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Ship of Slaves: The Middle Passage (Discussion 1b)

Discuss at least three of the following in brief:

1. What was distinctive, or tragic, about the way African Americans were brought to America?

2. Did you learn about the Middle Passage in high school, middle school, or elementary?

3. If not, why do you think you teachers did not mention or assign a book on the subject?

4. How did this video make you feel?

5. What was said about George Washington?

6. How did African people live before the Transatlantic Slave Trade?

Quiz 1 “True Justice: Bryan Stevenson and the Fight for Equality”

Students are required to answer the questions below after viewing the documentary:

1. Who (is this about)/Major Character(s)?

2. What (is this about)/Specific Subject Matter?

3. When do the events take place?

4. Where do the events take place?

5. Why do you think these events took place?

6. Relevance to today: What does this documentary have to do with today’s society?

7. Relevance to the you: What does this documentary make you feel?  Or how can you relate it to your life?

8. Relevance to course: How does this documentary help us understand African American history and Black life in America?

9. What is the most important message in the documentary?

10.  Who would benefit the most from viewing this documentary?


Summary 1/Essay/Frederick Douglass (Chapters 1-4)

Students are required to write a three-page summary (double-spaced) on the The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, chapters 1-4.  Students must re-tell the story in their own words, highlighting the important turn of events in Douglass’s life.  For example, where was Douglass born?  Who were Douglass’s parents?  What was the nature of his relationship with his mother?  When did Douglass realize that he was a slave?  Who was Aunt Hester?  What kind of work did Douglass perform as a slave?  Students should be able to answer the above questions in their summaries, tracing Douglass’s life throughout the chapters.

Please find a copy of The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass below.  This book can be obtained free of charge via Google search.

Here is a pdf copy;

Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass aa (3)

Discussion 2: Sally Hemings (Documentary)

Students must answer at least four of the question below, after they view the documentary.  Students must always write their answers in complete sentences.

1. Who are the major characters?

2. What are the major issues?

3. When do the events take place?
4. Where do the events take place?

5. Why do the events take place?

6. How is this documentary relevant to today’s society?

7. How is this documentary relevant to you?

8. How is this documentary relevant to the class?

9. What is the most important message of the documentary?

10. What does this documentary show about the challenges of being an African American girl and woman during the era of chattel slavery in American history?

NARRATIVE

OF THE LIFE OF

FREDERICK DOUGLASS,

AN AMERICAN SLAVE

BY

FREDERICK DOUGLASS

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http://www.ibiblio.org/ebooks/

NARRATIVE

OF THE

LIFE

OF

FREDERICK DOUGLASS,

AN

AMERICAN SLAVE.

WRITTEN BY HIMSELF.

BOSTON
PUBLISHED AT THE ANTI-SLAVERY OFFICE,

NO. 25 CORNHILL

1845

Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1845,

BY FREDERICK DOUGLASS,
in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of Massachusetts.

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

Book: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Author: Frederick Douglass, 1817?–95
First published: 1845

The original book is in the public domain in the United
States and in most, if not all , other countries as well . Readers
outside the United States should check their own countries’
copyright laws to be certain they can legally download this
ebook. The Online Books Page has an FAQ which gives a
summary of copyright durations for many other countries, as
well as links to more off icial sources.

This PDF ebook was
created by José Menéndez.

http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/okbooks.html

http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/

PREFACE.

IN the month of August, 1841, I attended an anti-slavery

convention in Nantucket, at which it was my happiness to
become acquainted with FREDERICK DOUGLASS, the writer of
the following Narrative. He was a stranger to nearly every
member of that body; but, having recently made his escape from
the southern prison-house of bondage, and feeling his curiosity
excited to ascertain the principles and measures of the
aboliti onists,—of whom he had heard a somewhat vague
description while he was a slave,—he was induced to give his
attendance, on the occasion alluded to, though at that time a
resident in New Bedford.

Fortunate, most fortunate occurrence!—fortunate for the
milli ons of his manacled brethren, yet panting for deliverance
from their awful thraldom!—fortunate for the cause of negro
emancipation, and of universal li berty!—fortunate for the land
of his birth, which he has already done so much to save and
bless!—fortunate for a large circle of friends and acquaintances,
whose sympathy and affection he has strongly secured by the
many sufferings he has endured, by his virtuous traits of
character, by his ever-abiding remembrance of those who are in
bonds, as being bound with them!—fortunate for the multitudes,
in various parts of our republic, whose minds he has enlightened
on the subject of slavery, and who have been melted to tears by
his pathos, or roused to virtuous indignation by his stirring
eloquence against the enslavers of men!—fortunate for himself,
as it at once brought him into the field of public usefulness,

PREFACE vi

“gave the world assurance of a MAN,” quickened the slumbering
energies of his soul, and consecrated him to the great work of
breaking the rod of the oppressor, and letting the oppressed go
free!

I shall never forget his first speech at the convention—the
extraordinary emotion it excited in my own mind—the powerful
impression it created upon a crowded auditory, completely
taken by surprise—the applause which followed from the
beginning to the end of his felicitous remarks. I think I never
hated slavery so intensely as at that moment; certainly, my
perception of the enormous outrage which is inflicted by it, on
the godlike nature of its victims, was rendered far more clear
than ever. There stood one, in physical proportion and stature
commanding and exact—in intellect richly endowed—in natural
eloquence a prodigy—in soul manifestly “ created but a littl e
lower than the angels”—yet a slave, ay, a fugitive slave,—
trembling for his safety, hardly daring to believe that on the
American soil , a single white person could be found who would
befriend him at all hazards, for the love of God and humanity!
Capable of high attainments as an intellectual and moral
being—needing nothing but a comparatively small amount of
cultivation to make him an ornament to society and a blessing to
his race—by the law of the land, by the voice of the people, by
the terms of the slave code, he was only a piece of property, a
beast of burden, a chattel personal, nevertheless!

A beloved friend from New Bedford prevailed on Mr.
DOUGLASS to address the convention. He came forward to the
platform with a hesitancy and embarrassment, necessarily the
attendants of a sensitive mind in such a novel position. After
apologizing for his ignorance, and reminding the audience that
slavery was a poor school for the human intellect and heart, he
proceeded to narrate some of the facts in his own history as a
slave, and in the course of his speech gave utterance to many

PREFACE vii

noble thoughts and thrilli ng reflections. As soon as he had taken
his seat, fill ed with hope and admiration, I rose, and declared
that PATRICK HENRY, of revolutionary fame, never made a
speech more eloquent in the cause of liberty, than the one we
had just listened to from the lips of that hunted fugitive. So I
believed at that time—such is my belief now. I reminded the
audience of the peril which surrounded this self-emancipated
young man at the North,—even in Massachusetts, on the soil of
the Pilgrim Fathers, among the descendants of revolutionary
sires; and I appealed to them, whether they would ever allow
him to be carried back into slavery,—law or no law,
constitution or no constitution. The response was unanimous
and in thunder-tones—“NO!” “Will you succor and protect him
as a brother-man—a resident of the old Bay State?” “YES!”
shouted the whole mass, with an energy so startling, that the
ruthless tyrants south of Mason and Dixon’s line might almost
have heard the mighty burst of feeling, and recognized it as the
pledge of an invincible determination, on the part of those who
gave it, never to betray him that wanders, but to hide the
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
talents to the promotion of the anti-slavery enterprise, a
powerful impetus would be given to it, and a stunning blow at
the same time infli cted on northern prejudice against a colored
complexion. I therefore endeavored to instil hope and courage
into his mind, in order that he might dare to engage in a
vocation so anomalous and responsible for a person in his
situation; and I was seconded in this effort by warm-hearted
friends, especially by the late General Agent of the
Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, Mr. JOHN A. COLLINS,
whose judgment in this instance entirely coincided with my
own. At first, he could give no encouragement; with unfeigned

PREFACE viii

diff idence, he expressed his conviction that he was not adequate
to the performance of so great a task; the path marked out was
wholly an untrodden one; he was sincerely apprehensive 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 acted as a lecturing agent, under the auspices
either of the American or the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery
Society. In labors he has been most abundant; and his success in
combating prejudice, in gaining proselytes, in agitating the
public mind, has far surpassed the most sanguine expectations
that were raised at the commencement of his brill iant career. He
has borne himself with gentleness and meekness, yet with true
manliness of character. As a public speaker, he excels in pathos,
wit, comparison, imitation, strength of reasoning, and fluency of
language. There is in him that union of head and heart, which is
indispensable to an enlightenment of the heads and a winning of
the hearts of others. May his strength continue to be equal to his
day! May he continue to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge
of God,” that he may be increasingly serviceable in the cause of
bleeding humanity, whether at home or abroad!

It is certainly a very remarkable fact, that one of the most
eff icient advocates of the slave population, now before the
public, is a fugitive slave, in the person of FREDERICK

DOUGLASS; and that the free colored population of the United
States are as ably represented by one of their own number, in
the person of CHARLES LENOX REMOND, whose eloquent
appeals have extorted the highest applause of multitudes on
both sides of the Atlantic. Let the calumniators of the colored
race despise themselves for their baseness and illi berali ty of
spirit, and henceforth cease to talk of the natural inferiority of
those who require nothing but time and opportunity to attain to
the highest point of human excellence.

PREFACE ix

It may, perhaps, be fairly questioned, whether any other
portion of the population of the earth could have endured the
privations, sufferings and horrors of slavery, without having
become more degraded in the scale of humanity than the slaves
of African descent. Nothing has been left undone to cripple their
intellects, darken their minds, debase their moral nature,
obliterate all traces of their relationship to mankind; and yet
how wonderfully they have sustained the mighty load of a most
frightful bondage, under which they have been groaning for
centuries! To ill ustrate the effect of slavery on the white man,—
to show that he has no powers of endurance, in such a
condition, superior to those of his black brother,—DANIEL

O’CONNELL , the distinguished advocate of universal
emancipation, and the mightiest champion of prostrate but not
conquered Ireland, relates the following anecdote in a speech
delivered by him in the Concili ation Hall , Dublin, before the
Loyal National Repeal Association, March 31, 1845. “No
matter,” said Mr. O’CONNELL, “under what specious term it
may disguise itself, slavery is still hideous. It has a natural, an
inevitable tendency to brutalize every noble faculty of man. An
American sailor, who was cast away on the shore of Africa,
where he was kept in slavery for three years, was, at the
expiration of that period, found to be imbruted and stulti fied—
he had lost all reasoning power; and having forgotten his native
language, could only utter some savage gibberish between
Arabic and English, which nobody could understand, and which
even he himself found diff iculty in pronouncing. So much for
the humanizing influence of THE DOMESTIC INSTITUTION!”
Admitting this to have been an extraordinary case of mental
deterioration, it proves at least that the white slave can sink as
low in the scale of humanity as the black one.

Mr. DOUGLASS has very properly chosen to write his own
Narrative, in his own style, and according to the best of his

PREFACE x

abili ty, rather than to employ some one else. It is, therefore,
entirely his own production; and, considering how long and
dark was the career he had to run as a slave,—how few have
been his opportunities to improve his mind since he broke his
iron fetters,—it is, in my judgment, highly creditable to his head
and heart. He who can peruse it without a tearful eye, a heaving
breast, an affli cted spirit,—without being filled with an
unutterable abhorrence of slavery and all it s abettors, and
animated with a determination to seek the immediate overthrow
of that execrable system,—without trembling for the fate of this
country in the hands of a righteous God, who is ever on the side
of the oppressed, and whose arm is not shortened that it cannot
save,—must have a flinty heart, and be quali fied to act the part
of a traff icker “ in slaves and the souls of men.” I am confident
that it is essentially true in all it s statements; that nothing has
been set down in malice, nothing exaggerated, nothing drawn
from the imagination; that it comes short of the reali ty, rather
than overstates a single fact in regard to SLAVERY AS IT IS. The
experience of FREDERICK DOUGLASS, as a slave, was not a
peculiar one; his lot was not especially a hard one; his case may
be regarded as a very fair specimen of the treatment of slaves in
Maryland, in which State it is conceded that they are better fed
and less cruelly treated than in Georgia, Alabama, or Louisiana.
Many have suffered incomparably more, while very few on the
plantations have suffered less, than himself. Yet how deplorable
was his situation! what terrible chastisements were infli cted
upon his person! what still more shocking outrages were
perpetrated upon his mind! with all his noble powers and
sublime aspirations, how like a brute was he treated, even by
those professing to have the same mind in them that was in
Christ Jesus! to what dreadful li abiliti es was he continually
subjected! how destitute of friendly counsel and aid, even in his
greatest extremities! how heavy was the midnight of woe which

PREFACE xi

shrouded in 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 misery augmented, in
proportion as he grew reflective and intelli gent,—thus
demonstrating 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 perils he encountered in his
endeavors to escape from his horrible doom! and how signal
have been his deliverance and preservation in the midst of a
nation of pitil ess enemies!

This Narrative contains many affecting incidents, many
passages of great eloquence and power; but I think the most
thrilli ng one of them all is the description DOUGLASS gives of
his feelings, as he stood solil oquizing respecting his fate, and
the chances of his one day being a freeman, on the banks of the
Chesapeake Bay—viewing the receding vessels as they flew
with their white wings before the breeze, and apostrophizing
them as animated by the living spirit of freedom. Who can read
that passage, and be insensible to its pathos and sublimity?
Compressed into it is a whole Alexandrian library of thought,
feeling, and sentiment—all that can, all that need be urged, in
the form of expostulation, entreaty, rebuke, against that crime of
crimes,—making man the property of his fellow-man! O, how
accursed is that 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 with four-footed
beasts, and exalts the dealer in human flesh above all that is
called 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 absence of all fear of God, all regard for
man, on the part of the people of the United States? Heaven
speed its eternal overthrow!

PREFACE xii

So profoundly ignorant of the nature of slavery are many
persons, that they are stubbornly incredulous whenever they
read or li sten to any recital of the cruelties which are daily
infli cted on its victims. They do not deny that the slaves are
held as property; but that terrible fact seems to convey to their
minds no idea of injustice, exposure to outrage, or savage
barbarity. Tell them of cruel scourgings, of mutilations and
brandings, of scenes of pollution and blood, of the banishment
of all li ght and knowledge, and they affect to be greatly
indignant at such enormous exaggerations, such wholesale
misstatements, such abominable libels on the character of the
southern planters! As if all these direful outrages were not the
natural results of slavery! As if it were less cruel to reduce a
human being to the condition of a thing, than to give him a
severe flagellation, or to deprive him of necessary food and
clothing! As if whips, chains, thumb-screws, paddles,
bloodhounds, overseers, drivers, patrols, were not all
indispensable to keep the slaves down, and to give protection to
their ruthless oppressors! As if, when the marriage institution is
abolished, concubinage, adultery, and incest, must not
necessarily abound; when all the rights of humanity are
annihilated, any barrier remains to protect the victim from the
fury of the spoiler; when absolute power is assumed over li fe
and liberty, it will not be wielded with destructive sway!
Skeptics of this character abound in society. In some few
instances, their increduli ty arises from a want of reflection; but,
generally, it indicates a hatred of the light, a desire to shield
slavery from the assaults of its foes, a contempt of the colored
race, whether bond or free. Such will t ry to discredit the
shocking tales of slaveholding cruelty which are recorded in this
truthful Narrative; but they will l abor in vain. Mr. DOUGLASS
has frankly disclosed the place of his birth, the names of those
who claimed ownership in his body and soul, and the names

PREFACE xiii

also of those who committed the crimes which he has alleged
against them. His statements, therefore, may easily be
disproved, if they are untrue.

In the course of his Narrative, he relates two instances of
murderous cruelty,—in one of which a planter deliberately shot
a slave belonging to a neighboring plantation, who had
unintentionally gotten within his lordly domain in quest of f ish;
and in the other, an overseer blew out the brains of a slave 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 by way of legal arrest or judicial investigation. The
Baltimore American, of March 17, 1845, relates a similar case
of atrocity, perpetrated with similar impunity—as follows:—
“Shooting a slave.—We learn, upon the authority of a letter
from Charles county, Maryland, received by a gentleman of this
city, that a young man, named Matthews, a nephew of General
Matthews, and whose father, it is believed, holds an off ice at
Washington, kill ed one of the slaves upon his father’s farm by
shooting him. 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 to the house,
obtained a gun, and, returning, shot the servant. He
immediately, the letter continues, fled to his father’s residence,
where he still remains unmolested.”—Let it never be forgotten,
that no slaveholder or overseer can be convicted of any outrage
perpetrated on the person of a slave, however diabolical it may
be, on the testimony of colored witnesses, whether bond or free.
By the slave code, they are adjudged to be as incompetent to
testify against a white man, as though they were indeed a part of
the brute creation. Hence, there is no legal protection in fact,
whatever there may be in form, for the slave population; and
any amount of cruelty may be infli cted on them with impunity.

PREFACE xiv

Is it possible for the human mind to conceive of a more horrible
state of society?

The effect of a religious profession on the conduct of
southern masters is vividly described in the following Narrative,
and shown to be any thing but salutary. In the nature of the case,
it must be in the highest degree pernicious. The testimony of
Mr. DOUGLASS, on this point, is sustained by a cloud of
witnesses, whose veracity is unimpeachable. “A slaveholder’s
profession of Christianity is a palpable imposture. He is a felon
of the highest grade. He is a man-stealer. It is of no importance
what you put in the other scale.”

Reader! are you with the man-stealers in sympathy and
purpose, or on the side of their down-trodden victims? If with
the former, then are you the foe of God and man. If with the
latter, what are you prepared to do and dare in their behalf? Be
faithful, be vigilant, be untiring in your efforts to break every
yoke, and let the oppressed go free. Come what may—cost what
it may—inscribe on the banner which you unfurl to the breeze,
as your religious and politi cal motto—“NO COMPROMISE WITH

SLAVERY! NO UNION WITH SLAVEHOLDERS!”

WM. LLOYD GARRISON.

BOSTON, May 1, 1845.

LETTER

FROM WENDELL PHILLIPS, ESQ.

BOSTON, April 22, 1845.

My Dear Friend:
You remember the old fable of “The Man and

the Lion,” where the lion complained that he should not be so
misrepresented “when the lions wrote history.”

