The Project Gutenberg eBook of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, by Frederick Douglass (2022)

The Project Gutenberg eBook of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, by Frederick Douglass

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Title: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
An American Slave

Author: Frederick Douglass

Release Date: January 1992 [eBook #23]
[Most recently updated: February 28, 2021]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8

Produced by: An Anonymous Volunteer and David Widger






Note from the original file: This electronic book is being released at thistime to honor the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. [Born January 15, 1929][Officially celebrated January 20, 1992]




In the month of August, 1841, I attended an anti-slavery convention inNantucket, at which it was my happiness to become acquainted with FrederickDouglass, the writer of the following Narrative. He was a stranger tonearly every member of that body; but, having recently made his escape from thesouthern prison-house of bondage, and feeling his curiosity excited toascertain the principles and measures of the abolitionists,—of whom hehad heard a somewhat vague description while he was a slave,—he wasinduced to give his attendance, on the occasion alluded to, though at that timea resident in New Bedford.

Fortunate, most fortunate occurrence!—fortunate for the millions of hismanacled brethren, yet panting for deliverance from their awfulthraldom!—fortunate for the cause of negro emancipation, and of universalliberty!—fortunate for the land of his birth, which he has already doneso much to save and bless!—fortunate for a large circle of friends andacquaintances, whose sympathy and affection he has strongly secured by the manysufferings he has endured, by his virtuous traits of character, by hisever-abiding remembrance of those who are in bonds, as being bound withthem!—fortunate for the multitudes, in various parts of our republic,whose minds he has enlightened on the subject of slavery, and who have beenmelted to tears by his pathos, or roused to virtuous indignation by hisstirring eloquence against the enslavers of men!—fortunate for himself,as it at once brought him into the field of public usefulness, “gave theworld assurance of a MAN,” quickened the slumberingenergies of his soul, and consecrated him to the great work of breaking the rodof the oppressor, and letting the oppressed go free!

I shall never forget his first speech at the convention—the extraordinaryemotion it excited in my own mind—the powerful impression it created upona crowded auditory, completely taken by surprise—the applause whichfollowed from the beginning to the end of his felicitous remarks. I think Inever hated slavery so intensely as at that moment; certainly, my perception ofthe enormous outrage which is inflicted by it, on the godlike nature of itsvictims, was rendered far more clear than ever. There stood one, in physicalproportion and stature commanding and exact—in intellect richlyendowed—in natural eloquence a prodigy—in soul manifestly“created but a little lower than the angels”—yet a slave, ay,a fugitive slave,—trembling for his safety, hardly daring to believe thaton the American soil, a single white person could be found who would befriendhim at all hazards, for the love of God and humanity! Capable of highattainments as an intellectual and moral being—needing nothing but acomparatively small amount of cultivation to make him an ornament to societyand a blessing to his race—by the law of the land, by the voice of thepeople, by the terms of the slave code, he was only a piece of property, abeast of burden, a chattel personal, nevertheless!

A beloved friend from New Bedford prevailed on Mr. DOUGLASS toaddress the convention. He came forward to the platform with a hesitancy andembarrassment, necessarily the attendants of a sensitive mind in such a novelposition. After apologizing for his ignorance, and reminding the audience thatslavery was a poor school for the human intellect and heart, he proceeded tonarrate some of the facts in his own history as a slave, and in the course ofhis speech gave utterance to many noble thoughts and thrilling reflections. Assoon as he had taken his seat, filled with hope and admiration, I rose, anddeclared that PATRICK HENRY, of revolutionaryfame, never made a speech more eloquent in the cause of liberty, than the onewe had just listened to from the lips of that hunted fugitive. So I believed atthat time—such is my belief now. I reminded the audience of the perilwhich surrounded this self-emancipated young man at the North,—even inMassachusetts, on the soil of the Pilgrim Fathers, among the descendants ofrevolutionary sires; and I appealed to them, whether they would ever allow himto be carried back into slavery,—law or no law, constitution or noconstitution. The response was unanimous and inthunder-tones—“NO!” “Will you succor and protect him asa brother-man—a resident of the old Bay State?” “YES!”shouted the whole mass, with an energy so startling, that the ruthless tyrantssouth of Mason and Dixon’s line might almost have heard the mighty burstof feeling, and recognized it as the pledge of an invincible determination, onthe part of those who gave it, never to betray him that wanders, but to hidethe outcast, and firmly to abide the consequences.

It was at once deeply impressed upon my mind, that, if Mr.DOUGLASS could be persuaded to consecrate his time and talentsto the promotion of the anti-slavery enterprise, a powerful impetus would begiven to it, and a stunning blow at the same time inflicted on northernprejudice against a colored complexion. I therefore endeavored to instil hopeand courage into his mind, in order that he might dare to engage in a vocationso anomalous and responsible for a person in his situation; and I was secondedin this effort by warm-hearted friends, especially by the late General Agent ofthe Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, Mr. JOHN A.COLLINS, whose judgment in this instance entirely coincided withmy own. At first, he could give no encouragement; with unfeigned diffidence, heexpressed his conviction that he was not adequate to the performance of sogreat a task; the path marked out was wholly an untrodden one; he was sincerelyapprehensive that he should do more harm than good. After much deliberation,however, he consented to make a trial; and ever since that period, he has actedas a lecturing agent, under the auspices either of the American or theMassachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. In labors he has been most abundant; andhis success in combating prejudice, in gaining proselytes, in agitating thepublic mind, has far surpassed the most sanguine expectations that were raisedat the commencement of his brilliant career. He has borne himself withgentleness and meekness, yet with true manliness of character. As a publicspeaker, he excels in pathos, wit, comparison, imitation, strength ofreasoning, and fluency of language. There is in him that union of head andheart, which is indispensable to an enlightenment of the heads and a winning ofthe hearts of others. May his strength continue to be equal to his day! May hecontinue to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of God,” that hemay be increasingly serviceable in the cause of bleeding humanity, whether athome or abroad!

It is certainly a very remarkable fact, that one of the most efficientadvocates of the slave population, now before the public, is a fugitive slave,in the person of Frederick Douglass; and that the free coloredpopulation of the United States are as ably represented by one of their ownnumber, in the person of Charles Lenox Remond, whose eloquent appealshave extorted the highest applause of multitudes on both sides of the Atlantic.Let the calumniators of the colored race despise themselves for their basenessand illiberality of spirit, and henceforth cease to talk of the naturalinferiority of those who require nothing but time and opportunity to attain tothe highest point of human excellence.

It may, perhaps, be fairly questioned, whether any other portion of thepopulation of the earth could have endured the privations, sufferings andhorrors of slavery, without having become more degraded in the scale ofhumanity than the slaves of African descent. Nothing has been left undone tocripple their intellects, darken their minds, debase their moral nature,obliterate all traces of their relationship to mankind; and yet how wonderfullythey have sustained the mighty load of a most frightful bondage, under whichthey have been groaning for centuries! To illustrate the effect of slavery onthe white man,—to show that he has no powers of endurance, in such acondition, superior to those of his black brother,—DanielO’Connell, the distinguished advocate of universal emancipation, andthe mightiest champion of prostrate but not conquered Ireland, relates thefollowing anecdote in a speech delivered by him in the Conciliation Hall,Dublin, before the Loyal National Repeal Association, March 31, 1845. “Nomatter,” said Mr. O’Connell, “under what specious termit may disguise itself, slavery is still hideous. It has a natural, aninevitable tendency to brutalize every noble faculty of man. An Americansailor, who was cast away on the shore of Africa, where he was kept in slaveryfor three years, was, at the expiration of that period, found to be imbrutedand stultified—he had lost all reasoning power; and having forgotten hisnative language, could only utter some savage gibberish between Arabic andEnglish, which nobody could understand, and which even he himself founddifficulty in pronouncing. So much for the humanizing influence of TheDomestic Institution!” Admitting this to have been an extraordinarycase of mental deterioration, it proves at least that the white slave can sinkas low in the scale of humanity as the black one.

Mr. Douglass has very properly chosen to write his own Narrative, in hisown style, and according to the best of his ability, rather than to employ someone else. It is, therefore, entirely his own production; and, considering howlong and dark was the career he had to run as a slave,—how few have beenhis opportunities to improve his mind since he broke his iron fetters,—itis, in my judgment, highly creditable to his head and heart. He who can peruseit without a tearful eye, a heaving breast, an afflicted spirit,—withoutbeing filled with an unutterable abhorrence of slavery and all its abettors,and animated with a determination to seek the immediate overthrow of thatexecrable system,—without trembling for the fate of this country in thehands of a righteous God, who is ever on the side of the oppressed, and whosearm is not shortened that it cannot save,—must have a flinty heart, andbe qualified to act the part of a trafficker “in slaves and the souls ofmen.” I am confident that it is essentially true in all its statements;that nothing has been set down in malice, nothing exaggerated, nothing drawnfrom the imagination; that it comes short of the reality, rather thanoverstates a single fact in regard to slavery as it is. The experienceof Frederick Douglass, as a slave, was not a peculiar one; his lot wasnot especially a hard one; his case may be regarded as a very fair specimen ofthe treatment of slaves in Maryland, in which State it is conceded that theyare better fed and less cruelly treated than in Georgia, Alabama, or Louisiana.Many have suffered incomparably more, while very few on the plantations havesuffered less, than himself. Yet how deplorable was his situation! whatterrible chastisements were inflicted upon his person! what still more shockingoutrages were perpetrated upon his mind! with all his noble powers and sublimeaspirations, how like a brute was he treated, even by those professing to havethe same mind in them that was in Christ Jesus! to what dreadful liabilitieswas he continually subjected! how destitute of friendly counsel and aid, evenin his greatest extremities! how heavy was the midnight of woe which shroudedin blackness the last ray of hope, and filled the future with terror and gloom!what longings after freedom took possession of his breast, and how his miseryaugmented, in proportion as he grew reflective and intelligent,—thusdemonstrating that a happy slave is an extinct man! how he thought, reasoned,felt, under the lash of the driver, with the chains upon his limbs! what perilshe encountered in his endeavors to escape from his horrible doom! and howsignal have been his deliverance and preservation in the midst of a nation ofpitiless enemies!

This Narrative contains many affecting incidents, many passages of greateloquence and power; but I think the most thrilling one of them all is thedescription Douglass gives of his feelings, as he stood soliloquizingrespecting his fate, and the chances of his one day being a freeman, on thebanks of the Chesapeake Bay—viewing the receding vessels as they flewwith their white wings before the breeze, and apostrophizing them as animatedby the living spirit of freedom. Who can read that passage, and be insensibleto its pathos and sublimity? Compressed into it is a whole Alexandrian libraryof thought, feeling, and sentiment—all that can, all that need be urged,in the form of expostulation, entreaty, rebuke, against that crime ofcrimes,—making man the property of his fellow-man! O, how accursed isthat system, which entombs the godlike mind of man, defaces the divine image,reduces those who by creation were crowned with glory and honor to a level withfour-footed beasts, and exalts the dealer in human flesh above all that iscalled God! Why should its existence be prolonged one hour? Is it not evil,only evil, and that continually? What does its presence imply but the absenceof all fear of God, all regard for man, on the part of the people of the UnitedStates? Heaven speed its eternal overthrow!

So profoundly ignorant of the nature of slavery are many persons, that they arestubbornly incredulous whenever they read or listen to any recital of thecruelties which are daily inflicted on its victims. They do not deny that theslaves are held as property; but that terrible fact seems to convey to theirminds no idea of injustice, exposure to outrage, or savage barbarity. Tell themof cruel scourgings, of mutilations and brandings, of scenes of pollution andblood, of the banishment of all light and knowledge, and they affect to begreatly indignant at such enormous exaggerations, such wholesale misstatements,such abominable libels on the character of the southern planters! As if allthese direful outrages were not the natural results of slavery! As if it wereless cruel to reduce a human being to the condition of a thing, than to givehim a severe flagellation, or to deprive him of necessary food and clothing! Asif whips, chains, thumb-screws, paddles, blood-hounds, overseers, drivers,patrols, were not all indispensable to keep the slaves down, and to giveprotection to their ruthless oppressors! As if, when the marriage institutionis abolished, concubinage, adultery, and incest, must not necessarily abound;when all the rights of humanity are annihilated, any barrier remains to protectthe victim from the fury of the spoiler; when absolute power is assumed overlife and liberty, it will not be wielded with destructive sway! Skeptics ofthis character abound in society. In some few instances, their incredulityarises from a want of reflection; but, generally, it indicates a hatred of thelight, a desire to shield slavery from the assaults of its foes, a contempt ofthe colored race, whether bond or free. Such will try to discredit the shockingtales of slaveholding cruelty which are recorded in this truthful Narrative;but they will labor in vain. Mr. Douglass has frankly disclosed theplace of his birth, the names of those who claimed ownership in his body andsoul, and the names also of those who committed the crimes which he has allegedagainst them. His statements, therefore, may easily be disproved, if they areuntrue.

In the course of his Narrative, he relates two instances of murderouscruelty,—in one of which a planter deliberately shot a slave belonging toa neighboring plantation, who had unintentionally gotten within his lordlydomain in quest of fish; and in the other, an overseer blew out the brains of aslave who had fled to a stream of water to escape a bloody scourging. Mr.Douglass states that in neither of these instances was any thing done byway of legal arrest or judicial investigation. The Baltimore American, of March17, 1845, relates a similar case of atrocity, perpetrated with similarimpunity—as follows:—“Shooting a slave.—Welearn, upon the authority of a letter from Charles county, Maryland, receivedby a gentleman of this city, that a young man, named Matthews, a nephew ofGeneral Matthews, and whose father, it is believed, holds an office atWashington, killed one of the slaves upon his father’s farm by shootinghim. The letter states that young Matthews had been left in charge of the farm;that he gave an order to the servant, which was disobeyed, when he proceeded tothe house, obtained a gun, and, returning, shot the servant. Heimmediately, the letter continues, fled to his father’s residence, wherehe still remains unmolested.”—Let it never be forgotten, that noslaveholder or overseer can be convicted of any outrage perpetrated on theperson of a slave, however diabolical it may be, on the testimony of coloredwitnesses, whether bond or free. By the slave code, they are adjudged to be asincompetent to testify against a white man, as though they were indeed a partof the brute creation. Hence, there is no legal protection in fact, whateverthere may be in form, for the slave population; and any amount of cruelty maybe inflicted on them with impunity. Is it possible for the human mind toconceive of a more horrible state of society?

The effect of a religious profession on the conduct of southern masters isvividly described in the following Narrative, and shown to be any thing butsalutary. In the nature of the case, it must be in the highest degreepernicious. The testimony of Mr. Douglass, on this point, is sustainedby a cloud of witnesses, whose veracity is unimpeachable. “Aslaveholder’s profession of Christianity is a palpable imposture. He is afelon of the highest grade. He is a man-stealer. It is of no importance whatyou put in the other scale.”

Reader! are you with the man-stealers in sympathy and purpose, or on the sideof their down-trodden victims? If with the former, then are you the foe of Godand man. If with the latter, what are you prepared to do and dare in theirbehalf? Be faithful, be vigilant, be untiring in your efforts to break everyyoke, and let the oppressed go free. Come what may—cost what itmay—inscribe on the banner which you unfurl to the breeze, as yourreligious and political motto—“NO COMPROMISE WITH SLAVERY! NO UNIONWITH SLAVEHOLDERS!”


May 1, 1845.


BOSTON, April 22, 1845.

My Dear Friend:

You remember the old fable of “The Man and the Lion,” where thelion complained that he should not be so misrepresented “when the lionswrote history.”

I am glad the time has come when the “lions write history.” We havebeen left long enough to gather the character of slavery from the involuntaryevidence of the masters. One might, indeed, rest sufficiently satisfied withwhat, it is evident, must be, in general, the results of such a relation,without seeking farther to find whether they have followed in every instance.Indeed, those who stare at the half-peck of corn a week, and love to count thelashes on the slave’s back, are seldom the “stuff” out ofwhich reformers and abolitionists are to be made. I remember that, in 1838,many were waiting for the results of the West India experiment, before theycould come into our ranks. Those “results” have come long ago; but,alas! few of that number have come with them, as converts. A man must bedisposed to judge of emancipation by other tests than whether it has increasedthe produce of sugar,—and to hate slavery for other reasons than becauseit starves men and whips women,—before he is ready to lay the first stoneof his anti-slavery life.

I was glad to learn, in your story, how early the most neglected of God’schildren waken to a sense of their rights, and of the injustice done them.Experience is a keen teacher; and long before you had mastered your A B C, orknew where the “white sails” of the Chesapeake were bound, youbegan, I see, to gauge the wretchedness of the slave, not by his hunger andwant, not by his lashes and toil, but by the cruel and blighting death whichgathers over his soul.

In connection with this, there is one circumstance which makes yourrecollections peculiarly valuable, and renders your early insight the moreremarkable. You come from that part of the country where we are told slaveryappears with its fairest features. Let us hear, then, what it is at its bestestate—gaze on its bright side, if it has one; and then imagination maytask her powers to add dark lines to the picture, as she travels southward tothat (for the colored man) Valley of the Shadow of Death, where the Mississippisweeps along.

Again, we have known you long, and can put the most entire confidence in yourtruth, candor, and sincerity. Every one who has heard you speak has felt, and,I am confident, every one who reads your book will feel, persuaded that yougive them a fair specimen of the whole truth. No one-sided portrait,—nowholesale complaints,—but strict justice done, whenever individualkindliness has neutralized, for a moment, the deadly system with which it wasstrangely allied. You have been with us, too, some years, and can fairlycompare the twilight of rights, which your race enjoy at the North, with that“noon of night” under which they labor south of Mason andDixon’s line. Tell us whether, after all, the half-free colored man ofMassachusetts is worse off than the pampered slave of the rice swamps!

In reading your life, no one can say that we have unfairly picked out some rarespecimens of cruelty. We know that the bitter drops, which even you havedrained from the cup, are no incidental aggravations, no individual ills, butsuch as must mingle always and necessarily in the lot of every slave. They arethe essential ingredients, not the occasional results, of the system.

After all, I shall read your book with trembling for you. Some years ago, whenyou were beginning to tell me your real name and birthplace, you may remember Istopped you, and preferred to remain ignorant of all. With the exception of avague description, so I continued, till the other day, when you read me yourmemoirs. I hardly knew, at the time, whether to thank you or not for the sightof them, when I reflected that it was still dangerous, in Massachusetts, forhonest men to tell their names! They say the fathers, in 1776, signed theDeclaration of Independence with the halter about their necks. You, too,publish your declaration of freedom with danger compassing you around. In allthe broad lands which the Constitution of the United States overshadows, thereis no single spot,—however narrow or desolate,—where a fugitiveslave can plant himself and say, “I am safe.” The whole armory ofNorthern Law has no shield for you. I am free to say that, in your place, Ishould throw the MS. into the fire.

You, perhaps, may tell your story in safety, endeared as you are to so manywarm hearts by rare gifts, and a still rarer devotion of them to the service ofothers. But it will be owing only to your labors, and the fearless efforts ofthose who, trampling the laws and Constitution of the country under their feet,are determined that they will “hide the outcast,” and that theirhearths shall be, spite of the law, an asylum for the oppressed, if, some timeor other, the humblest may stand in our streets, and bear witness in safetyagainst the cruelties of which he has been the victim.

Yet it is sad to think, that these very throbbing hearts which welcome yourstory, and form your best safeguard in telling it, are all beating contrary tothe “statute in such case made and provided.” Go on, my dearfriend, till you, and those who, like you, have been saved, so as by fire, fromthe dark prison-house, shall stereotype these free, illegal pulses intostatutes; and New England, cutting loose from a blood-stained Union, shallglory in being the house of refuge for the oppressed,—till we no longermerely “hide the outcast,” or make a merit of standing idlyby while he is hunted in our midst; but, consecrating anew the soil of thePilgrims as an asylum for the oppressed, proclaim our welcome to theslave so loudly, that the tones shall reach every hut in the Carolinas, andmake the broken-hearted bondman leap up at the thought of old Massachusetts.

God speed the day!
Till then, and ever,
Yours truly,


Frederick Douglass was born in slavery as Frederick Augustus Washington Baileynear Easton in Talbot County, Maryland. He was not sure of the exact year ofhis birth, but he knew that it was 1817 or 1818. As a young boy he was sent toBaltimore, to be a house servant, where he learned to read and write, with theassistance of his master’s wife. In 1838 he escaped from slavery and wentto New York City, where he married Anna Murray, a free colored woman whom hehad met in Baltimore. Soon thereafter he changed his name to FrederickDouglass. In 1841 he addressed a convention of the Massachusetts Anti-SlaverySociety in Nantucket and so greatly impressed the group that they immediatelyemployed him as an agent. He was such an impressive orator that numerouspersons doubted if he had ever been a slave, so he wrote Narrative Of TheLife Of Frederick Douglass. During the Civil War he assisted in therecruiting of colored men for the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Regiments andconsistently argued for the emancipation of slaves. After the war he was activein securing and protecting the rights of the freemen. In his later years, atdifferent times, he was secretary of the Santo Domingo Commission, marshall andrecorder of deeds of the District of Columbia, and United States Minister toHaiti. His other autobiographical works are My Bondage And My Freedomand Life And Times Of Frederick Douglass, published in 1855 and 1881respectively. He died in 1895.


I was born in Tuckahoe, near Hillsborough, and about twelve miles from Easton,in Talbot county, Maryland. I have no accurate knowledge of my age, neverhaving seen any authentic record containing it. By far the larger part of theslaves know as little of their ages as horses know of theirs, and it is thewish of most masters within my knowledge to keep their slaves thus ignorant. Ido not remember to have ever met a slave who could tell of his birthday. Theyseldom come nearer to it than planting-time, harvest-time, cherry-time,spring-time, or fall-time. A want of information concerning my own was a sourceof unhappiness to me even during childhood. The white children could tell theirages. I could not tell why I ought to be deprived of the same privilege. I wasnot allowed to make any inquiries of my master concerning it. He deemed allsuch inquiries on the part of a slave improper and impertinent, and evidence ofa restless spirit. The nearest estimate I can give makes me now betweentwenty-seven and twenty-eight years of age. I come to this, from hearing mymaster say, some time during 1835, I was about seventeen years old.

My mother was named Harriet Bailey. She was the daughter of Isaac and BetseyBailey, both colored, and quite dark. My mother was of a darker complexion thaneither my grandmother or grandfather.

My father was a white man. He was admitted to be such by all I ever heard speakof my parentage. The opinion was also whispered that my master was my father;but of the correctness of this opinion, I know nothing; the means of knowingwas withheld from me. My mother and I were separated when I was but aninfant—before I knew her as my mother. It is a common custom, in the partof Maryland from which I ran away, to part children from their mothers at avery early age. Frequently, before the child has reached its twelfth month, itsmother is taken from it, and hired out on some farm a considerable distanceoff, and the child is placed under the care of an old woman, too old for fieldlabor. For what this separation is done, I do not know, unless it be to hinderthe development of the child’s affection toward its mother, and to bluntand destroy the natural affection of the mother for the child. This is theinevitable result.

