THESE STORIES of scenes and events in the work of
"The Underground Railroad" will delight readers of
all ages. They are excellent boys' and girls' stories,
but the older members of the family will like them
just as much as the young people. They are "stories,"
but they are not imaginary. They happened. These
men and women, these boys and girls, are real per-
sons and they did these brave deeds herein related.
The heroic element is very much in evidence. Every
event involved risk and danger. Thomas Garrett was
made poor by his courageous actions; all these char-
acters faced fines and imprisonment, or worse, every
time they aided a slave to escape. There was no fame
or public glory in what they were doing. "Fame"
would have instantly defeated all their endeavors.
They did not let the left hand know what the right
hand was doing. Their nearest neighbors were kept
ignorant of their risky deeds of love. The newspapers
had no headlines and no local items of their proceed-
ings. Often the poor hunted "railroad passenger"-
and God-were all who knew.
These stories will remind us of the fact that mod-
ern Quakers are not the only ones who have taken up
the burden of the world's suffering. We of today are
only carrying on a torch which our forebears handed
down to us, lighted and burning. They were faithful
in their day and generation, and they were bearers
of light in the darkness of their times. Our tasks are
very different; but they call for that same old-time
spirit of faithfulness.
These "conductors" on the Underground Railroad
had an interesting technique of truth-telling. They
would not deviate from the truth to save their lives.
One cannot find a lie in all the records. The words
they spoke were words of truth, but they often gave
a "false impression" to the man-hunters with whom
they had to deal. They "deceived" them with their
"truth." They put them off the track, and yet their
words did not lie. Is it "all right" for a lone woman
in a house to have a man's hat on the hat-rack by the
door to warn off a dangerous caller, and may she
shout upstairs to "John" when there isn't any "John"
up there? Is it all right to put your hand over your
patched elbow when you want to make the impres-
sion of respectability? When does a "deceit" become
a "lie"? That is a question each person settles with
his own conscience, and these tender-minded truth-
tellers had the approval of their inner tribunals.
Their course of violating the law of the land, as
they often did, was more dubious. They were under
the empire of a higher law, and they felt that they
could not "do otherwise." In all ages of hard crisis
there have been persons who have said, "We must
obey God rather than men" There have been per-
sons who have felt an irresistible inner urge, which
seemed to come out of eternity, to go against wrong,
that had the sanction of law. The prophet does, it; the
saint does it; the martyr does it. And these persons
did it. But it must never be easily done, or boastingly
done. It is often a tragic course to take, and calls for
profound spiritual depth of life, and readiness to take
the consequences. These stories are about persons of
Rufus M. Jones