I am glad the time has come when the “ lions write history.”
We have been left long enough to gather the character of
slavery from the involuntary evidence of the masters. One
might, indeed, rest suff iciently satisfied with what, 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 the lashes on the slave’s back, are
seldom the “stuff ” out of which reformers and aboliti onists are
to be made. I remember that, in 1838, many were waiting for
the results of the West India experiment, before they could
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 be disposed to judge of emancipation by other tests
than whether it has increased the produce of sugar,—and to hate
slavery for other reasons than because it starves men and whips
women,—before he is ready to lay the first stone of his anti-
slavery li fe.

LETTER FROM WENDELL PHILLIPS, ESQ. xvi

I was glad to learn, in your story, how early the most
neglected of God’s children 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, or knew where the
“white sails” of the Chesapeake were bound, you began, I see,
to gauge the wretchedness of the slave, not by his hunger and
want, not by his lashes and toil , but by the cruel and blighting
death which gathers over his soul.

In connection with this, there is one circumstance which
makes your recollections peculiarly valuable, and renders your
early insight the more remarkable. You come from that part of
the country where we are told slavery appears with its fairest
features. Let us hear, then, what it is at its best estate—gaze on
its bright side, if it has one; and then imagination may task her
powers to add dark lines to the picture, as she travels southward
to that (for the colored man) Valley of the Shadow of Death,
where the Mississippi sweeps along.

Again, we have known you long, and can put the most
entire confidence in your truth, 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 you give
them a fair specimen of the whole truth. No one-sided
portrait,—no wholesale complaints,—but strict justice done,
whenever individual kindliness has neutralized, for a moment,
the deadly system with which it was strangely allied. You have
been with us, too, some years, and can fairly compare the
twili ght of rights, which your race enjoy at the North, with that
“noon of night” under which they labor south of Mason and
Dixon’s line. Tell us whether, after all , the half-f ree colored
man of Massachusetts is worse off than the pampered slave of
the rice swamps!

In reading your li fe, no one can say that we have unfairly
picked out some rare specimens of cruelty. We know that the

LETTER FROM WENDELL PHILLIPS, ESQ. xvii

bitter drops, which even you have drained from the cup, are no
incidental aggravations, no individual ill s, but such as must
mingle always and necessarily in the lot of every slave. They
are the essential ingredients, not the occasional results, of the
system.

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

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

LETTER FROM WENDELL PHILLIPS, ESQ. xviii

Yet it is sad to think, that these very throbbing hearts which
welcome your story, and form your best safeguard in telling it,
are all beating contrary to the “statute in such case made and
provided.” Go on, my dear friend, till you, and those who, li ke
you, have been saved, so as by fire, from the dark prison-house,
shall stereotype these free, ill egal pulses into statutes; and New
England, cutting loose from a blood-stained Union, shall glory
in being the house of refuge for the oppressed;—till we no
longer merely “hide the outcast,” or make a merit of standing
idly by while he is hunted in our midst; but, consecrating anew
the soil of the Pilgrims as an asylum for the oppressed, proclaim
our welcome to the slave so loudly, that the tones shall reach
every hut in the Carolinas, and make the broken-hearted
bondman leap up at the thought of old Massachusetts.

God speed the day!

Till t hen, and ever,

Yours truly,

WENDELL PHILLIPS.

FREDERICK DOUGLASS.

NARRATIVE

OF THE

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS.

CHAPTER I.

I WAS born in Tuckahoe, near Hill sborough, and about

twelve miles from Easton, in Talbot county, Maryland. I have
no accurate knowledge of my age, never having seen any
authentic record containing it. By far the larger part of the
slaves know as littl e of their ages as horses know of theirs, and
it is the wish of most masters within my knowledge to keep
their slaves thus ignorant. I do not remember to have ever met a
slave who could tell of his birthday. They seldom 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
source of unhappiness to me even during childhood. The white
children could tell their ages. I could not tell why I ought to be
deprived of the same privilege. I was not allowed to make any
inquiries of my master concerning it. He deemed all such
inquiries on the part of a slave improper and impertinent, and
evidence of a restless spirit. The nearest estimate I can give
makes me now between twenty-seven and twenty-eight years of
age. I come to this, from hearing my master say, some time
during 1835, I was about seventeen years old.

My mother was named Harriet Bailey. She was the
daughter of Isaac and Betsey Bailey, both colored, and quite

NARRATIVE OF THE 2

dark. My mother was of a darker complexion than either my
grandmother or grandfather.

My father was a white man. He was admitted to be such by
all I ever heard speak of 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 knowing was
withheld from me. My mother and I were separated when I was
but an infant—before I knew her as my mother. It is a common
custom, in the part of Maryland from which I ran away, to part
children from their mothers at a very early age. Frequently,
before the child has reached its twelfth month, its mother is
taken from it, and hired out on some farm a considerable
distance off, and the child is placed under the care of an old
woman, too old for field labor. For what this separation is done,
I do not know, unless it be to hinder the development of the
child’s affection toward its mother, and to blunt and destroy the
natural affection of the mother for the child. This is the
inevitable result.

I never saw my mother, to know her as such, more than
four or five times in my li fe; and each of these times was very
short in duration, and at night. She was hired by a Mr. Stewart,
who lived about twelve miles from my home. She made her
journeys to see me in the night, travelli ng the whole distance on
foot, after the performance of her day’s work. She was a field
hand, and a whipping is the penalty of not being in the field at
sunrise, unless a slave has special permission from his or her
master to the contrary—a permission which they seldom get,
and one that gives to him that gives it the proud name of being a
kind 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 littl e communication ever took place between us.
Death soon ended what little we could have while she lived, and

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 3

with 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 to be present during her ill ness, at her death, or
burial. She was gone long before I knew any thing about it.
Never having enjoyed, to any considerable extent, her soothing
presence, her tender and watchful care, I received the tidings of
her death with much the same emotions I should have probably
felt at the death of a stranger.

Called thus suddenly away, she left me without the slightest
intimation of who my father was. The whisper that my master
was my father, may or may not be true; and, true or false, it is of
but littl e consequence to my purpose whilst the fact remains, in
all it s glaring odiousness, that slaveholders have ordained, and
by law established, that the children of slave women shall i n all
cases follow the condition of their mothers; and this is done too
obviously to administer to their own lusts, and make a
gratification of their wicked desires profitable as well as
pleasurable; for by this cunning arrangement, the slaveholder, in
cases not a few, sustains to his slaves the double relation of
master and father.

I know of such cases; and it is worthy of remark that such
slaves invariably suffer 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 disposed to find fault with
them; they can seldom do any thing to please her; she is never
better pleased than when she sees them under the lash,
especially when she suspects her husband of showing to his
mulatto children favors which he withholds from his black
slaves. The master is frequently compelled to sell this 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 own children to human flesh-mongers, it is often the dictate
of humanity for him to do so; for, unless he does this, he must

NARRATIVE OF THE 4

not only whip them himself, but must stand by and see one
white son tie up his brother, of but few shades darker
complexion than himself, and ply the gory lash to his naked
back; and if he lisp one word of disapproval, it is set down to
his parental partiali ty, and only makes a bad matter worse, both
for himself and the slave whom he would protect and defend.

Every year brings with it multitudes of this class of slaves.
It was doubtless in consequence of a knowledge of this fact, that
one great statesman of the south predicted the downfall of
slavery by the inevitable laws of population. Whether this
prophecy is ever fulfill ed or not, it is nevertheless plain that a
very different-looking class of people are springing up at the
south, and are now 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 the argument, that God
cursed Ham, and therefore American slavery is right. If the
lineal descendants of Ham are alone to be scripturally enslaved,
it is certain that slavery at the south must soon become
unscriptural; for thousands are ushered into the world, annually,
who, li ke myself, owe their existence to white fathers, and those
fathers most frequently their own masters.

I have had two masters. My first master’s name was
Anthony. I do not remember his first name. He was generally
called Captain Anthony—a title which, I presume, he acquired
by saili ng a craft on the Chesapeake Bay. He was not
considered a rich slaveholder. He owned two or three farms,
and about thirty slaves. His farms and slaves were under the
care of an overseer. The overseer’s name was Plummer. Mr.
Plummer was a miserable drunkard, a profane swearer, and a
savage monster. He always went armed with a cowskin and a
heavy cudgel. I have known him to cut and slash the women’s
heads so horribly, that even master would be enraged at his
cruelty, and would threaten to whip him if he did not mind

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 5

himself. Master, however, was not a humane slaveholder. It
required extraordinary barbarity on the part of an overseer to
affect him. He was a cruel man, hardened by a long li fe of
slaveholding. He would at times seem to take great pleasure in
whipping a slave. I have often been awakened at the dawn of
day by the most heart-rending shrieks of an own aunt of mine,
whom he used to tie up to a joist, and whip upon her naked back
till she was literally covered with blood. No words, no tears, no
prayers, from his gory victim, seemed to move his iron heart
from its bloody purpose. The louder 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
to make her hush; and not until overcome by fatigue, would he
cease to swing the blood-clotted cowskin. I remember the first
time I ever witnessed this horrible exhibition. I was quite a
child, but I well remember it. I never shall forget it whilst I
remember any thing. It was the first of a long series of such
outrages, of which I was doomed to be a witness and a
participant. It struck me with awful force. It was the blood-
stained gate, the entrance to the hell of slavery, through which I
was about to pass. It was a most terrible spectacle. I wish I
could commit to paper the feelings with which I beheld it.

This occurrence took place very soon after I went to li ve
with my old master, and under the following circumstances.
Aunt Hester went out one night,—where or for what I do not
know,—and happened to be absent when 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 young man, who was paying attention to her belonging to
Colonel Lloyd. The young man’s name was Ned Roberts,
generally called Lloyd’s Ned. Why master was so careful of
her, may be safely left to conjecture. She was a woman of noble
form, and of graceful proportions, having very few equals, and

NARRATIVE OF THE 6

fewer superiors, in personal appearance, among the colored or
white women of our neighborhood.

Aunt Hester had not only disobeyed his orders in going out,
but had been found in company with Lloyd’s Ned; which
circumstance, I found, from what he said while whipping her,
was the chief offence. Had he been a man of pure morals
himself, he might have been thought interested in protecting the
innocence of my aunt; but those who knew him will not suspect
him of any such virtue. 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, calli ng her at the same time
a d——d b——h. After crossing her hands, he tied them with a
strong rope, and led her to a stool under a large hook in the
joist, put in for the purpose. He made her get upon the stool, and
tied her hands to the hook. She now stood fair for his infernal
purpose. Her arms were stretched up at their full l ength, so that
she stood upon the ends of her toes. He then said to her, “Now,
you d——d b——h, I’ ll l earn you how to disobey my orders!”
and after rolli ng up his sleeves, he commenced to lay on the
heavy cowskin, and soon the warm, red blood (amid heart-
rending shrieks from her, and horrid oaths from him) came
dripping to the floor. I was so terrified and horror-stricken at the
sight, that I hid myself in a closet, and dared not venture out til l
long after the bloody transaction was over. I expected it would
be my turn next. It was all new to me. I had never seen any
thing like it before. I had always lived with my grandmother on
the outskirts of the plantation, where she was put to raise the
children of the younger women. I had therefore been, until now,
out of the way of the bloody scenes that often occurred on the
plantation.

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 7

CHAPTER II.

MY master’s family consisted of two sons, Andrew and

Richard; one daughter, Lucretia, and her husband, Captain
Thomas Auld. They lived in one house, upon the home
plantation of Colonel Edward Lloyd. My master was Colonel
Lloyd’s clerk and superintendent. He was what might be called
the overseer of the overseers. I spent two years of childhood on
this plantation in my old master’s family. It was here that I
witnessed the bloody transaction recorded in the first chapter;
and as I received my first impressions 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 north of
Easton, in Talbot county, and is situated on the border of Miles
River. The principal products raised upon it were tobacco, corn,
and wheat. These were raised in great abundance; so that, with
the products of this and the other farms belonging to him, he
was able to keep in almost constant employment a large sloop,
in carrying them to market at Baltimore. This sloop was named
Sally Lloyd, in honor of one of the colonel’s daughters. My
master’s son-in-law, Captain Auld, was master of the vessel;
she was otherwise manned by the colonel’s own slaves. Their
names were Peter, Isaac, Rich, and Jake. These were esteemed
very highly by the other slaves, and looked upon as the
privileged ones of the plantation; for it was no small affair, 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. The names of the farms
nearest to the home plantation were Wye Town and New

NARRATIVE OF THE 8

Design. “Wye Town” was under the overseership of a man
named Noah Willi s. New Design was under the overseership of
a Mr. Townsend. The overseers of these, and all the rest of the
farms, numbering over twenty, received advice and direction
from the managers of the home plantation. This was the great
business place. It was the seat of government for the whole
twenty farms. All disputes among the overseers were settled
here. If a slave was convicted of any high 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 allowance of food, and their yearly clothing. The men
and women slaves received, as their monthly allowance of food,
eight pounds of pork, or its equivalent in fish, and one bushel of
corn meal. Their yearly clothing consisted of two coarse linen
shirts, one pair of linen trousers, li ke the shirts, one jacket, one
pair of trousers for winter, made of coarse negro cloth, one pair
of stockings, and one pair 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 old women
having the care of them. The children unable to work in the
field had neither shoes, stockings, jackets, nor trousers, given to
them; their clothing consisted of two coarse linen shirts per
year. When these failed them, they went 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.

There were no beds given the slaves, unless one coarse
blanket be considered such, and none but the men and women
had these. This, however, is not considered a very great
privation. They find less diff iculty from the want of beds, than

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 9

from the want of time to sleep; for when their day’s work in the
field is done, the most of them having their washing, mending,
and cooking to do, and having few or none of the ordinary
faciliti es for doing either of these, very many of their sleeping
hours are consumed in preparing for the field 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
miserable blankets; and here they sleep till t hey are summoned
to the field by the driver’s horn. At the sound of this, all must
rise, and be off to the field. There must be no halting; every one
must be at his or her post; and woe betides them who hear not
this morning summons to the field; for if they are not awakened
by the sense of hearing, they are by the sense of feeling: no age
nor sex finds any favor. Mr. Severe, the overseer, used to stand
by the door of the quarter, armed with a large hickory stick and
heavy cowskin, ready to whip any one who was so unfortunate
as not to hear, or, from any other cause, was prevented 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 midst of her crying children,
pleading for their mother’s release. He seemed to take pleasure
in manifesting his fiendish barbarity. Added to his cruelty, he
was a profane swearer. It was enough to chill the blood and
stiffen the hair of an ordinary man to hear him talk. Scarce a
sentence escaped him but that was commenced or concluded by
some horrid oath. The field was the place to witness his cruelty
and profanity. His presence made it both the field of blood and
of blasphemy. From the rising till t he going down of the sun, he
was cursing, raving, cutting, and slashing among the slaves of
the field, in the most frightful manner. His career was short. He
died very soon after I went to Colonel Lloyd’s; and he died as

NARRATIVE OF THE 10

he lived, uttering, with his dying groans, bitter curses and horrid
oaths. His death was regarded by the slaves as the result of a
merciful providence.

Mr. Severe’s place was fill ed by a Mr. Hopkins. He was a
very different man. He was less cruel, less profane, and made
less noise, than Mr. Severe. His course was characterized by no
extraordinary demonstrations of cruelty. He whipped, but
seemed to take no pleasure in it. He was called by the slaves a
good overseer.

The home plantation of Colonel Lloyd wore the appearance
of a country vill age. All the mechanical operations for all the
farms were performed here. The shoemaking 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 neighboring farms. It
was called by the slaves the Great House Farm. Few privileges
were esteemed higher, by the slaves of the out-farms, than that
of being selected to do errands at the Great House Farm. It was
associated in their minds with greatness. A representative could
not be prouder of his election to a seat in the American
Congress, than a slave on one of the out-farms would be of his
election to do errands at the Great House Farm. They regarded
it as evidence of great confidence reposed in them by their
overseers; and it was on this account, as well as a constant
desire to be out of the field from under the driver’s lash, that
they esteemed it a high privilege, one worth careful li ving for.
He was called the smartest and most trusty fellow, who had this
honor conferred upon him the most frequently. The competitors
for this off ice sought as dili gently to please their overseers, as
the off ice-seekers in the politi cal parties seek to please and
deceive the people. The same traits of character might be seen

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 11

in Colonel Lloyd’s slaves, as are seen in the slaves of the
politi cal parties.

The slaves selected to go to the Great House Farm, for the
monthly allowance for themselves and their fellow-slaves, were
peculiarly enthusiastic. While on their way, they would make
the dense old woods, for miles around, reverberate with their
wild songs, revealing at once the highest joy and the deepest
sadness. They would compose and sing as they went along,
consulting neither time nor tune. The thought that came up,
came out—if not in the word, in the sound;—and as frequently
in the one as in the other. They would sometimes sing the most
pathetic sentiment in the most rapturous tone, and the most
rapturous sentiment in the most pathetic tone. Into all of their
songs they would manage to weave something of the Great
House Farm. Especially would they do this, when leaving
home. They would then sing most exultingly the following
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 unmeaning jargon, but which, nevertheless, were
full of meaning to themselves. I have sometimes thought that
the mere hearing of those songs would do more to impress some
minds with the horrible character of slavery, than the reading of
whole volumes of philosophy on the subject could do.

I did not, when a slave, understand the deep meaning of
those rude and apparently incoherent songs. I was myself within
the circle; so that I neither saw nor heard as those without might
see and hear. They told a tale of woe which was then altogether
beyond my feeble comprehension; they were tones loud, long,
and deep; they breathed the prayer and complaint of souls

NARRATIVE OF THE 12

boili ng over with the bitterest anguish. Every tone was a
testimony against slavery, and a prayer to God for deliverance
from chains. The hearing of those wild notes always depressed
my spirit, and fill ed me with ineffable sadness. I have
frequently found myself in tears while hearing them. The mere
recurrence to those songs, even now, aff li cts me; and while I am
writing these lines, an expression of feeling has already found
its way down my cheek. To those songs I trace my first
glimmering conception of the dehumanizing character of
slavery. I can never get rid of that conception. Those songs still
follow me, to deepen my hatred of slavery, and quicken my
sympathies for my brethren in bonds. If any one wishes to be
impressed with the soul-killi ng effects of slavery, let him go to
Colonel Lloyd’s plantation, and, on allowance-day, place
himself in the deep pine woods, and there let him, in silence,
analyze the sounds that shall pass through the chambers of his
soul,—and if he is not thus impressed, it will only be because
“ there is no flesh in his obdurate heart.”