I never saw my mother, to know her as such, more than four or five times in mylife; and each of these times was very short in duration, and at night. She washired by a Mr. Stewart, who lived about twelve miles from my home. She made herjourneys to see me in the night, travelling the whole distance on foot, afterthe performance of her day’s work. She was a field hand, and a whippingis the penalty of not being in the field at sunrise, unless a slave has specialpermission from his or her master to the contrary—a permission which theyseldom get, and one that gives to him that gives it the proud name of being akind master. I do not recollect of ever seeing my mother by the light of day.She was with me in the night. She would lie down with me, and get me to sleep,but long before I waked she was gone. Very little communication ever took placebetween us. Death soon ended what little we could have while she lived, andwith it her hardships and suffering. She died when I was about seven years old,on one of my master’s farms, near Lee’s Mill. I was not allowed tobe present during her illness, at her death, or burial. She was gone longbefore I knew any thing about it. Never having enjoyed, to any considerableextent, her soothing presence, her tender and watchful care, I received thetidings of her death with much the same emotions I should have probably felt atthe death of a stranger.

Called thus suddenly away, she left me without the slightest intimation of whomy father was. The whisper that my master was my father, may or may not betrue; and, true or false, it is of but little consequence to my purpose whilstthe fact remains, in all its glaring odiousness, that slaveholders haveordained, and by law established, that the children of slave women shall in allcases follow the condition of their mothers; and this is done too obviously toadminister to their own lusts, and make a gratification of their wicked desiresprofitable as well as pleasurable; for by this cunning arrangement, theslaveholder, in cases not a few, sustains to his slaves the double relation ofmaster and father.

I know of such cases; and it is worthy of remark that such slaves invariablysuffer greater hardships, and have more to contend with, than others. They are,in the first place, a constant offence to their mistress. She is ever disposedto find fault with them; they can seldom do any thing to please her; she isnever better pleased than when she sees them under the lash, especially whenshe suspects her husband of showing to his mulatto children favors which hewithholds from his black slaves. The master is frequently compelled to sellthis class of his slaves, out of deference to the feelings of his white wife;and, cruel as the deed may strike any one to be, for a man to sell his ownchildren to human flesh-mongers, it is often the dictate of humanity for him todo so; for, unless he does this, he must not only whip them himself, but muststand by and see one white son tie up his brother, of but few shades darkercomplexion than himself, and ply the gory lash to his naked back; and if helisp one word of disapproval, it is set down to his parental partiality, andonly makes a bad matter worse, both for himself and the slave whom he wouldprotect and defend.

Every year brings with it multitudes of this class of slaves. It was doubtlessin consequence of a knowledge of this fact, that one great statesman of thesouth predicted the downfall of slavery by the inevitable laws of population.Whether this prophecy is ever fulfilled or not, it is nevertheless plain that avery different-looking class of people are springing up at the south, and arenow held in slavery, from those originally brought to this country from Africa;and if their increase do no other good, it will do away the force of theargument, that God cursed Ham, and therefore American slavery is right. If thelineal descendants of Ham are alone to be scripturally enslaved, it is certainthat slavery at the south must soon become unscriptural; for thousands areushered into the world, annually, who, like myself, owe their existence towhite fathers, and those fathers most frequently their own masters.

I have had two masters. My first master’s name was Anthony. I do notremember his first name. He was generally called Captain Anthony—a titlewhich, I presume, he acquired by sailing a craft on the Chesapeake Bay. He wasnot considered a rich slaveholder. He owned two or three farms, and aboutthirty slaves. His farms and slaves were under the care of an overseer. Theoverseer’s name was Plummer. Mr. Plummer was a miserable drunkard, aprofane swearer, and a savage monster. He always went armed with a cowskin anda heavy cudgel. I have known him to cut and slash the women’s heads sohorribly, that even master would be enraged at his cruelty, and would threatento whip him if he did not mind himself. Master, however, was not a humaneslaveholder. It required extraordinary barbarity on the part of an overseer toaffect him. He was a cruel man, hardened by a long life of slaveholding. Hewould at times seem to take great pleasure in whipping a slave. I have oftenbeen awakened at the dawn of day by the most heart-rending shrieks of an ownaunt of mine, whom he used to tie up to a joist, and whip upon her naked backtill she was literally covered with blood. No words, no tears, no prayers, fromhis gory victim, seemed to move his iron heart from its bloody purpose. Thelouder she screamed, the harder he whipped; and where the blood ran fastest,there he whipped longest. He would whip her to make her scream, and whip her tomake her hush; and not until overcome by fatigue, would he cease to swing theblood-clotted cowskin. I remember the first time I ever witnessed this horribleexhibition. I was quite a child, but I well remember it. I never shall forgetit whilst I remember any thing. It was the first of a long series of suchoutrages, of which I was doomed to be a witness and a participant. It struck mewith awful force. It was the blood-stained gate, the entrance to the hell ofslavery, through which I was about to pass. It was a most terrible spectacle. Iwish I could commit to paper the feelings with which I beheld it.

This occurrence took place very soon after I went to live with my old master,and under the following circumstances. Aunt Hester went out onenight,—where or for what I do not know,—and happened to be absentwhen my master desired her presence. He had ordered her not to go out evenings,and warned her that she must never let him catch her in company with a youngman, who was paying attention to her belonging to Colonel Lloyd. The youngman’s name was Ned Roberts, generally called Lloyd’s Ned. Whymaster was so careful of her, may be safely left to conjecture. She was a womanof noble form, and of graceful proportions, having very few equals, and fewersuperiors, in personal appearance, among the colored or white women of ourneighborhood.

Aunt Hester had not only disobeyed his orders in going out, but had been foundin company with Lloyd’s Ned; which circumstance, I found, from what hesaid while whipping her, was the chief offence. Had he been a man of puremorals himself, he might have been thought interested in protecting theinnocence of my aunt; but those who knew him will not suspect him of any suchvirtue. Before he commenced whipping Aunt Hester, he took her into the kitchen,and stripped her from neck to waist, leaving her neck, shoulders, and back,entirely naked. He then told her to cross her hands, calling her at the sametime a d——d b—-h. After crossing her hands, he tied them witha strong rope, and led her to a stool under a large hook in the joist, put infor the purpose. He made her get upon the stool, and tied her hands to thehook. She now stood fair for his infernal purpose. Her arms were stretched upat their full length, so that she stood upon the ends of her toes. He then saidto her, “Now, you d——d b—-h, I’ll learn you howto disobey my orders!” and after rolling up his sleeves, he commenced tolay on the heavy cowskin, and soon the warm, red blood (amid heart-rendingshrieks from her, and horrid oaths from him) came dripping to the floor. I wasso terrified and horror-stricken at the sight, that I hid myself in a closet,and dared not venture out till long after the bloody transaction was over. Iexpected it would be my turn next. It was all new to me. I had never seen anything like it before. I had always lived with my grandmother on the outskirtsof the plantation, where she was put to raise the children of the youngerwomen. I had therefore been, until now, out of the way of the bloody scenesthat often occurred on the plantation.


My master’s family consisted of two sons, Andrew and Richard; onedaughter, Lucretia, and her husband, Captain Thomas Auld. They lived in onehouse, upon the home plantation of Colonel Edward Lloyd. My master was ColonelLloyd’s clerk and superintendent. He was what might be called theoverseer of the overseers. I spent two years of childhood on this plantation inmy old master’s family. It was here that I witnessed the bloodytransaction recorded in the first chapter; and as I received my firstimpressions of slavery on this plantation, I will give some description of it,and of slavery as it there existed. The plantation is about twelve miles northof Easton, in Talbot county, and is situated on the border of Miles River. Theprincipal products raised upon it were tobacco, corn, and wheat. These wereraised in great abundance; so that, with the products of this and the otherfarms belonging to him, he was able to keep in almost constant employment alarge sloop, in carrying them to market at Baltimore. This sloop was namedSally Lloyd, in honor of one of the colonel’s daughters. Mymaster’s son-in-law, Captain Auld, was master of the vessel; she wasotherwise manned by the colonel’s own slaves. Their names were Peter,Isaac, Rich, and Jake. These were esteemed very highly by the other slaves, andlooked upon as the privileged ones of the plantation; for it was no smallaffair, in the eyes of the slaves, to be allowed to see Baltimore.

Colonel Lloyd kept from three to four hundred slaves on his home plantation,and owned a large number more on the neighboring farms belonging to him. Thenames of the farms nearest to the home plantation were Wye Town and New Design.“Wye Town” was under the overseership of a man named Noah Willis.New Design was under the overseership of a Mr. Townsend. The overseers ofthese, and all the rest of the farms, numbering over twenty, received adviceand direction from the managers of the home plantation. This was the greatbusiness place. It was the seat of government for the whole twenty farms. Alldisputes among the overseers were settled here. If a slave was convicted of anyhigh misdemeanor, became unmanageable, or evinced a determination to run away,he was brought immediately here, severely whipped, put on board the sloop,carried to Baltimore, and sold to Austin Woolfolk, or some other slave-trader,as a warning to the slaves remaining.

Here, too, the slaves of all the other farms received their monthly allowanceof food, and their yearly clothing. The men and women slaves received, as theirmonthly allowance of food, eight pounds of pork, or its equivalent in fish, andone bushel of corn meal. Their yearly clothing consisted of two coarse linenshirts, one pair of linen trousers, like the shirts, one jacket, one pair oftrousers for winter, made of coarse negro cloth, one pair of stockings, and onepair of shoes; the whole of which could not have cost more than seven dollars.The allowance of the slave children was given to their mothers, or the oldwomen having the care of them. The children unable to work in the field hadneither shoes, stockings, jackets, nor trousers, given to them; their clothingconsisted of two coarse linen shirts per year. When these failed them, theywent naked until the next allowance-day. Children from seven to ten years old,of both sexes, almost naked, might be seen at all seasons of the year.

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There were no beds given the slaves, unless one coarse blanket be consideredsuch, and none but the men and women had these. This, however, is notconsidered a very great privation. They find less difficulty from the want ofbeds, than from the want of time to sleep; for when their day’s work inthe field is done, the most of them having their washing, mending, and cookingto do, and having few or none of the ordinary facilities for doing either ofthese, very many of their sleeping hours are consumed in preparing for thefield the coming day; and when this is done, old and young, male and female,married and single, drop down side by side, on one common bed,—the cold,damp floor,—each covering himself or herself with their miserableblankets; and here they sleep till they are summoned to the field by thedriver’s horn. At the sound of this, all must rise, and be off to thefield. There must be no halting; every one must be at his or her post; and woebetides them who hear not this morning summons to the field; for if they arenot awakened by the sense of hearing, they are by the sense of feeling: no agenor sex finds any favor. Mr. Severe, the overseer, used to stand by the door ofthe quarter, armed with a large hickory stick and heavy cowskin, ready to whipany one who was so unfortunate as not to hear, or, from any other cause, wasprevented from being ready to start for the field at the sound of the horn.

Mr. Severe was rightly named: he was a cruel man. I have seen him whip a woman,causing the blood to run half an hour at the time; and this, too, in the midstof her crying children, pleading for their mother’s release. He seemed totake pleasure in manifesting his fiendish barbarity. Added to his cruelty, hewas a profane swearer. It was enough to chill the blood and stiffen the hair ofan ordinary man to hear him talk. Scarce a sentence escaped him but that wascommenced or concluded by some horrid oath. The field was the place to witnesshis cruelty and profanity. His presence made it both the field of blood and ofblasphemy. From the rising till the going down of the sun, he was cursing,raving, cutting, and slashing among the slaves of the field, in the mostfrightful manner. His career was short. He died very soon after I went toColonel Lloyd’s; and he died as he lived, uttering, with his dyinggroans, bitter curses and horrid oaths. His death was regarded by the slaves asthe result of a merciful providence.

Mr. Severe’s place was filled by a Mr. Hopkins. He was a very differentman. He was less cruel, less profane, and made less noise, than Mr. Severe. Hiscourse was characterized by no extraordinary demonstrations of cruelty. Hewhipped, but seemed to take no pleasure in it. He was called by the slaves agood overseer.

The home plantation of Colonel Lloyd wore the appearance of a country village.All the mechanical operations for all the farms were performed here. Theshoemaking and mending, the blacksmithing, cartwrighting, coopering, weaving,and grain-grinding, were all performed by the slaves on the home plantation.The whole place wore a business-like aspect very unlike the neighboring farms.The number of houses, too, conspired to give it advantage over the neighboringfarms. It was called by the slaves the Great House Farm. Few privilegeswere esteemed higher, by the slaves of the out-farms, than that of beingselected to do errands at the Great House Farm. It was associated in theirminds with greatness. A representative could not be prouder of his election toa seat in the American Congress, than a slave on one of the out-farms would beof his election to do errands at the Great House Farm. They regarded it asevidence of great confidence reposed in them by their overseers; and it was onthis account, as well as a constant desire to be out of the field from underthe driver’s lash, that they esteemed it a high privilege, one worthcareful living for. He was called the smartest and most trusty fellow, who hadthis honor conferred upon him the most frequently. The competitors for thisoffice sought as diligently to please their overseers, as the office-seekers inthe political parties seek to please and deceive the people. The same traits ofcharacter might be seen in Colonel Lloyd’s slaves, as are seen in theslaves of the political parties.

The slaves selected to go to the Great House Farm, for the monthly allowancefor themselves and their fellow-slaves, were peculiarly enthusiastic. While ontheir way, they would make the dense old woods, for miles around, reverberatewith their wild songs, revealing at once the highest joy and the deepestsadness. They would compose and sing as they went along, consulting neithertime nor tune. The thought that came up, came out—if not in the word, inthe sound;—and as frequently in the one as in the other. They wouldsometimes sing the most pathetic sentiment in the most rapturous tone, and themost rapturous sentiment in the most pathetic tone. Into all of their songsthey would manage to weave something of the Great House Farm. Especially wouldthey do this, when leaving home. They would then sing most exultingly thefollowing words:—

“I am going away to the Great House Farm!
O, yea! O, yea! O!”

This they would sing, as a chorus, to words which to many would seem unmeaningjargon, but which, nevertheless, were full of meaning to themselves. I havesometimes thought that the mere hearing of those songs would do more to impresssome minds with the horrible character of slavery, than the reading of wholevolumes of philosophy on the subject could do.

I did not, when a slave, understand the deep meaning of those rude andapparently incoherent songs. I was myself within the circle; so that I neithersaw nor heard as those without might see and hear. They told a tale of woewhich was then altogether beyond my feeble comprehension; they were tones loud,long, and deep; they breathed the prayer and complaint of souls boiling overwith the bitterest anguish. Every tone was a testimony against slavery, and aprayer to God for deliverance from chains. The hearing of those wild notesalways depressed my spirit, and filled me with ineffable sadness. I havefrequently found myself in tears while hearing them. The mere recurrence tothose songs, even now, afflicts me; and while I am writing these lines, anexpression of feeling has already found its way down my cheek. To those songs Itrace my first glimmering conception of the dehumanizing character of slavery.I can never get rid of that conception. Those songs still follow me, to deepenmy hatred of slavery, and quicken my sympathies for my brethren in bonds. Ifany one wishes to be impressed with the soul-killing effects of slavery, lethim go to Colonel Lloyd’s plantation, and, on allowance-day, placehimself in the deep pine woods, and there let him, in silence, analyze thesounds that shall pass through the chambers of his soul,—and if he is notthus impressed, it will only be because “there is no flesh in hisobdurate heart.”

I have often been utterly astonished, since I came to the north, to findpersons who could speak of the singing, among slaves, as evidence of theircontentment and happiness. It is impossible to conceive of a greater mistake.Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy. The songs of the slave representthe sorrows of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heartis relieved by its tears. At least, such is my experience. I have often sung todrown my sorrow, but seldom to express my happiness. Crying for joy, andsinging for joy, were alike uncommon to me while in the jaws of slavery. Thesinging of a man cast away upon a desolate island might be as appropriatelyconsidered as evidence of contentment and happiness, as the singing of a slave;the songs of the one and of the other are prompted by the same emotion.


Colonel Lloyd kept a large and finely cultivated garden, which afforded almostconstant employment for four men, besides the chief gardener, (Mr.M’Durmond.) This garden was probably the greatest attraction of theplace. During the summer months, people came from far and near—fromBaltimore, Easton, and Annapolis—to see it. It abounded in fruits ofalmost every description, from the hardy apple of the north to the delicateorange of the south. This garden was not the least source of trouble on theplantation. Its excellent fruit was quite a temptation to the hungry swarms ofboys, as well as the older slaves, belonging to the colonel, few of whom hadthe virtue or the vice to resist it. Scarcely a day passed, during the summer,but that some slave had to take the lash for stealing fruit. The colonel had toresort to all kinds of stratagems to keep his slaves out of the garden. Thelast and most successful one was that of tarring his fence all around; afterwhich, if a slave was caught with any tar upon his person, it was deemedsufficient proof that he had either been into the garden, or had tried to getin. In either case, he was severely whipped by the chief gardener. This planworked well; the slaves became as fearful of tar as of the lash. They seemed torealize the impossibility of touching tar without being defiled.

The colonel also kept a splendid riding equipage. His stable and carriage-housepresented the appearance of some of our large city livery establishments. Hishorses were of the finest form and noblest blood. His carriage-house containedthree splendid coaches, three or four gigs, besides dearborns and barouches ofthe most fashionable style.

This establishment was under the care of two slaves—old Barney and youngBarney—father and son. To attend to this establishment was their solework. But it was by no means an easy employment; for in nothing was ColonelLloyd more particular than in the management of his horses. The slightestinattention to these was unpardonable, and was visited upon those, under whosecare they were placed, with the severest punishment; no excuse could shieldthem, if the colonel only suspected any want of attention to his horses—asupposition which he frequently indulged, and one which, of course, made theoffice of old and young Barney a very trying one. They never knew when theywere safe from punishment. They were frequently whipped when least deserving,and escaped whipping when most deserving it. Every thing depended upon thelooks of the horses, and the state of Colonel Lloyd’s own mind when hishorses were brought to him for use. If a horse did not move fast enough, orhold his head high enough, it was owing to some fault of his keepers. It waspainful to stand near the stable-door, and hear the various complaints againstthe keepers when a horse was taken out for use. “This horse has not hadproper attention. He has not been sufficiently rubbed and curried, or he hasnot been properly fed; his food was too wet or too dry; he got it too soon ortoo late; he was too hot or too cold; he had too much hay, and not enough ofgrain; or he had too much grain, and not enough of hay; instead of oldBarney’s attending to the horse, he had very improperly left it to hisson.” To all these complaints, no matter how unjust, the slave mustanswer never a word. Colonel Lloyd could not brook any contradiction from aslave. When he spoke, a slave must stand, listen, and tremble; and such wasliterally the case. I have seen Colonel Lloyd make old Barney, a man betweenfifty and sixty years of age, uncover his bald head, kneel down upon the cold,damp ground, and receive upon his naked and toil-worn shoulders more thanthirty lashes at the time. Colonel Lloyd had three sons—Edward, Murray,and Daniel,—and three sons-in-law, Mr. Winder, Mr. Nicholson, and Mr.Lowndes. All of these lived at the Great House Farm, and enjoyed the luxury ofwhipping the servants when they pleased, from old Barney down to WilliamWilkes, the coach-driver. I have seen Winder make one of the house-servantsstand off from him a suitable distance to be touched with the end of his whip,and at every stroke raise great ridges upon his back.

To describe the wealth of Colonel Lloyd would be almost equal to describing theriches of Job. He kept from ten to fifteen house-servants. He was said to own athousand slaves, and I think this estimate quite within the truth. ColonelLloyd owned so many that he did not know them when he saw them; nor did all theslaves of the out-farms know him. It is reported of him, that, while ridingalong the road one day, he met a colored man, and addressed him in the usualmanner of speaking to colored people on the public highways of the south:“Well, boy, whom do you belong to?” “To Colonel Lloyd,”replied the slave. “Well, does the colonel treat you well?”“No, sir,” was the ready reply. “What, does he work you toohard?” “Yes, sir.” “Well, don’t he give youenough to eat?” “Yes, sir, he gives me enough, such as itis.”

The colonel, after ascertaining where the slave belonged, rode on; the man alsowent on about his business, not dreaming that he had been conversing with hismaster. He thought, said, and heard nothing more of the matter, until two orthree weeks afterwards. The poor man was then informed by his overseer that,for having found fault with his master, he was now to be sold to a Georgiatrader. He was immediately chained and handcuffed; and thus, without amoment’s warning, he was snatched away, and forever sundered, from hisfamily and friends, by a hand more unrelenting than death. This is the penaltyof telling the truth, of telling the simple truth, in answer to a series ofplain questions.

It is partly in consequence of such facts, that slaves, when inquired of as totheir condition and the character of their masters, almost universally say theyare contented, and that their masters are kind. The slaveholders have beenknown to send in spies among their slaves, to ascertain their views andfeelings in regard to their condition. The frequency of this has had the effectto establish among the slaves the maxim, that a still tongue makes a wise head.They suppress the truth rather than take the consequences of telling it, and inso doing prove themselves a part of the human family. If they have any thing tosay of their masters, it is generally in their masters’ favor, especiallywhen speaking to an untried man. I have been frequently asked, when a slave, ifI had a kind master, and do not remember ever to have given a negative answer;nor did I, in pursuing this course, consider myself as uttering what wasabsolutely false; for I always measured the kindness of my master by thestandard of kindness set up among slaveholders around us. Moreover, slaves arelike other people, and imbibe prejudices quite common to others. They thinktheir own better than that of others. Many, under the influence of thisprejudice, think their own masters are better than the masters of other slaves;and this, too, in some cases, when the very reverse is true. Indeed, it is notuncommon for slaves even to fall out and quarrel among themselves about therelative goodness of their masters, each contending for the superior goodnessof his own over that of the others. At the very same time, they mutuallyexecrate their masters when viewed separately. It was so on our plantation.When Colonel Lloyd’s slaves met the slaves of Jacob Jepson, they seldomparted without a quarrel about their masters; Colonel Lloyd’s slavescontending that he was the richest, and Mr. Jepson’s slaves that he wasthe smartest, and most of a man. Colonel Lloyd’s slaves would boast hisability to buy and sell Jacob Jepson. Mr. Jepson’s slaves would boast hisability to whip Colonel Lloyd. These quarrels would almost always end in afight between the parties, and those that whipped were supposed to have gainedthe point at issue. They seemed to think that the greatness of their masterswas transferable to themselves. It was considered as being bad enough to be aslave; but to be a poor man’s slave was deemed a disgrace indeed!


Mr. Hopkins remained but a short time in the office of overseer. Why his careerwas so short, I do not know, but suppose he lacked the necessary severity tosuit Colonel Lloyd. Mr. Hopkins was succeeded by Mr. Austin Gore, a manpossessing, in an eminent degree, all those traits of character indispensableto what is called a first-rate overseer. Mr. Gore had served Colonel Lloyd, inthe capacity of overseer, upon one of the out-farms, and had shown himselfworthy of the high station of overseer upon the home or Great House Farm.

