Charles Pelot
View of Slavery: or A Tour Among the Planters"
by C.G. Parsons, M.D.;
Boston, Jewett, Proctor & Worthington, 1855; Pages 221-224
One day while conversing with Mr. C., the city marshal of Darien, upon **matters of this kind, he related to me the following thrilling story. The facts were within his own personal knowledge.
Charles Pelot owned a slave — “Cato,” — the best pilot in that port. Every shipmaster who visited Darien, felt perfectly safe in entering the harbor, however thick the fog, or violent the storm, if Cato was at the helm. He was remarkably intelligent and faithful; and of course he was valuable to his master for that reason. Everybody knew him, and had perfect confidence in him. His master owned no other slave, —and he indulged Cato, giving him privileges which were not granted to other slaves. Though it was not allowed by law, Cato was permitted to take a gun, and go out among the islands in pursuit of game. His services as pilot were often in demand, at a high price, — so that he almost or quite supported his master's family.
Cato's family belonged to a master residing in that city, who neglected properly to supply their wants. He was, therefore, generously permitted to visit them often, carry them food ,and clothing, and take care of them in sickness.
It so happened that Mr. Pelot sold his property in Darien, with the intention of removing to Jacksonville, in Florida. Slaveholders never consult their slaves in business matters, no matter how intelligent they may be. Cato, therefore, remained in ignorance of his master's purpose, until the evening before he was expecting to leave the city.
Mr. C. told me that he happened to be present when Cato's master informed him of his contemplated removal.
“Cato!” l said he, “I have sold my property here, and am going down to Jacksonville.”
“When are you going, master?” inquired the slave, his voice trembling as if all the fears of a lifetime were crowding upon him in this single moment.
“I am going to-morrow,” replied Mr. P.
“Do you want me to go with you, master?” inquired the already wretched slave.
“Yes, Cato!” said the master. “You know I depend upon your labor for the support of my family. I want you for a pilot at Jacksonville.”
“Are you going to buy my wife and children, master?”
Cato's emotions were so strong, and his anxiety so intense, that he could hardly ask the question. A moment of awful silence passed — the master could not speak, and the slave, as if encouraged by his delay to reply, added —
“Now if you will buy Nelly and the children, master Pelot, I should like to go with you; for you have always been good to me, and I don t want to leave you!”
“I wish for your sake, Cato, that I could buy Nelly and the little girls, — but I am not able,” replied Pelot, sadly, and with evident sorrow of heart for the wretched family.
“Well then, I can’t go with you, master,” said Cato.
“You must go, Cato,” replied the master; “you are all my dependence for a living.”
“I tell you I can’t go, master, and leave my wife and children in the hands of that man! You know, master!” said Cato, pointing towards the defenceless hut where his unprotected family lived.
“I do know, Cato,” said the sympathizing master, “and I pity you! But I cannot buy your family, and I cannot part with you. You must be ready to start with us in the morning.” —The slave folded his arms upon his breast, raised his eyes to Heaven, as if imploring Divine assistance, and then he said to his master, firmly, —
You have always been kind to me, master Pelot. I love you, and would like to go with you, — but I will never go away from Darien, and leave my wife and children in the hands of that man! I have resolved to die first!”
This seeming defiance of his authority enraged the master, and anger took the place of pity.
“You will go with me, to-morrow morning!” he exclaimed.
Cato loaded his old rusty rifle, and fled that night to the woods. In the morning Mr. C., the city marshal, was ordered to pursue him. He told me that he kept hounds for that purpose. He went out behind the court house, — which stands outside of the city, near the pine woods, — and Cato called to him from the top of a tree —
“Don’t you come to take me Mr. C! You know I told master Pelot that I would die before I would leave Darien, and let my wife and children suffer as they would. I knew it was no use to run away, for the dogs would catch me; and I don t want to hurt you, Mr. C.; but I will shoot the first man that comes to take me!”
Mr. C. returned, and told Pelot that he would have nothing to do with taking Cato, — not even if he should be removed from his office for this decision. But there were two desperados in that city, who volunteered to go and take him. The name of one of them was Sam Blunt.
“Bring him in dead or alive!” said Pelot, when they started.
Blunt had a longer rifle than Cato had. The two man-hunters went out around the court house, when Cato admonished them of their danger if they advanced farther. Blunt raised his rifle and fired! Cato fell to the ground. They took him up, — but he was dead!!
**"matters of this kind" was in reference to stories of enslavers who were very kind and loving to the people they enslaved until they got angry and lashed out violently against the enslaved person/people.
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