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

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 13

CHAPTER III.

COLONEL LLOYD kept a large and finely cultivated garden,

which afforded almost constant employment for four men,
besides the chief gardener, (Mr. M’Durmond.) This garden was
probably the greatest attraction of the place. During the summer
months, people came from far and near—from Baltimore,
Easton, and Annapolis—to see it. It abounded in fruits of almost
every description, from the hardy apple of the north to the
delicate orange of the south. This garden was not the least
source of trouble on the plantation. Its excellent fruit was quite
a temptation to the hungry swarms of boys, as well as the older
slaves, belonging to the colonel, few of whom had the 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 to resort to all kinds of stratagems to keep his slaves
out of the garden. The last and most successful one was that of
tarring his fence all around; after which, if a slave was caught
with any tar upon his person, it was deemed sufficient proof that
he had either been into the garden, or had tried to get in. In
either case, he was severely whipped by the chief gardener. This
plan worked well; the slaves became as fearful of tar as of the
lash. They seemed to realize the impossibili ty of touching tar
without being defiled.

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

NARRATIVE OF THE 14

This establishment was under the care of two slaves—old
Barney and young Barney—father and son. To attend to this
establishment was their sole work. But it was by no means an
easy employment; for in nothing was Colonel Lloyd more
particular than in the management of his horses. The slightest
inattention to these was unpardonable, and was visited upon
those, under whose care they were placed, with the severest
punishment; no excuse could shield them, if the colonel only
suspected any want of attention to his horses—a supposition
which he frequently indulged, and one which, of course, made
the off ice of old and young Barney a very trying one. They
never knew when they were safe from punishment. They were
frequently whipped when least deserving, and escaped
whipping when most deserving it. Every thing depended upon
the looks of the horses, and the state of Colonel Lloyd’s own
mind when his horses were brought to him for use. If a horse
did not move fast enough, or hold his head high enough, it was
owing to some fault of his keepers. It was painful to stand near
the stable-door, and hear the various complaints against the
keepers when a horse was taken out for use. “This horse has not
had proper attention. He has not been suff iciently rubbed and
curried, or he has not been properly fed; his food was too wet or
too dry; he got it too soon or too late; he was too hot or too
cold; he had too much hay, and not enough of grain; or he had
too much grain, and not enough of hay; instead of old Barney’s
attending to the horse, he had very improperly left it to his son.”
To all these complaints, no matter how unjust, the slave must
answer never a word. Colonel Lloyd could not brook any
contradiction from a slave. When he spoke, a slave must stand,
li sten, and tremble; and such was literally the case. I have seen
Colonel Lloyd make old Barney, a man between fifty and sixty
years of age, uncover his bald head, kneel down upon the cold,
damp ground, and receive upon his naked and toil -worn

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 15

shoulders more than thirty 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 of
whipping the servants when they pleased, from old Barney
down to Willi am Wilkes, the coach-driver. I have seen Winder
make one of the house-servants stand off fr om 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 the riches of Job. He kept from ten to fifteen
house-servants. He was said to own a thousand slaves, and I
think this estimate quite within the truth. Colonel Lloyd owned
so many that he did not know them when he saw them; nor did
all the slaves of the out-farms know him. It is reported of him,
that, while riding along the road one day, he met a colored man,
and addressed him in the usual manner 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 too hard?” “Yes, sir.”
“Well , don’ t he give you enough to eat?” “Yes, sir, he gives me
enough, such as it is.”

The colonel, after ascertaining where the slave belonged,
rode on; the man also went on about his business, not dreaming
that he had been conversing with his master. He thought, said,
and heard nothing more of the matter, until two or three 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 Georgia trader. He was immediately chained and
handcuffed; and thus, without a moment’s warning, he was
snatched away, and forever sundered, from his family and
friends, by a hand more unrelenting than death. This is the

NARRATIVE OF THE 16

penalty of telli ng the truth, of telli ng the simple truth, in answer
to a series of plain questions.

It is partly in consequence of such facts, that slaves, when
inquired of as to their condition and the character of their
masters, almost universally say they are contented, and that
their masters are kind. The slaveholders have been known to
send in spies among their slaves, to ascertain their views and
feelings in regard to their condition. The frequency of this has
had the effect to establish among the slaves the maxim, that a
still t ongue makes a wise head. They suppress the truth rather
than take the consequences of telli ng it, and in so doing prove
themselves a part of the human family. If they have any thing to
say of their masters, it is generally in their masters’ favor,
especially when speaking to an untried man. I have been
frequently asked, when a slave, if I 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 was
absolutely false; for I always measured the kindness of my
master by the standard of kindness set up among slaveholders
around us. Moreover, slaves are like other people, and imbibe
prejudices quite common to others. They think their own better
than that of others. Many, under the influence of this prejudice,
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 not uncommon for slaves even to fall out and
quarrel among themselves about the relative goodness of their
masters, each contending for the superior goodness of his own
over that of the others. At the very same time, they mutually
execrate their masters when viewed separately. It was so on our
plantation. When Colonel Lloyd’s slaves met the slaves of
Jacob Jepson, they seldom parted without a quarrel about their
masters; Colonel Lloyd’s slaves contending that he was the
richest, and Mr. Jepson’s slaves that he was the smartest, and

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 17

most of a man. Colonel Lloyd’s slaves would boast his abili ty to
buy and sell Jacob Jepson. Mr. Jepson’s slaves would boast his
abili ty to whip Colonel Lloyd. These quarrels would almost
always end in a fight between the parties, and those that
whipped were supposed to have gained the point at issue. They
seemed to think that the greatness of their masters was
transferable to themselves. It was considered as being bad
enough to be a slave; but to be a poor man’s slave was deemed
a disgrace indeed!

NARRATIVE OF THE 18

CHAPTER IV.

MR. HOPKINS remained but a short time in the off ice of

overseer. Why his career was so short, I do not know, but
suppose he lacked the necessary severity to suit Colonel Lloyd.
Mr. Hopkins was succeeded by Mr. Austin Gore, a man
possessing, in an eminent degree, all those traits of character
indispensable to what is called a first-rate overseer. Mr. Gore
had served Colonel Lloyd, in the capacity of overseer, upon one
of the out-farms, and had shown himself worthy of the high
station of overseer upon the home or Great House Farm.

Mr. Gore was proud, ambitious, and persevering. He was
artful, cruel, and obdurate. He was just the man for such a place,
and it was just the place for such a man. It afforded scope for
the full exercise of all his powers, and he seemed to be perfectly
at home in it. He was one of those who could torture the
slightest look, word, or gesture, on the part of the slave, into
impudence, and would treat it accordingly. There must be no
answering back to him; no explanation was allowed a slave,
showing himself to have been wrongfully accused. Mr. Gore
acted fully up to the maxim laid down by slaveholders,—“ It is
better that a dozen slaves should suffer under the lash, than that
the overseer should be convicted, in the presence of the slaves,
of having been at fault.” No matter how innocent a slave might
be—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; the one always following the
other with immutable certainty. To escape punishment was to
escape accusation; and few slaves had the fortune to do either,
under the overseership of Mr. Gore. He was just proud enough

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 19

to demand the most debasing homage of the slave, and quite
servile enough to crouch, himself, at the feet of the master. He
was ambitious enough to be contented with nothing short of the
highest rank of overseers, and persevering enough to reach the
height of his ambition. He was cruel enough to infli ct the
severest punishment, artful enough to descend to the lowest
trickery, and obdurate enough to be insensible to the voice of a
reproving conscience. He was, of all the overseers, the most
dreaded by the slaves. His presence was painful; his eye flashed
confusion; and seldom was his sharp, shrill voice heard, without
producing 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 his looks, and his looks
were in perfect keeping with his words. Overseers wil l
sometimes 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 sparingly with his words, and bountifully
with his whip, never using the former where the latter would
answer as well . When he whipped, he seemed to do so from a
sense of duty, and feared no consequences. He did nothing
reluctantly, no matter how disagreeable; always at his post,
never inconsistent. He never promised but to fulfil . He was, in a
word, a man of the most inflexible firmness and stone-like
coolness.

His savage barbarity was equalled only by the consummate
coolness with which he committed 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 the name
of Demby. He had given Demby but few stripes, when, to get
rid of the scourging, he ran and plunged himself into a creek,
and stood there at the depth of his shoulders, refusing to come
out. Mr. Gore told him that he would give him three calls, and

NARRATIVE OF THE 20

that, if he did not come out at the third call , he would shoot him.
The first call was given. Demby made no response, but stood
his ground. The second and third calls were given with the same
result. Mr. Gore then, without consultation or deliberation with
any one, not even giving Demby an additional call , raised his
musket to his face, taking deadly aim at his standing victim, and
in an instant poor Demby was no more. His mangled body sank
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, excepting Mr. Gore. He alone seemed cool and
collected. He was asked by Colonel Lloyd and my 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 setting a dangerous example to the other
slaves,—one which, if suffered to pass without some such
demonstration on his part, would finally lead to the total
subversion of all rule and order upon the plantation. He argued
that if one slave refused to be corrected, and escaped with his
li fe, the other slaves would soon copy the example; the result of
which would be, the freedom of the slaves, and the enslavement
of the whites. Mr. Gore’s defence was satisfactory. He was
continued in his station as overseer upon the home plantation.
His fame as an overseer went abroad. His horrid crime was not
even submitted to judicial investigation. It was committed in the
presence of slaves, and they of course could neither institute a
suit, nor testify against him; and thus the guil ty perpetrator of
one of the bloodiest and most foul murders goes unwhipped of
justice, and uncensured by the community in which he lives.
Mr. Gore lived in St. Michael’s, Talbot county, Maryland, when
I left there; and if he is still alive, he very probably li ves there
now; and if so, he is now, as he was then, as highly esteemed

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 21

and as much respected as though his guil ty soul had not been
stained with his brother’s blood.

I speak advisedly when I say this,—that killi ng a slave, or
any colored person, in Talbot county, Maryland, is not treated
as a crime, either by the courts or the community. Mr. Thomas
Lanman, of St. Michael’s, kill ed two slaves, one of whom he
kill ed with a hatchet, by knocking his brains out. He used to
boast of the commission of the awful and bloody deed. I have
heard him do so laughingly, saying, among other things, that he
was the only benefactor of his country in the company, and that
when others would do as much as he had done, we should be
relieved of “ the d——d niggers.”

The wife of Mr. Giles Hicks, li ving but a short distance
from where I used to li ve, murdered my wife’s cousin, a young
girl between fifteen and sixteen years of age, mangling her
person in the most horrible manner, breaking her nose and
breastbone with a stick, so that the poor girl expired in a few
hours afterward. She was immediately buried, but had not been
in her untimely grave but a few hours before she was taken up
and examined by the coroner, who decided that she had come to
her death by severe beating. The offence for which this girl was
thus murdered was this:—She had been set that night to mind
Mrs. Hicks’s baby, and during the night she fell asleep, and the
baby cried. She, having lost her rest for several nights previous,
did not hear the crying. They were both in the room with Mrs.
Hicks. Mrs. Hicks, finding the girl slow to move, jumped from
her bed, seized an oak stick of wood by the fireplace, and with it
broke the girl’ s nose and breastbone, and thus ended her li fe. I
will not say that this most horrid murder produced no sensation
in the community. It did produce sensation, but not enough to
bring the murderess to punishment. There was a warrant issued
for her arrest, but it was never served. Thus she escaped not

NARRATIVE OF THE 22

only punishment, but even the pain of being arraigned before a
court for her horrid crime.

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

Colonel Lloyd’s slaves were in the habit of spending a part
of their nights and Sundays in fishing for oysters, and in this
way made up the deficiency 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 took offence,
and with his musket came down to the shore, and blew its
deadly contents into the poor old man.

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

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 23

CHAPTER V.

AS to my own treatment while I li ved on Colonel Lloyd’s

plantation, it was very similar to that of the other slave children.
I was not old enough to work in the field, and there being littl e
else than field work to do, I had a great deal of leisure time. The
most I had to do was to drive up the cows at evening, keep the
fowls out of the garden, keep the front yard clean, and run of
errands for my old master’s daughter, Mrs. Lucretia Auld. The
most of my 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 advantage to me. He became quite
attached to me, and was a sort of protector of me. He would not
allow the older boys to impose upon me, and would divide his
cakes with me.

I was seldom whipped by my old master, and suffered littl e
from any thing else than hunger and cold. I suffered much from
hunger, but much more from cold. In hottest summer and
coldest winter, I was kept almost naked—no shoes, no
stockings, 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, but that, the coldest nights, I used to steal a
bag which was used for carrying corn 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 cracked with the
frost, that the pen with which I am writing might be laid in the
gashes.

We were not regularly allowanced. Our food was coarse
corn meal boiled. This was called mush. It was put into a large
wooden tray or trough, and set down upon the ground. The

NARRATIVE OF THE 24

children were then called, li ke so many pigs, and like 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. He that ate fastest got most; he that was
strongest secured the best place; and few left the trough
satisfied.

I was probably between seven and eight years old when I
left Colonel Lloyd’s plantation. I left it with joy. I shall never
forget the ecstasy with which I received the intell igence that my
old master (Anthony) had determined to let me go to Baltimore,
to li ve with Mr. Hugh Auld, brother to my old master’s son-in-
law, Captain Thomas Auld. I received this information about
three days before my departure. They were three of the happiest
days I ever 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 the time in washing, not so much because I
wished to, but because Mrs. Lucretia had told me I must get all
the dead skin off my feet and knees before I could go to
Baltimore; for the people in Baltimore were very cleanly, and
would laugh at me if I looked dirty. Besides, she was going to
give me a pair of trousers, which I should not put on unless I
got all the dirt off me. The thought of owning a pair of trousers
was great indeed! It was almost a suff icient motive, not only to
make me take off what would be called by pig-drovers the
mange, but the skin itself. I went at it in good earnest, working
for the first time with the hope of reward.

The ties that ordinarily bind children to their homes were
all suspended in my case. I found no severe trial in my
departure. My home was charmless; it was not home to me; on
parting from it, I could not feel that I was leaving any thing
which I could have enjoyed by staying. My mother was dead,

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 25

my grandmother li ved 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 our mother had well
nigh blotted the fact of our relationship from our memories. I
looked for home elsewhere, and was confident of f inding none
which I should relish less than the one which I was leaving. If,
however, I found in my new home hardship, hunger, whipping,
and nakedness, I had the consolation that I should not have
escaped any one of them by staying. Having already had more
than a taste of them in the house of my old master, and having
endured them there, I very naturally inferred my abili ty to
endure them elsewhere, and especially at Baltimore; for I had
something of the feeling about Baltimore that is expressed in
the proverb, that “being hanged in England is preferable to
dying a natural death in Ireland.” I had the strongest desire to
see Baltimore. Cousin Tom, though not fluent in speech, had
inspired me with that desire by his eloquent description of the
place. I could never point 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 and
strength, the object which I pointed out to him. Even the Great
House itself, with all it s pictures, was far inferior to many
buildings in Baltimore. So strong was my desire, that I thought
a gratification of it would fully compensate for whatever loss of
comforts I should sustain by the exchange. I left without a
regret, and with the highest hopes of future happiness.

We sailed out of Miles River for Baltimore on a Saturday
morning. I remember only the day of the week, for at that time I
had no knowledge of the days of the month, nor the months of
the year. On setting sail, I walked aft, and gave to Colonel
Lloyd’s plantation what I hoped would be the last look. I then
placed myself in the bows of the sloop, and there spent the

NARRATIVE OF THE 26

remainder of the day in looking ahead, interesting myself in
what was in the distance rather than 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 the first large town that I had
ever seen, and though it would look small compared with some
of our New England factory vill ages, I thought it a wonderful
place for its size—more imposing even than the Great House
Farm!

We arrived at Baltimore early on Sunday morning, landing
at Smith’s Wharf, not far from Bowley’s Wharf. We had on
board the sloop a large flock 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 hands
belonging on board of the sloop, to my new home in Alli ciana
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 littl e son Thomas, to take care of whom I had
been given. And here I saw what I had never 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
the rapture that flashed through my soul as I beheld it. It was a
new and strange sight to me, brightening up my pathway with
the light of happiness. Little Thomas was told, there was his
Freddy,—and I was told to take care of littl e Thomas; and thus I
entered upon the duties of my new home with the most cheering
prospect ahead.

I look upon my departure from Colonel Lloyd’s plantation
as one of the most interesting events of my li fe. It is possible,
and even quite probable, that but for the mere circumstance of
being removed from that plantation to Baltimore, 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

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 27

Narrative, been confined in the galli ng chains of slavery. Going
to li ve at Baltimore laid the foundation, and opened the
gateway, to all my subsequent prosperity. I have ever regarded
it as the first plain manifestation of that kind providence which
has ever since attended me, and marked my li fe with so many
favors. I regarded the selection of myself as being somewhat
remarkable. There were a number of slave 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
chosen from among them all , and was the first, last, and only
choice.

I may be deemed superstitious, and even egotistical, in
regarding this event as a special interposition of divine
Providence in my favor. But I should be false to the earliest
sentiments of my soul, if I suppressed the opinion. I prefer to be
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 earliest recollection, I date the entertainment of a deep
conviction that slavery would not always be able to hold me
within its foul embrace; and in the darkest hours of my career in
slavery, this li ving word of faith and spirit of hope departed not
from me, but remained like ministering angels to cheer me
through the gloom. This good spirit was from God, and to him I
offer thanksgiving and praise.

NARRATIVE OF THE 28

CHAPTER VI.