Mr. Gore was proud, ambitious, and persevering. He was artful, cruel, andobdurate. He was just the man for such a place, and it was just the place forsuch a man. It afforded scope for the full exercise of all his powers, and heseemed to be perfectly at home in it. He was one of those who could torture theslightest look, word, or gesture, on the part of the slave, into impudence, andwould treat it accordingly. There must be no answering back to him; noexplanation was allowed a slave, showing himself to have been wrongfullyaccused. Mr. Gore acted fully up to the maxim laid down byslaveholders,—“It is better that a dozen slaves should suffer underthe lash, than that the overseer should be convicted, in the presence of theslaves, of having been at fault.” No matter how innocent a slave mightbe—it availed him nothing, when accused by Mr. Gore of any misdemeanor.To be accused was to be convicted, and to be convicted was to be punished; theone always following the other with immutable certainty. To escape punishmentwas to escape accusation; and few slaves had the fortune to do either, underthe overseership of Mr. Gore. He was just proud enough to demand the mostdebasing homage of the slave, and quite servile enough to crouch, himself, atthe feet of the master. He was ambitious enough to be contented with nothingshort of the highest rank of overseers, and persevering enough to reach theheight of his ambition. He was cruel enough to inflict the severest punishment,artful enough to descend to the lowest trickery, and obdurate enough to beinsensible to the voice of a reproving conscience. He was, of all theoverseers, the most dreaded by the slaves. His presence was painful; his eyeflashed confusion; and seldom was his sharp, shrill voice heard, withoutproducing horror and trembling in their ranks.

Mr. Gore was a grave man, and, though a young man, he indulged in no jokes,said no funny words, seldom smiled. His words were in perfect keeping with hislooks, and his looks were in perfect keeping with his words. Overseers willsometimes indulge in a witty word, even with the slaves; not so with Mr. Gore.He spoke but to command, and commanded but to be obeyed; he dealt sparinglywith his words, and bountifully with his whip, never using the former where thelatter would answer as well. When he whipped, he seemed to do so from a senseof duty, and feared no consequences. He did nothing reluctantly, no matter howdisagreeable; always at his post, never inconsistent. He never promised but tofulfil. He was, in a word, a man of the most inflexible firmness and stone-likecoolness.

His savage barbarity was equalled only by the consummate coolness with which hecommitted the grossest and most savage deeds upon the slaves under his charge.Mr. Gore once undertook to whip one of Colonel Lloyd’s slaves, by thename of Demby. He had given Demby but few stripes, when, to get rid of thescourging, he ran and plunged himself into a creek, and stood there at thedepth of his shoulders, refusing to come out. Mr. Gore told him that he wouldgive him three calls, and that, if he did not come out at the third call, hewould shoot him. The first call was given. Demby made no response, but stoodhis ground. The second and third calls were given with the same result. Mr.Gore then, without consultation or deliberation with any one, not even givingDemby an additional call, raised his musket to his face, taking deadly aim athis standing victim, and in an instant poor Demby was no more. His mangled bodysank out of sight, and blood and brains marked the water where he had stood.

A thrill of horror flashed through every soul upon the plantation, exceptingMr. Gore. He alone seemed cool and collected. He was asked by Colonel Lloyd andmy old master, why he resorted to this extraordinary expedient. His reply was,(as well as I can remember,) that Demby had become unmanageable. He was settinga dangerous example to the other slaves,—one which, if suffered to passwithout some such demonstration on his part, would finally lead to the totalsubversion of all rule and order upon the plantation. He argued that if oneslave refused to be corrected, and escaped with his life, the other slaveswould soon copy the example; the result of which would be, the freedom of theslaves, and the enslavement of the whites. Mr. Gore’s defence wassatisfactory. He was continued in his station as overseer upon the homeplantation. His fame as an overseer went abroad. His horrid crime was not evensubmitted to judicial investigation. It was committed in the presence ofslaves, and they of course could neither institute a suit, nor testify againsthim; and thus the guilty perpetrator of one of the bloodiest and most foulmurders goes unwhipped of justice, and uncensured by the community in which helives. Mr. Gore lived in St. Michael’s, Talbot county, Maryland, when Ileft there; and if he is still alive, he very probably lives there now; and ifso, he is now, as he was then, as highly esteemed and as much respected asthough his guilty soul had not been stained with his brother’s blood.

I speak advisedly when I say this,—that killing a slave, or any coloredperson, in Talbot county, Maryland, is not treated as a crime, either by thecourts or the community. Mr. Thomas Lanman, of St. Michael’s, killed twoslaves, one of whom he killed with a hatchet, by knocking his brains out. Heused to boast of the commission of the awful and bloody deed. I have heard himdo so laughingly, saying, among other things, that he was the only benefactorof his country in the company, and that when others would do as much as he haddone, we should be relieved of “the d——d niggers.”

The wife of Mr. Giles Hicks, living but a short distance from where I used tolive, murdered my wife’s cousin, a young girl between fifteen and sixteenyears of age, mangling her person in the most horrible manner, breaking hernose and breastbone with a stick, so that the poor girl expired in a few hoursafterward. She was immediately buried, but had not been in her untimely gravebut a few hours before she was taken up and examined by the coroner, whodecided that she had come to her death by severe beating. The offence for whichthis girl was thus murdered was this:—She had been set that night to mindMrs. Hicks’s baby, and during the night she fell asleep, and the babycried. She, having lost her rest for several nights previous, did not hear thecrying. They were both in the room with Mrs. Hicks. Mrs. Hicks, finding thegirl slow to move, jumped from her bed, seized an oak stick of wood by thefireplace, and with it broke the girl’s nose and breastbone, and thusended her life. I will not say that this most horrid murder produced nosensation in the community. It did produce sensation, but not enough to bringthe murderess to punishment. There was a warrant issued for her arrest, but itwas never served. Thus she escaped not only punishment, but even the pain ofbeing arraigned before a court for her horrid crime.

Whilst I am detailing bloody deeds which took place during my stay on ColonelLloyd’s plantation, I will briefly narrate another, which occurred aboutthe same time as the murder of Demby by Mr. Gore.

Colonel Lloyd’s slaves were in the habit of spending a part of theirnights and Sundays in fishing for oysters, and in this way made up thedeficiency of their scanty allowance. An old man belonging to Colonel Lloyd,while thus engaged, happened to get beyond the limits of Colonel Lloyd’s,and on the premises of Mr. Beal Bondly. At this trespass, Mr. Bondly tookoffence, and with his musket came down to the shore, and blew its deadlycontents into the poor old man.

Mr. Bondly came over to see Colonel Lloyd the next day, whether to pay him forhis property, or to justify himself in what he had done, I know not. At anyrate, this whole fiendish transaction was soon hushed up. There was very littlesaid about it at all, and nothing done. It was a common saying, even amonglittle white boys, that it was worth a half-cent to kill a“nigger,” and a half-cent to bury one.


As to my own treatment while I lived on Colonel Lloyd’s plantation, itwas very similar to that of the other slave children. I was not old enough towork in the field, and there being little else than field work to do, I had agreat deal of leisure time. The most I had to do was to drive up the cows atevening, keep the fowls out of the garden, keep the front yard clean, and runof errands for my old master’s daughter, Mrs. Lucretia Auld. The most ofmy leisure time I spent in helping Master Daniel Lloyd in finding his birds,after he had shot them. My connection with Master Daniel was of some advantageto me. He became quite attached to me, and was a sort of protector of me. Hewould not allow the older boys to impose upon me, and would divide his cakeswith me.

I was seldom whipped by my old master, and suffered little from any thing elsethan hunger and cold. I suffered much from hunger, but much more from cold. Inhottest summer and coldest winter, I was kept almost naked—no shoes, nostockings, no jacket, no trousers, nothing on but a coarse tow linen shirt,reaching only to my knees. I had no bed. I must have perished with cold, butthat, the coldest nights, I used to steal a bag which was used for carryingcorn to the mill. I would crawl into this bag, and there sleep on the cold,damp, clay floor, with my head in and feet out. My feet have been so crackedwith the frost, that the pen with which I am writing might be laid in thegashes.

We were not regularly allowanced. Our food was coarse corn meal boiled. Thiswas called mush. It was put into a large wooden tray or trough, and setdown upon the ground. The children were then called, like so many pigs, andlike so many pigs they would come and devour the mush; some with oyster-shells,others with pieces of shingle, some with naked hands, and none with spoons. Hethat ate fastest got most; he that was strongest secured the best place; andfew left the trough satisfied.

I was probably between seven and eight years old when I left ColonelLloyd’s plantation. I left it with joy. I shall never forget the ecstasywith which I received the intelligence that my old master (Anthony) haddetermined to let me go to Baltimore, to live with Mr. Hugh Auld, brother to myold master’s son-in-law, Captain Thomas Auld. I received this informationabout three days before my departure. They were three of the happiest days Iever enjoyed. I spent the most part of all these three days in the creek,washing off the plantation scurf, and preparing myself for my departure.

The pride of appearance which this would indicate was not my own. I spent thetime in washing, not so much because I wished to, but because Mrs. Lucretia hadtold me I must get all the dead skin off my feet and knees before I could go toBaltimore; for the people in Baltimore were very cleanly, and would laugh at meif I looked dirty. Besides, she was going to give me a pair of trousers, whichI should not put on unless I got all the dirt off me. The thought of owning apair of trousers was great indeed! It was almost a sufficient motive, not onlyto make me take off what would be called by pig-drovers the mange, but the skinitself. I went at it in good earnest, working for the first time with the hopeof reward.

The ties that ordinarily bind children to their homes were all suspended in mycase. I found no severe trial in my departure. My home was charmless; it wasnot home to me; on parting from it, I could not feel that I was leaving anything which I could have enjoyed by staying. My mother was dead, my grandmotherlived far off, so that I seldom saw her. I had two sisters and one brother,that lived in the same house with me; but the early separation of us from ourmother had well nigh blotted the fact of our relationship from our memories. Ilooked for home elsewhere, and was confident of finding none which I shouldrelish less than the one which I was leaving. If, however, I found in my newhome hardship, hunger, whipping, and nakedness, I had the consolation that Ishould not have escaped any one of them by staying. Having already had morethan a taste of them in the house of my old master, and having endured themthere, I very naturally inferred my ability to endure them elsewhere, andespecially at Baltimore; for I had something of the feeling about Baltimorethat is expressed in the proverb, that “being hanged in England ispreferable to dying a natural death in Ireland.” I had the strongestdesire to see Baltimore. Cousin Tom, though not fluent in speech, had inspiredme with that desire by his eloquent description of the place. I could neverpoint out any thing at the Great House, no matter how beautiful or powerful,but that he had seen something at Baltimore far exceeding, both in beauty andstrength, the object which I pointed out to him. Even the Great House itself,with all its pictures, was far inferior to many buildings in Baltimore. Sostrong was my desire, that I thought a gratification of it would fullycompensate for whatever loss of comforts I should sustain by the exchange. Ileft without a regret, and with the highest hopes of future happiness.

We sailed out of Miles River for Baltimore on a Saturday morning. I rememberonly the day of the week, for at that time I had no knowledge of the days ofthe month, nor the months of the year. On setting sail, I walked aft, and gaveto Colonel Lloyd’s plantation what I hoped would be the last look. I thenplaced myself in the bows of the sloop, and there spent the remainder of theday in looking ahead, interesting myself in what was in the distance ratherthan in things near by or behind.

In the afternoon of that day, we reached Annapolis, the capital of the State.We stopped but a few moments, so that I had no time to go on shore. It was thefirst large town that I had ever seen, and though it would look small comparedwith some of our New England factory villages, I thought it a wonderful placefor its size—more imposing even than the Great House Farm!

We arrived at Baltimore early on Sunday morning, landing at Smith’sWharf, not far from Bowley’s Wharf. We had on board the sloop a largeflock of sheep; and after aiding in driving them to the slaughterhouse of Mr.Curtis on Louden Slater’s Hill, I was conducted by Rich, one of the handsbelonging on board of the sloop, to my new home in Alliciana Street, near Mr.Gardner’s ship-yard, on Fells Point.

Mr. and Mrs. Auld were both at home, and met me at the door with their littleson Thomas, to take care of whom I had been given. And here I saw what I hadnever seen before; it was a white face beaming with the most kindly emotions;it was the face of my new mistress, Sophia Auld. I wish I could describe therapture that flashed through my soul as I beheld it. It was a new and strangesight to me, brightening up my pathway with the light of happiness. LittleThomas was told, there was his Freddy,—and I was told to take care oflittle Thomas; and thus I entered upon the duties of my new home with the mostcheering prospect ahead.

I look upon my departure from Colonel Lloyd’s plantation as one of themost interesting events of my life. It is possible, and even quite probable,that but for the mere circumstance of being removed from that plantation toBaltimore, I should have to-day, instead of being here seated by my own table,in the enjoyment of freedom and the happiness of home, writing this Narrative,been confined in the galling chains of slavery. Going to live at Baltimore laidthe foundation, and opened the gateway, to all my subsequent prosperity. I haveever regarded it as the first plain manifestation of that kind providence whichhas ever since attended me, and marked my life with so many favors. I regardedthe selection of myself as being somewhat remarkable. There were a number ofslave children that might have been sent from the plantation to Baltimore.There were those younger, those older, and those of the same age. I was chosenfrom among them all, and was the first, last, and only choice.

I may be deemed superstitious, and even egotistical, in regarding this event asa special interposition of divine Providence in my favor. But I should be falseto the earliest sentiments of my soul, if I suppressed the opinion. I prefer tobe true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others,rather than to be false, and incur my own abhorrence. From my earliestrecollection, I date the entertainment of a deep conviction that slavery wouldnot always be able to hold me within its foul embrace; and in the darkest hoursof my career in slavery, this living word of faith and spirit of hope departednot from me, but remained like ministering angels to cheer me through thegloom. This good spirit was from God, and to him I offer thanksgiving andpraise.


My new mistress proved to be all she appeared when I first met her at thedoor,—a woman of the kindest heart and finest feelings. She had never hada slave under her control previously to myself, and prior to her marriage shehad been dependent upon her own industry for a living. She was by trade aweaver; and by constant application to her business, she had been in a gooddegree preserved from the blighting and dehumanizing effects of slavery. I wasutterly astonished at her goodness. I scarcely knew how to behave towards her.She was entirely unlike any other white woman I had ever seen. I could notapproach her as I was accustomed to approach other white ladies. My earlyinstruction was all out of place. The crouching servility, usually soacceptable a quality in a slave, did not answer when manifested toward her. Herfavor was not gained by it; she seemed to be disturbed by it. She did not deemit impudent or unmannerly for a slave to look her in the face. The meanestslave was put fully at ease in her presence, and none left without feelingbetter for having seen her. Her face was made of heavenly smiles, and her voiceof tranquil music.

But, alas! this kind heart had but a short time to remain such. The fatalpoison of irresponsible power was already in her hands, and soon commenced itsinfernal work. That cheerful eye, under the influence of slavery, soon becamered with rage; that voice, made all of sweet accord, changed to one of harshand horrid discord; and that angelic face gave place to that of a demon.

Very soon after I went to live with Mr. and Mrs. Auld, she very kindlycommenced to teach me the A, B, C. After I had learned this, she assisted me inlearning to spell words of three or four letters. Just at this point of myprogress, Mr. Auld found out what was going on, and at once forbade Mrs. Auldto instruct me further, telling her, among other things, that it was unlawful,as well as unsafe, to teach a slave to read. To use his own words, further, hesaid, “If you give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell. A nigger shouldknow nothing but to obey his master—to do as he is told to do. Learningwould spoil the best nigger in the world. Now,” said he, “ifyou teach that nigger (speaking of myself) how to read, there would be nokeeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once becomeunmanageable, and of no value to his master. As to himself, it could do him nogood, but a great deal of harm. It would make him discontented andunhappy.” These words sank deep into my heart, stirred up sentimentswithin that lay slumbering, and called into existence an entirely new train ofthought. It was a new and special revelation, explaining dark and mysteriousthings, with which my youthful understanding had struggled, but struggled invain. I now understood what had been to me a most perplexingdifficulty—to wit, the white man’s power to enslave the black man.It was a grand achievement, and I prized it highly. From that moment, Iunderstood the pathway from slavery to freedom. It was just what I wanted, andI got it at a time when I the least expected it. Whilst I was saddened by thethought of losing the aid of my kind mistress, I was gladdened by theinvaluable instruction which, by the merest accident, I had gained from mymaster. Though conscious of the difficulty of learning without a teacher, I setout with high hope, and a fixed purpose, at whatever cost of trouble, to learnhow to read. The very decided manner with which he spoke, and strove to impresshis wife with the evil consequences of giving me instruction, served toconvince me that he was deeply sensible of the truths he was uttering. It gaveme the best assurance that I might rely with the utmost confidence on theresults which, he said, would flow from teaching me to read. What he mostdreaded, that I most desired. What he most loved, that I most hated. That whichto him was a great evil, to be carefully shunned, was to me a great good, to bediligently sought; and the argument which he so warmly urged, against mylearning to read, only served to inspire me with a desire and determination tolearn. In learning to read, I owe almost as much to the bitter opposition of mymaster, as to the kindly aid of my mistress. I acknowledge the benefit of both.

I had resided but a short time in Baltimore before I observed a markeddifference, in the treatment of slaves, from that which I had witnessed in thecountry. A city slave is almost a freeman, compared with a slave on theplantation. He is much better fed and clothed, and enjoys privileges altogetherunknown to the slave on the plantation. There is a vestige of decency, a senseof shame, that does much to curb and check those outbreaks of atrocious crueltyso commonly enacted upon the plantation. He is a desperate slaveholder, whowill shock the humanity of his non-slaveholding neighbors with the cries of hislacerated slave. Few are willing to incur the odium attaching to the reputationof being a cruel master; and above all things, they would not be known as notgiving a slave enough to eat. Every city slaveholder is anxious to have itknown of him, that he feeds his slaves well; and it is due to them to say, thatmost of them do give their slaves enough to eat. There are, however, somepainful exceptions to this rule. Directly opposite to us, on Philpot Street,lived Mr. Thomas Hamilton. He owned two slaves. Their names were Henrietta andMary. Henrietta was about twenty-two years of age, Mary was about fourteen; andof all the mangled and emaciated creatures I ever looked upon, these two werethe most so. His heart must be harder than stone, that could look upon theseunmoved. The head, neck, and shoulders of Mary were literally cut to pieces. Ihave frequently felt her head, and found it nearly covered with festeringsores, caused by the lash of her cruel mistress. I do not know that her masterever whipped her, but I have been an eye-witness to the cruelty of Mrs.Hamilton. I used to be in Mr. Hamilton’s house nearly every day. Mrs.Hamilton used to sit in a large chair in the middle of the room, with a heavycowskin always by her side, and scarce an hour passed during the day but wasmarked by the blood of one of these slaves. The girls seldom passed her withouther saying, “Move faster, you black gip!” at the same timegiving them a blow with the cowskin over the head or shoulders, often drawingthe blood. She would then say, “Take that, you black gip!”continuing, “If you don’t move faster, I’ll move you!”Added to the cruel lashings to which these slaves were subjected, they werekept nearly half-starved. They seldom knew what it was to eat a full meal. Ihave seen Mary contending with the pigs for the offal thrown into the street.So much was Mary kicked and cut to pieces, that she was oftener called“pecked” than by her name.


I lived in Master Hugh’s family about seven years. During this time, Isucceeded in learning to read and write. In accomplishing this, I was compelledto resort to various stratagems. I had no regular teacher. My mistress, who hadkindly commenced to instruct me, had, in compliance with the advice anddirection of her husband, not only ceased to instruct, but had set her faceagainst my being instructed by any one else. It is due, however, to my mistressto say of her, that she did not adopt this course of treatment immediately. Sheat first lacked the depravity indispensable to shutting me up in mentaldarkness. It was at least necessary for her to have some training in theexercise of irresponsible power, to make her equal to the task of treating meas though I were a brute.

My mistress was, as I have said, a kind and tender-hearted woman; and in thesimplicity of her soul she commenced, when I first went to live with her, totreat me as she supposed one human being ought to treat another. In enteringupon the duties of a slaveholder, she did not seem to perceive that I sustainedto her the relation of a mere chattel, and that for her to treat me as a humanbeing was not only wrong, but dangerously so. Slavery proved as injurious toher as it did to me. When I went there, she was a pious, warm, andtender-hearted woman. There was no sorrow or suffering for which she had not atear. She had bread for the hungry, clothes for the naked, and comfort forevery mourner that came within her reach. Slavery soon proved its ability todivest her of these heavenly qualities. Under its influence, the tender heartbecame stone, and the lamblike disposition gave way to one of tiger-likefierceness. The first step in her downward course was in her ceasing toinstruct me. She now commenced to practise her husband’s precepts. Shefinally became even more violent in her opposition than her husband himself.She was not satisfied with simply doing as well as he had commanded; she seemedanxious to do better. Nothing seemed to make her more angry than to see me witha newspaper. She seemed to think that here lay the danger. I have had her rushat me with a face made all up of fury, and snatch from me a newspaper, in amanner that fully revealed her apprehension. She was an apt woman; and a littleexperience soon demonstrated, to her satisfaction, that education and slaverywere incompatible with each other.

From this time I was most narrowly watched. If I was in a separate room anyconsiderable length of time, I was sure to be suspected of having a book, andwas at once called to give an account of myself. All this, however, was toolate. The first step had been taken. Mistress, in teaching me the alphabet, hadgiven me the inch, and no precaution could prevent me from taking theell.

The plan which I adopted, and the one by which I was most successful, was thatof making friends of all the little white boys whom I met in the street. Asmany of these as I could, I converted into teachers. With their kindly aid,obtained at different times and in different places, I finally succeeded inlearning to read. When I was sent of errands, I always took my book with me,and by going one part of my errand quickly, I found time to get a lesson beforemy return. I used also to carry bread with me, enough of which was always inthe house, and to which I was always welcome; for I was much better off in thisregard than many of the poor white children in our neighborhood. This bread Iused to bestow upon the hungry little urchins, who, in return, would give methat more valuable bread of knowledge. I am strongly tempted to give the namesof two or three of those little boys, as a testimonial of the gratitude andaffection I bear them; but prudence forbids;—not that it would injure me,but it might embarrass them; for it is almost an unpardonable offence to teachslaves to read in this Christian country. It is enough to say of the dearlittle fellows, that they lived on Philpot Street, very near Durgin andBailey’s ship-yard. I used to talk this matter of slavery over with them.I would sometimes say to them, I wished I could be as free as they would bewhen they got to be men. “You will be free as soon as you are twenty-one,but I am a slave for life! Have not I as good a right to be free as youhave?” These words used to trouble them; they would express for me theliveliest sympathy, and console me with the hope that something would occur bywhich I might be free.

I was now about twelve years old, and the thought of being a slave forlife began to bear heavily upon my heart. Just about this time, I got holdof a book entitled “The Columbian Orator.” Every opportunity I got,I used to read this book. Among much of other interesting matter, I found in ita dialogue between a master and his slave. The slave was represented as havingrun away from his master three times. The dialogue represented the conversationwhich took place between them, when the slave was retaken the third time. Inthis dialogue, the whole argument in behalf of slavery was brought forward bythe master, all of which was disposed of by the slave. The slave was made tosay some very smart as well as impressive things in reply to hismaster—things which had the desired though unexpected effect; for theconversation resulted in the voluntary emancipation of the slave on the part ofthe master.