MY new mistress proved to be all she appeared when I first

met her at the door,—a woman of the kindest heart and finest
feelings. She had never had a slave under her control previously
to myself, and prior to her marriage she had been dependent
upon her own industry for a li ving. She was by trade a weaver;
and by constant application to her business, she had been in a
good degree preserved from the blighting and dehumanizing
effects of slavery. I was utterly 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 not
approach her as I was accustomed to approach other white
ladies. My early instruction was all out of place. The crouching
servili ty, usually so acceptable a quali ty in a slave, did not
answer when manifested toward her. Her favor was not gained
by it; she seemed to be disturbed by it. She did not deem it
impudent or unmannerly for a slave to look her in the face. The
meanest slave was put fully at ease in her presence, and none
left without feeling better for having seen her. Her face was
made of heavenly smiles, and her voice of tranquil music.

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

Very soon after I went to li ve with Mr. and Mrs. Auld, she
very kindly commenced to teach me the A, B, C. After I had

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 29

learned this, she assisted me in learning to spell words of three
or four letters. Just at this point of my progress, Mr. Auld found
out what was going on, and at once forbade Mrs. Auld to
instruct me further, telli ng her, among other things, that it was
unlawful, as well as unsafe, to teach a slave to read. To use his
own words, further, he said, “ If you give a nigger an inch, he
will t ake an ell . A nigger should know nothing but to obey his
master—to do as he is told to do. Learning would spoil the best
nigger in the world. Now,” said he, “ if you teach that nigger
(speaking of myself) how to read, there would be no keeping
him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once
become unmanageable, and of no value to his master. As to
himself, it could do him no good, but a great deal of harm. It
would make him discontented and unhappy.” These words sank
deep into my heart, stirred up sentiments within that lay
slumbering, and called into existence an entirely new train of
thought. It was a new and special revelation, explaining dark
and mysterious things, with which my youthful understanding
had struggled, but struggled in vain. I now understood what had
been to me a most perplexing diff iculty—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, I
understood the pathway from slavery to freedom. It was just
what I wanted, and I got it at a time when I the least expected it.
Whilst I was saddened by the thought of losing the aid of my
kind mistress, I was gladdened by the invaluable instruction
which, by the merest accident, I had gained from my master.
Though conscious of the diff iculty of learning without a
teacher, I set out with high hope, and a fixed purpose, at
whatever cost of trouble, to learn how to read. The very decided
manner with which he spoke, and strove to impress his wife
with the evil consequences of giving me instruction, served to
convince me that he was deeply sensible of the truths he was

NARRATIVE OF THE 30

uttering. It gave me the best assurance that I might rely with the
utmost confidence on the results which, he said, would flow
from teaching me to read. What he most dreaded, that I most
desired. What he most loved, that I most hated. That which to
him was a great evil , to be carefully shunned, was to me a great
good, to be dil igently sought; and the argument which he so
warmly urged, against my learning to read, only served to
inspire me with a desire and determination to learn. In learning
to read, I owe almost as much to the bitter opposition of my
master, 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 marked difference, in the treatment of slaves, from
that which I had witnessed in the country. A city slave is almost
a freeman, compared with a slave on the plantation. He is much
better fed and clothed, and enjoys privileges altogether
unknown to the slave on the plantation. There is a vestige of
decency, a sense of shame, that does much to curb and check
those outbreaks of atrocious cruelty so commonly enacted upon
the plantation. He is a desperate slaveholder, who will shock the
humanity of his non-slaveholding neighbors with the cries of
his lacerated slave. Few are willi ng to incur the odium attaching
to the reputation of being a cruel master; and above all things,
they would not be known as not giving a slave enough to eat.
Every city slaveholder is anxious to have it known of him, that
he feeds his slaves well; and it is due to them to say, that most
of them do give their slaves enough to eat. There are, however,
some painful exceptions to this rule. Directly opposite to us, on
Philpot Street, li ved Mr. Thomas Hamilton. He owned two
slaves. Their names were Henrietta and Mary. Henrietta was
about twenty-two years of age, Mary was about fourteen; and of
all the mangled and emaciated creatures I ever looked upon,
these two were the most so. His heart must be harder than stone,

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 31

that could look upon these unmoved. The head, neck, and
shoulders of Mary were literally cut to pieces. I have frequently
felt her head, and found it nearly covered with festering sores,
caused by the lash of her cruel mistress. I do not know that her
master ever 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 heavy cowskin always by her
side, and scarce an hour passed during the day but was marked
by the blood of one of these slaves. The girls seldom passed her
without her saying, “Move faster, you black gip!” at the same
time giving them a blow with the cowskin over the head or
shoulders, often drawing the 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 were kept nearly half-starved. They
seldom knew what it was to eat a full meal. I have 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.

NARRATIVE OF THE 32

CHAPTER VII.

I LIVED in Master Hugh’s family about seven years. During

this time, I succeeded in learning to read and write. In
accomplishing this, I was compelled to resort to various
stratagems. I had no regular teacher. My mistress, who had
kindly commenced to instruct me, had, in compliance with the
advice and direction of her husband, not only ceased to instruct,
but had set her face against my being instructed by any one else.
It is due, however, to my mistress to say of her, that she did not
adopt this course of treatment immediately. She at first lacked
the depravity indispensable to shutting me up in mental
darkness. It was at least necessary for her to have some training
in the exercise of irresponsible power, to make her equal to the
task of treating me as though I were a brute.

My mistress was, as I have said, a kind and tender-hearted
woman; and in the simplicity of her soul she commenced, when
I first went to li ve with her, to treat me as she supposed one
human being ought to treat another. In entering upon the duties
of a slaveholder, she did not seem to perceive that I sustained to
her the relation of a mere chattel, and that for her to treat me as
a human being was not only wrong, but dangerously so. Slavery
proved as injurious to her as it did to me. When I went there,
she was a pious, warm, and tender-hearted woman. There was
no sorrow or suffering for which she had not a tear. She had
bread for the hungry, clothes for the naked, and comfort for
every mourner that came within her reach. Slavery soon proved
its abili ty to divest her of these heavenly quali ties. Under its
influence, the tender heart became stone, and the lamblike
disposition gave way to one of tiger-like fierceness. The first

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 33

step in her downward course was in her ceasing to instruct me.
She now commenced to practise her husband’s precepts. She
finally 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 seemed anxious to do better.
Nothing seemed to make her more angry than to see me with a
newspaper. She seemed to think that here lay the danger. I have
had her rush at me with a face made all up of fury, and snatch
from me a newspaper, in a manner that fully revealed her
apprehension. She was an apt woman; and a littl e experience
soon demonstrated, to her satisfaction, that education and
slavery were incompatible with each other.

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

The plan which I adopted, and the one by which I was most
successful, was that of making friends of all the littl e white boys
whom I met in the street. As many of these as I could, I
converted into teachers. With their kindly aid, obtained at
different times and in different places, I finally succeeded in
learning 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 before my return. I used also to carry
bread with me, enough of which was always in the house, and
to which I was always welcome; for I was much better off in
this regard than many of the poor white children in our
neighborhood. This bread I used to bestow upon the hungry
littl e urchins, who, in return, would give me that more valuable
bread of knowledge. I am strongly tempted to give the names of

NARRATIVE OF THE 34

two or three of those littl e boys, as a testimonial of the gratitude
and affection 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 teach slaves to read in this Christian
country. It is enough to say of the dear littl e fellows, that they
lived on Philpot Street, very near Durgin and Bailey’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 be when 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 you have?” These words used to
trouble them; they would express for me the liveliest sympathy,
and console me with the hope that something would occur by
which I might be free.

I was now about twelve years old, and the thought of being
a slave for life began to bear heavily upon my heart. Just about
this time, I got hold of 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 it a dialogue between a
master and his slave. The slave was represented as having run
away from his master three times. The dialogue represented the
conversation which took place between them, when the slave
was retaken the third time. In this dialogue, the whole argument
in behalf of slavery was brought forward by the master, all of
which was disposed of by the slave. The slave was made to say
some very smart as well as impressive things in reply to his
master—things which had the desired though unexpected effect;
for the conversation resulted in the voluntary emancipation of
the slave on the part of the master.

In the same book, I met with one of Sheridan’s mighty
speeches on and in behalf of Catholic emancipation. These were
choice documents to me. I read them over and over again with
unabated interest. They gave tongue to interesting thoughts of

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 35

my own soul, which had frequently flashed through my mind,
and died away for want of utterance. The moral which I gained
from the dialogue was the power of truth over the conscience of
even a slaveholder. What I got from Sheridan was a bold
denunciation of slavery, and a powerful vindication of human
rights. The reading of these documents enabled me to utter my
thoughts, and to meet the arguments brought forward to sustain
slavery; but while they relieved me of one diff iculty, they
brought on another even more painful than the one of which I
was relieved. The more I read, the more I was led to abhor and
detest my enslavers. I could regard them in no other light than a
band of successful robbers, who had left their homes, and gone
to Africa, and stolen us from our homes, and in a strange land
reduced us to slavery. I loathed them as being the meanest as
well as the most wicked of men. As I read and contemplated the
subject, behold! that very discontentment which Master Hugh
had predicted would follow my learning to read had already
come, to torment and sting my soul to unutterable anguish. As I
writhed under it, I would at times feel that learning to read had
been a curse rather than a blessing. It had given me a view of
my wretched condition, without the remedy. It opened my eyes
to the horrible pit, but to no ladder upon which to get out. In
moments of agony, I envied my fellow-slaves for their
stupidity. I have often wished myself a beast. 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 my condition that tormented me. There was no
getting rid of it. It was pressed upon me by every object within
sight or hearing, animate or inanimate. The silver trump of
freedom had roused my soul to eternal wakefulness. Freedom
now appeared, to disappear no more forever. It was heard in
every sound, and seen in every thing. It was ever present to
torment me with a sense of my wretched condition. I saw

NARRATIVE OF THE 36

nothing without seeing it, I heard nothing without hearing it,
and felt nothing without feeling it. It looked from every star, it
smiled in every calm, breathed in every wind, and moved in
every storm.

I often found myself regretting my own existence, and
wishing myself dead; and but for the hope of being free, I have
no doubt but that I should have kill ed myself, or done
something for which I should have been kill ed. While in this
state of mind, I was eager to hear any one speak of slavery. I
was a ready listener. Every littl e while, I could hear something
about the aboliti onists. It was some time before I found what the
word meant. It was always used in such connections as to make
it an interesting word to me. If a slave ran away and succeeded
in getting clear, or if a slave kill ed his master, set fire to a barn,
or did any thing very wrong in the mind of a slaveholder, it was
spoken of as the fruit of aboliti on. Hearing the word in this
connection very often, I set about learning what it meant. The
dictionary afforded me little or no help. I found it was “ the act
of abolishing;” but then I did not know what was to be
abolished. Here I was perplexed. I did not dare to ask any one
about its meaning, for I was satisfied that it was something they
wanted me to know very littl e about. After a patient waiting, I
got one of our city papers, containing an account of the number
of petitions from the north, praying for the aboliti on of slavery
in the District of Columbia, and of the slave trade between the
States. From this time I understood the words aboliti on and
aboliti onist, and always drew near when that word was spoken,
expecting to hear something of importance to myself and
fellow-slaves. The light broke in upon me by degrees. I went
one day down on the wharf of Mr. Waters; and seeing two
Irishmen unloading a scow of stone, I went, unasked, and
helped them. When we had finished, one of them came to me
and asked me if I were a slave. I told him I was. He asked, “Are

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 37

ye a slave for li fe?” I told him that I was. The good Irishman
seemed to be deeply affected by the statement. He said to the
other that it was a pity so fine a littl e fellow as myself should be
a slave for li fe. He said it was a shame to hold me. They both
advised me to run away to the north; that I should find friends
there, and that I should be free. I pretended not to be interested
in what they said, and treated them as if I did not understand
them; for I feared they might be treacherous. White men have
been known to encourage slaves to escape, and then, to get the
reward, catch them and return them to their masters. I was
afraid that these seemingly good men might use me so; but I
nevertheless remembered their advice, and from that time I
resolved to run away. I looked forward to a time at which it
would be safe for me to escape. I was too young to think of
doing so immediately; besides, I wished to learn how to write,
as I might have occasion to write my own pass. I consoled
myself with the hope that I should one day find a good chance.
Meanwhile, I would learn to write.

The idea as to how I might learn to write was suggested to
me by being in Durgin 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 timber the name of that part
of the ship for which it was intended. When a piece of timber
was intended for the larboard side, it would be marked thus—
“L.” When a piece was for the starboard side, it would be
marked thus—“S.” A piece for the larboard side forward, would
be marked thus—“L. F.” When a piece was for starboard side
forward, it would be marked thus—“S. F.” For larboard aft, it
would be marked thus—“L. A.” For starboard aft, it would be
marked thus—“S. A.” I soon learned the names of these letters,
and for what they were intended when placed upon a piece of
timber in the ship-yard. I immediately commenced copying
them, and in a short time was able to make the four letters

NARRATIVE OF THE 38

named. After that, when I met with any boy who I knew could
write, I would tell him I could write as well as he. The next
word would be, “ I don’ t believe you. Let me see you try it.” I
would then make the letters which I had been so fortunate as to
learn, and ask him to beat that. In this way I got a good many
lessons in writing, which it is quite possible I should never have
gotten in any other way. During this time, my copy-book was
the board fence, brick wall , and pavement; my pen and ink was
a lump of chalk. With these, I learned mainly how to write. I
then commenced and continued copying the Italics in Webster’s
Spelli ng Book, until I could make them all without looking on
the book. By this time, my littl e Master Thomas had gone to
school, and learned how to write, and had written over a number
of copy-books. These had been brought home, and shown to
some of our near neighbors, and then laid aside. My mistress
used to go to class meeting at the Wilk Street meetinghouse
every Monday afternoon, and leave me to take care of the
house. When left thus, I used to spend the time in writing in the
spaces left in Master Thomas’s copy-book, copying what he had
written. I continued to do this until I could write a hand very
similar to that of Master Thomas. Thus, after a long, tedious
effort for years, I finally succeeded in learning how to write.

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 39

CHAPTER VIII.

IN a very short time after I went to li ve at Baltimore, my

old master’s youngest son Richard died; and in about three
years and six months after his death, my old master, Captain
Anthony, died, leaving only his son, Andrew, and daughter,
Lucretia, to share his estate. He died while on a visit to see his
daughter at Hill sborough. Cut off thus unexpectedly, he left no
will as to the disposal of his property. It was therefore necessary
to have a valuation of the property, that it might be equally
divided between Mrs. Lucretia and Master Andrew. I was
immediately sent for, to be valued with the other property. Here
again my feelings rose up in detestation of slavery. I had now a
new conception of my degraded condition. Prior to this, I had
become, if not insensible to my lot, at least partly so. I left
Baltimore with a young heart overborne with sadness, and a
soul full of apprehension. I took passage with Captain Rowe, in
the schooner Wild Cat, and, after a sail of about twenty-four
hours, I found myself near the place of my birth. I had now been
absent from it almost, if not quite, five years. I, however,
remembered the place very well . I was only about five years old
when I left it, to go and live with my old master on Colonel
Lloyd’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 were horses and men, cattle and
women, pigs and children, all holding the same rank in the scale
of being, and were all subjected to the same narrow
examination. Silvery-headed age and sprightly youth, maids and

NARRATIVE OF THE 40

matrons, had to undergo the same indelicate inspection. At this
moment, I saw more clearly than ever the brutalizing effects of
slavery upon both slave and slaveholder.

After the valuation, then came the division. I have no
language to express the high excitement and deep anxiety which
were felt among us poor slaves during this time. Our fate for li fe
was now to be decided. We had no more voice in that decision
than the brutes among whom we were ranked. A single word
from the white men was enough—against all our wishes,
prayers, and entreaties—to sunder forever the dearest friends,
dearest kindred, and strongest ties known to human beings. In
addition to the pain of separation, there was the horrid dread of
falli ng into the hands of Master Andrew. He was known to us
all as being a most cruel wretch,—a common drunkard, who
had, by his reckless mismanagement and profligate dissipation,
already wasted a large portion of his father’s property. We all
felt that we might as well be sold at once to the Georgia traders,
as to pass into his hands; for we knew that that would be our
inevitable condition,—a condition held by us all i n the utmost
horror and dread.

I suffered more anxiety than most of my fellow-slaves. I
had known what it was to be kindly treated; they had known
nothing of the kind. They had seen littl e or nothing of the world.
They were in very deed men and women of sorrow, and
acquainted 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 I got few whippings, and few
slaves could boast of a kinder master and mistress than myself;
and the thought of passing out of their hands into those of
Master Andrew—a man who, but a few days before, to give me
a sample of his bloody disposition, took my littl e brother by the
throat, threw him on the ground, and with the heel of his boot
stamped upon his head till t he blood gushed from his nose and

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 41

ears—was well calculated to make me anxious as to my fate.
After he had committed this savage outrage upon my brother, he
turned to me, and said that was the way he meant to serve me
one of these days,—meaning, I suppose, when I came into his
possession.

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

Very soon after my return to Baltimore, my mistress,
Lucretia, died, leaving her 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, was in the
hands of strangers,—strangers who had had nothing to do with
accumulating it. Not a slave was left free. All remained slaves,
from the youngest 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 to fill me with
unutterable loathing of slaveholders, it was their base
ingratitude to my poor old grandmother. She had served my old
master faithfully from youth to old age. She had been the source
of all his wealth; she had peopled his plantation with slaves; she
had become a great grandmother in his service. She had rocked
him in infancy, attended him in childhood, served him through
li fe, 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 slave for li fe—a slave in the hands of strangers; and in
their hands she saw her children, her grandchildren, and her
great-grandchildren, divided, li ke so many sheep, without being
gratified with the small privilege of a single word, as to their or

NARRATIVE OF THE 42

her own destiny. And, to cap the climax of their base ingratitude
and fiendish barbarity, my grandmother, who was now very old,
having outlived my old master and all his children, having seen
the beginning and end of all of them, and her present owners
finding she was of but littl e value, her frame already racked
with the pains of old age, and complete helplessness fast
stealing over her once active limbs, they took her to the woods,
built her a li ttle hut, put up a littl e mud-chimney, and then made
her welcome 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 over the loss of
children, the loss of grandchildren, and the loss of great-
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 falli ng 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 hill s and waters—
Woe is me, my stolen daughters!”