In the same book, I met with one of Sheridan’s mighty speeches on and inbehalf of Catholic emancipation. These were choice documents to me. I read themover and over again with unabated interest. They gave tongue to interestingthoughts of my own soul, which had frequently flashed through my mind, and diedaway for want of utterance. The moral which I gained from the dialogue was thepower of truth over the conscience of even a slaveholder. What I got fromSheridan was a bold denunciation of slavery, and a powerful vindication ofhuman rights. The reading of these documents enabled me to utter my thoughts,and to meet the arguments brought forward to sustain slavery; but while theyrelieved me of one difficulty, they brought on another even more painful thanthe one of which I was relieved. The more I read, the more I was led to abhorand detest my enslavers. I could regard them in no other light than a band ofsuccessful robbers, who had left their homes, and gone to Africa, and stolen usfrom our homes, and in a strange land reduced us to slavery. I loathed them asbeing the meanest as well as the most wicked of men. As I read and contemplatedthe subject, behold! that very discontentment which Master Hugh had predictedwould follow my learning to read had already come, to torment and sting my soulto unutterable anguish. As I writhed under it, I would at times feel thatlearning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing. It had given me aview of my wretched condition, without the remedy. It opened my eyes to thehorrible pit, but to no ladder upon which to get out. In moments of agony, Ienvied my fellow-slaves for their stupidity. I have often wished myself abeast. I preferred the condition of the meanest reptile to my own. Any thing,no matter what, to get rid of thinking! It was this everlasting thinking of mycondition that tormented me. There was no getting rid of it. It was pressedupon me by every object within sight or hearing, animate or inanimate. Thesilver trump of freedom had roused my soul to eternal wakefulness. Freedom nowappeared, to disappear no more forever. It was heard in every sound, and seenin every thing. It was ever present to torment me with a sense of my wretchedcondition. I saw nothing without seeing it, I heard nothing without hearing it,and felt nothing without feeling it. It looked from every star, it smiled inevery calm, breathed in every wind, and moved in every storm.

I often found myself regretting my own existence, and wishing myself dead; andbut for the hope of being free, I have no doubt but that I should have killedmyself, or done something for which I should have been killed. While in thisstate of mind, I was eager to hear any one speak of slavery. I was a readylistener. Every little while, I could hear something about the abolitionists.It was some time before I found what the word meant. It was always used in suchconnections as to make it an interesting word to me. If a slave ran away andsucceeded in getting clear, or if a slave killed his master, set fire to abarn, or did any thing very wrong in the mind of a slaveholder, it was spokenof as the fruit of abolition. Hearing the word in this connection veryoften, I set about learning what it meant. The dictionary afforded me little orno help. I found it was “the act of abolishing;” but then I did notknow what was to be abolished. Here I was perplexed. I did not dare to ask anyone about its meaning, for I was satisfied that it was something they wanted meto know very little about. After a patient waiting, I got one of our citypapers, containing an account of the number of petitions from the north,praying for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, and of theslave trade between the States. From this time I understood the wordsabolition and abolitionist, and always drew near when that wordwas spoken, expecting to hear something of importance to myself andfellow-slaves. The light broke in upon me by degrees. I went one day down onthe wharf of Mr. Waters; and seeing two Irishmen unloading a scow of stone, Iwent, unasked, and helped them. When we had finished, one of them came to meand asked me if I were a slave. I told him I was. He asked, “Are ye aslave for life?” I told him that I was. The good Irishman seemed to bedeeply affected by the statement. He said to the other that it was a pity sofine a little fellow as myself should be a slave for life. He said it was ashame to hold me. They both advised me to run away to the north; that I shouldfind friends there, and that I should be free. I pretended not to be interestedin what they said, and treated them as if I did not understand them; for Ifeared they might be treacherous. White men have been known to encourage slavesto escape, and then, to get the reward, catch them and return them to theirmasters. I was afraid that these seemingly good men might use me so; but Inevertheless remembered their advice, and from that time I resolved to runaway. I looked forward to a time at which it would be safe for me to escape. Iwas too young to think of doing so immediately; besides, I wished to learn howto write, as I might have occasion to write my own pass. I consoled myself withthe hope that I should one day find a good chance. Meanwhile, I would learn towrite.

The idea as to how I might learn to write was suggested to me by being inDurgin and Bailey’s ship-yard, and frequently seeing the ship carpenters,after hewing, and getting a piece of timber ready for use, write on the timberthe name of that part of the ship for which it was intended. When a piece oftimber was intended for the larboard side, it would be markedthus—“L.” When a piece was for the starboard side, it wouldbe marked thus—“S.” A piece for the larboard side forward,would be marked thus—“L. F.” When a piece was for starboardside forward, it would be marked thus—“S. F.” For larboardaft, it would be marked thus—“L. A.” For starboard aft, itwould be marked thus—“S. A.” I soon learned the names ofthese letters, and for what they were intended when placed upon a piece oftimber in the ship-yard. I immediately commenced copying them, and in a shorttime was able to make the four letters named. After that, when I met with anyboy who I knew could write, I would tell him I could write as well as he. Thenext word would be, “I don’t believe you. Let me see you tryit.” I would then make the letters which I had been so fortunate as tolearn, and ask him to beat that. In this way I got a good many lessons inwriting, which it is quite possible I should never have gotten in any otherway. During this time, my copy-book was the board fence, brick wall, andpavement; my pen and ink was a lump of chalk. With these, I learned mainly howto write. I then commenced and continued copying the Italics in Webster’sSpelling Book, until I could make them all without looking on the book. By thistime, my little Master Thomas had gone to school, and learned how to write, andhad written over a number of copy-books. These had been brought home, and shownto some of our near neighbors, and then laid aside. My mistress used to go toclass meeting at the Wilk Street meetinghouse every Monday afternoon, and leaveme to take care of the house. When left thus, I used to spend the time inwriting in the spaces left in Master Thomas’s copy-book, copying what hehad written. I continued to do this until I could write a hand very similar tothat of Master Thomas. Thus, after a long, tedious effort for years, I finallysucceeded in learning how to write.


In a very short time after I went to live at Baltimore, my old master’syoungest son Richard died; and in about three years and six months after hisdeath, my old master, Captain Anthony, died, leaving only his son, Andrew, anddaughter, Lucretia, to share his estate. He died while on a visit to see hisdaughter at Hillsborough. Cut off thus unexpectedly, he left no will as to thedisposal of his property. It was therefore necessary to have a valuation of theproperty, that it might be equally divided between Mrs. Lucretia and MasterAndrew. I was immediately sent for, to be valued with the other property. Hereagain my feelings rose up in detestation of slavery. I had now a new conceptionof my degraded condition. Prior to this, I had become, if not insensible to mylot, at least partly so. I left Baltimore with a young heart overborne withsadness, and a soul full of apprehension. I took passage with Captain Rowe, inthe schooner Wild Cat, and, after a sail of about twenty-four hours, I foundmyself near the place of my birth. I had now been absent from it almost, if notquite, five years. I, however, remembered the place very well. I was only aboutfive years old when I left it, to go and live with my old master on ColonelLloyd’s plantation; so that I was now between ten and eleven years old.

We were all ranked together at the valuation. Men and women, old and young,married and single, were ranked with horses, sheep, and swine. There werehorses and men, cattle and women, pigs and children, all holding the same rankin the scale of being, and were all subjected to the same narrow examination.Silvery-headed age and sprightly youth, maids and matrons, had to undergo thesame indelicate inspection. At this moment, I saw more clearly than ever thebrutalizing effects of slavery upon both slave and slaveholder.

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After the valuation, then came the division. I have no language to express thehigh excitement and deep anxiety which were felt among us poor slaves duringthis time. Our fate for life was now to be decided. We had no more voice inthat decision than the brutes among whom we were ranked. A single word from thewhite men was enough—against all our wishes, prayers, andentreaties—to sunder forever the dearest friends, dearest kindred, andstrongest ties known to human beings. In addition to the pain of separation,there was the horrid dread of falling into the hands of Master Andrew. He wasknown to us all as being a most cruel wretch,—a common drunkard, who had,by his reckless mismanagement and profligate dissipation, already wasted alarge portion of his father’s property. We all felt that we might as wellbe sold at once to the Georgia traders, as to pass into his hands; for we knewthat that would be our inevitable condition,—a condition held by us allin the utmost horror and dread.

I suffered more anxiety than most of my fellow-slaves. I had known what it wasto be kindly treated; they had known nothing of the kind. They had seen littleor nothing of the world. They were in very deed men and women of sorrow, andacquainted with grief. Their backs had been made familiar with the bloody lash,so that they had become callous; mine was yet tender; for while at Baltimore Igot few whippings, and few slaves could boast of a kinder master and mistressthan myself; and the thought of passing out of their hands into those of MasterAndrew—a man who, but a few days before, to give me a sample of hisbloody disposition, took my little brother by the throat, threw him on theground, and with the heel of his boot stamped upon his head till the bloodgushed from his nose and ears—was well calculated to make me anxious asto my fate. After he had committed this savage outrage upon my brother, heturned to me, and said that was the way he meant to serve me one of thesedays,—meaning, I suppose, when I came into his possession.

Thanks to a kind Providence, I fell to the portion of Mrs. Lucretia, and wassent immediately back to Baltimore, to live again in the family of Master Hugh.Their joy at my return equalled their sorrow at my departure. It was a glad dayto me. I had escaped a worse than lion’s jaws. I was absent fromBaltimore, for the purpose of valuation and division, just about one month, andit seemed to have been six.

Very soon after my return to Baltimore, my mistress, Lucretia, died, leavingher husband and one child, Amanda; and in a very short time after her death,Master Andrew died. Now all the property of my old master, slaves included, wasin the hands of strangers,—strangers who had had nothing to do withaccumulating it. Not a slave was left free. All remained slaves, from theyoungest to the oldest. If any one thing in my experience, more than another,served to deepen my conviction of the infernal character of slavery, and tofill me with unutterable loathing of slaveholders, it was their baseingratitude to my poor old grandmother. She had served my old master faithfullyfrom youth to old age. She had been the source of all his wealth; she hadpeopled his plantation with slaves; she had become a great grandmother in hisservice. She had rocked him in infancy, attended him in childhood, served himthrough life, and at his death wiped from his icy brow the cold death-sweat,and closed his eyes forever. She was nevertheless left a slave—a slavefor life—a slave in the hands of strangers; and in their hands she sawher children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren, divided, like somany sheep, without being gratified with the small privilege of a single word,as to their or her own destiny. And, to cap the climax of their baseingratitude and fiendish barbarity, my grandmother, who was now very old,having outlived my old master and all his children, having seen the beginningand end of all of them, and her present owners finding she was of but littlevalue, her frame already racked with the pains of old age, and completehelplessness fast stealing over her once active limbs, they took her to thewoods, built her a little hut, put up a little mud-chimney, and then made herwelcome to the privilege of supporting herself there in perfect loneliness;thus virtually turning her out to die! If my poor old grandmother now lives,she lives to suffer in utter loneliness; she lives to remember and mourn overthe loss of children, the loss of grandchildren, and the loss ofgreat-grandchildren. They are, in the language of the slave’s poet,Whittier,—

“Gone, gone, sold and gone
To the rice swamp dank and lone,
Where the slave-whip ceaseless swings,
Where the noisome insect stings,
Where the fever-demon strews
Poison with the falling dews,
Where the sickly sunbeams glare
Through the hot and misty air:—
Gone, gone, sold and gone
To the rice swamp dank and lone,
From Virginia hills and waters—
Woe is me, my stolen daughters!”

The hearth is desolate. The children, the unconscious children, who once sangand danced in her presence, are gone. She gropes her way, in the darkness ofage, for a drink of water. Instead of the voices of her children, she hears byday the moans of the dove, and by night the screams of the hideous owl. All isgloom. The grave is at the door. And now, when weighed down by the pains andaches of old age, when the head inclines to the feet, when the beginning andending of human existence meet, and helpless infancy and painful old agecombine together—at this time, this most needful time, the time for theexercise of that tenderness and affection which children only can exercisetowards a declining parent—my poor old grandmother, the devoted mother oftwelve children, is left all alone, in yonder little hut, before a few dimembers. She stands—she sits—she staggers—she falls—shegroans—she dies—and there are none of her children or grandchildrenpresent, to wipe from her wrinkled brow the cold sweat of death, or to placebeneath the sod her fallen remains. Will not a righteous God visit for thesethings?

In about two years after the death of Mrs. Lucretia, Master Thomas married hissecond wife. Her name was Rowena Hamilton. She was the eldest daughter of Mr.William Hamilton. Master now lived in St. Michael’s. Not long after hismarriage, a misunderstanding took place between himself and Master Hugh; and asa means of punishing his brother, he took me from him to live with himself atSt. Michael’s. Here I underwent another most painful separation. It,however, was not so severe as the one I dreaded at the division of property;for, during this interval, a great change had taken place in Master Hugh andhis once kind and affectionate wife. The influence of brandy upon him, and ofslavery upon her, had effected a disastrous change in the characters of both;so that, as far as they were concerned, I thought I had little to lose by thechange. But it was not to them that I was attached. It was to those littleBaltimore boys that I felt the strongest attachment. I had received many goodlessons from them, and was still receiving them, and the thought of leavingthem was painful indeed. I was leaving, too, without the hope of ever beingallowed to return. Master Thomas had said he would never let me return again.The barrier betwixt himself and brother he considered impassable.

I then had to regret that I did not at least make the attempt to carry out myresolution to run away; for the chances of success are tenfold greater from thecity than from the country.

I sailed from Baltimore for St. Michael’s in the sloop Amanda, CaptainEdward Dodson. On my passage, I paid particular attention to the directionwhich the steamboats took to go to Philadelphia. I found, instead of goingdown, on reaching North Point they went up the bay, in a north-easterlydirection. I deemed this knowledge of the utmost importance. My determinationto run away was again revived. I resolved to wait only so long as the offeringof a favorable opportunity. When that came, I was determined to be off.


I have now reached a period of my life when I can give dates. I left Baltimore,and went to live with Master Thomas Auld, at St. Michael’s, in March,1832. It was now more than seven years since I lived with him in the family ofmy old master, on Colonel Lloyd’s plantation. We of course were nowalmost entire strangers to each other. He was to me a new master, and I to hima new slave. I was ignorant of his temper and disposition; he was equally so ofmine. A very short time, however, brought us into full acquaintance with eachother. I was made acquainted with his wife not less than with himself. Theywere well matched, being equally mean and cruel. I was now, for the first timeduring a space of more than seven years, made to feel the painful gnawings ofhunger—a something which I had not experienced before since I leftColonel Lloyd’s plantation. It went hard enough with me then, when Icould look back to no period at which I had enjoyed a sufficiency. It wastenfold harder after living in Master Hugh’s family, where I had alwayshad enough to eat, and of that which was good. I have said Master Thomas was amean man. He was so. Not to give a slave enough to eat, is regarded as the mostaggravated development of meanness even among slaveholders. The rule is, nomatter how coarse the food, only let there be enough of it. This is the theory;and in the part of Maryland from which I came, it is the generalpractice,—though there are many exceptions. Master Thomas gave us enoughof neither coarse nor fine food. There were four slaves of us in thekitchen—my sister Eliza, my aunt Priscilla, Henny, and myself; and wewere allowed less than a half of a bushel of corn-meal per week, and verylittle else, either in the shape of meat or vegetables. It was not enough forus to subsist upon. We were therefore reduced to the wretched necessity ofliving at the expense of our neighbors. This we did by begging and stealing,whichever came handy in the time of need, the one being considered aslegitimate as the other. A great many times have we poor creatures been nearlyperishing with hunger, when food in abundance lay mouldering in the safe andsmoke-house, and our pious mistress was aware of the fact; and yet thatmistress and her husband would kneel every morning, and pray that God wouldbless them in basket and store!

Bad as all slaveholders are, we seldom meet one destitute of every element ofcharacter commanding respect. My master was one of this rare sort. I do notknow of one single noble act ever performed by him. The leading trait in hischaracter was meanness; and if there were any other element in his nature, itwas made subject to this. He was mean; and, like most other mean men, he lackedthe ability to conceal his meanness. Captain Auld was not born a slaveholder.He had been a poor man, master only of a Bay craft. He came into possession ofall his slaves by marriage; and of all men, adopted slaveholders are the worst.He was cruel, but cowardly. He commanded without firmness. In the enforcementof his rules, he was at times rigid, and at times lax. At times, he spoke tohis slaves with the firmness of Napoleon and the fury of a demon; at othertimes, he might well be mistaken for an inquirer who had lost his way. He didnothing of himself. He might have passed for a lion, but for his ears. In allthings noble which he attempted, his own meanness shone most conspicuous. Hisairs, words, and actions, were the airs, words, and actions of bornslaveholders, and, being assumed, were awkward enough. He was not even a goodimitator. He possessed all the disposition to deceive, but wanted the power.Having no resources within himself, he was compelled to be the copyist of many,and being such, he was forever the victim of inconsistency; and of consequencehe was an object of contempt, and was held as such even by his slaves. Theluxury of having slaves of his own to wait upon him was something new andunprepared for. He was a slaveholder without the ability to hold slaves. Hefound himself incapable of managing his slaves either by force, fear, or fraud.We seldom called him “master;” we generally called him“Captain Auld,” and were hardly disposed to title him at all. Idoubt not that our conduct had much to do with making him appear awkward, andof consequence fretful. Our want of reverence for him must have perplexed himgreatly. He wished to have us call him master, but lacked the firmnessnecessary to command us to do so. His wife used to insist upon our calling himso, but to no purpose. In August, 1832, my master attended a Methodistcamp-meeting held in the Bay-side, Talbot county, and there experiencedreligion. I indulged a faint hope that his conversion would lead him toemancipate his slaves, and that, if he did not do this, it would, at any rate,make him more kind and humane. I was disappointed in both these respects. Itneither made him to be humane to his slaves, nor to emancipate them. If it hadany effect on his character, it made him more cruel and hateful in all hisways; for I believe him to have been a much worse man after his conversion thanbefore. Prior to his conversion, he relied upon his own depravity to shield andsustain him in his savage barbarity; but after his conversion, he foundreligious sanction and support for his slaveholding cruelty. He made thegreatest pretensions to piety. His house was the house of prayer. He prayedmorning, noon, and night. He very soon distinguished himself among hisbrethren, and was soon made a class-leader and exhorter. His activity inrevivals was great, and he proved himself an instrument in the hands of thechurch in converting many souls. His house was the preachers’ home. Theyused to take great pleasure in coming there to put up; for while he starved us,he stuffed them. We have had three or four preachers there at a time. The namesof those who used to come most frequently while I lived there, were Mr. Storks,Mr. Ewery, Mr. Humphry, and Mr. Hickey. I have also seen Mr. George Cookman atour house. We slaves loved Mr. Cookman. We believed him to be a good man. Wethought him instrumental in getting Mr. Samuel Harrison, a very richslaveholder, to emancipate his slaves; and by some means got the impressionthat he was laboring to effect the emancipation of all the slaves. When he wasat our house, we were sure to be called in to prayers. When the others werethere, we were sometimes called in and sometimes not. Mr. Cookman took morenotice of us than either of the other ministers. He could not come among uswithout betraying his sympathy for us, and, stupid as we were, we had thesagacity to see it.

While I lived with my master in St. Michael’s, there was a white youngman, a Mr. Wilson, who proposed to keep a Sabbath school for the instruction ofsuch slaves as might be disposed to learn to read the New Testament. We met butthree times, when Mr. West and Mr. Fairbanks, both class-leaders, with manyothers, came upon us with sticks and other missiles, drove us off, and forbadeus to meet again. Thus ended our little Sabbath school in the pious town of St.Michael’s.

I have said my master found religious sanction for his cruelty. As an example,I will state one of many facts going to prove the charge. I have seen him tieup a lame young woman, and whip her with a heavy cowskin upon her nakedshoulders, causing the warm red blood to drip; and, in justification of thebloody deed, he would quote this passage of Scripture—“He thatknoweth his master’s will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with manystripes.”

Master would keep this lacerated young woman tied up in this horrid situationfour or five hours at a time. I have known him to tie her up early in themorning, and whip her before breakfast; leave her, go to his store, return atdinner, and whip her again, cutting her in the places already made raw with hiscruel lash. The secret of master’s cruelty toward “Henny” isfound in the fact of her being almost helpless. When quite a child, she fellinto the fire, and burned herself horribly. Her hands were so burnt that shenever got the use of them. She could do very little but bear heavy burdens. Shewas to master a bill of expense; and as he was a mean man, she was a constantoffence to him. He seemed desirous of getting the poor girl out of existence.He gave her away once to his sister; but, being a poor gift, she was notdisposed to keep her. Finally, my benevolent master, to use his own words,“set her adrift to take care of herself.” Here was arecently-converted man, holding on upon the mother, and at the same timeturning out her helpless child, to starve and die! Master Thomas was one of themany pious slaveholders who hold slaves for the very charitable purpose oftaking care of them.

My master and myself had quite a number of differences. He found me unsuitableto his purpose. My city life, he said, had had a very pernicious effect uponme. It had almost ruined me for every good purpose, and fitted me for everything which was bad. One of my greatest faults was that of letting his horserun away, and go down to his father-in-law’s farm, which was about fivemiles from St. Michael’s. I would then have to go after it. My reason forthis kind of carelessness, or carefulness, was, that I could always getsomething to eat when I went there. Master William Hamilton, my master’sfather-in-law, always gave his slaves enough to eat. I never left there hungry,no matter how great the need of my speedy return. Master Thomas at length saidhe would stand it no longer. I had lived with him nine months, during whichtime he had given me a number of severe whippings, all to no good purpose. Heresolved to put me out, as he said, to be broken; and, for this purpose, he letme for one year to a man named Edward Covey. Mr. Covey was a poor man, afarm-renter. He rented the place upon which he lived, as also the hands withwhich he tilled it. Mr. Covey had acquired a very high reputation for breakingyoung slaves, and this reputation was of immense value to him. It enabled himto get his farm tilled with much less expense to himself than he could have hadit done without such a reputation. Some slaveholders thought it not much lossto allow Mr. Covey to have their slaves one year, for the sake of the trainingto which they were subjected, without any other compensation. He could hireyoung help with great ease, in consequence of this reputation. Added to thenatural good qualities of Mr. Covey, he was a professor of religion—apious soul—a member and a class-leader in the Methodist church. All ofthis added weight to his reputation as a “nigger-breaker.” I wasaware of all the facts, having been made acquainted with them by a young manwho had lived there. I nevertheless made the change gladly; for I was sure ofgetting enough to eat, which is not the smallest consideration to a hungry man.


I had left Master Thomas’s house, and went to live with Mr. Covey, on the1st of January, 1833. I was now, for the first time in my life, a field hand.In my new employment, I found myself even more awkward than a country boyappeared to be in a large city. I had been at my new home but one week beforeMr. Covey gave me a very severe whipping, cutting my back, causing the blood torun, and raising ridges on my flesh as large as my little finger. The detailsof this affair are as follows: Mr. Covey sent me, very early in the morning ofone of our coldest days in the month of January, to the woods, to get a load ofwood. He gave me a team of unbroken oxen. He told me which was the in-hand ox,and which the off-hand one. He then tied the end of a large rope around thehorns of the in-hand ox, and gave me the other end of it, and told me, if theoxen started to run, that I must hold on upon the rope. I had never driven oxenbefore, and of course I was very awkward. I, however, succeeded in getting tothe edge of the woods with little difficulty; but I had got a very few rodsinto the woods, when the oxen took fright, and started full tilt, carrying thecart against trees, and over stumps, in the most frightful manner. I expectedevery moment that my brains would be dashed out against the trees. Afterrunning thus for a considerable distance, they finally upset the cart, dashingit with great force against a tree, and threw themselves into a dense thicket.How I escaped death, I do not know. There I was, entirely alone, in a thickwood, in a place new to me. My cart was upset and shattered, my oxen wereentangled among the young trees, and there was none to help me. After a longspell of effort, I succeeded in getting my cart righted, my oxen disentangled,and again yoked to the cart. I now proceeded with my team to the place where Ihad, the day before, been chopping wood, and loaded my cart pretty heavily,thinking in this way to tame my oxen. I then proceeded on my way home. I hadnow consumed one half of the day. I got out of the woods safely, and now feltout of danger. I stopped my oxen to open the woods gate; and just as I did so,before I could get hold of my ox-rope, the oxen again started, rushed throughthe gate, catching it between the wheel and the body of the cart, tearing it topieces, and coming within a few inches of crushing me against the gate-post.Thus twice, in one short day, I escaped death by the merest chance. On myreturn, I told Mr. Covey what had happened, and how it happened. He ordered meto return to the woods again immediately. I did so, and he followed on afterme. Just as I got into the woods, he came up and told me to stop my cart, andthat he would teach me how to trifle away my time, and break gates. He thenwent to a large gum-tree, and with his axe cut three large switches, and, aftertrimming them up neatly with his pocketknife, he ordered me to take off myclothes. I made him no answer, but stood with my clothes on. He repeated hisorder. I still made him no answer, nor did I move to strip myself. Upon this herushed at me with the fierceness of a tiger, tore off my clothes, and lashed metill he had worn out his switches, cutting me so savagely as to leave the marksvisible for a long time after. This whipping was the first of a number justlike it, and for similar offences.

I lived with Mr. Covey one year. During the first six months, of that year,scarce a week passed without his whipping me. I was seldom free from a soreback. My awkwardness was almost always his excuse for whipping me. We wereworked fully up to the point of endurance. Long before day we were up, ourhorses fed, and by the first approach of day we were off to the field with ourhoes and ploughing teams. Mr. Covey gave us enough to eat, but scarce time toeat it. We were often less than five minutes taking our meals. We were often inthe field from the first approach of day till its last lingering ray had leftus; and at saving-fodder time, midnight often caught us in the field bindingblades.

Covey would be out with us. The way he used to stand it, was this. He wouldspend the most of his afternoons in bed. He would then come out fresh in theevening, ready to urge us on with his words, example, and frequently with thewhip. Mr. Covey was one of the few slaveholders who could and did work with hishands. He was a hard-working man. He knew by himself just what a man or a boycould do. There was no deceiving him. His work went on in his absence almost aswell as in his presence; and he had the faculty of making us feel that he wasever present with us. This he did by surprising us. He seldom approached thespot where we were at work openly, if he could do it secretly. He always aimedat taking us by surprise. Such was his cunning, that we used to call him, amongourselves, “the snake.” When we were at work in the cornfield, hewould sometimes crawl on his hands and knees to avoid detection, and all atonce he would rise nearly in our midst, and scream out, “Ha, ha! Come,come! Dash on, dash on!” This being his mode of attack, it was never safeto stop a single minute. His comings were like a thief in the night. Heappeared to us as being ever at hand. He was under every tree, behind everystump, in every bush, and at every window, on the plantation. He wouldsometimes mount his horse, as if bound to St. Michael’s, a distance ofseven miles, and in half an hour afterwards you would see him coiled up in thecorner of the wood-fence, watching every motion of the slaves. He would, forthis purpose, leave his horse tied up in the woods. Again, he would sometimeswalk up to us, and give us orders as though he was upon the point of startingon a long journey, turn his back upon us, and make as though he was going tothe house to get ready; and, before he would get half way thither, he wouldturn short and crawl into a fence-corner, or behind some tree, and there watchus till the going down of the sun.

Mr. Covey’s forte consisted in his power to deceive. His life wasdevoted to planning and perpetrating the grossest deceptions. Every thing hepossessed in the shape of learning or religion, he made conform to hisdisposition to deceive. He seemed to think himself equal to deceiving theAlmighty. He would make a short prayer in the morning, and a long prayer atnight; and, strange as it may seem, few men would at times appear moredevotional than he. The exercises of his family devotions were always commencedwith singing; and, as he was a very poor singer himself, the duty of raisingthe hymn generally came upon me. He would read his hymn, and nod at me tocommence. I would at times do so; at others, I would not. My non-compliancewould almost always produce much confusion. To show himself independent of me,he would start and stagger through with his hymn in the most discordant manner.In this state of mind, he prayed with more than ordinary spirit. Poor man! suchwas his disposition, and success at deceiving, I do verily believe that hesometimes deceived himself into the solemn belief, that he was a sincereworshipper of the most high God; and this, too, at a time when he may be saidto have been guilty of compelling his woman slave to commit the sin ofadultery. The facts in the case are these: Mr. Covey was a poor man; he wasjust commencing in life; he was only able to buy one slave; and, shocking as isthe fact, he bought her, as he said, for a breeder. This woman was namedCaroline. Mr. Covey bought her from Mr. Thomas Lowe, about six miles from St.Michael’s. She was a large, able-bodied woman, about twenty years old.She had already given birth to one child, which proved her to be just what hewanted. After buying her, he hired a married man of Mr. Samuel Harrison, tolive with him one year; and him he used to fasten up with her every night! Theresult was, that, at the end of the year, the miserable woman gave birth totwins. At this result Mr. Covey seemed to be highly pleased, both with the manand the wretched woman. Such was his joy, and that of his wife, that nothingthey could do for Caroline during her confinement was too good, or too hard, tobe done. The children were regarded as being quite an addition to his wealth.

If at any one time of my life more than another, I was made to drink thebitterest dregs of slavery, that time was during the first six months of mystay with Mr. Covey. We were worked in all weathers. It was never too hot ortoo cold; it could never rain, blow, hail, or snow, too hard for us to work inthe field. Work, work, work, was scarcely more the order of the day than of thenight. The longest days were too short for him, and the shortest nights toolong for him. I was somewhat unmanageable when I first went there, but a fewmonths of this discipline tamed me. Mr. Covey succeeded in breaking me. I wasbroken in body, soul, and spirit. My natural elasticity was crushed, myintellect languished, the disposition to read departed, the cheerful spark thatlingered about my eye died; the dark night of slavery closed in upon me; andbehold a man transformed into a brute!

Sunday was my only leisure time. I spent this in a sort of beast-like stupor,between sleep and wake, under some large tree. At times I would rise up, aflash of energetic freedom would dart through my soul, accompanied with a faintbeam of hope, that flickered for a moment, and then vanished. I sank downagain, mourning over my wretched condition. I was sometimes prompted to take mylife, and that of Covey, but was prevented by a combination of hope and fear.My sufferings on this plantation seem now like a dream rather than a sternreality.

Our house stood within a few rods of the Chesapeake Bay, whose broad bosom wasever white with sails from every quarter of the habitable globe. Thosebeautiful vessels, robed in purest white, so delightful to the eye of freemen,were to me so many shrouded ghosts, to terrify and torment me with thoughts ofmy wretched condition. I have often, in the deep stillness of a summer’sSabbath, stood all alone upon the lofty banks of that noble bay, and traced,with saddened heart and tearful eye, the countless number of sails moving offto the mighty ocean. The sight of these always affected me powerfully. Mythoughts would compel utterance; and there, with no audience but the Almighty,I would pour out my soul’s complaint, in my rude way, with an apostropheto the moving multitude of ships:—

“You are loosed from your moorings, and are free; I am fast in my chains,and am a slave! You move merrily before the gentle gale, and I sadly before thebloody whip! You are freedom’s swift-winged angels, that fly round theworld; I am confined in bands of iron! O that I were free! O, that I were onone of your gallant decks, and under your protecting wing! Alas! betwixt me andyou, the turbid waters roll. Go on, go on. O that I could also go! Could I butswim! If I could fly! O, why was I born a man, of whom to make a brute! Theglad ship is gone; she hides in the dim distance. I am left in the hottest hellof unending slavery. O God, save me! God, deliver me! Let me be free! Is thereany God? Why am I a slave? I will run away. I will not stand it. Get caught, orget clear, I’ll try it. I had as well die with ague as the fever. I haveonly one life to lose. I had as well be killed running as die standing. Onlythink of it; one hundred miles straight north, and I am free! Try it? Yes! Godhelping me, I will. It cannot be that I shall live and die a slave. I will taketo the water. This very bay shall yet bear me into freedom. The steamboatssteered in a north-east course from North Point. I will do the same; and when Iget to the head of the bay, I will turn my canoe adrift, and walk straightthrough Delaware into Pennsylvania. When I get there, I shall not be requiredto have a pass; I can travel without being disturbed. Let but the firstopportunity offer, and, come what will, I am off. Meanwhile, I will try to bearup under the yoke. I am not the only slave in the world. Why should I fret? Ican bear as much as any of them. Besides, I am but a boy, and all boys arebound to some one. It may be that my misery in slavery will only increase myhappiness when I get free. There is a better day coming.”

Thus I used to think, and thus I used to speak to myself; goaded almost tomadness at one moment, and at the next reconciling myself to my wretched lot.

I have already intimated that my condition was much worse, during the first sixmonths of my stay at Mr. Covey’s, than in the last six. The circumstancesleading to the change in Mr. Covey’s course toward me form an epoch in myhumble history. You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how aslave was made a man. On one of the hottest days of the month of August, 1833,Bill Smith, William Hughes, a slave named Eli, and myself, were engaged infanning wheat. Hughes was clearing the fanned wheat from before the fan. Eliwas turning, Smith was feeding, and I was carrying wheat to the fan. The workwas simple, requiring strength rather than intellect; yet, to one entirelyunused to such work, it came very hard. About three o’clock of that day,I broke down; my strength failed me; I was seized with a violent aching of thehead, attended with extreme dizziness; I trembled in every limb. Finding whatwas coming, I nerved myself up, feeling it would never do to stop work. I stoodas long as I could stagger to the hopper with grain. When I could stand nolonger, I fell, and felt as if held down by an immense weight. The fan ofcourse stopped; every one had his own work to do; and no one could do the workof the other, and have his own go on at the same time.

Mr. Covey was at the house, about one hundred yards from the treading-yardwhere we were fanning. On hearing the fan stop, he left immediately, and cameto the spot where we were. He hastily inquired what the matter was. Billanswered that I was sick, and there was no one to bring wheat to the fan. I hadby this time crawled away under the side of the post and rail-fence by whichthe yard was enclosed, hoping to find relief by getting out of the sun. He thenasked where I was. He was told by one of the hands. He came to the spot, and,after looking at me awhile, asked me what was the matter. I told him as well asI could, for I scarce had strength to speak. He then gave me a savage kick inthe side, and told me to get up. I tried to do so, but fell back in theattempt. He gave me another kick, and again told me to rise. I again tried, andsucceeded in gaining my feet; but, stooping to get the tub with which I wasfeeding the fan, I again staggered and fell. While down in this situation, Mr.Covey took up the hickory slat with which Hughes had been striking off thehalf-bushel measure, and with it gave me a heavy blow upon the head, making alarge wound, and the blood ran freely; and with this again told me to get up. Imade no effort to comply, having now made up my mind to let him do his worst.In a short time after receiving this blow, my head grew better. Mr. Covey hadnow left me to my fate. At this moment I resolved, for the first time, to go tomy master, enter a complaint, and ask his protection. In order to do this, Imust that afternoon walk seven miles; and this, under the circumstances, wastruly a severe undertaking. I was exceedingly feeble; made so as much by thekicks and blows which I received, as by the severe fit of sickness to which Ihad been subjected. I, however, watched my chance, while Covey was looking inan opposite direction, and started for St. Michael’s. I succeeded ingetting a considerable distance on my way to the woods, when Covey discoveredme, and called after me to come back, threatening what he would do if I did notcome. I disregarded both his calls and his threats, and made my way to thewoods as fast as my feeble state would allow; and thinking I might beoverhauled by him if I kept the road, I walked through the woods, keeping farenough from the road to avoid detection, and near enough to prevent losing myway. I had not gone far before my little strength again failed me. I could gono farther. I fell down, and lay for a considerable time. The blood was yetoozing from the wound on my head. For a time I thought I should bleed to death;and think now that I should have done so, but that the blood so matted my hairas to stop the wound. After lying there about three quarters of an hour, Inerved myself up again, and started on my way, through bogs and briers,barefooted and bareheaded, tearing my feet sometimes at nearly every step; andafter a journey of about seven miles, occupying some five hours to perform it,I arrived at master’s store. I then presented an appearance enough toaffect any but a heart of iron. From the crown of my head to my feet, I wascovered with blood. My hair was all clotted with dust and blood; my shirt wasstiff with blood. I suppose I looked like a man who had escaped a den of wildbeasts, and barely escaped them. In this state I appeared before my master,humbly entreating him to interpose his authority for my protection. I told himall the circumstances as well as I could, and it seemed, as I spoke, at timesto affect him. He would then walk the floor, and seek to justify Covey bysaying he expected I deserved it. He asked me what I wanted. I told him, to letme get a new home; that as sure as I lived with Mr. Covey again, I should livewith but to die with him; that Covey would surely kill me; he was in a fair wayfor it. Master Thomas ridiculed the idea that there was any danger of Mr.Covey’s killing me, and said that he knew Mr. Covey; that he was a goodman, and that he could not think of taking me from him; that, should he do so,he would lose the whole year’s wages; that I belonged to Mr. Covey forone year, and that I must go back to him, come what might; and that I must nottrouble him with any more stories, or that he would himself get hold ofme. After threatening me thus, he gave me a very large dose of salts,telling me that I might remain in St. Michael’s that night, (it beingquite late,) but that I must be off back to Mr. Covey’s early in themorning; and that if I did not, he would get hold of me, which meantthat he would whip me. I remained all night, and, according to his orders, Istarted off to Covey’s in the morning, (Saturday morning,) wearied inbody and broken in spirit. I got no supper that night, or breakfast thatmorning. I reached Covey’s about nine o’clock; and just as I wasgetting over the fence that divided Mrs. Kemp’s fields from ours, out ranCovey with his cowskin, to give me another whipping. Before he could reach me,I succeeded in getting to the cornfield; and as the corn was very high, itafforded me the means of hiding. He seemed very angry, and searched for me along time. My behavior was altogether unaccountable. He finally gave up thechase, thinking, I suppose, that I must come home for something to eat; hewould give himself no further trouble in looking for me. I spent that daymostly in the woods, having the alternative before me,—to go home and bewhipped to death, or stay in the woods and be starved to death. That night, Ifell in with Sandy Jenkins, a slave with whom I was somewhat acquainted. Sandyhad a free wife who lived about four miles from Mr. Covey’s; and it beingSaturday, he was on his way to see her. I told him my circumstances, and hevery kindly invited me to go home with him. I went home with him, and talkedthis whole matter over, and got his advice as to what course it was best for meto pursue. I found Sandy an old adviser. He told me, with great solemnity, Imust go back to Covey; but that before I went, I must go with him into anotherpart of the woods, where there was a certain root, which, if I wouldtake some of it with me, carrying it always on my right side, wouldrender it impossible for Mr. Covey, or any other white man, to whip me. He saidhe had carried it for years; and since he had done so, he had never received ablow, and never expected to while he carried it. I at first rejected the idea,that the simple carrying of a root in my pocket would have any such effect ashe had said, and was not disposed to take it; but Sandy impressed the necessitywith much earnestness, telling me it could do no harm, if it did no good. Toplease him, I at length took the root, and, according to his direction, carriedit upon my right side. This was Sunday morning. I immediately started for home;and upon entering the yard gate, out came Mr. Covey on his way to meeting. Hespoke to me very kindly, bade me drive the pigs from a lot near by, and passedon towards the church. Now, this singular conduct of Mr. Covey really made mebegin to think that there was something in the root which Sandy hadgiven me; and had it been on any other day than Sunday, I could have attributedthe conduct to no other cause than the influence of that root; and as it was, Iwas half inclined to think the root to be something more than I at firsthad taken it to be. All went well till Monday morning. On this morning, thevirtue of the root was fully tested. Long before daylight, I was calledto go and rub, curry, and feed, the horses. I obeyed, and was glad to obey. Butwhilst thus engaged, whilst in the act of throwing down some blades from theloft, Mr. Covey entered the stable with a long rope; and just as I was half outof the loft, he caught hold of my legs, and was about tying me. As soon as Ifound what he was up to, I gave a sudden spring, and as I did so, he holding tomy legs, I was brought sprawling on the stable floor. Mr. Covey seemed now tothink he had me, and could do what he pleased; but at this moment—fromwhence came the spirit I don’t know—I resolved to fight; and,suiting my action to the resolution, I seized Covey hard by the throat; and asI did so, I rose. He held on to me, and I to him. My resistance was so entirelyunexpected that Covey seemed taken all aback. He trembled like a leaf. Thisgave me assurance, and I held him uneasy, causing the blood to run where Itouched him with the ends of my fingers. Mr. Covey soon called out to Hughesfor help. Hughes came, and, while Covey held me, attempted to tie my righthand. While he was in the act of doing so, I watched my chance, and gave him aheavy kick close under the ribs. This kick fairly sickened Hughes, so that heleft me in the hands of Mr. Covey. This kick had the effect of not onlyweakening Hughes, but Covey also. When he saw Hughes bending over with pain,his courage quailed. He asked me if I meant to persist in my resistance. I toldhim I did, come what might; that he had used me like a brute for six months,and that I was determined to be used so no longer. With that, he strove to dragme to a stick that was lying just out of the stable door. He meant to knock medown. But just as he was leaning over to get the stick, I seized him with bothhands by his collar, and brought him by a sudden snatch to the ground. By thistime, Bill came. Covey called upon him for assistance. Bill wanted to know whathe could do. Covey said, “Take hold of him, take hold of him!” Billsaid his master hired him out to work, and not to help to whip me; so he leftCovey and myself to fight our own battle out. We were at it for nearly twohours. Covey at length let me go, puffing and blowing at a great rate, sayingthat if I had not resisted, he would not have whipped me half so much. Thetruth was, that he had not whipped me at all. I considered him as gettingentirely the worst end of the bargain; for he had drawn no blood from me, but Ihad from him. The whole six months afterwards, that I spent with Mr. Covey, henever laid the weight of his finger upon me in anger. He would occasionallysay, he didn’t want to get hold of me again. “No,” thought I,“you need not; for you will come off worse than you did before.”

This battle with Mr. Covey was the turning-point in my career as a slave. Itrekindled the few expiring embers of freedom, and revived within me a sense ofmy own manhood. It recalled the departed self-confidence, and inspired me againwith a determination to be free. The gratification afforded by the triumph wasa full compensation for whatever else might follow, even death itself. He onlycan understand the deep satisfaction which I experienced, who has himselfrepelled by force the bloody arm of slavery. I felt as I never felt before. Itwas a glorious resurrection, from the tomb of slavery, to the heaven offreedom. My long-crushed spirit rose, cowardice departed, bold defiance tookits place; and I now resolved that, however long I might remain a slave inform, the day had passed forever when I could be a slave in fact. I did nothesitate to let it be known of me, that the white man who expected to succeedin whipping, must also succeed in killing me.

From this time I was never again what might be called fairly whipped, though Iremained a slave four years afterwards. I had several fights, but was neverwhipped.

It was for a long time a matter of surprise to me why Mr. Covey did notimmediately have me taken by the constable to the whipping-post, and thereregularly whipped for the crime of raising my hand against a white man indefence of myself. And the only explanation I can now think of does notentirely satisfy me; but such as it is, I will give it. Mr. Covey enjoyed themost unbounded reputation for being a first-rate overseer and negro-breaker. Itwas of considerable importance to him. That reputation was at stake; and had hesent me—a boy about sixteen years old—to the public whipping-post,his reputation would have been lost; so, to save his reputation, he suffered meto go unpunished.

My term of actual service to Mr. Edward Covey ended on Christmas day, 1833. Thedays between Christmas and New Year’s day are allowed as holidays; and,accordingly, we were not required to perform any labor, more than to feed andtake care of the stock. This time we regarded as our own, by the grace of ourmasters; and we therefore used or abused it nearly as we pleased. Those of uswho had families at a distance, were generally allowed to spend the whole sixdays in their society. This time, however, was spent in various ways. Thestaid, sober, thinking and industrious ones of our number would employthemselves in making corn-brooms, mats, horse-collars, and baskets; and anotherclass of us would spend the time in hunting opossums, hares, and coons. But byfar the larger part engaged in such sports and merriments as playing ball,wrestling, running foot-races, fiddling, dancing, and drinking whisky; and thislatter mode of spending the time was by far the most agreeable to the feelingsof our masters. A slave who would work during the holidays was considered byour masters as scarcely deserving them. He was regarded as one who rejected thefavor of his master. It was deemed a disgrace not to get drunk at Christmas;and he was regarded as lazy indeed, who had not provided himself with thenecessary means, during the year, to get whisky enough to last him throughChristmas.

From what I know of the effect of these holidays upon the slave, I believe themto be among the most effective means in the hands of the slaveholder in keepingdown the spirit of insurrection. Were the slaveholders at once to abandon thispractice, I have not the slightest doubt it would lead to an immediateinsurrection among the slaves. These holidays serve as conductors, orsafety-valves, to carry off the rebellious spirit of enslaved humanity. But forthese, the slave would be forced up to the wildest desperation; and woe betidethe slaveholder, the day he ventures to remove or hinder the operation of thoseconductors! I warn him that, in such an event, a spirit will go forth in theirmidst, more to be dreaded than the most appalling earthquake.

The holidays are part and parcel of the gross fraud, wrong, and inhumanity ofslavery. They are professedly a custom established by the benevolence of theslaveholders; but I undertake to say, it is the result of selfishness, and oneof the grossest frauds committed upon the down-trodden slave. They do not givethe slaves this time because they would not like to have their work during itscontinuance, but because they know it would be unsafe to deprive them of it.This will be seen by the fact, that the slaveholders like to have their slavesspend those days just in such a manner as to make them as glad of their endingas of their beginning. Their object seems to be, to disgust their slaves withfreedom, by plunging them into the lowest depths of dissipation. For instance,the slaveholders not only like to see the slave drink of his own accord, butwill adopt various plans to make him drunk. One plan is, to make bets on theirslaves, as to who can drink the most whisky without getting drunk; and in thisway they succeed in getting whole multitudes to drink to excess. Thus, when theslave asks for virtuous freedom, the cunning slaveholder, knowing hisignorance, cheats him with a dose of vicious dissipation, artfully labelledwith the name of liberty. The most of us used to drink it down, and the resultwas just what might be supposed; many of us were led to think that there waslittle to choose between liberty and slavery. We felt, and very properly too,that we had almost as well be slaves to man as to rum. So, when the holidaysended, we staggered up from the filth of our wallowing, took a long breath, andmarched to the field,—feeling, upon the whole, rather glad to go, fromwhat our master had deceived us into a belief was freedom, back to the arms ofslavery.