The hearth is desolate. The children, the unconscious

children, who once sang and danced in her presence, are gone.
She gropes her way, in the darkness of age, for a drink of water.
Instead of the voices of her children, she hears by day the

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 43

moans of the dove, and by night the screams of the hideous owl.
All i s gloom. The grave is at the door. And now, when weighed
down by the pains and aches of old age, when the head inclines
to the feet, when the beginning and ending of human existence
meet, and helpless infancy and painful old age combine
together—at this time, this most needful time, the time for the
exercise of that tenderness and affection which children only
can exercise towards a declining parent—my poor old
grandmother, the devoted mother of twelve children, is left all
alone, in yonder littl e hut, before a few dim embers. She
stands—she sits—she staggers—she falls—she groans—she
dies—and there are none of her children or grandchildren
present, to wipe from her wrinkled brow the cold sweat of
death, or to place beneath the sod her fallen remains. Will not a
righteous God visit for these things?

In about two years after the death of Mrs. Lucretia, Master
Thomas married his second wife. Her name was Rowena
Hamilton. She was the eldest daughter of Mr. Willi am
Hamilton. Master now lived in St. Michael’s. Not long after his
marriage, a misunderstanding took place between himself and
Master Hugh; and as a means of punishing his brother, he took
me from him to live with himself at St. 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 and his once kind and affectionate wife. The influence of
brandy upon him, and of slavery upon her, had effected a
disastrous change in the characters of both; so that, as far as
they were concerned, I thought I had littl e to lose by the change.
But it was not to them that I was attached. It was to those litt le
Baltimore boys that I felt the strongest attachment. I had
received many good lessons from them, and was still receiving
them, and the thought of leaving them was painful indeed. I was

NARRATIVE OF THE 44

leaving, too, without the hope of ever being allowed 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 my resolution to run away; for the chances of
success are tenfold greater from the city than from the country.

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

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 45

CHAPTER IX.

I HAVE now reached a period of my li fe when I can give

dates. I left Baltimore, and went to li ve with Master Thomas
Auld, at St. Michael’s, in March, 1832. It was now more than
seven years since I li ved with him in the family of my old
master, on Colonel Lloyd’s plantation. We of course were now
almost entire strangers to each other. He was to me a new
master, and I to him a new slave. I was ignorant of his temper
and disposition; he was equally so of mine. A very short time,
however, brought us into full acquaintance with each other. I
was made acquainted with his wife not less than with himself.
They were well matched, being equally mean and cruel. I was
now, for the first time during a space of more than seven years,
made to feel the painful gnawings of hunger—a something
which I had not experienced before since I left Colonel Lloyd’s
plantation. It went hard enough with me then, when I could look
back to no period at which I had enjoyed a suff iciency. It was
tenfold harder after li ving in Master Hugh’s family, where I had
always had enough to eat, and of that which was good. I have
said Master Thomas was a mean man. He was so. Not to give a
slave enough to eat, is regarded as the most aggravated
development of meanness even among slaveholders. The rule is,
no matter 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 general practice,—though there are many
exceptions. Master Thomas gave us enough of neither coarse
nor fine food. There were four slaves of us in the kitchen—my
sister Eliza, my aunt Priscill a, Henny, and myself; and we were
allowed less than a half of a bushel of corn-meal per week, and

NARRATIVE OF THE 46

very littl e else, either in the shape of meat or vegetables. It was
not enough for us to subsist upon. We were therefore reduced to
the wretched necessity of li ving 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 as legitimate as the
other. A great many times have we poor creatures been nearly
perishing with hunger, when food in abundance lay mouldering
in the safe and smoke-house, and our pious mistress was aware
of the fact; and yet that mistress and her husband would kneel
every morning, and pray that God would bless them in basket
and store!

Bad as all slaveholders are, we seldom meet one destitute
of every element of character commanding respect. My master
was one of this rare sort. I do not know of one single noble act
ever performed by him. The leading trait in his character was
meanness; and if there were any other element in his nature, it
was made subject to this. He was mean; and, li ke most other
mean men, he lacked the abili ty 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 of all
his slaves by marriage; and of all men, adopted slaveholders are
the worst. He was cruel, but cowardly. He commanded without
firmness. In the enforcement of his rules, he was at times rigid,
and at times lax. At times, he spoke to his slaves with the
firmness of Napoleon and the fury of a demon; at other times,
he might well be mistaken for an inquirer who had lost his way.
He did nothing of himself. He might have passed for a lion, but
for his ears. In all things noble which he attempted, his own
meanness shone most conspicuous. His airs, words, and actions,
were the airs, words, and actions of born slaveholders, and,
being assumed, were awkward enough. He was not even a good
imitator. He possessed all the disposition to deceive, but wanted
the power. Having no resources within himself, he was

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 47

compelled to be the copyist of many, and being such, he was
forever the victim of inconsistency; and of consequence he was
an object of contempt, and was held as such even by his slaves.
The luxury of having slaves of his own to wait upon him was
something new and unprepared for. He was a slaveholder
without the abil ity to hold slaves. He found 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 . I doubt not that our
conduct had much to do with making him appear awkward, and
of consequence fretful. Our want of reverence for him must
have perplexed him greatly. He wished to have us call him
master, but lacked the firmness necessary to command us to do
so. His wife used to insist upon our calli ng him so, but to no
purpose. In August, 1832, my master attended a Methodist
camp-meeting held in the Bay-side, Talbot county, and there
experienced religion. I indulged a faint hope that his conversion
would lead him to emancipate 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. It neither made him to
be humane to his slaves, nor to emancipate them. If it had any
effect on his character, it made him more cruel and hateful in all
his ways; for I believe him to have been a much worse man
after his conversion than before. Prior to his conversion, he
relied upon his own depravity to shield and sustain him in his
savage barbarity; but after his conversion, he found religious
sanction and support for his slaveholding cruelty. He made the
greatest pretensions to piety. His house was the house of prayer.
He prayed morning, noon, and night. He very soon
distinguished himself among his brethren, and was soon made a
class-leader and exhorter. His activity in revivals was great, and
he proved himself an instrument in the hands of the church in
converting many souls. His house was the preachers’ home.

NARRATIVE OF THE 48

They used 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 names of those who used to come
most frequently while I li ved there, were Mr. Storks, Mr.
Ewery, Mr. Humphry, and Mr. Hickey. I have also seen Mr.
George Cookman at our house. We slaves loved Mr. Cookman.
We believed him to be a good man. We thought him
instrumental in getting Mr. Samuel Harrison, a very rich
slaveholder, to emancipate his slaves; and by some means got
the impression that he was laboring to effect the emancipation
of all the slaves. When he was at our house, we were sure to be
called in to prayers. When the others were there, we were
sometimes called in and sometimes not. Mr. Cookman took
more notice of us than either of the other ministers. He could
not come among us without betraying his sympathy for us, and,
stupid as we were, we had the sagacity to see it.

While I li ved with my master in St. Michael’s, there was a
white young man, a Mr. Wilson, who proposed to keep a
Sabbath school for the instruction of such slaves as might be
disposed to learn to read the New Testament. We met but three
times, when Mr. West and Mr. Fairbanks, both class-leaders,
with many others, came upon us with sticks and other missiles,
drove us off, and forbade us to meet again. Thus ended our littl e
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 tie up a lame young woman,
and whip her with a heavy cowskin upon her naked shoulders,
causing the warm red blood to drip; and, in justification of the
bloody deed, he would quote this passage of Scripture—“He
that knoweth his master’ s will , and doeth it not, shall be beaten
with many stripes.”

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 49

Master would keep this lacerated young woman tied up in
this horrid situation four or five hours at a time. I have known
him to tie her up early in the morning, and whip her before
breakfast; leave her, go to his store, return at dinner, and whip
her again, cutting her in the places already made raw with his
cruel lash. The secret of master’s cruelty toward “Henny” is
found in the fact of her being almost helpless. When quite a
child, she fell i nto the fire, and burned herself horribly. Her
hands were so burnt that she never got the use of them. She
could do very littl e but bear heavy burdens. She was to master a
bill of expense; and as he was a mean man, she was a constant
offence 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 not disposed to keep her. Finally, my
benevolent master, to use his own words, “ set her adrift to take
care of herself.” Here was a recently-converted man, holding on
upon the mother, and at the same time turning out her helpless
child, to starve and die! Master Thomas was one of the many
pious slaveholders who hold slaves for the very charitable
purpose of taking care of them.

My master and myself had quite a number of differences.
He found me unsuitable to his purpose. My city li fe, he said,
had had a very pernicious effect upon me. It had almost ruined
me for every good purpose, and fitted me for every thing which
was bad. One of my greatest faults was that of letting his horse
run away, and go down to his father-in-law’s farm, which was
about five miles from St. Michael’s. I would then have to go
after it. My reason for this kind of carelessness, or carefulness,
was, that I could always get something to eat when I went there.
Master Willi am Hamilton, my master’s father-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 said he would stand it no longer. I had lived with him

NARRATIVE OF THE 50

nine months, during which time he had given me a number of
severe whippings, all to no good purpose. He resolved to put me
out, as he said, to be broken; and, for this purpose, he let me for
one year to a man named Edward Covey. Mr. Covey was a poor
man, a farm-renter. He rented the place upon which he lived, as
also the hands with which he till ed it. Mr. Covey had acquired a
very high reputation for breaking young slaves, and this
reputation was of immense value to him. It enabled him to get
his farm tilled with much less expense to himself than he could
have had it done without such a reputation. Some slaveholders
thought it not much loss to allow Mr. Covey to have their slaves
one year, for the sake of the training to which they were
subjected, without any other compensation. He could hire
young help with great ease, in consequence of this reputation.
Added to the natural good qualiti es of Mr. Covey, he was a
professor of religion—a pious soul—a member and a class-
leader in the Methodist church. All of this added weight to his
reputation as a “nigger-breaker.” I was aware of all the facts,
having been made acquainted with them by a young man who
had lived there. I nevertheless made the change gladly; for I was
sure of getting enough to eat, which is not the smallest
consideration to a hungry man.

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 51

CHAPTER X.

I LEFT Master Thomas’s house, and went to li ve with Mr.

Covey, on the 1st of January, 1833. I was now, for the first time
in my li fe, a field hand. In my new employment, I found myself
even more awkward than a country boy appeared to be in a
large city. I had been at my new home but one week before Mr.
Covey gave me a very severe whipping, cutting my back,
causing the blood to run, and raising ridges on my flesh as large
as my littl e finger. The details of this affair are as follows: Mr.
Covey sent me, very early in the morning of one of our coldest
days in the month of January, to the woods, to get a load of
wood. 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 the horns of the in-hand ox, and
gave me the other end of it, and told me, if the oxen started to
run, that I must hold on upon the rope. I had never driven oxen
before, and of course I was very awkward. I, however,
succeeded in getting to the edge of the woods with li ttle
diff iculty; but I had got a very few rods into the woods, when
the oxen took fright, and started full tilt , carrying the cart
against trees, and over stumps, in the most frightful manner. I
expected every moment that my brains would be dashed out
against the trees. After running thus for a considerable distance,
they finally upset the cart, dashing it 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 thick
wood, in a place new to me. My cart was upset and shattered,
my oxen were entangled among the young trees, and there was
none to help me. After a long spell of effort, I succeeded in

NARRATIVE OF THE 52

getting my cart righted, my oxen disentangled, and again yoked
to the cart. I now proceeded with my team to the place where I
had, 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 had now consumed one half of
the day. I got out of the woods safely, and now felt out 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 through the gate, catching it between the wheel
and the body of the cart, tearing it to pieces, 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 my
return, I told Mr. Covey what had happened, and how it
happened. He ordered me to return to the woods again
immediately. I did so, and he followed on after me. Just as I got
into the woods, he came up and told me to stop my cart, and
that he would teach me how to trifle away my time, and break
gates. He then went to a large gum-tree, and with his axe cut
three large switches, and, after trimming them up neatly with
his pocket-knife, he ordered me to take off my clothes. I made
him no answer, but stood with my clothes on. He repeated his
order. I still made him no answer, nor did I move to strip
myself. Upon this he rushed at me with the fierceness of a tiger,
tore off my clothes, and lashed me till he had worn out his
switches, cutting me so savagely as to leave the marks visible
for a long time after. This whipping was the first of a number
just like it, and for similar offences.

I li ved 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 sore back. My awkwardness was
almost always his excuse for whipping me. We were worked
fully up to the point of endurance. Long before day we were up,
our horses fed, and by the first approach of day we were off to

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 53

the field with our hoes and ploughing teams. Mr. Covey gave us
enough to eat, but scarce time to eat it. We were often less than
five minutes taking our meals. We were often in the field from
the first approach of day till it s last lingering ray had left us; and
at saving-fodder time, midnight often caught us in the field
binding blades.

Covey would be out with us. The way he used to stand it,
was this. He would spend the most of his afternoons in bed. He
would then come out fresh in the evening, ready to urge us on
with his words, example, and frequently with the whip. Mr.
Covey was one of the few slaveholders who could and did work
with his hands. He was a hard-working man. He knew by
himself just what a man or a boy could do. There was no
deceiving him. His work went on in his absence almost as well
as in his presence; and he had the faculty of making us feel that
he was ever present with us. This he did by surprising us. He
seldom approached the spot where we were at work openly, if
he could do it secretly. He always aimed at taking us by
surprise. Such was his cunning, that we used to call him, among
ourselves, “ the snake.” When we were at work in the cornfield,
he would sometimes crawl on his hands and knees to avoid
detection, and all at once 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 safe to stop a single
minute. His comings were like a thief in the night. He appeared
to us as being ever at hand. He was under every tree, behind
every stump, in every bush, and at every window, on the
plantation. He would sometimes mount his horse, as if bound to
St. Michael’s, a distance of seven miles, and in half an hour
afterwards you would see him coiled up in the corner of the
wood-fence, watching every motion of the slaves. He would, for
this purpose, leave his horse tied up in the woods. Again, he
would sometimes walk up to us, and give us orders as though he

NARRATIVE OF THE 54

was upon the point of starting on a long journey, turn his back
upon us, and make as though he was going to the house to get
ready; and, before he would get half way thither, he would turn
short and crawl into a fence-corner, or behind some tree, and
there watch us till t he going down of the sun.

Mr. Covey’s forte consisted in his power to deceive. His
li fe was devoted to planning and perpetrating the grossest
deceptions. Every thing he possessed in the shape of learning or
religion, he made conform to his disposition to deceive. He
seemed to think himself equal to deceiving the Almighty. He
would make a short prayer in the morning, and a long prayer at
night; and, strange as it may seem, few men would at times
appear more devotional than he. The exercises of his family
devotions were always commenced with singing; and, as he was
a very poor singer himself, the duty of raising the hymn
generally came upon me. He would read his hymn, and nod at
me to commence. I would at times do so; at others, I would not.
My non-compliance would 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! such was his disposition, and success
at deceiving, I do verily believe that he sometimes deceived
himself into the solemn belief, that he was a sincere worshipper
of the most high God; and this, too, at a time when he may be
said to have been guilty of compelli ng his woman slave to
commit the sin of adultery. The facts in the case are these: Mr.
Covey was a poor man; he was just commencing in li fe; he was
only able to buy one slave; and, shocking as is the fact, he
bought her, as he said, for a breeder. This woman was named
Caroline. 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

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 55

one child, which proved her to be just what he wanted. After
buying her, he hired a married man of Mr. Samuel Harrison, to
li ve with him one year; and him he used to fasten up with her
every night! The result was, that, at the end of the year, the
miserable woman gave birth to twins. At this result Mr. Covey
seemed to be highly pleased, both with the man and the
wretched woman. Such was his joy, and that of his wife, that
nothing they could do for Caroline during her confinement was
too good, or too hard, to be done. The children were regarded as
being quite an addition to his wealth.

If at any one time of my li fe more than another, I was made
to drink the bitterest dregs of slavery, that time was during the
first six months of my stay with Mr. Covey. We were worked in
all weathers. It was never too hot or too cold; it could never
rain, blow, hail , or snow, too hard for us to work in the field.
Work, work, work, was scarcely more the order of the day than
of the night. The longest days were too short for him, and the
shortest nights too long for him. I was somewhat unmanageable
when I first went there, but a few months of this discipline
tamed me. Mr. Covey succeeded in breaking me. I was broken
in body, soul, and spirit. My natural elasticity was crushed, my
intellect languished, the disposition to read departed, the
cheerful spark that lingered about my eye died; the dark night of
slavery closed in upon me; and behold 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, a flash of energetic freedom
would dart through my soul, accompanied with a faint beam of
hope, that fli ckered for a moment, and then vanished. I sank
down again, mourning over my wretched condition. I was
sometimes prompted to take my li fe, and that of Covey, but was

NARRATIVE OF THE 56

prevented by a combination of hope and fear. My sufferings on
this plantation seem now like a dream rather than a stern reali ty.

Our house stood within a few rods of the Chesapeake Bay,
whose broad bosom was ever white with sails from every
quarter of the habitable globe. Those beautiful 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
of my wretched condition. I have often, in the deep still ness of a
summer’s Sabbath, 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 off to the mighty ocean. The
sight of these always affected me powerfully. My thoughts
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 apostrophe to 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 the bloody whip! You are
freedom’s swift-winged angels, that fly round the world; I am
confined in bands of iron! O that I were free! O, that I were on
one of your gallant decks, and under your protecting wing!
Alas! betwixt me and you, the turbid waters roll . Go on, go on.
O that I could also go! Could I but swim! If I could fly! O, why
was I born a man, of whom to make a brute! The glad ship is
gone; she hides in the dim distance. I am left in the hottest hell
of unending slavery. O God, save me! God, deliver me! Let me
be free! Is there any God? Why am I a slave? I will run away. I
will not stand it. Get caught, or get clear, I’ ll try it. I had as well
die with ague as the fever. I have only one li fe to lose. I had as
well be kill ed running as die standing. Only think of it; one
hundred miles straight north, and I am free! Try it? Yes! God
helping me, I will . It cannot be that I shall li ve and die a slave. I
will t ake to the water. This very bay shall yet bear me into

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 57

freedom. The steamboats steered in a north-east course from
North Point. I will do the same; and when I get to the head of
the bay, I will t urn my canoe adrift, and walk straight through
Delaware into Pennsylvania. When I get there, I shall not be
required to have a pass; I can travel without being disturbed. Let
but the first opportunity offer, and, come what will , I am off .
Meanwhile, I will t ry to bear up under the yoke. I am not the
only slave in the world. Why should I fret? I can bear as much
as any of them. Besides, I am but a boy, and all boys are bound
to some one. It may be that my misery in slavery will only
increase my happiness 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 to madness at one moment, and at the next
reconcili ng myself to my wretched lot.