I have said that this mode of treatment is a part of the whole system of fraudand inhumanity of slavery. It is so. The mode here adopted to disgust the slavewith freedom, by allowing him to see only the abuse of it, is carried out inother things. For instance, a slave loves molasses; he steals some. His master,in many cases, goes off to town, and buys a large quantity; he returns, takeshis whip, and commands the slave to eat the molasses, until the poor fellow ismade sick at the very mention of it. The same mode is sometimes adopted to makethe slaves refrain from asking for more food than their regular allowance. Aslave runs through his allowance, and applies for more. His master is enragedat him; but, not willing to send him off without food, gives him more than isnecessary, and compels him to eat it within a given time. Then, if he complainsthat he cannot eat it, he is said to be satisfied neither full nor fasting, andis whipped for being hard to please! I have an abundance of such illustrationsof the same principle, drawn from my own observation, but think the cases Ihave cited sufficient. The practice is a very common one.

On the first of January, 1834, I left Mr. Covey, and went to live with Mr.William Freeland, who lived about three miles from St. Michael’s. I soonfound Mr. Freeland a very different man from Mr. Covey. Though not rich, he waswhat would be called an educated southern gentleman. Mr. Covey, as I haveshown, was a well-trained negro-breaker and slave-driver. The former(slaveholder though he was) seemed to possess some regard for honor, somereverence for justice, and some respect for humanity. The latter seemed totallyinsensible to all such sentiments. Mr. Freeland had many of the faults peculiarto slaveholders, such as being very passionate and fretful; but I must do himthe justice to say, that he was exceedingly free from those degrading vices towhich Mr. Covey was constantly addicted. The one was open and frank, and wealways knew where to find him. The other was a most artful deceiver, and couldbe understood only by such as were skilful enough to detect hiscunningly-devised frauds. Another advantage I gained in my new master was, hemade no pretensions to, or profession of, religion; and this, in my opinion,was truly a great advantage. I assert most unhesitatingly, that the religion ofthe south is a mere covering for the most horrid crimes,—a justifier ofthe most appalling barbarity,—a sanctifier of the most hatefulfrauds,—and a dark shelter under, which the darkest, foulest, grossest,and most infernal deeds of slaveholders find the strongest protection. Were Ito be again reduced to the chains of slavery, next to that enslavement, Ishould regard being the slave of a religious master the greatest calamity thatcould befall me. For of all slaveholders with whom I have ever met, religiousslaveholders are the worst. I have ever found them the meanest and basest, themost cruel and cowardly, of all others. It was my unhappy lot not only tobelong to a religious slaveholder, but to live in a community of suchreligionists. Very near Mr. Freeland lived the Rev. Daniel Weeden, and in thesame neighborhood lived the Rev. Rigby Hopkins. These were members andministers in the Reformed Methodist Church. Mr. Weeden owned, among others, awoman slave, whose name I have forgotten. This woman’s back, for weeks,was kept literally raw, made so by the lash of this merciless, religiouswretch. He used to hire hands. His maxim was, Behave well or behave ill, it isthe duty of a master occasionally to whip a slave, to remind him of hismaster’s authority. Such was his theory, and such his practice.

Mr. Hopkins was even worse than Mr. Weeden. His chief boast was his ability tomanage slaves. The peculiar feature of his government was that of whippingslaves in advance of deserving it. He always managed to have one or more of hisslaves to whip every Monday morning. He did this to alarm their fears, andstrike terror into those who escaped. His plan was to whip for the smallestoffences, to prevent the commission of large ones. Mr. Hopkins could alwaysfind some excuse for whipping a slave. It would astonish one, unaccustomed to aslaveholding life, to see with what wonderful ease a slaveholder can findthings, of which to make occasion to whip a slave. A mere look, word, ormotion,—a mistake, accident, or want of power,—are all matters forwhich a slave may be whipped at any time. Does a slave look dissatisfied? It issaid, he has the devil in him, and it must be whipped out. Does he speak loudlywhen spoken to by his master? Then he is getting high-minded, and should betaken down a button-hole lower. Does he forget to pull off his hat at theapproach of a white person? Then he is wanting in reverence, and should bewhipped for it. Does he ever venture to vindicate his conduct, when censuredfor it? Then he is guilty of impudence,—one of the greatest crimes ofwhich a slave can be guilty. Does he ever venture to suggest a different modeof doing things from that pointed out by his master? He is indeed presumptuous,and getting above himself; and nothing less than a flogging will do for him.Does he, while ploughing, break a plough,—or, while hoeing, break a hoe?It is owing to his carelessness, and for it a slave must always be whipped. Mr.Hopkins could always find something of this sort to justify the use of thelash, and he seldom failed to embrace such opportunities. There was not a manin the whole county, with whom the slaves who had the getting their own home,would not prefer to live, rather than with this Rev. Mr. Hopkins. And yet therewas not a man any where round, who made higher professions of religion, or wasmore active in revivals,—more attentive to the class, love-feast, prayerand preaching meetings, or more devotional in his family,—that prayedearlier, later, louder, and longer,—than this same reverend slave-driver,Rigby Hopkins.

But to return to Mr. Freeland, and to my experience while in his employment.He, like Mr. Covey, gave us enough to eat; but, unlike Mr. Covey, he also gaveus sufficient time to take our meals. He worked us hard, but always betweensunrise and sunset. He required a good deal of work to be done, but gave usgood tools with which to work. His farm was large, but he employed hands enoughto work it, and with ease, compared with many of his neighbors. My treatment,while in his employment, was heavenly, compared with what I experienced at thehands of Mr. Edward Covey.

Mr. Freeland was himself the owner of but two slaves. Their names were HenryHarris and John Harris. The rest of his hands he hired. These consisted ofmyself, Sandy Jenkins,[1]and Handy Caldwell.

[1]This is the same man who gave me the roots to prevent my being whipped by Mr.Covey. He was “a clever soul.” We used frequently to talk about thefight with Covey, and as often as we did so, he would claim my success as theresult of the roots which he gave me. This superstition is very common amongthe more ignorant slaves. A slave seldom dies but that his death is attributedto trickery.

Henry and John were quite intelligent, and in a very little while after I wentthere, I succeeded in creating in them a strong desire to learn how to read.This desire soon sprang up in the others also. They very soon mustered up someold spelling-books, and nothing would do but that I must keep a Sabbath school.I agreed to do so, and accordingly devoted my Sundays to teaching these myloved fellow-slaves how to read. Neither of them knew his letters when I wentthere. Some of the slaves of the neighboring farms found what was going on, andalso availed themselves of this little opportunity to learn to read. It wasunderstood, among all who came, that there must be as little display about itas possible. It was necessary to keep our religious masters at St.Michael’s unacquainted with the fact, that, instead of spending theSabbath in wrestling, boxing, and drinking whisky, we were trying to learn howto read the will of God; for they had much rather see us engaged in thosedegrading sports, than to see us behaving like intellectual, moral, andaccountable beings. My blood boils as I think of the bloody manner in whichMessrs. Wright Fairbanks and Garrison West, both class-leaders, in connectionwith many others, rushed in upon us with sticks and stones, and broke up ourvirtuous little Sabbath school, at St. Michael’s—all callingthemselves Christians! humble followers of the Lord Jesus Christ! But I amagain digressing.

I held my Sabbath school at the house of a free colored man, whose name I deemit imprudent to mention; for should it be known, it might embarrass himgreatly, though the crime of holding the school was committed ten years ago. Ihad at one time over forty scholars, and those of the right sort, ardentlydesiring to learn. They were of all ages, though mostly men and women. I lookback to those Sundays with an amount of pleasure not to be expressed. They weregreat days to my soul. The work of instructing my dear fellow-slaves was thesweetest engagement with which I was ever blessed. We loved each other, and toleave them at the close of the Sabbath was a severe cross indeed. When I thinkthat these precious souls are to-day shut up in the prison-house of slavery, myfeelings overcome me, and I am almost ready to ask, “Does a righteous Godgovern the universe? and for what does he hold the thunders in his right hand,if not to smite the oppressor, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of thespoiler?” These dear souls came not to Sabbath school because it waspopular to do so, nor did I teach them because it was reputable to be thusengaged. Every moment they spent in that school, they were liable to be takenup, and given thirty-nine lashes. They came because they wished to learn. Theirminds had been starved by their cruel masters. They had been shut up in mentaldarkness. I taught them, because it was the delight of my soul to be doingsomething that looked like bettering the condition of my race. I kept up myschool nearly the whole year I lived with Mr. Freeland; and, beside my Sabbathschool, I devoted three evenings in the week, during the winter, to teachingthe slaves at home. And I have the happiness to know, that several of those whocame to Sabbath school learned how to read; and that one, at least, is now freethrough my agency.

The year passed off smoothly. It seemed only about half as long as the yearwhich preceded it. I went through it without receiving a single blow. I willgive Mr. Freeland the credit of being the best master I ever had, till Ibecame my own master. For the ease with which I passed the year, I was,however, somewhat indebted to the society of my fellow-slaves. They were noblesouls; they not only possessed loving hearts, but brave ones. We were linkedand interlinked with each other. I loved them with a love stronger than anything I have experienced since. It is sometimes said that we slaves do not loveand confide in each other. In answer to this assertion, I can say, I neverloved any or confided in any people more than my fellow-slaves, and especiallythose with whom I lived at Mr. Freeland’s. I believe we would have diedfor each other. We never undertook to do any thing, of any importance, withouta mutual consultation. We never moved separately. We were one; and as much soby our tempers and dispositions, as by the mutual hardships to which we werenecessarily subjected by our condition as slaves.

At the close of the year 1834, Mr. Freeland again hired me of my master, forthe year 1835. But, by this time, I began to want to live upon free landas well as with Freeland; and I was no longer content, therefore, tolive with him or any other slaveholder. I began, with the commencement of theyear, to prepare myself for a final struggle, which should decide my fate oneway or the other. My tendency was upward. I was fast approaching manhood, andyear after year had passed, and I was still a slave. These thoughts rousedme—I must do something. I therefore resolved that 1835 should not passwithout witnessing an attempt, on my part, to secure my liberty. But I was notwilling to cherish this determination alone. My fellow-slaves were dear to me.I was anxious to have them participate with me in this, my life-givingdetermination. I therefore, though with great prudence, commenced early toascertain their views and feelings in regard to their condition, and to imbuetheir minds with thoughts of freedom. I bent myself to devising ways and meansfor our escape, and meanwhile strove, on all fitting occasions, to impress themwith the gross fraud and inhumanity of slavery. I went first to Henry, next toJohn, then to the others. I found, in them all, warm hearts and noble spirits.They were ready to hear, and ready to act when a feasible plan should beproposed. This was what I wanted. I talked to them of our want of manhood, ifwe submitted to our enslavement without at least one noble effort to be free.We met often, and consulted frequently, and told our hopes and fears, recountedthe difficulties, real and imagined, which we should be called on to meet. Attimes we were almost disposed to give up, and try to content ourselves with ourwretched lot; at others, we were firm and unbending in our determination to go.Whenever we suggested any plan, there was shrinking—the odds werefearful. Our path was beset with the greatest obstacles; and if we succeeded ingaining the end of it, our right to be free was yet questionable—we wereyet liable to be returned to bondage. We could see no spot, this side of theocean, where we could be free. We knew nothing about Canada. Our knowledge ofthe north did not extend farther than New York; and to go there, and be foreverharassed with the frightful liability of being returned to slavery—withthe certainty of being treated tenfold worse than before—the thought wastruly a horrible one, and one which it was not easy to overcome. The casesometimes stood thus: At every gate through which we were to pass, we saw awatchman—at every ferry a guard—on every bridge asentinel—and in every wood a patrol. We were hemmed in upon every side.Here were the difficulties, real or imagined—the good to be sought, andthe evil to be shunned. On the one hand, there stood slavery, a stern reality,glaring frightfully upon us,—its robes already crimsoned with the bloodof millions, and even now feasting itself greedily upon our own flesh. On theother hand, away back in the dim distance, under the flickering light of thenorth star, behind some craggy hill or snow-covered mountain, stood a doubtfulfreedom—half frozen—beckoning us to come and share its hospitality.This in itself was sometimes enough to stagger us; but when we permittedourselves to survey the road, we were frequently appalled. Upon either side wesaw grim death, assuming the most horrid shapes. Now it was starvation, causingus to eat our own flesh;—now we were contending with the waves, and weredrowned;—now we were overtaken, and torn to pieces by the fangs of theterrible bloodhound. We were stung by scorpions, chased by wild beasts, bittenby snakes, and finally, after having nearly reached the desiredspot,—after swimming rivers, encountering wild beasts, sleeping in thewoods, suffering hunger and nakedness,—we were overtaken by our pursuers,and, in our resistance, we were shot dead upon the spot! I say, this picturesometimes appalled us, and made us

“rather bear those ills we had,
Than fly to others, that we knew not of.”

In coming to a fixed determination to run away, we did more than Patrick Henry,when he resolved upon liberty or death. With us it was a doubtful liberty atmost, and almost certain death if we failed. For my part, I should prefer deathto hopeless bondage.

Sandy, one of our number, gave up the notion, but still encouraged us. Ourcompany then consisted of Henry Harris, John Harris, Henry Bailey, CharlesRoberts, and myself. Henry Bailey was my uncle, and belonged to my master.Charles married my aunt: he belonged to my master’s father-in-law, Mr.William Hamilton.

The plan we finally concluded upon was, to get a large canoe belonging to Mr.Hamilton, and upon the Saturday night previous to Easter holidays, paddledirectly up the Chesapeake Bay. On our arrival at the head of the bay, adistance of seventy or eighty miles from where we lived, it was our purpose toturn our canoe adrift, and follow the guidance of the north star till we gotbeyond the limits of Maryland. Our reason for taking the water route was, thatwe were less liable to be suspected as runaways; we hoped to be regarded asfishermen; whereas, if we should take the land route, we should be subjected tointerruptions of almost every kind. Any one having a white face, and being sodisposed, could stop us, and subject us to examination.

The week before our intended start, I wrote several protections, one for eachof us. As well as I can remember, they were in the following words, towit:—

“This is to certify that I, the undersigned, have given the bearer, myservant, full liberty to go to Baltimore, and spend the Easter holidays.Written with mine own hand, &c., 1835.

“Near St. Michael’s, in Talbot county, Maryland.”

We were not going to Baltimore; but, in going up the bay, we went towardBaltimore, and these protections were only intended to protect us while on thebay.

As the time drew near for our departure, our anxiety became more and moreintense. It was truly a matter of life and death with us. The strength of ourdetermination was about to be fully tested. At this time, I was very active inexplaining every difficulty, removing every doubt, dispelling every fear, andinspiring all with the firmness indispensable to success in our undertaking;assuring them that half was gained the instant we made the move; we had talkedlong enough; we were now ready to move; if not now, we never should be; and ifwe did not intend to move now, we had as well fold our arms, sit down, andacknowledge ourselves fit only to be slaves. This, none of us were prepared toacknowledge. Every man stood firm; and at our last meeting, we pledgedourselves afresh, in the most solemn manner, that, at the time appointed, wewould certainly start in pursuit of freedom. This was in the middle of theweek, at the end of which we were to be off. We went, as usual, to our severalfields of labor, but with bosoms highly agitated with thoughts of our trulyhazardous undertaking. We tried to conceal our feelings as much as possible;and I think we succeeded very well.

After a painful waiting, the Saturday morning, whose night was to witness ourdeparture, came. I hailed it with joy, bring what of sadness it might. Fridaynight was a sleepless one for me. I probably felt more anxious than the rest,because I was, by common consent, at the head of the whole affair. Theresponsibility of success or failure lay heavily upon me. The glory of the one,and the confusion of the other, were alike mine. The first two hours of thatmorning were such as I never experienced before, and hope never to again. Earlyin the morning, we went, as usual, to the field. We were spreading manure; andall at once, while thus engaged, I was overwhelmed with an indescribablefeeling, in the fulness of which I turned to Sandy, who was near by, and said,“We are betrayed!” “Well,” said he, “that thoughthas this moment struck me.” We said no more. I was never more certain ofany thing.

The horn was blown as usual, and we went up from the field to the house forbreakfast. I went for the form, more than for want of any thing to eat thatmorning. Just as I got to the house, in looking out at the lane gate, I sawfour white men, with two colored men. The white men were on horseback, and thecolored ones were walking behind, as if tied. I watched them a few moments tillthey got up to our lane gate. Here they halted, and tied the colored men to thegate-post. I was not yet certain as to what the matter was. In a few moments,in rode Mr. Hamilton, with a speed betokening great excitement. He came to thedoor, and inquired if Master William was in. He was told he was at the barn.Mr. Hamilton, without dismounting, rode up to the barn with extraordinaryspeed. In a few moments, he and Mr. Freeland returned to the house. By thistime, the three constables rode up, and in great haste dismounted, tied theirhorses, and met Master William and Mr. Hamilton returning from the barn; andafter talking awhile, they all walked up to the kitchen door. There was no onein the kitchen but myself and John. Henry and Sandy were up at the barn. Mr.Freeland put his head in at the door, and called me by name, saying, there weresome gentlemen at the door who wished to see me. I stepped to the door, andinquired what they wanted. They at once seized me, and, without giving me anysatisfaction, tied me—lashing my hands closely together. I insisted uponknowing what the matter was. They at length said, that they had learned I hadbeen in a “scrape,” and that I was to be examined before my master;and if their information proved false, I should not be hurt.

In a few moments, they succeeded in tying John. They then turned to Henry, whohad by this time returned, and commanded him to cross his hands. “Iwon’t!” said Henry, in a firm tone, indicating his readiness tomeet the consequences of his refusal. “Won’t you?” said TomGraham, the constable. “No, I won’t!” said Henry, in a stillstronger tone. With this, two of the constables pulled out their shiningpistols, and swore, by their Creator, that they would make him cross his handsor kill him. Each cocked his pistol, and, with fingers on the trigger, walkedup to Henry, saying, at the same time, if he did not cross his hands, theywould blow his damned heart out. “Shoot me, shoot me!” said Henry;“you can’t kill me but once. Shoot, shoot,—and be damned!I won’t be tied!” This he said in a tone of loud defiance;and at the same time, with a motion as quick as lightning, he with one singlestroke dashed the pistols from the hand of each constable. As he did this, allhands fell upon him, and, after beating him some time, they finally overpoweredhim, and got him tied.

During the scuffle, I managed, I know not how, to get my pass out, and, withoutbeing discovered, put it into the fire. We were all now tied; and just as wewere to leave for Easton jail, Betsy Freeland, mother of William Freeland, cameto the door with her hands full of biscuits, and divided them between Henry andJohn. She then delivered herself of a speech, to the followingeffect:—addressing herself to me, she said, “You devil! Youyellow devil! it was you that put it into the heads of Henry and John torun away. But for you, you long-legged mulatto devil! Henry nor John wouldnever have thought of such a thing.” I made no reply, and was immediatelyhurried off towards St. Michael’s. Just a moment previous to the scufflewith Henry, Mr. Hamilton suggested the propriety of making a search for theprotections which he had understood Frederick had written for himself and therest. But, just at the moment he was about carrying his proposal into effect,his aid was needed in helping to tie Henry; and the excitement attending thescuffle caused them either to forget, or to deem it unsafe, under thecircumstances, to search. So we were not yet convicted of the intention to runaway.

(Video) Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave REVIEW

When we got about half way to St. Michael’s, while the constables havingus in charge were looking ahead, Henry inquired of me what he should do withhis pass. I told him to eat it with his biscuit, and own nothing; and we passedthe word around, “Own nothing;” and “Ownnothing!” said we all. Our confidence in each other was unshaken. Wewere resolved to succeed or fail together, after the calamity had befallen usas much as before. We were now prepared for any thing. We were to be draggedthat morning fifteen miles behind horses, and then to be placed in the Eastonjail. When we reached St. Michael’s, we underwent a sort of examination.We all denied that we ever intended to run away. We did this more to bring outthe evidence against us, than from any hope of getting clear of being sold;for, as I have said, we were ready for that. The fact was, we cared but littlewhere we went, so we went together. Our greatest concern was about separation.We dreaded that more than any thing this side of death. We found the evidenceagainst us to be the testimony of one person; our master would not tell who itwas; but we came to a unanimous decision among ourselves as to who theirinformant was. We were sent off to the jail at Easton. When we got there, wewere delivered up to the sheriff, Mr. Joseph Graham, and by him placed in jail.Henry, John, and myself, were placed in one room together—Charles, andHenry Bailey, in another. Their object in separating us was to hinder concert.

We had been in jail scarcely twenty minutes, when a swarm of slave traders, andagents for slave traders, flocked into jail to look at us, and to ascertain ifwe were for sale. Such a set of beings I never saw before! I felt myselfsurrounded by so many fiends from perdition. A band of pirates never lookedmore like their father, the devil. They laughed and grinned over us, saying,“Ah, my boys! we have got you, haven’t we?” And aftertaunting us in various ways, they one by one went into an examination of us,with intent to ascertain our value. They would impudently ask us if we wouldnot like to have them for our masters. We would make them no answer, and leavethem to find out as best they could. Then they would curse and swear at us,telling us that they could take the devil out of us in a very little while, ifwe were only in their hands.

While in jail, we found ourselves in much more comfortable quarters than weexpected when we went there. We did not get much to eat, nor that which wasvery good; but we had a good clean room, from the windows of which we could seewhat was going on in the street, which was very much better than though we hadbeen placed in one of the dark, damp cells. Upon the whole, we got along verywell, so far as the jail and its keeper were concerned. Immediately after theholidays were over, contrary to all our expectations, Mr. Hamilton and Mr.Freeland came up to Easton, and took Charles, the two Henrys, and John, out ofjail, and carried them home, leaving me alone. I regarded this separation as afinal one. It caused me more pain than any thing else in the whole transaction.I was ready for any thing rather than separation. I supposed that they hadconsulted together, and had decided that, as I was the whole cause of theintention of the others to run away, it was hard to make the innocent sufferwith the guilty; and that they had, therefore, concluded to take the othershome, and sell me, as a warning to the others that remained. It is due to thenoble Henry to say, he seemed almost as reluctant at leaving the prison as atleaving home to come to the prison. But we knew we should, in all probability,be separated, if we were sold; and since he was in their hands, he concluded togo peaceably home.

I was now left to my fate. I was all alone, and within the walls of a stoneprison. But a few days before, and I was full of hope. I expected to have beensafe in a land of freedom; but now I was covered with gloom, sunk down to theutmost despair. I thought the possibility of freedom was gone. I was kept inthis way about one week, at the end of which, Captain Auld, my master, to mysurprise and utter astonishment, came up, and took me out, with the intentionof sending me, with a gentleman of his acquaintance, into Alabama. But, fromsome cause or other, he did not send me to Alabama, but concluded to send meback to Baltimore, to live again with his brother Hugh, and to learn a trade.

Thus, after an absence of three years and one month, I was once more permittedto return to my old home at Baltimore. My master sent me away, because thereexisted against me a very great prejudice in the community, and he feared Imight be killed.

In a few weeks after I went to Baltimore, Master Hugh hired me to Mr. WilliamGardner, an extensive ship-builder, on Fell’s Point. I was put there tolearn how to calk. It, however, proved a very unfavorable place for theaccomplishment of this object. Mr. Gardner was engaged that spring in buildingtwo large man-of-war brigs, professedly for the Mexican government. The vesselswere to be launched in the July of that year, and in failure thereof, Mr.Gardner was to lose a considerable sum; so that when I entered, all was hurry.There was no time to learn any thing. Every man had to do that which he knewhow to do. In entering the shipyard, my orders from Mr. Gardner were, to dowhatever the carpenters commanded me to do. This was placing me at the beck andcall of about seventy-five men. I was to regard all these as masters. Theirword was to be my law. My situation was a most trying one. At times I needed adozen pair of hands. I was called a dozen ways in the space of a single minute.Three or four voices would strike my ear at the same moment. Itwas—“Fred., come help me to cant this timberhere.”—“Fred., come carry this timberyonder.”—“Fred., bring that rollerhere.”—“Fred., go get a fresh can ofwater.”—“Fred., come help saw off the end of thistimber.”—“Fred., go quick, and get thecrowbar.”—“Fred., hold on the end of thisfall.”—“Fred., go to the blacksmith’s shop, and get anew punch.”—“Hurra, Fred! run and bring me a coldchisel.”—“I say, Fred., bear a hand, and get up a fire asquick as lightning under that steam-box.”—“Halloo, nigger!come, turn this grindstone.”—“Come, come! move, move! andbowse this timber forward.”—“I say, darky, blast youreyes, why don’t you heat up some pitch?”—“Halloo!halloo! halloo!” (Three voices at the same time.) “Comehere!—Go there!—Hold on where you are! Damn you, if you move,I’ll knock your brains out!”

This was my school for eight months; and I might have remained there longer,but for a most horrid fight I had with four of the white apprentices, in whichmy left eye was nearly knocked out, and I was horribly mangled in otherrespects. The facts in the case were these: Until a very little while after Iwent there, white and black ship-carpenters worked side by side, and no oneseemed to see any impropriety in it. All hands seemed to be very wellsatisfied. Many of the black carpenters were freemen. Things seemed to be goingon very well. All at once, the white carpenters knocked off, and said theywould not work with free colored workmen. Their reason for this, as alleged,was, that if free colored carpenters were encouraged, they would soon take thetrade into their own hands, and poor white men would be thrown out ofemployment. They therefore felt called upon at once to put a stop to it. And,taking advantage of Mr. Gardner’s necessities, they broke off, swearingthey would work no longer, unless he would discharge his black carpenters. Now,though this did not extend to me in form, it did reach me in fact. Myfellow-apprentices very soon began to feel it degrading to them to work withme. They began to put on airs, and talk about the “niggers” takingthe country, saying we all ought to be killed; and, being encouraged by thejourneymen, they commenced making my condition as hard as they could, byhectoring me around, and sometimes striking me. I, of course, kept the vow Imade after the fight with Mr. Covey, and struck back again, regardless ofconsequences; and while I kept them from combining, I succeeded very well; forI could whip the whole of them, taking them separately. They, however, atlength combined, and came upon me, armed with sticks, stones, and heavyhandspikes. One came in front with a half brick. There was one at each side ofme, and one behind me. While I was attending to those in front, and on eitherside, the one behind ran up with the handspike, and struck me a heavy blow uponthe head. It stunned me. I fell, and with this they all ran upon me, and fellto beating me with their fists. I let them lay on for a while, gatheringstrength. In an instant, I gave a sudden surge, and rose to my hands and knees.Just as I did that, one of their number gave me, with his heavy boot, apowerful kick in the left eye. My eyeball seemed to have burst. When they sawmy eye closed, and badly swollen, they left me. With this I seized thehandspike, and for a time pursued them. But here the carpenters interfered, andI thought I might as well give it up. It was impossible to stand my handagainst so many. All this took place in sight of not less than fifty whiteship-carpenters, and not one interposed a friendly word; but some cried,“Kill the damned nigger! Kill him! kill him! He struck a whiteperson.” I found my only chance for life was in flight. I succeeded ingetting away without an additional blow, and barely so; for to strike a whiteman is death by Lynch law,—and that was the law in Mr. Gardner’sship-yard; nor is there much of any other out of Mr. Gardner’s ship-yard.

I went directly home, and told the story of my wrongs to Master Hugh; and I amhappy to say of him, irreligious as he was, his conduct was heavenly, comparedwith that of his brother Thomas under similar circumstances. He listenedattentively to my narration of the circumstances leading to the savage outrage,and gave many proofs of his strong indignation at it. The heart of my onceoverkind mistress was again melted into pity. My puffed-out eye andblood-covered face moved her to tears. She took a chair by me, washed the bloodfrom my face, and, with a mother’s tenderness, bound up my head, coveringthe wounded eye with a lean piece of fresh beef. It was almost compensation formy suffering to witness, once more, a manifestation of kindness from this, myonce affectionate old mistress. Master Hugh was very much enraged. He gaveexpression to his feelings by pouring out curses upon the heads of those whodid the deed. As soon as I got a little the better of my bruises, he took mewith him to Esquire Watson’s, on Bond Street, to see what could be doneabout the matter. Mr. Watson inquired who saw the assault committed. MasterHugh told him it was done in Mr. Gardner’s ship-yard at midday, wherethere were a large company of men at work. “As to that,” he said,“the deed was done, and there was no question as to who did it.”His answer was, he could do nothing in the case, unless some white man wouldcome forward and testify. He could issue no warrant on my word. If I had beenkilled in the presence of a thousand colored people, their testimony combinedwould have been insufficient to have arrested one of the murderers. MasterHugh, for once, was compelled to say this state of things was too bad. Ofcourse, it was impossible to get any white man to volunteer his testimony in mybehalf, and against the white young men. Even those who may have sympathizedwith me were not prepared to do this. It required a degree of courage unknownto them to do so; for just at that time, the slightest manifestation ofhumanity toward a colored person was denounced as abolitionism, and that namesubjected its bearer to frightful liabilities. The watchwords of thebloody-minded in that region, and in those days, were, “Damn theabolitionists!” and “Damn the niggers!” There was nothingdone, and probably nothing would have been done if I had been killed. Such was,and such remains, the state of things in the Christian city of Baltimore.

Master Hugh, finding he could get no redress, refused to let me go back againto Mr. Gardner. He kept me himself, and his wife dressed my wound till I wasagain restored to health. He then took me into the ship-yard of which he wasforeman, in the employment of Mr. Walter Price. There I was immediately set tocalking, and very soon learned the art of using my mallet and irons. In thecourse of one year from the time I left Mr. Gardner’s, I was able tocommand the highest wages given to the most experienced calkers. I was now ofsome importance to my master. I was bringing him from six to seven dollars perweek. I sometimes brought him nine dollars per week: my wages were a dollar anda half a day. After learning how to calk, I sought my own employment, made myown contracts, and collected the money which I earned. My pathway became muchmore smooth than before; my condition was now much more comfortable. When Icould get no calking to do, I did nothing. During these leisure times, thoseold notions about freedom would steal over me again. When in Mr.Gardner’s employment, I was kept in such a perpetual whirl of excitement,I could think of nothing, scarcely, but my life; and in thinking of my life, Ialmost forgot my liberty. I have observed this in my experience ofslavery,—that whenever my condition was improved, instead of itsincreasing my contentment, it only increased my desire to be free, and set meto thinking of plans to gain my freedom. I have found that, to make a contentedslave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one. It is necessary to darken hismoral and mental vision, and, as far as possible, to annihilate the power ofreason. He must be able to detect no inconsistencies in slavery; he must bemade to feel that slavery is right; and he can be brought to that only when heceases to be a man.

I was now getting, as I have said, one dollar and fifty cents per day. Icontracted for it; I earned it; it was paid to me; it was rightfully my own;yet, upon each returning Saturday night, I was compelled to deliver every centof that money to Master Hugh. And why? Not because he earned it,—notbecause he had any hand in earning it,—not because I owed it tohim,—nor because he possessed the slightest shadow of a right to it; butsolely because he had the power to compel me to give it up. The right of thegrim-visaged pirate upon the high seas is exactly the same.


I now come to that part of my life during which I planned, and finallysucceeded in making, my escape from slavery. But before narrating any of thepeculiar circumstances, I deem it proper to make known my intention not tostate all the facts connected with the transaction. My reasons for pursuingthis course may be understood from the following: First, were I to give aminute statement of all the facts, it is not only possible, but quite probable,that others would thereby be involved in the most embarrassing difficulties.Secondly, such a statement would most undoubtedly induce greater vigilance onthe part of slaveholders than has existed heretofore among them; which would,of course, be the means of guarding a door whereby some dear brother bondmanmight escape his galling chains. I deeply regret the necessity that impels meto suppress any thing of importance connected with my experience in slavery. Itwould afford me great pleasure indeed, as well as materially add to theinterest of my narrative, were I at liberty to gratify a curiosity, which Iknow exists in the minds of many, by an accurate statement of all the factspertaining to my most fortunate escape. But I must deprive myself of thispleasure, and the curious of the gratification which such a statement wouldafford. I would allow myself to suffer under the greatest imputations whichevil-minded men might suggest, rather than exculpate myself, and thereby runthe hazard of closing the slightest avenue by which a brother slave might clearhimself of the chains and fetters of slavery.

I have never approved of the very public manner in which some of our westernfriends have conducted what they call the underground railroad, butwhich I think, by their open declarations, has been made most emphatically theupperground railroad. I honor those good men and women for their nobledaring, and applaud them for willingly subjecting themselves to bloodypersecution, by openly avowing their participation in the escape of slaves. I,however, can see very little good resulting from such a course, either tothemselves or the slaves escaping; while, upon the other hand, I see and feelassured that those open declarations are a positive evil to the slavesremaining, who are seeking to escape. They do nothing towards enlightening theslave, whilst they do much towards enlightening the master. They stimulate himto greater watchfulness, and enhance his power to capture his slave. We owesomething to the slave south of the line as well as to those north of it; andin aiding the latter on their way to freedom, we should be careful to donothing which would be likely to hinder the former from escaping from slavery.I would keep the merciless slaveholder profoundly ignorant of the means offlight adopted by the slave. I would leave him to imagine himself surrounded bymyriads of invisible tormentors, ever ready to snatch from his infernal grasphis trembling prey. Let him be left to feel his way in the dark; let darknesscommensurate with his crime hover over him; and let him feel that at every stephe takes, in pursuit of the flying bondman, he is running the frightful risk ofhaving his hot brains dashed out by an invisible agency. Let us render thetyrant no aid; let us not hold the light by which he can trace the footprintsof our flying brother. But enough of this. I will now proceed to the statementof those facts, connected with my escape, for which I am alone responsible, andfor which no one can be made to suffer but myself.

In the early part of the year 1838, I became quite restless. I could see noreason why I should, at the end of each week, pour the reward of my toil intothe purse of my master. When I carried to him my weekly wages, he would, aftercounting the money, look me in the face with a robber-like fierceness, and ask,“Is this all?” He was satisfied with nothing less than the lastcent. He would, however, when I made him six dollars, sometimes give me sixcents, to encourage me. It had the opposite effect. I regarded it as a sort ofadmission of my right to the whole. The fact that he gave me any part of mywages was proof, to my mind, that he believed me entitled to the whole of them.I always felt worse for having received any thing; for I feared that the givingme a few cents would ease his conscience, and make him feel himself to be apretty honorable sort of robber. My discontent grew upon me. I was ever on thelook-out for means of escape; and, finding no direct means, I determined to tryto hire my time, with a view of getting money with which to make my escape. Inthe spring of 1838, when Master Thomas came to Baltimore to purchase his springgoods, I got an opportunity, and applied to him to allow me to hire my time. Heunhesitatingly refused my request, and told me this was another stratagem bywhich to escape. He told me I could go nowhere but that he could get me; andthat, in the event of my running away, he should spare no pains in his effortsto catch me. He exhorted me to content myself, and be obedient. He told me, ifI would be happy, I must lay out no plans for the future. He said, if I behavedmyself properly, he would take care of me. Indeed, he advised me to completethoughtlessness of the future, and taught me to depend solely upon him forhappiness. He seemed to see fully the pressing necessity of setting aside myintellectual nature, in order to contentment in slavery. But in spite of him,and even in spite of myself, I continued to think, and to think about theinjustice of my enslavement, and the means of escape.

About two months after this, I applied to Master Hugh for the privilege ofhiring my time. He was not acquainted with the fact that I had applied toMaster Thomas, and had been refused. He too, at first, seemed disposed torefuse; but, after some reflection, he granted me the privilege, and proposedthe following terms: I was to be allowed all my time, make all contracts withthose for whom I worked, and find my own employment; and, in return for thisliberty, I was to pay him three dollars at the end of each week; find myself incalking tools, and in board and clothing. My board was two dollars and a halfper week. This, with the wear and tear of clothing and calking tools, made myregular expenses about six dollars per week. This amount I was compelled tomake up, or relinquish the privilege of hiring my time. Rain or shine, work orno work, at the end of each week the money must be forthcoming, or I must giveup my privilege. This arrangement, it will be perceived, was decidedly in mymaster’s favor. It relieved him of all need of looking after me. Hismoney was sure. He received all the benefits of slaveholding without its evils;while I endured all the evils of a slave, and suffered all the care and anxietyof a freeman. I found it a hard bargain. But, hard as it was, I thought itbetter than the old mode of getting along. It was a step towards freedom to beallowed to bear the responsibilities of a freeman, and I was determined to holdon upon it. I bent myself to the work of making money. I was ready to work atnight as well as day, and by the most untiring perseverance and industry, Imade enough to meet my expenses, and lay up a little money every week. I wenton thus from May till August. Master Hugh then refused to allow me to hire mytime longer. The ground for his refusal was a failure on my part, one Saturdaynight, to pay him for my week’s time. This failure was occasioned by myattending a camp meeting about ten miles from Baltimore. During the week, I hadentered into an engagement with a number of young friends to start fromBaltimore to the camp ground early Saturday evening; and being detained by myemployer, I was unable to get down to Master Hugh’s without disappointingthe company. I knew that Master Hugh was in no special need of the money thatnight. I therefore decided to go to camp meeting, and upon my return pay himthe three dollars. I staid at the camp meeting one day longer than I intendedwhen I left. But as soon as I returned, I called upon him to pay him what heconsidered his due. I found him very angry; he could scarce restrain his wrath.He said he had a great mind to give me a severe whipping. He wished to know howI dared go out of the city without asking his permission. I told him I hired mytime and while I paid him the price which he asked for it, I did not know thatI was bound to ask him when and where I should go. This reply troubled him;and, after reflecting a few moments, he turned to me, and said I should hire mytime no longer; that the next thing he should know of, I would be running away.Upon the same plea, he told me to bring my tools and clothing home forthwith. Idid so; but instead of seeking work, as I had been accustomed to do previouslyto hiring my time, I spent the whole week without the performance of a singlestroke of work. I did this in retaliation. Saturday night, he called upon me asusual for my week’s wages. I told him I had no wages; I had done no workthat week. Here we were upon the point of coming to blows. He raved, and sworehis determination to get hold of me. I did not allow myself a single word; butwas resolved, if he laid the weight of his hand upon me, it should be blow forblow. He did not strike me, but told me that he would find me in constantemployment in future. I thought the matter over during the next day, Sunday,and finally resolved upon the third day of September, as the day upon which Iwould make a second attempt to secure my freedom. I now had three weeks duringwhich to prepare for my journey. Early on Monday morning, before Master Hughhad time to make any engagement for me, I went out and got employment of Mr.Butler, at his ship-yard near the drawbridge, upon what is called the CityBlock, thus making it unnecessary for him to seek employment for me. At the endof the week, I brought him between eight and nine dollars. He seemed very wellpleased, and asked why I did not do the same the week before. He little knewwhat my plans were. My object in working steadily was to remove any suspicionhe might entertain of my intent to run away; and in this I succeeded admirably.I suppose he thought I was never better satisfied with my condition than at thevery time during which I was planning my escape. The second week passed, andagain I carried him my full wages; and so well pleased was he, that he gave metwenty-five cents, (quite a large sum for a slaveholder to give a slave,) andbade me to make a good use of it. I told him I would.

Things went on without very smoothly indeed, but within there was trouble. Itis impossible for me to describe my feelings as the time of my contemplatedstart drew near. I had a number of warmhearted friends inBaltimore,—friends that I loved almost as I did my life,—and thethought of being separated from them forever was painful beyond expression. Itis my opinion that thousands would escape from slavery, who now remain, but forthe strong cords of affection that bind them to their friends. The thought ofleaving my friends was decidedly the most painful thought with which I had tocontend. The love of them was my tender point, and shook my decision more thanall things else. Besides the pain of separation, the dread and apprehension ofa failure exceeded what I had experienced at my first attempt. The appallingdefeat I then sustained returned to torment me. I felt assured that, if Ifailed in this attempt, my case would be a hopeless one—it would seal myfate as a slave forever. I could not hope to get off with any thing less thanthe severest punishment, and being placed beyond the means of escape. Itrequired no very vivid imagination to depict the most frightful scenes throughwhich I should have to pass, in case I failed. The wretchedness of slavery, andthe blessedness of freedom, were perpetually before me. It was life and deathwith me. But I remained firm, and, according to my resolution, on the third dayof September, 1838, I left my chains, and succeeded in reaching New Yorkwithout the slightest interruption of any kind. How I did so,—what meansI adopted,—what direction I travelled, and by what mode ofconveyance,—I must leave unexplained, for the reasons before mentioned.

I have been frequently asked how I felt when I found myself in a free State. Ihave never been able to answer the question with any satisfaction to myself. Itwas a moment of the highest excitement I ever experienced. I suppose I felt asone may imagine the unarmed mariner to feel when he is rescued by a friendlyman-of-war from the pursuit of a pirate. In writing to a dear friend,immediately after my arrival at New York, I said I felt like one who hadescaped a den of hungry lions. This state of mind, however, very soon subsided;and I was again seized with a feeling of great insecurity and loneliness. I wasyet liable to be taken back, and subjected to all the tortures of slavery. Thisin itself was enough to damp the ardor of my enthusiasm. But the lonelinessovercame me. There I was in the midst of thousands, and yet a perfect stranger;without home and without friends, in the midst of thousands of my ownbrethren—children of a common Father, and yet I dared not to unfold toany one of them my sad condition. I was afraid to speak to any one for fear ofspeaking to the wrong one, and thereby falling into the hands of money-lovingkidnappers, whose business it was to lie in wait for the panting fugitive, asthe ferocious beasts of the forest lie in wait for their prey. The motto whichI adopted when I started from slavery was this—“Trust noman!” I saw in every white man an enemy, and in almost every colored mancause for distrust. It was a most painful situation; and, to understand it, onemust needs experience it, or imagine himself in similar circumstances. Let himbe a fugitive slave in a strange land—a land given up to be thehunting-ground for slaveholders—whose inhabitants are legalizedkidnappers—where he is every moment subjected to the terrible liabilityof being seized upon by his fellowmen, as the hideous crocodile seizes upon hisprey!—I say, let him place himself in my situation—without home orfriends—without money or credit—wanting shelter, and no one to giveit—wanting bread, and no money to buy it,—and at the same time lethim feel that he is pursued by merciless men-hunters, and in total darkness asto what to do, where to go, or where to stay,—perfectly helpless both asto the means of defence and means of escape,—in the midst of plenty, yetsuffering the terrible gnawings of hunger,—in the midst of houses, yethaving no home,—among fellow-men, yet feeling as if in the midst of wildbeasts, whose greediness to swallow up the trembling and half-famished fugitiveis only equalled by that with which the monsters of the deep swallow up thehelpless fish upon which they subsist,—I say, let him be placed in thismost trying situation,—the situation in which I was placed,—then,and not till then, will he fully appreciate the hardships of, and know how tosympathize with, the toil-worn and whip-scarred fugitive slave.

Thank Heaven, I remained but a short time in this distressed situation. I wasrelieved from it by the humane hand of Mr. David Ruggles, whosevigilance, kindness, and perseverance, I shall never forget. I am glad of anopportunity to express, as far as words can, the love and gratitude I bear him.Mr. Ruggles is now afflicted with blindness, and is himself in need of the samekind offices which he was once so forward in the performance of toward others.I had been in New York but a few days, when Mr. Ruggles sought me out, and verykindly took me to his boarding-house at the corner of Church and LespenardStreets. Mr. Ruggles was then very deeply engaged in the memorable Dargcase, as well as attending to a number of other fugitive slaves, devising waysand means for their successful escape; and, though watched and hemmed in onalmost every side, he seemed to be more than a match for his enemies.

Very soon after I went to Mr. Ruggles, he wished to know of me where I wantedto go; as he deemed it unsafe for me to remain in New York. I told him I was acalker, and should like to go where I could get work. I thought of going toCanada; but he decided against it, and in favor of my going to New Bedford,thinking I should be able to get work there at my trade. At this time,Anna,[2] my intendedwife, came on; for I wrote to her immediately after my arrival at New York,(notwithstanding my homeless, houseless, and helpless condition,) informing herof my successful flight, and wishing her to come on forthwith. In a few daysafter her arrival, Mr. Ruggles called in the Rev. J. W. C. Pennington, who, inthe presence of Mr. Ruggles, Mrs. Michaels, and two or three others, performedthe marriage ceremony, and gave us a certificate, of which the following is anexact copy:—

“This may certify, that I joined together in holy matrimony FrederickJohnson[3] and AnnaMurray, as man and wife, in the presence of Mr. David Ruggles and Mrs. Michaels.

New York, Sept. 15, 1838”

[2]She was free.

[3]I had changed my name from Frederick Bailey to that of Johnson.

Upon receiving this certificate, and a five-dollar bill from Mr. Ruggles, Ishouldered one part of our baggage, and Anna took up the other, and we set outforthwith to take passage on board of the steamboat John W. Richmond forNewport, on our way to New Bedford. Mr. Ruggles gave me a letter to a Mr. Shawin Newport, and told me, in case my money did not serve me to New Bedford, tostop in Newport and obtain further assistance; but upon our arrival at Newport,we were so anxious to get to a place of safety, that, notwithstanding we lackedthe necessary money to pay our fare, we decided to take seats in the stage, andpromise to pay when we got to New Bedford. We were encouraged to do this by twoexcellent gentlemen, residents of New Bedford, whose names I afterwardascertained to be Joseph Ricketson and William C. Taber. They seemed at once tounderstand our circumstances, and gave us such assurance of their friendlinessas put us fully at ease in their presence.