I have already intimated that my condition was much
worse, during the first six months of my stay at Mr. Covey’s,
than in the last six. The circumstances leading to the change in
Mr. Covey’s course toward me form an epoch in my humble
history. You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall
see how a slave was made a man. On one of the hottest days of
the month of August, 1833, Bill Smith, Willi am Hughes, a slave
named Eli , and myself, were engaged in fanning wheat. Hughes
was clearing the fanned wheat from before the fan. Eli was
turning, Smith was feeding, and I was carrying wheat to the fan.
The work was simple, requiring strength rather than intellect;
yet, to one entirely unused 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 the head,
attended with extreme dizziness; I trembled in every limb.
Finding what was coming, I nerved myself up, feeling it would
never do to stop work. I stood as long as I could stagger to the
hopper with grain. When I could stand no longer, I fell , and felt

NARRATIVE OF THE 58

as if held down by an immense weight. The fan of course
stopped; every one had his own work to do; and no one could
do the work of 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-yard where we were fanning. On hearing the fan
stop, he left immediately, and came to the spot where we were.
He hastily inquired what the matter was. Bill answered that I
was sick, and there was no one to bring wheat to the fan. I had
by this time crawled away under the side of the post and rail –
fence by which the yard was enclosed, hoping to find relief by
getting out of the sun. He then asked 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 as
I could, for I scarce had strength to speak. He then gave me a
savage kick in the side, and told me to get up. I tried to do so,
but fell back in the attempt. He gave me another kick, and again
told me to rise. I again tried, and succeeded in gaining my feet;
but, stooping to get the tub with which I was feeding 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 the half-bushel measure, and with it gave me a
heavy blow upon the head, making a large wound, and the
blood ran freely; and with this again told me to get up. I made
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 had now left me to my fate. At this
moment I resolved, for the first time, to go to my master, enter a
complaint, and ask his protection. In order to do this, I must that
afternoon walk seven miles; and this, under the circumstances,
was truly a severe undertaking. I was exceedingly feeble; made
so as much by the kicks and blows which I received, as by the
severe fit of sickness to which I had been subjected. I, however,

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 59

watched my chance, while Covey was looking in an opposite
direction, and started for St. Michael’s. I succeeded in getting a
considerable distance on my way to the woods, when Covey
discovered me, and called after me to come back, threatening
what he would do if I did not come. I disregarded both his calls
and his threats, and made my way to the woods as fast as my
feeble state would allow; and thinking I might be overhauled by
him if I kept the road, I walked through the woods, keeping far
enough from the road to avoid detection, and near enough to
prevent losing my way. I had not gone far before my littl e
strength again failed me. I could go no farther. I fell down, and
lay for a considerable time. The blood was yet oozing 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 hair as to stop the wound. After lying there about
three quarters of an hour, I nerved myself up again, and started
on my way, through bogs and briers, barefooted and
bareheaded, tearing my feet sometimes at nearly every step; and
after 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 to affect any but a heart of iron. From the
crown of my head to my feet, I was covered with blood. My
hair was all clotted with dust and blood; my shirt was stiff with
blood. I suppose I looked like a man who had escaped a den of
wild beasts, and barely escaped them. In this state I appeared
before my master, humbly entreating him to interpose his
authority for my protection. I told him all the circumstances as
well as I could, and it seemed, as I spoke, at times to affect him.
He would then walk the floor, and seek to justify Covey by
saying he expected I deserved it. He asked me what I wanted. I
told him, to let me get a new home; that as sure as I li ved with
Mr. Covey again, I should live with but to die with him; that
Covey would surely kill me; he was in a fair way for it. Master

NARRATIVE OF THE 60

Thomas ridiculed the idea that there was any danger of Mr.
Covey’s killi ng me, and said that he knew Mr. Covey; that he
was a good man, 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 for one year, and that I
must go back to him, come what might; and that I must not
trouble him with any more stories, or that he would himself get
hold of me. After threatening me thus, he gave me a very large
dose of salts, telli ng me that I might remain in St. Michael’s that
night, (it being quite late,) but that I must be off back to Mr.
Covey’s early in the morning; and that if I did not, he would get
hold of me, which meant that he would whip me. I remained all
night, and, according to his orders, I started off to Covey’s in
the morning, (Saturday morning,) wearied in body and broken
in spirit. I got no supper that night, or breakfast that morning. I
reached Covey’s about nine o’clock; and just as I was getting
over the fence that divided Mrs. Kemp’s fields from ours, out
ran Covey 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, it afforded me the
means of hiding. He seemed very angry, and searched for me a
long time. My behavior was altogether unaccountable. He
finally gave up the chase, thinking, I suppose, that I must come
home for something to eat; he would give himself no further
trouble in looking for me. I spent that day mostly in the woods,
having the alternative before me,—to go home and be whipped
to death, or stay in the woods and be starved to death. That
night, I fell i n with Sandy Jenkins, a slave with whom I was
somewhat acquainted. Sandy had a free wife who lived about
four miles from Mr. Covey’s; and it being Saturday, he was on
his way to see her. I told him my circumstances, and he very
kindly invited me to go home with him. I went home with him,
and talked this whole matter over, and got his advice as to what

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 61

course it was best for me to pursue. I found Sandy an old
adviser. He told me, with great solemnity, I must go back to
Covey; but that before I went, I must go with him into another
part of the woods, where there was a certain root, which, if I
would take some of it with me, carrying it always on my right
side, would render it impossible for Mr. Covey, or any other
white man, to whip me. He said he had carried it for years; and
since he had done so, he had never received a blow, 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 as he had said, and was not disposed to take it; but Sandy
impressed the necessity with much earnestness, telli ng me it
could do no harm, if it did no good. To please him, I at length
took the root, and, according to his direction, carried it 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. He spoke to me very kindly, bade me drive
the pigs from a lot near by, and passed on towards the church.
Now, this singular conduct of Mr. Covey really made me begin
to think that there was something in the root which Sandy had
given me; and had it been on any other day than Sunday, I could
have attributed the conduct to no other cause than the influence
of that root; and as it was, I was half inclined to think the root to
be something more than I at first had taken it to be. All went
well till Monday morning. On this morning, the virtue of the
root was fully tested. Long before daylight, I was called to go
and rub, curry, and feed, the horses. I obeyed, and was glad to
obey. But whilst thus engaged, whilst in the act of throwing
down some blades from the loft, Mr. Covey entered the stable
with a long rope; and just as I was half out of the loft, he caught
hold of my legs, and was about tying me. As soon as I found
what he was up to, I gave a sudden spring, and as I did so, he
holding to my legs, I was brought sprawling on the stable floor.

NARRATIVE OF THE 62

Mr. Covey seemed now to think he had me, and could do what
he pleased; but at this moment—from whence 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 as I did so, I
rose. He held on to me, and I to him. My resistance was so
entirely unexpected that Covey seemed taken all aback. He
trembled like a leaf. This gave me assurance, and I held him
uneasy, causing the blood to run where I touched him with the
ends of my fingers. Mr. Covey soon called out to Hughes for
help. Hughes came, and, while Covey held me, attempted to tie
my right hand. While he was in the act of doing so, I watched
my chance, and gave him a heavy kick close under the ribs.
This kick fairly sickened Hughes, so that he left me in the hands
of Mr. Covey. This kick had the effect of not only weakening
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 told him 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 drag me to a
stick that was lying just out of the stable door. He meant to
knock me down. But just as he was leaning over to get the stick,
I seized him with both hands by his collar, and brought him by a
sudden snatch to the ground. By this time, Bil l came. Covey
called upon him for assistance. Bill wanted to know what he
could do. Covey said, “Take hold of him, take hold of him!”
Bill said his master hired him out to work, and not to help to
whip me; so he left Covey and myself to fight our own battle
out. We were at it for nearly two hours. Covey at length let me
go, puff ing and blowing at a great rate, saying that if I had not
resisted, he would not have whipped me half so much. The truth
was, that he had not whipped me at all . I considered him as
getting entirely the worst end of the bargain; for he had drawn
no blood from me, but I had from him. The whole six months

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 63

afterwards, that I spent with Mr. Covey, he never laid the
weight of his finger upon me in anger. He would occasionally
say, 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. It rekindled the few expiring embers of
freedom, and revived within me a sense of my own manhood. It
recalled the departed self-confidence, and inspired me again
with a determination to be free. The gratification afforded by
the triumph was a full compensation for whatever else might
follow, even death itself. He only can understand the deep
satisfaction which I experienced, who has himself repelled by
force the bloody arm of slavery. I felt as I never felt before. It
was a glorious resurrection, from the tomb of slavery, to the
heaven of freedom. My long-crushed spirit rose, cowardice
departed, bold defiance took its place; and I now resolved that,
however long I might remain a slave in form, the day had
passed forever when I could be a slave in fact. I did not hesitate
to let it be known of me, that the white man who expected to
succeed in whipping, must also succeed in killi ng me.

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

It was for a long time a matter of surprise to me why Mr.
Covey did not immediately have me taken by the constable to
the whipping-post, and there regularly whipped for the crime of
raising my hand against a white man in defence of myself. And
the only explanation I can now think of does not entirely satisfy
me; but such as it is, I will give it. Mr. Covey enjoyed the most
unbounded reputation for being a first-rate overseer and negro-
breaker. It was of considerable importance to him. That
reputation was at stake; and had he sent me—a boy about

NARRATIVE OF THE 64

sixteen years old—to the public whipping-post, his reputation
would have been lost; so, to save his reputation, he suffered me
to go unpunished.

My term of actual service to Mr. Edward Covey ended on
Christmas day, 1833. The days 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 and take
care of the stock. This time we regarded as our own, by the
grace of our masters; and we therefore used or abused it nearly
as we pleased. Those of us who had families at a distance, were
generally allowed to spend the whole six days in their society.
This time, however, was spent in various ways. The staid,
sober, thinking and industrious ones of our number would
employ themselves in making corn-brooms, mats, horse-collars,
and baskets; and another class of us would spend the time in
hunting opossums, hares, and coons. But by far the larger part
engaged in such sports and merriments as playing ball ,
wrestling, running foot-races, fiddling, dancing, and drinking
whisky; and this latter mode of spending the time was by far the
most agreeable to the feelings of our masters. A slave who
would work during the holidays was considered by our masters
as scarcely deserving them. He was regarded as one who
rejected the favor 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 the necessary means, during
the year, to get whisky enough to last him through Christmas.

From what I know of the effect of these holidays upon the
slave, I believe them to be among the most effective means in
the hands of the slaveholder in keeping down the spirit of
insurrection. Were the slaveholders at once to abandon this
practice, I have not the slightest doubt it would lead to an
immediate insurrection among the slaves. These holidays serve
as conductors, or safety-valves, to carry off the rebelli ous spirit

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 65

of enslaved humanity. But for these, the slave would be forced
up to the wildest desperation; and woe betide the slaveholder,
the day he ventures to remove or hinder the operation of those
conductors! I warn him that, in such an event, a spirit will go
forth in their midst, more to be dreaded than the most appalli ng
earthquake.

The holidays are part and parcel of the gross fraud, wrong,
and inhumanity of slavery. They are professedly a custom
established by the benevolence of the slaveholders; but I
undertake to say, it is the result of selfishness, and one of the
grossest frauds committed upon the down-trodden slave. They
do not give the slaves this time because they would not like to
have their work during its continuance, 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 slaves spend those
days just in such a manner as to make them as glad of their
ending as of their beginning. Their object seems to be, to
disgust their slaves with freedom, by plunging them into the
lowest depths of dissipation. For instance, the slaveholders not
only li ke to see the slave drink of his own accord, but will adopt
various plans to make him drunk. One plan is, to make bets on
their slaves, as to who can drink the most whisky without
getting drunk; and in this way they succeed in getting whole
multitudes to drink to excess. Thus, when the slave asks for
virtuous freedom, the cunning slaveholder, knowing his
ignorance, cheats him with a dose of vicious dissipation, artfully
labelled with the name of liberty. The most of us used to drink it
down, and the result was just what might be supposed: many of
us were led to think that there was littl e 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
holidays ended, we staggered up from the filth of our
wallowing, took a long breath, and marched to the field,—

NARRATIVE OF THE 66

feeling, upon the whole, rather glad to go, from what our master
had deceived us into a belief was freedom, back to the arms of
slavery.

I have said that this mode of treatment is a part of the
whole system of fraud and inhumanity of slavery. It is so. The
mode here adopted to disgust the slave with freedom, by
allowing him to see only the abuse of it, is carried out in other
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, takes his whip, and commands the slave to
eat the molasses, until the poor fellow is made sick at the very
mention of it. The same mode is sometimes adopted to make the
slaves refrain from asking for more food than their regular
allowance. A slave runs through his allowance, and applies for
more. His master is enraged at him; but, not will ing to send him
off without food, gives him more than is necessary, and
compels him to eat it within a given time. Then, if he complains
that he cannot eat it, he is said to be satisfied neither full nor
fasting, and is whipped for being hard to please! I have an
abundance of such ill ustrations of the same principle, drawn
from my own observation, but think the cases I have cited
suff icient. The practice is a very common one.

On the first of January, 1834, I left Mr. Covey, and went to
li ve with Mr. William Freeland, who lived about three miles
from St. Michael’s. I soon found Mr. Freeland a very different
man from Mr. Covey. Though not rich, he was what would be
called an educated southern gentleman. Mr. Covey, as I have
shown, was a well -trained negro-breaker and slave-driver. The
former (slaveholder though he was) seemed to possess some
regard for honor, some reverence for justice, and some respect
for humanity. The latter seemed totally insensible to all such
sentiments. Mr. Freeland had many of the faults peculiar to
slaveholders, such as being very passionate and fretful; but I

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 67

must do him the justice to say, that he was exceedingly free
from those degrading vices to which Mr. Covey was constantly
addicted. The one was open and frank, and we always knew
where to find him. The other was a most artful deceiver, and
could be understood only by such as were skilful enough to
detect his cunningly-devised frauds. Another advantage I gained
in my new master was, he made no pretensions to, or profession
of, religion; and this, in my opinion, was truly a great
advantage. I assert most unhesitatingly, that the religion of the
south is a mere covering for the most horrid crimes,—a justifier
of the most appalli ng barbarity,—a sanctifier of the most hateful
frauds,—and a dark shelter under, which the darkest, foulest,
grossest, and most infernal deeds of slaveholders find the
strongest protection. Were I to be again reduced to the chains of
slavery, next to that enslavement, I should regard being the
slave of a religious master the greatest calamity that could befall
me. For of all slaveholders with whom I have ever met,
religious slaveholders are the worst. I have ever found them the
meanest and basest, the most cruel and cowardly, of all others.
It was my unhappy lot not only to belong to a religious
slaveholder, but to li ve in a community of such religionists.
Very near Mr. Freeland lived the Rev. Daniel Weeden, and in
the same neighborhood lived the Rev. Rigby Hopkins. These
were members and ministers in the Reformed Methodist
Church. Mr. Weeden owned, among others, a woman slave,
whose name I have forgotten. This woman’s back, for weeks,
was kept literally raw, made so by the lash of this merciless,
religious wretch. He used to hire hands. His maxim was,
Behave well or behave ill, it is the duty of a master occasionally
to whip a slave, to remind him of his master’s authority. Such
was his theory, and such his practice.

Mr. Hopkins was even worse than Mr. Weeden. His chief
boast was his abili ty to manage slaves. The peculiar feature of

NARRATIVE OF THE 68

his government was that of whipping slaves in advance of
deserving it. He always managed to have one or more of his
slaves to whip every Monday morning. He did this to alarm
their fears, and strike terror into those who escaped. His plan
was to whip for the smallest offences, to prevent the
commission of large ones. Mr. Hopkins could always find some
excuse for whipping a slave. It would astonish one,
unaccustomed to a slaveholding li fe, to see with what wonderful
ease a slaveholder can find things, of which to make occasion to
whip a slave. A mere look, word, or motion,—a mistake,
accident, or want of power,—are all matters for which a slave
may be whipped at any time. Does a slave look dissatisfied? It
is said, he has the devil in him, and it must be whipped out.
Does he speak loudly when spoken to by his master? Then he is
getting high-minded, and should be taken down a button-hole
lower. Does he forget to pull off his hat at the approach of a
white person? Then he is wanting in reverence, and should be
whipped for it. Does he ever venture to vindicate his conduct,
when censured for it? Then he is guil ty of impudence,—one of
the greatest crimes of which a slave can be guil ty. Does he ever
venture to suggest a different mode of 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 the lash, and he
seldom failed to embrace such opportunities. There was not a
man in the whole county, with whom the slaves who had the
getting their own home, would not prefer to li ve, rather than
with this Rev. Mr. Hopkins. And yet there was not a man any
where round, who made higher professions of religion, or was
more active in revivals,—more attentive to the class, love-feast,

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 69

prayer and preaching meetings, or more devotional in his
family,—that prayed earlier, 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 gave us suff icient time to take
our meals. He worked us hard, but always between sunrise and
sunset. He required a good deal of work to be done, but gave us
good tools with which to work. His farm was large, but he
employed hands enough to 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 the hands of Mr. Edward Covey.

Mr. Freeland was himself the owner of but two slaves.
Their names were Henry Harris and John Harris. The rest of his
hands he hired. These consisted of myself, Sandy Jenkins,* and
Handy Caldwell . Henry and John were quite intell igent, and in a
very littl e while after I went there, 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 some
old spelli ng-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 my loved fellow-slaves how to read.
Neither of them knew his letters when I went there. Some of the
slaves of the neighboring farms found what was going on, and
also availed themselves of this little opportunity to learn to read.
It was understood, among all who came, that there must be as

* 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 the fight with Covey, and as often as we did so, he would claim my
success as the result of the roots which he gave me. This superstition is very
common among the more ignorant slaves. A slave seldom dies but that his
death is attributed to trickery.