It was good indeed to meet with such friends, at such a time. Upon reaching NewBedford, we were directed to the house of Mr. Nathan Johnson, by whom we werekindly received, and hospitably provided for. Both Mr. and Mrs. Johnson took adeep and lively interest in our welfare. They proved themselves quite worthy ofthe name of abolitionists. When the stage-driver found us unable to pay ourfare, he held on upon our baggage as security for the debt. I had but tomention the fact to Mr. Johnson, and he forthwith advanced the money.

We now began to feel a degree of safety, and to prepare ourselves for theduties and responsibilities of a life of freedom. On the morning after ourarrival at New Bedford, while at the breakfast-table, the question arose as towhat name I should be called by. The name given me by my mother was,“Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey.” I, however, had dispensedwith the two middle names long before I left Maryland so that I was generallyknown by the name of “Frederick Bailey.” I started from Baltimorebearing the name of “Stanley.” When I got to New York, I againchanged my name to “Frederick Johnson,” and thought that would bethe last change. But when I got to New Bedford, I found it necessary again tochange my name. The reason of this necessity was, that there were so manyJohnsons in New Bedford, it was already quite difficult to distinguish betweenthem. I gave Mr. Johnson the privilege of choosing me a name, but told him hemust not take from me the name of “Frederick.” I must hold on tothat, to preserve a sense of my identity. Mr. Johnson had just been reading the“Lady of the Lake,” and at once suggested that my name be“Douglass.” From that time until now I have been called“Frederick Douglass;” and as I am more widely known by that namethan by either of the others, I shall continue to use it as my own.

I was quite disappointed at the general appearance of things in New Bedford.The impression which I had received respecting the character and condition ofthe people of the north, I found to be singularly erroneous. I had verystrangely supposed, while in slavery, that few of the comforts, and scarcelyany of the luxuries, of life were enjoyed at the north, compared with what wereenjoyed by the slaveholders of the south. I probably came to this conclusionfrom the fact that northern people owned no slaves. I supposed that they wereabout upon a level with the non-slaveholding population of the south. I knewthey were exceedingly poor, and I had been accustomed to regard theirpoverty as the necessary consequence of their being non-slaveholders. I hadsomehow imbibed the opinion that, in the absence of slaves, there could be nowealth, and very little refinement. And upon coming to the north, I expected tomeet with a rough, hard-handed, and uncultivated population, living in the mostSpartan-like simplicity, knowing nothing of the ease, luxury, pomp, andgrandeur of southern slaveholders. Such being my conjectures, any oneacquainted with the appearance of New Bedford may very readily infer howpalpably I must have seen my mistake.

In the afternoon of the day when I reached New Bedford, I visited the wharves,to take a view of the shipping. Here I found myself surrounded with thestrongest proofs of wealth. Lying at the wharves, and riding in the stream, Isaw many ships of the finest model, in the best order, and of the largest size.Upon the right and left, I was walled in by granite warehouses of the widestdimensions, stowed to their utmost capacity with the necessaries and comfortsof life. Added to this, almost every body seemed to be at work, but noiselesslyso, compared with what I had been accustomed to in Baltimore. There were noloud songs heard from those engaged in loading and unloading ships. I heard nodeep oaths or horrid curses on the laborer. I saw no whipping of men; but allseemed to go smoothly on. Every man appeared to understand his work, and wentat it with a sober, yet cheerful earnestness, which betokened the deep interestwhich he felt in what he was doing, as well as a sense of his own dignity as aman. To me this looked exceedingly strange. From the wharves I strolled aroundand over the town, gazing with wonder and admiration at the splendid churches,beautiful dwellings, and finely-cultivated gardens; evincing an amount ofwealth, comfort, taste, and refinement, such as I had never seen in any part ofslaveholding Maryland.

Every thing looked clean, new, and beautiful. I saw few or no dilapidatedhouses, with poverty-stricken inmates; no half-naked children and barefootedwomen, such as I had been accustomed to see in Hillsborough, Easton, St.Michael’s, and Baltimore. The people looked more able, stronger,healthier, and happier, than those of Maryland. I was for once made glad by aview of extreme wealth, without being saddened by seeing extreme poverty. Butthe most astonishing as well as the most interesting thing to me was thecondition of the colored people, a great many of whom, like myself, had escapedthither as a refuge from the hunters of men. I found many, who had not beenseven years out of their chains, living in finer houses, and evidently enjoyingmore of the comforts of life, than the average of slaveholders in Maryland. Iwill venture to assert, that my friend Mr. Nathan Johnson (of whom I can saywith a grateful heart, “I was hungry, and he gave me meat; I was thirsty,and he gave me drink; I was a stranger, and he took me in”) lived in aneater house; dined at a better table; took, paid for, and read, morenewspapers; better understood the moral, religious, and political character ofthe nation,—than nine tenths of the slaveholders in Talbot countyMaryland. Yet Mr. Johnson was a working man. His hands were hardened by toil,and not his alone, but those also of Mrs. Johnson. I found the colored peoplemuch more spirited than I had supposed they would be. I found among them adetermination to protect each other from the blood-thirsty kidnapper, at allhazards. Soon after my arrival, I was told of a circumstance which illustratedtheir spirit. A colored man and a fugitive slave were on unfriendly terms. Theformer was heard to threaten the latter with informing his master of hiswhereabouts. Straightway a meeting was called among the colored people, underthe stereotyped notice, “Business of importance!” The betrayer wasinvited to attend. The people came at the appointed hour, and organized themeeting by appointing a very religious old gentleman as president, who, Ibelieve, made a prayer, after which he addressed the meeting as follows:“Friends, we have got him here, and I would recommend that you youngmen just take him outside the door, and kill him!” With this, anumber of them bolted at him; but they were intercepted by some more timid thanthemselves, and the betrayer escaped their vengeance, and has not been seen inNew Bedford since. I believe there have been no more such threats, and shouldthere be hereafter, I doubt not that death would be the consequence.

I found employment, the third day after my arrival, in stowing a sloop with aload of oil. It was new, dirty, and hard work for me; but I went at it with aglad heart and a willing hand. I was now my own master. It was a happy moment,the rapture of which can be understood only by those who have been slaves. Itwas the first work, the reward of which was to be entirely my own. There was noMaster Hugh standing ready, the moment I earned the money, to rob me of it. Iworked that day with a pleasure I had never before experienced. I was at workfor myself and newly-married wife. It was to me the starting-point of a newexistence. When I got through with that job, I went in pursuit of a job ofcalking; but such was the strength of prejudice against color, among the whitecalkers, that they refused to work with me, and of course I could get noemployment.[4]Finding my trade of no immediate benefit, I threw off my calking habiliments,and prepared myself to do any kind of work I could get to do. Mr. Johnsonkindly let me have his wood-horse and saw, and I very soon found myself aplenty of work. There was no work too hard—none too dirty. I was ready tosaw wood, shovel coal, carry wood, sweep the chimney, or roll oilcasks,—all of which I did for nearly three years in New Bedford, before Ibecame known to the anti-slavery world.

[4]I am told that colored persons can now get employment at calking in NewBedford—a result of anti-slavery effort.

In about four months after I went to New Bedford, there came a young man to me,and inquired if I did not wish to take the “Liberator.” I told himI did; but, just having made my escape from slavery, I remarked that I wasunable to pay for it then. I, however, finally became a subscriber to it. Thepaper came, and I read it from week to week with such feelings as it would bequite idle for me to attempt to describe. The paper became my meat and mydrink. My soul was set all on fire. Its sympathy for my brethren inbonds—its scathing denunciations of slaveholders—its faithfulexposures of slavery—and its powerful attacks upon the upholders of theinstitution—sent a thrill of joy through my soul, such as I had neverfelt before!

I had not long been a reader of the “Liberator,” before I got apretty correct idea of the principles, measures and spirit of the anti-slaveryreform. I took right hold of the cause. I could do but little; but what Icould, I did with a joyful heart, and never felt happier than when in ananti-slavery meeting. I seldom had much to say at the meetings, because what Iwanted to say was said so much better by others. But, while attending ananti-slavery convention at Nantucket, on the 11th of August, 1841, I feltstrongly moved to speak, and was at the same time much urged to do so by Mr.William C. Coffin, a gentleman who had heard me speak in the coloredpeople’s meeting at New Bedford. It was a severe cross, and I took it upreluctantly. The truth was, I felt myself a slave, and the idea of speaking towhite people weighed me down. I spoke but a few moments, when I felt a degreeof freedom, and said what I desired with considerable ease. From that timeuntil now, I have been engaged in pleading the cause of my brethren—withwhat success, and with what devotion, I leave those acquainted with my laborsto decide.


I find, since reading over the foregoing Narrative, that I have, in severalinstances, spoken in such a tone and manner, respecting religion, as maypossibly lead those unacquainted with my religious views to suppose me anopponent of all religion. To remove the liability of such misapprehension, Ideem it proper to append the following brief explanation. What I have saidrespecting and against religion, I mean strictly to apply to theslaveholding religion of this land, and with no possible reference toChristianity proper; for, between the Christianity of this land, and theChristianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference—sowide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity toreject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one, isof necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, andimpartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding,women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity ofthis land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for callingthe religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of allmisnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. Never wasthere a clearer case of “stealing the livery of the court of heaven toserve the devil in.” I am filled with unutterable loathing when Icontemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horribleinconsistencies, which every where surround me. We have men-stealers forministers, women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for churchmembers. The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin during the week fills thepulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus. Theman who robs me of my earnings at the end of each week meets me as aclass-leader on Sunday morning, to show me the way of life, and the path ofsalvation. He who sells my sister, for purposes of prostitution, stands forthas the pious advocate of purity. He who proclaims it a religious duty to readthe Bible denies me the right of learning to read the name of the God who mademe. He who is the religious advocate of marriage robs whole millions of itssacred influence, and leaves them to the ravages of wholesale pollution. Thewarm defender of the sacredness of the family relation is the same thatscatters whole families,—sundering husbands and wives, parents andchildren, sisters and brothers,—leaving the hut vacant, and the hearthdesolate. We see the thief preaching against theft, and the adulterer againstadultery. We have men sold to build churches, women sold to support the gospel,and babes sold to purchase Bibles for the Poor Heathen! All For The Glory OfGod And The Good Of Souls! The slave auctioneer’s bell and thechurch-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of theheart-broken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master.Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave-trade go hand in hand together.The slave prison and the church stand near each other. The clanking of fettersand the rattling of chains in the prison, and the pious psalm and solemn prayerin the church, may be heard at the same time. The dealers in the bodies andsouls of men erect their stand in the presence of the pulpit, and they mutuallyhelp each other. The dealer gives his blood-stained gold to support the pulpit,and the pulpit, in return, covers his infernal business with the garb ofChristianity. Here we have religion and robbery the allies of eachother—devils dressed in angels’ robes, and hell presenting thesemblance of paradise.

“Just God! and these are they,v Who minister at thine altar, God ofright!
Men who their hands, with prayer and blessing, lay
On Israel’s ark of light.

“What! preach, and kidnap men?
Give thanks, and rob thy own afflicted poor?
Talk of thy glorious liberty, and then
Bolt hard the captive’s door?

“What! servants of thy own
Merciful Son, who came to seek and save
The homeless and the outcast, fettering down
The tasked and plundered slave!

“Pilate and Herod friends!
Chief priests and rulers, as of old, combine!
Just God and holy! is that church which lends
Strength to the spoiler thine?”

The Christianity of America is a Christianity, of whose votaries it may be astruly said, as it was of the ancient scribes and Pharisees, “They bindheavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders,but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. All theirworks they do for to be seen of men.—They love the uppermost rooms atfeasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, . . . . . . and to be called ofmen, Rabbi, Rabbi.—But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for ye neither go inyourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Ye devourwidows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers; therefore ye shallreceive the greater damnation. Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte,and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell thanyourselves.—Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye paytithe of mint, and anise, and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters ofthe law, judgment, mercy, and faith; these ought ye to have done, and not toleave the other undone. Ye blind guides! which strain at a gnat, and swallow acamel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean theoutside of the cup and of the platter; but within, they are full of extortionand excess.—Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye arelike unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but arewithin full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye alsooutwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy andiniquity.”

Dark and terrible as is this picture, I hold it to be strictly true of theoverwhelming mass of professed Christians in America. They strain at a gnat,and swallow a camel. Could any thing be more true of our churches? They wouldbe shocked at the proposition of fellowshipping a sheep-stealer; and atthe same time they hug to their communion a man-stealer, and brand mewith being an infidel, if I find fault with them for it. They attend withPharisaical strictness to the outward forms of religion, and at the same timeneglect the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith. They arealways ready to sacrifice, but seldom to show mercy. They are they who arerepresented as professing to love God whom they have not seen, whilst they hatetheir brother whom they have seen. They love the heathen on the other side ofthe globe. They can pray for him, pay money to have the Bible put into hishand, and missionaries to instruct him; while they despise and totally neglectthe heathen at their own doors.

Such is, very briefly, my view of the religion of this land; and to avoid anymisunderstanding, growing out of the use of general terms, I mean by thereligion of this land, that which is revealed in the words, deeds, and actions,of those bodies, north and south, calling themselves Christian churches, andyet in union with slaveholders. It is against religion, as presented by thesebodies, that I have felt it my duty to testify.

I conclude these remarks by copying the following portrait of the religion ofthe south, (which is, by communion and fellowship, the religion of the north,)which I soberly affirm is “true to the life,” and withoutcaricature or the slightest exaggeration. It is said to have been drawn,several years before the present anti-slavery agitation began, by a northernMethodist preacher, who, while residing at the south, had an opportunity to seeslaveholding morals, manners, and piety, with his own eyes. “Shall I notvisit for these things? saith the Lord. Shall not my soul be avenged on such anation as this?”


“Come, saints and sinners, hear me tell
How pious priests whip Jack and Nell,
And women buy and children sell,
And preach all sinners down to hell,
And sing of heavenly union.

“They’ll bleat and baa, dona like goats,
Gorge down black sheep, and strain at motes,
Array their backs in fine black coats,
Then seize their negroes by their throats,
And choke, for heavenly union.

“They’ll church you if you sip a dram,
And damn you if you steal a lamb;
Yet rob old Tony, Doll, and Sam,
Of human rights, and bread and ham;
Kidnapper’s heavenly union.

“They’ll loudly talk of Christ’s reward,
And bind his image with a cord,
And scold, and swing the lash abhorred,
And sell their brother in the Lord
To handcuffed heavenly union.

“They’ll read and sing a sacred song,
And make a prayer both loud and long,
And teach the right and do the wrong,
Hailing the brother, sister throng,
With words of heavenly union.

“We wonder how such saints can sing,
Or praise the Lord upon the wing,
Who roar, and scold, and whip, and sting,
And to their slaves and mammon cling,
In guilty conscience union.

“They’ll raise tobacco, corn, and rye,
And drive, and thieve, and cheat, and lie,
And lay up treasures in the sky,
By making switch and cowskin fly,
In hope of heavenly union.

“They’ll crack old Tony on the skull,
And preach and roar like Bashan bull,
Or braying ass, of mischief full,
Then seize old Jacob by the wool,
And pull for heavenly union.

“A roaring, ranting, sleek man-thief,
Who lived on mutton, veal, and beef,
Yet never would afford relief
To needy, sable sons of grief,
Was big with heavenly union.

“‘Love not the world,’ the preacher said,
And winked his eye, and shook his head;
He seized on Tom, and Dick, and Ned,
Cut short their meat, and clothes, and bread,
Yet still loved heavenly union.

“Another preacher whining spoke
Of One whose heart for sinners broke:
He tied old Nanny to an oak,
And drew the blood at every stroke,
And prayed for heavenly union.

(Video) Life of Frederick Douglass - Appendix |🎧 Audiobook with Scrolling Text 📖| Ion VideoBook

“Two others oped their iron jaws,
And waved their children-stealing paws;
There sat their children in gewgaws;
By stinting negroes’ backs and maws,
They kept up heavenly union.

“All good from Jack another takes,
And entertains their flirts and rakes,
Who dress as sleek as glossy snakes,
And cram their mouths with sweetened cakes;
And this goes down for union.”

Sincerely and earnestly hoping that this little book may do something towardthrowing light on the American slave system, and hastening the glad day ofdeliverance to the millions of my brethren in bonds—faithfully relyingupon the power of truth, love, and justice, for success in my humbleefforts—and solemnly pledging my self anew to the sacred cause,—Isubscribe myself,


LYNN, Mass., April 28, 1845.



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What is the point of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass? ›

Frederick Douglass' narrative is the story of his life as an American enslaved person. Its purpose was to educate people about the cruelty of slavery and to demonstrate that Black people are just as intelligent and capable of success as white people.

What is Douglas is most likely purpose for writing his autobiography? ›

Frederick Douglass wrote his autobiography mainly to persuade readers that slavery should be abolished. To achieve his purpose, he describes the physical realities that slaves endure and his responses to his life as a slave.

Is the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass true? ›

Frederick Douglass makes a big deal of the fact that The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is true, and so do Wendell Phillips and William Lloyd Garrison in their prefaces.

What is the message of Frederick Douglass learning to read and write? ›

In his experience, he believes that learning to read and write is his way to relieve his pain about “being a slave for life.” He quickly finds out that reading and writing are the only ways he can be free from slavery. Douglass explains that his mistress stops teaching him after her husband told her not to do so.

What are 3 important events in Douglass life? ›

September 15, 1838 - Marries Anna Murray in New York City. September 17, 1838 - Leaves New York with his wife for New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he will work as a caulker. September 18, 1838 - Arrives at New Bedford, Massachusetts. Soon after, changes name to Frederick Douglass.

What did Frederick Douglass say about slavery? ›

Douglass argued that blacks were fully rational humans, and mocked slavery's apologists for its hypocrisies and contradictions when it claimed otherwise. In his Fourth of July Address, he derides the very idea that he would even need to argue this point (1852b).

What was Frederick Douglass famous quote? ›

The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful and virtuous.” “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” “To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.”

What life lesson can we learn from Frederick Douglass? ›

Douglass narrative teaches about self-determination and courage. Despite the suffering he underwent under different slave-masters including in Covey's hand, he did not lose hope. He was determined to escape whether it meant losing his life. It is this determination that would help slaves overcome the unending slavery.

What is the message Frederick want to give to his readers? ›

This is Expert Verified Answer

The story conveys the message that courage is guided by faith. The Dakota pilot was an experienced aviator but was panicked by a black storm. Nevertheless, he sought to ensure his safety with the help of airplane guidance instruments. We should not lose hope in life.

What was the purpose of Frederick Douglass poem? ›

Hayden wrote this poem to describe the historical importance of Frederick Douglass and how one day, the world will be transformed according to the “superb love and logic” that he believed in.

How many slaves did Frederick Douglass have? ›

He and his wife provided lodging and resources in their home to more than four hundred escaped slaves. Douglass also soon split with Garrison, who he found unwilling to support actions against American slavery.

What does Sandy give Douglas literally and symbolically? ›

Sandy Jenkins offers Douglass a root from the forest with supposedly magical qualities that help protect slaves from whippings. Douglass does not seem to believe in the magical powers of the root, but he uses it to appease Sandy.

Why you should read the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass? ›

The Narrative, the first of Douglass' three autobiographies, is a vivid, readable, high-interest primary source for the detailed examination of slavery and abolition; a catalyst for discussions about reform, courage, education, violence, activism, freedom, resistance, determination, human psychology, human dignity, and ...

How did Frederick Douglass help abolish slavery? ›

Frederick Douglass worked tirelessly to make sure that emancipation would be one of the war's outcomes. He recruited African-American men to fight in the U.S. Army, including two of his own sons, who served in the famous 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.

What famous poem did Frederick Douglass take his name from? ›

Frederick Douglass chose his name from a poem.

Douglass was born with the name Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey. After he successfully escaped slavery in 1838, he and his wife adopted the name Douglass from a narrative poem by Sir Walter Scott, “The Lady of the Lake,” at the suggestion of a friend.

How did Frederick Douglass feel about Abraham Lincoln? ›

Two years into the American Civil War, Frederick Douglass was not a fan of President Abraham Lincoln. The President's unwillingness to allow Black men in the United States military frustrated Douglass.

What food did the slaves eat? ›

Weekly food rations -- usually corn meal, lard, some meat, molasses, peas, greens, and flour -- were distributed every Saturday. Vegetable patches or gardens, if permitted by the owner, supplied fresh produce to add to the rations. Morning meals were prepared and consumed at daybreak in the slaves' cabins.

What did slaves drink? ›

Palm wine and beer made from barley, guinea corn, or millet were used widely. The alcoholic content of these beverages is less than 3% (Umunna, 1967). For the most part the drinking of beer and wine was one of acceptance without moral or immoral implications. Responsible alcohol use was the rule in precolonial Africa.

What was Douglass's motto when he started from slavery? ›

“The motto which I adopted when I started from slavery was this- 'Trust no man! '”

What motto did Frederick Douglass choose for abolitionist? ›

Douglass published his own newspaper, The North Star. On the masthead, he inserted the motto “Right is of no sex—Truth is of no color—God is the Father of us all, and we are brethren,” incorporating both Douglass's anti-slavery and pro-women's rights views.

What was Frederick Douglass a symbol of? ›

Frederick Douglass: A symbol of freedom beyond America | ShareAmerica.

Why did Frederick Douglass wrote The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass? ›

He wrote his Narrative both to "prove" his identity, and to bring his eloquent indictment of slavery to a wider audience. It was probably the best-selling of all the fugitive slave narratives: 5000 copies were sold within four months of its first printing, and 6 new editions were published between 1845 and 1849.

How is the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass an example of realism? ›

Realism mainly focused on events that were relatable and reflected the hard times in which they were living in. The story of Frederick Douglass focused on the time period of slaves and the harsh treatment they received, and presented the story in a very real way. " It rekindled the few expiring embers of freedom."

Is Life of Frederick Douglass a memoir? ›

Most people know the story of Douglass's daring escape from slavery and his work with William Lloyd Garrison. What else do you wish people knew? Douglass published his most famous autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, in 1845; Garrison was his publisher.

Why should you read Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass? ›

The Narrative, the first of Douglass' three autobiographies, is a vivid, readable, high-interest primary source for the detailed examination of slavery and abolition; a catalyst for discussions about reform, courage, education, violence, activism, freedom, resistance, determination, human psychology, human dignity, and ...

What is the conflict in the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass? ›

Major Conflict Douglass struggles to free himself, mentally and physically, from slavery. rising action At the age of ten or eleven, Douglass is sent to live in Baltimore with Hugh and Sophia Auld.

Was Frederick Douglass half white? ›

His mother was an enslaved Black women and his father was white and of European descent. He was actually born Frederick Bailey (his mother's name), and took the name Douglass only after he escaped.

What are 3 things Frederick Douglass is known for? ›

Douglass was a respected orator, famous writer, abolitionist, civil rights leader and a presidential consultant – astounding considering he never received a formal education.


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