NARRATIVE OF THE 70

littl e display about it as possible. It was necessary to keep our
religious masters at St. Michael’s unacquainted with the fact,
that, instead of spending the Sabbath in wrestling, boxing, and
drinking whisky, we were trying to learn how to read the will of
God; for they had much rather see us engaged in those
degrading sports, than to see us behaving like intellectual,
moral, and accountable beings. My blood boils as I think of the
bloody manner in which Messrs. Wright Fairbanks and
Garrison West, both class-leaders, in connection with many
others, rushed in upon us with sticks and stones, and broke up
our virtuous littl e Sabbath school, at St. Michael’ s—all calli ng
themselves Christians! humble followers of the Lord Jesus
Christ! But I am again digressing.

I held my Sabbath school at the house of a free colored
man, whose name I deem it imprudent to mention; for should it
be known, it might embarrass him greatly, though the crime of
holding the school was committed ten years ago. I had at one
time over forty scholars, and those of the right sort, ardently
desiring to learn. They were of all ages, though mostly men and
women. I look back to those Sundays with an amount of
pleasure not to be expressed. They were great days to my soul.
The work of instructing my dear fellow-slaves was the sweetest
engagement with which I was ever blessed. We loved each
other, and to leave them at the close of the Sabbath was a severe
cross indeed. When I think that these precious souls are to-day
shut up in the prison-house of slavery, my feelings overcome
me, and I am almost ready to ask, “Does a righteous God
govern 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 the spoiler?” These dear souls came
not to Sabbath school because it was popular to do so, nor did I
teach them because it was reputable to be thus engaged. Every
moment they spent in that school, they were liable to be taken

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 71

up, and given thirty-nine lashes. They came because they
wished to learn. Their minds had been starved by their cruel
masters. They had been shut up in mental darkness. I taught
them, because it was the delight of my soul to be doing
something that looked like bettering the condition of my race. I
kept up my school nearly the whole year I lived with Mr.
Freeland; and, beside my Sabbath school, I devoted three
evenings in the week, during the winter, to teaching the slaves
at home. And I have the happiness to know, that several of
those who came to Sabbath school learned how to read; and that
one, at least, is now free through my agency.

The year passed off smoothly. It seemed only about half as
long as the year which preceded it. I went through it without
receiving a single blow. I will give Mr. Freeland the credit of
being the best master I ever had, till I became 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 noble souls; they not only possessed loving hearts, but
brave ones. We were linked and interlinked with each other. I
loved them with a love stronger than any thing I have
experienced since. It is sometimes said that we slaves do not
love and confide in each other. In answer to this assertion, I can
say, I never loved any or confided in any people more than my
fellow-slaves, and especially those with whom I li ved at Mr.
Freeland’s. I believe we would have died for each other. We
never undertook to do any thing, of any importance, without a
mutual consultation. We never moved separately. We were one;
and as much so by our tempers and dispositions, as by the
mutual hardships to which we were necessarily subjected by our
condition as slaves.

At the close of the year 1834, Mr. Freeland again hired me
of my master, for the year 1835. But, by this time, I began to
want to li ve upon free land as well as with Freeland; and I was

NARRATIVE OF THE 72

no longer content, therefore, to li ve with him or any other
slaveholder. I began, with the commencement of the year, to
prepare myself for a final struggle, which should decide my fate
one way or the other. My tendency was upward. I was fast
approaching manhood, and year after year had passed, and I
was still a slave. These thoughts roused me—I must do
something. I therefore resolved that 1835 should not pass
without witnessing an attempt, on my part, to secure my liberty.
But I was not willi ng to cherish this determination alone. My
fellow-slaves were dear to me. I was anxious to have them
participate with me in this, my li fe-giving determination. I
therefore, though with great prudence, commenced early to
ascertain their views and feelings in regard to their condition,
and to imbue their minds with thoughts of freedom. I bent
myself to devising ways and means for our escape, and
meanwhile strove, on all fitting occasions, to impress them with
the gross fraud and inhumanity of slavery. I went first to Henry,
next to John, 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 be proposed. This was what I
wanted. I talked to them of our want of manhood, if we
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, recounted the diff iculties, real and imagined,
which we should be called on to meet. At times we were almost
disposed to give up, and try to content ourselves with our
wretched lot; at others, we were firm and unbending in our
determination to go. Whenever we suggested any plan, there
was shrinking—the odds were fearful. Our path was beset with
the greatest obstacles; and if we succeeded in gaining the end of
it, our right to be free was yet questionable—we were yet liable
to be returned to bondage. We could see no spot, this side of the
ocean, where we could be free. We knew nothing about Canada.

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 73

Our knowledge of the north did not extend farther than New
York; and to go there, and be forever harassed with the frightful
liabili ty of being returned to slavery—with the certainty of
being treated tenfold worse than before—the thought was truly
a horrible one, and one which it was not easy to overcome. The
case sometimes stood thus: At every gate through which we
were to pass, we saw a watchman—at every ferry a guard—on
every bridge a sentinel—and in every wood a patrol. We were
hemmed in upon every side. Here were the diff iculties, real or
imagined—the good to be sought, and the evil to be shunned.
On the one hand, there stood slavery, a stern reali ty, glaring
frightfully upon us,—its robes already crimsoned with the blood
of milli ons, and even now feasting itself greedily upon our own
flesh. On the other hand, away back in the dim distance, under
the fli ckering light of the north star, behind some craggy hill or
snow-covered mountain, stood a doubtful freedom—half
frozen—beckoning us to come and share its hospitali ty. This in
itself was sometimes enough to stagger us; but when we
permitted ourselves to survey the road, we were frequently
appalled. Upon either side we saw grim death, assuming the
most horrid shapes. Now it was starvation, causing us to eat our
own flesh;—now we were contending with the waves, and were
drowned;—now we were overtaken, and torn to pieces by the
fangs of the terrible bloodhound. We were stung by scorpions,
chased by wild beasts, bitten by snakes, and finally, after having
nearly reached the desired spot,—after swimming rivers,
encountering wild beasts, sleeping in the woods, suffering
hunger and nakedness,—we were overtaken by our pursuers,
and, in our resistance, we were shot dead upon the spot! I say,
this picture sometimes appalled us, and made us

“ rather bear those ill s we had,

Than fly to others, that we knew not of.”

NARRATIVE OF THE 74

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 li berty at most, and almost
certain death if we failed. For my part, I should prefer death to
hopeless bondage.

Sandy, one of our number, gave up the notion, but stil l
encouraged us. Our company then consisted of Henry Harris,
John Harris, Henry Bailey, Charles Roberts, 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.
Willi am 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, paddle directly up the Chesapeake
Bay. On our arrival at the head of the bay, a distance of seventy
or eighty miles from where we lived, it was our purpose to turn
our canoe adrift, and follow the guidance of the north star till
we got beyond the limits of Maryland. Our reason for taking the
water route was, that we were less liable to be suspected as
runaways; we hoped to be regarded as fishermen; whereas, if
we should take the land route, we should be subjected to
interruptions of almost every kind. Any one having a white
face, and being so disposed, could stop us, and subject us to
examination.

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

“THIS is to certify that I, the undersigned, have given the
bearer, my servant, full li berty to go to Baltimore, and spend the
Easter holidays. Written with mine own hand, &c., 1835.

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

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 75

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

As the time drew near for our departure, our anxiety
became more and more intense. It was truly a matter of li fe and
death with us. The strength of our determination was about to
be fully tested. At this time, I was very active in explaining
every diff iculty, removing every doubt, dispelli ng every fear,
and inspiring all with the firmness indispensable to success in
our undertaking; assuring them that half was gained the instant
we made the move; we had talked long enough; we were now
ready to move; if not now, we never should be; and if we did
not intend to move now, we had as well fold our arms, sit down,
and acknowledge ourselves fit only to be slaves. This, none of
us were prepared to acknowledge. Every man stood firm; and at
our last meeting, we pledged ourselves afresh, in the most
solemn manner, that, at the time appointed, we would certainly
start in pursuit of freedom. This was in the middle of the week,
at the end of which we were to be off . We went, as usual, to our
several fields of labor, but with bosoms highly agitated with
thoughts of our truly hazardous 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 our departure, came. I hailed it with joy, bring
what of sadness it might. Friday night 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. The
responsibili ty 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 that morning were such as I never
experienced before, and hope never to again. Early in the
morning, we went, as usual, to the field. We were spreading

NARRATIVE OF THE 76

manure; and all at once, while thus engaged, I was
overwhelmed with an indescribable feeling, in the fulness of
which I turned to Sandy, who was near by, and said, “We are
betrayed!” “Well ,” said he, “ that thought has this moment
struck me.” We said no more. I was never more certain of any
thing.

The horn was blown as usual, and we went up from the
field to the house for breakfast. I went for the form, more than
for want of any thing to eat that morning. Just as I got to the
house, in looking out at the lane gate, I saw four white men,
with two colored men. The white men were on horseback, and
the colored ones were walking behind, as if tied. I watched them
a few moments till t hey got up to our lane gate. Here they
halted, and tied the colored men to the gate-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 the door, and inquired if Master Willi am was in. He
was told he was at the barn. Mr. Hamilton, without
dismounting, rode up to the barn with extraordinary speed. In a
few moments, he and Mr. Freeland returned to the house. By
this time, the three constables rode up, and in great haste
dismounted, tied their horses, and met Master Willi am and Mr.
Hamilton returning from the barn; and after talking awhile, they
all walked up to the kitchen door. There was no one in 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 were some gentlemen at the door who
wished to see me. I stepped to the door, and inquired what they
wanted. They at once seized me, and, without giving me any
satisfaction, tied me—lashing my hands closely together. I
insisted upon knowing what the matter was. They at length said,
that they had learned I had been in a “scrape,” and that I was to

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 77

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, who had by this time returned, and
commanded him to cross his hands. “ I won’ t!” said Henry, in a
firm tone, indicating his readiness to meet the consequences of
his refusal. “Won’ t you?” said Tom Graham, the constable.
“No, I won’ t!” said Henry, in a still stronger tone. With this,
two of the constables pulled out their shining pistols, and swore,
by their Creator, that they would make him cross his hands or
kill him. Each cocked his pistol, and, with fingers on the trigger,
walked up to Henry, saying, at the same time, if he did not cross
his hands, they would 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 single stroke dashed the pistols from
the hand of each constable. As he did this, all hands fell upon
him, and, after beating him some time, they finally overpowered
him, and got him tied.

During the scuffle, I managed, I know not how, to get my
pass out, and, without being discovered, put it into the fire. We
were all now tied; and just as we were to leave for Easton jail ,
Betsy Freeland, mother of Willi am Freeland, came to the door
with her hands full of biscuits, and divided them between Henry
and John. She then delivered herself of a speech, to the
following effect:—addressing herself to me, she said, “You
devil ! You yellow devil ! it was you that put it into the heads of
Henry and John to run away. But for you, you long-legged
mulatto devil ! Henry nor John would never have thought of
such a thing.” I made no reply, and was immediately hurried off
towards St. Michael’s. Just a moment previous to the scuff le
with Henry, Mr. Hamilton suggested the propriety of making a

NARRATIVE OF THE 78

search for the protections which he had understood Frederick
had written for himself and the rest. 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 the scuff le
caused them either to forget, or to deem it unsafe, under the
circumstances, to search. So we were not yet convicted of the
intention to run away.

When we got about half way to St. Michael’s, while the
constables having us in charge were looking ahead, Henry
inquired of me what he should do with his pass. I told him to eat
it with his biscuit, and own nothing; and we passed the word
around, “Own nothing;” and “Own nothing!” said we all . Our
confidence in each other was unshaken. We were resolved to
succeed or fail together, after the calamity had befallen us as
much as before. We were now prepared for any thing. We were
to be dragged that morning fifteen miles behind horses, and then
to be placed in the Easton jail . 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 out the
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 littl e where 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 evidence
against us to be the testimony of one person; our master would
not tell who it was; but we came to a unanimous decision
among ourselves as to who their informant was. We were sent
off to the jail at Easton. When we got there, we were 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, and Henry Bailey, in another. Their object in
separating us was to hinder concert.

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 79

We had been in jail scarcely twenty minutes, when a swarm
of slave traders, and agents for slave traders, flocked into jail to
look at us, and to ascertain if we were for sale. Such a set of
beings I never saw before! I felt myself surrounded by so many
fiends from perdition. A band of pirates never looked more like
their father, the devil . They laughed and grinned over us,
saying, “Ah, my boys! we have got you, haven’ t we?” And after
taunting 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 would not like to have them for
our masters. We would make them no answer, and leave them
to find out as best they could. Then they would curse and swear
at us, telli ng us that they could take the devil out of us in a very
littl e while, if we were only in their hands.

While in jail , we found ourselves in much more
comfortable quarters than we expected when we went there. We
did not get much to eat, nor that which was very good; but we
had a good clean room, from the windows of which we could
see what was going on in the street, which was very much better
than though we had been placed in one of the dark, damp cells.
Upon the whole, we got along very well , so far as the jail and its
keeper were concerned. Immediately after the holidays 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 of jail , and carried them home, leaving me alone.
I regarded this separation as a final 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 had consulted
together, and had decided that, as I was the whole cause of the
intention of the others to run away, it was hard to make the
innocent suffer with the guil ty; and that they had, therefore,
concluded to take the others home, and sell me, as a warning to
the others that remained. It is due to the noble Henry to say, he

NARRATIVE OF THE 80

seemed almost as reluctant at leaving the prison as at leaving
home to come to the prison. But we knew we should, in all
probabili ty, be separated, if we were sold; and since he was in
their hands, he concluded to go peaceably home.

I was now left to my fate. I was all alone, and within the
walls of a stone prison. But a few days before, and I was full of
hope. I expected to have been safe in a land of freedom; but
now I was covered with gloom, sunk down to the utmost
despair. I thought the possibili ty of freedom was gone. I was
kept in this way about one week, at the end of which, Captain
Auld, my master, to my surprise and utter astonishment, came
up, and took me out, with the intention of sending me, with a
gentleman of his acquaintance, into Alabama. But, from some
cause or other, he did not send me to Alabama, but concluded to
send me back to Baltimore, to li ve again with his brother Hugh,
and to learn a trade.

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

In a few weeks after I went to Baltimore, Master Hugh
hired me to Mr. Willi am Gardner, an extensive ship-builder, on
Fell ’ s Point. I was put there to learn how to calk. It, however,
proved a very unfavorable place for the accomplishment of this
object. Mr. Gardner was engaged that spring in building two
large man-of-war brigs, professedly for the Mexican
government. The vessels were 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 knew how to do. In entering the shipyard, my orders from
Mr. Gardner were, to do whatever the carpenters commanded

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 81

me to do. This was placing me at the beck and call of about
seventy-five men. I was to regard all these as masters. Their
word was to be my law. My situation was a most trying one. At
times I needed a dozen 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. It was—“Fred., come help
me to cant this timber here.”— “Fred., come carry this timber
yonder.”—“Fred., bring that roller here.”—“Fred., go get a
fresh can of water.”—“Fred., come help saw off the end of this
timber.”—“Fred., go quick, and get the crowbar.”— “Fred.,
hold on the end of this fall .”—“Fred., go to the blacksmith’s
shop, and get a new punch.”—“Hurra, Fred.! run and bring me
a cold chisel.”—“ I say, Fred., bear a hand, and get up a fire as
quick as lightning under that steam-box.”—“Halloo, nigger!
come, turn this grindstone.”—“Come, come! move, move! and
bowse this timber forward.”—“ I say, darky, blast your eyes,
why don’ t you heat up some pitch?”—“Halloo! halloo! halloo!”
(Three voices at the same time.) “Come here!—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 which my left eye was nearly
knocked out, and I was horribly mangled in other respects. The
facts in the case were these: Until a very littl e while after I went
there, white and black ship-carpenters worked side by side, and
no one seemed to see any impropriety in it. All hands seemed to
be very well satisfied. Many of the black carpenters were
freemen. Things seemed to be going on very well. All at once,
the white carpenters knocked off, and said they would not work
with free colored workmen. Their reason for this, as alleged,
was, that if free colored carpenters were encouraged, they
would soon take the trade into their own hands, and poor white

NARRATIVE OF THE 82

men would be thrown out of employment. They therefore felt
called upon at once to put a stop to it. And, taking advantage of
Mr. Gardner’s necessities, they broke off , swearing they 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. My fellow-apprentices very soon began to feel it
degrading to them to work with me. They began to put on airs,
and talk about the “niggers” taking the country, saying we all
ought to be kill ed; and, being encouraged by the journeymen,
they commenced making my condition as hard as they could, by
hectoring me around, and sometimes striking me. I, of course,
kept the vow I made after the fight with Mr. Covey, and struck
back again, regardless of consequences; and while I kept them
from combining, I succeeded very well; for I could whip the
whole of them, taking them separately. They, however, at length
combined, and came upon me, armed with sticks, stones, and
heavy handspikes. One came in front with a half brick. There
was one at each side of me, and one behind me. While I was
attending to those in front, and on either side, the one behind
ran up with the handspike, and struck me a heavy blow upon the
head. It stunned me. I fell , and with this they all ran upon me,
and fell to beating me with their fists. I let them lay on for a
while, gathering strength. 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, a powerful kick in the
left eye. My eyeball seemed to have burst. When they saw my
eye closed, and badly swollen, they left me. With this I seized
the handspike, and for a time pursued them. But here the
carpenters interfered, and I thought I might as well give it up. It
was impossible to stand my hand against so many. All this took
place in sight of not less than fifty white ship-carpenters, and
not one interposed a friendly word; but some cried, “Kill t he
damned nigger! Kill him! kill him! He struck a white person.” I

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 83

found my only chance for li fe was in flight. I succeeded in
getting away without an additional blow, and barely so; for to
strike a white man is death by Lynch law,—and that was the
law in Mr. Gardner’s ship-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 am happy to say of him, irreligious as he
was, his conduct was heavenly, compared with that of his
brother Thomas under similar circumstances. He listened
attentively 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 once overkind mistress was again melted
into pity. My puffed-out eye and blood-covered face moved her
to tears. She took a chair by me, washed the blood from my
face, and, with a mother’s tenderness, bound up my head,
covering the wounded eye with a lean piece of fresh beef. It was
almost compensation for my suffering to witness, once more, a
manifestation of kindness from this, my once affectionate old
mistress. Master Hugh was very much enraged. He gave
expression to his feelings by pouring out curses upon the heads
of those who did the deed. As soon as I got a litt le the better of
my bruises, he took me with him to Esquire Watson’s, on Bond
Street, to see what could be done about the matter. Mr. Watson
inquired who saw the assault committed. Master Hugh told him
it was done in Mr. Gardner’s ship-yard at midday, where there
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 would come forward and testify. He could
issue no warrant on my word. If I had been kill ed in the
presence of a thousand colored people, their testimony
combined would have been insufficient to have arrested one of
the murderers. Master Hugh, for once, was compelled to say

NARRATIVE OF THE 84

this state of things was too bad. Of course, it was impossible to
get any white man to volunteer his testimony in my behalf, and
against the white young men. Even those who may have
sympathized with me were not prepared to do this. It required a
degree of courage unknown to them to do so; for just at that
time, the slightest manifestation of humanity toward a colored
person was denounced as aboliti onism, and that name subjected
its bearer to frightful li abiliti es. The watchwords of the bloody-
minded in that region, and in those days, were, “Damn the
aboliti onists!” and “Damn the niggers!” There was nothing
done, and probably nothing would have been done if I had been
kill ed. 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 again to Mr. Gardner. He kept me himself, and his
wife dressed my wound till I was again restored to health. He
then took me into the ship-yard of which he was foreman, in the
employment of Mr. Walter Price. There I was immediately set
to calking, and very soon learned the art of using my mallet and
irons. In the course of one year from the time I left Mr.
Gardner’s, I was able to command the highest wages given to
the most experienced calkers. I was now of some importance to
my master. I was bringing him from six to seven dollars per
week. I sometimes brought him nine dollars per week: my
wages were a dollar and a half a day. After learning how to
calk, I sought my own employment, made my own contracts,
and collected the money which I earned. My pathway became
much more smooth than before; my condition was now much
more comfortable. When I could get no calking to do, I did
nothing. During these leisure times, those old 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 li fe; and in thinking

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 85

of my life, I almost forgot my liberty. I have observed this in
my experience of slavery,—that whenever my condition was
improved, instead of its increasing my contentment, it only
increased my desire to be free, and set me to thinking of plans
to gain my freedom. I have found that, to make a contented
slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one. It is necessary
to darken his moral and mental vision, and, as far as possible, to
annihilate the power of reason. He must be able to detect no
inconsistencies in slavery; he must be made to feel that slavery
is right; and he can be brought to that only when he ceases to be
a man.

I was now getting, as I have said, one dollar and fifty cents
per day. I contracted 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 cent of that money to Master
Hugh. And why? Not because he earned it,—not because he had
any hand in earning it,—not because I owed it to him,—nor
because he possessed the slightest shadow of a right to it; but
solely because he had the power to compel me to give it up. The
right of the grim-visaged pirate upon the high seas is exactly the
same.

NARRATIVE OF THE 86

CHAPTER XI.

I NOW come to that part of my li fe during which I planned,

and finally succeeded in making, my escape from slavery. But
before narrating any of the peculiar circumstances, I deem it
proper to make known my intention not to state all the facts
connected with the transaction. My reasons for pursuing this
course may be understood from the following: First, were I to
give a minute statement of all the facts, it is not only possible,
but quite probable, that others would thereby be involved in the
most embarrassing diff iculties. Secondly, such a statement
would most undoubtedly induce greater vigilance on the part of
slaveholders than has existed heretofore among them; which
would, of course, be the means of guarding a door whereby
some dear brother bondman might escape his galli ng chains. I
deeply regret the necessity that impels me to suppress any thing
of importance connected with my experience in slavery. It
would afford me great pleasure indeed, as well as materially add
to the interest of my narrative, were I at liberty to gratify a
curiosity, which I know exists in the minds of many, by an
accurate statement of all the facts pertaining to my most
fortunate escape. But I must deprive myself of this pleasure, and
the curious of the gratification which such a statement would
afford. I would allow myself to suffer under the greatest
imputations which evil -minded men might suggest, rather than
exculpate myself, and thereby run the hazard of closing the
slightest avenue by which a brother slave might clear himself of
the chains and fetters of slavery.

I have never approved of the very public manner in which
some of our western friends have conducted what they call the

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 87

underground rail road, but which I think, by their open
declarations, has been made most emphatically the upperground
rail road. I honor those good men and women for their noble
daring, and applaud them for willi ngly subjecting themselves to
bloody persecution, by openly avowing their participation in the
escape of slaves. I, however, can see very littl e good resulting
from such a course, either to themselves or the slaves escaping;
while, upon the other hand, I see and feel assured that those
open declarations are a positive evil to the slaves remaining,
who are seeking to escape. They do nothing towards
enlightening the slave, whilst they do much towards
enlightening the master. They stimulate him to greater
watchfulness, and enhance his power to capture his slave. We
owe something to the slave south of the line as well as to those
north of it; and in aiding the latter on their way to freedom, we
should be careful to do nothing which would be likely to hinder
the former from escaping from slavery. I would keep the
merciless slaveholder profoundly ignorant of the means of flight
adopted by the slave. I would leave him to imagine himself
surrounded by myriads of invisible tormentors, ever ready to
snatch from his infernal grasp his trembling prey. Let him be
left to feel his way in the dark; let darkness commensurate with
his crime hover over him; and let him feel that at every step he
takes, in pursuit of the flying bondman, he is running the
frightful risk of having his hot brains dashed out by an invisible
agency. Let us render the tyrant no aid; let us not hold the light
by which he can trace the footprints of our flying brother. But
enough of this. I will now proceed to the statement of those
facts, connected with my escape, for which I am alone
responsible, and for 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 no reason why I should, at the end of each week, pour

NARRATIVE OF THE 88

the reward of my toil i nto the purse of my master. When I
carried to him my weekly wages, he would, after counting 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
last cent. He would, however, when I made him six dollars,
sometimes give me six cents, to encourage me. It had the
opposite effect. I regarded it as a sort of admission of my right
to the whole. The fact that he gave me any part of my wages
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 giving me a few cents would ease his
conscience, and make him feel himself to be a pretty honorable
sort of robber. My discontent grew upon me. I was ever on the
look-out for means of escape; and, finding no direct means, I
determined to try to hire my time, with a view of getting money
with which to make my escape. In the spring of 1838, when
Master Thomas came to Baltimore to purchase his spring goods,
I got an opportunity, and applied to him to allow me to hire my
time. He unhesitatingly refused my request, and told me this
was another stratagem by which to escape. He told me I could
go nowhere but that he could get me; and that, in the event of
my running away, he should spare no pains in his efforts to
catch me. He exhorted me to content myself, and be obedient.
He told me, if I would be happy, I must lay out no plans for the
future. He said, if I behaved myself properly, he would take
care of me. Indeed, he advised me to complete thoughtlessness
of the future, and taught me to depend solely upon him for
happiness. He seemed to see fully the pressing necessity of
setting aside my intellectual 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 the injustice of my
enslavement, and the means of escape.

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 89

About two months after this, I applied to Master Hugh for
the privilege of hiring my time. He was not acquainted with the
fact that I had applied to Master Thomas, and had been refused.
He too, at first, seemed disposed to refuse; but, after some
reflection, he granted me the privilege, and proposed the
following terms: I was to be allowed all my time, make all
contracts with those for whom I worked, and find my own
employment; and, in return for this liberty, I was to pay him
three dollars at the end of each week; find myself in calking
tools, and in board and clothing. My board was two dollars and
a half per week. This, with the wear and tear of clothing and
calking tools, made my regular expenses about six dollars per
week. This amount I was compelled to make up, or relinquish
the privilege of hiring my time. Rain or shine, work or no work,
at the end of each week the money must be forthcoming, or I
must give up my privilege. This arrangement, it will be
perceived, was decidedly in my master’s favor. It relieved him
of all need of looking after me. His money 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
anxiety of a freeman. I found it a hard bargain. But, hard as it
was, I thought it better than the old mode of getting along. It
was a step towards freedom to be allowed to bear the
responsibiliti es of a freeman, and I was determined to hold on
upon it. I bent myself to the work of making money. I was ready
to work at night as well as day, and by the most untiring
perseverance and industry, I made enough to meet my expenses,
and lay up a littl e money every week. I went on thus from May
till August. Master Hugh then refused to allow me to hire my
time longer. The ground for his refusal was a failure on my part,
one Saturday night, to pay him for my week’s time. This failure
was occasioned by my attending a camp meeting about ten
miles from Baltimore. During the week, I had entered into an

NARRATIVE OF THE 90

engagement with a number of young friends to start from
Baltimore to the camp ground early Saturday evening; and
being detained by my employer, I was unable to get down to
Master Hugh’s without disappointing the company. I knew that
Master Hugh was in no special need of the money that night. I
therefore decided to go to camp meeting, and upon my return
pay him the three dollars. I staid at the camp meeting one day
longer than I intended when I left. But as soon as I returned, I
called upon him to pay him what he considered 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 how I dared go out of the city without asking his
permission. I told him I hired my time and while I paid him the
price which he asked for it, I did not know that I 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 my time 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. I did so; but
instead of seeking work, as I had been accustomed to do
previously to hiring my time, I spent the whole week without
the performance of a single stroke of work. I did this in
retaliation. Saturday night, he called upon me as usual for my
week’s wages. I told him I had no wages; I had done no work
that week. Here we were upon the point of coming to blows. He
raved, and swore his determination to get hold of me. I did not
allow myself a single word; but was resolved, if he laid the
weight of his hand upon me, it should be blow for blow. He did
not strike me, but told me that he would find me in constant
employment in future. I thought the matter over during the next
day, Sunday, and finall y resolved upon the third day of
September, as the day upon which I would make a second
attempt to secure my freedom. I now had three weeks during

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 91

which to prepare for my journey. Early on Monday morning,
before Master Hugh had 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 City Block, thus
making it unnecessary for him to seek employment for me. At
the end of the week, I brought him between eight and nine
dollars. He seemed very well pleased, and asked why I did not
do the same the week before. He littl e knew what my plans
were. My object in working steadily was to remove any
suspicion he 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 the very time during
which I was planning my escape. The second week passed, and
again I carried him my full wages; and so well pleased was he,
that he gave me twenty-five cents, (quite a large sum for a
slaveholder to give a slave,) and bade 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. It is impossible for me to describe my
feelings as the time of my contemplated start drew near. I had a
number of warm-hearted friends in Baltimore,—friends that I
loved almost as I did my li fe,—and the thought of being
separated from them forever was painful beyond expression. It
is my opinion that thousands would escape from slavery, who
now remain, but for the strong cords of affection that bind them
to their friends. The thought of leaving my friends was
decidedly the most painful thought with which I had to contend.
The love of them was my tender point, and shook my decision
more than all things else. Besides the pain of separation, the
dread and apprehension of a failure exceeded what I had
experienced at my first attempt. The appalli ng defeat I then
sustained returned to torment me. I felt assured that, if I failed
in this attempt, my case would be a hopeless one—it would seal

NARRATIVE OF THE 92

my fate as a slave forever. I could not hope to get off with any
thing less than the severest punishment, and being placed
beyond the means of escape. It required no very vivid
imagination to depict the most frightful scenes through which I
should have to pass, in case I failed. The wretchedness of
slavery, and the blessedness of freedom, were perpetually
before me. It was li fe and death with me. But I remained firm,
and, according to my resolution, on the third day of September,
1838, I left my chains, and succeeded in reaching New York
without the slightest interruption of any kind. How I did so,—
what means I adopted,—what direction I travelled, and by what
mode of conveyance,—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. I have never been able to answer the
question with any satisfaction to myself. It was a moment of the
highest excitement I ever experienced. I suppose I felt as one
may imagine the unarmed mariner to feel when he is rescued by
a friendly man-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 li ke one who had escaped 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 was yet liable
to be taken back, and subjected to all the tortures of slavery.
This in itself was enough to damp the ardor of my enthusiasm.
But the loneliness overcame 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 own brethren—children
of a common Father, and yet I dared not to unfold to any one of
them my sad condition. I was afraid to speak to any one for fear
of speaking to the wrong one, and thereby falli ng into the hands
of money-loving kidnappers, whose business it was to lie in
wait for the panting fugitive, as the ferocious beasts of the forest

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 93

lie in wait for their prey. The motto which I adopted when I
started from slavery was this—“Trust no man!” I saw in every
white man an enemy, and in almost every colored man cause for
distrust. It was a most painful situation; and, to understand it,
one must needs experience it, or imagine himself in similar
circumstances. Let him be a fugitive slave in a strange land—a
land given up to be the hunting-ground for slaveholders—
whose inhabitants are legalized kidnappers—where he is every
moment subjected to the terrible liabili ty of being seized upon
by his fellow-men, as the hideous crocodile seizes upon his
prey!—I say, let him place himself in my situation—without
home or friends—without money or credit—wanting shelter,
and no one to give it—wanting bread, and no money to buy
it,—and at the same time let him feel that he is pursued by
merciless men-hunters, and in total darkness as to what to do,
where to go, or where to stay,—perfectly helpless both as to the
means of defence and means of escape,—in the midst of plenty,
yet suffering the terrible gnawings of hunger,—in the midst of
houses, yet having no home,—among fellow-men, yet feeling as
if in the midst of wild beasts, whose greediness to swallow up
the trembling and half-famished fugitive is only equalled by that
with which the monsters of the deep swallow up the helpless
fish upon which they subsist,—I say, let him be placed in this
most trying situation,—the situation in which I was placed,—
then, and not till then, will he fully appreciate the hardships of,
and know how to sympathize with, the toil -worn and whip-
scarred fugitive slave.

Thank Heaven, I remained but a short time in this
distressed situation. I was relieved from it by the humane hand
of Mr. DAVID RUGGLES, whose vigilance, kindness, and
perseverance, I shall never forget. I am glad of an opportunity to
express, as far as words can, the love and gratitude I bear him.
Mr. Ruggles is now aff licted with blindness, and is himself in

NARRATIVE OF THE 94

need of the same kind 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 very kindly
took me to his boarding-house at the corner of Church and
Lespenard Streets. Mr. Ruggles was then very deeply engaged
in the memorable Darg case, as well as attending to a number of
other fugitive slaves, devising ways and means for their
successful escape; and, though watched and hemmed in on
almost 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 wanted to go; as he deemed it unsafe for me to
remain in New York. I told him I was a calker, and should like
to go where I could get work. I thought of going to Canada; 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,* my intended wife, came on; for I wrote to her
immediately after my arrival at New York, (notwithstanding my
homeless, houseless, and helpless condition,) informing her of
my successful flight, and wishing her to come on forthwith. In a
few days after her arrival, Mr. Ruggles called in the Rev. J. W.
C. Pennington, who, in the presence of Mr. Ruggles, Mrs.
Michaels, and two or three others, performed the marriage
ceremony, and gave us a certificate, of which the following is
an exact copy:—

“THIS may certify, that I joined together in holy matrimony
Frederick Johnson† and Anna Murray, as man and wife, in the
presence of Mr. David Ruggles and Mrs. Michaels.

“ JAMES W. C. PENNINGTON.
“New York, Sept. 15, 1838.”

* She was free.
† I had changed my name from Frederick Bailey to that of Johnson.

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 95

Upon receiving this certificate, and a five-dollar bill from
Mr. Ruggles, I shouldered one part of our baggage, and Anna
took up the other, and we set out forthwith to take passage on
board of the steamboat John W. Richmond for Newport, on our
way to New Bedford. Mr. Ruggles gave me a letter to a Mr.
Shaw in Newport, and told me, in case my money did not serve
me to New Bedford, to stop 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 lacked the
necessary money to pay our fare, we decided to take seats in the
stage, and promise to pay when we got to New Bedford. We
were encouraged to do this by two excellent gentlemen,
residents of New Bedford, whose names I afterward ascertained
to be Joseph Ricketson and William C. Taber. They seemed at
once to understand our circumstances, and gave us such
assurance of their friendliness as put us fully at ease in their
presence. It was good indeed to meet with such friends, at such
a time. Upon reaching New Bedford, we were directed to the
house of Mr. Nathan Johnson, by whom we were kindly
received, and hospitably provided for. Both Mr. and Mrs.
Johnson took a deep and lively interest in our welfare. They
proved themselves quite worthy of the name of aboliti onists.
When the stage-driver found us unable to pay our fare, he held
on upon our baggage as security for the debt. I had but to
mention 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 the duties and responsibiliti es of a life of freedom.
On the morning after our arrival at New Bedford, while at the
breakfast-table, the question arose as to what name I should be
called by. The name given me by my mother was, “Frederick
Augustus Washington Bailey.” I, however, had dispensed with
the two middle names long before I left Maryland so that I was

NARRATIVE OF THE 96

generally known by the name of “Frederick Bailey.” I started
from Baltimore bearing the name of “Stanley.” When I got to
New York, I again changed my name to “Frederick Johnson,”
and thought that would be the last change. But when I got to
New Bedford, I found it necessary again to change my name.
The reason of this necessity was, that there were so many
Johnsons in New Bedford, it was already quite diff icult to
distinguish between them. I gave Mr. Johnson the privilege of
choosing me a name, but told him he must not take from me the
name of “Frederick.” I must hold on to that, 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 name than
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 of the people of the
north, I found to be singularly erroneous. I had very strangely
supposed, while in slavery, that few of the comforts, and
scarcely any of the luxuries, of li fe were enjoyed at the north,
compared with what were enjoyed by the slaveholders of the
south. I probably came to this conclusion from the fact that
northern people owned no slaves. I supposed that they were
about upon a level with the non-slaveholding population of the
south. I knew they were exceedingly poor, and I had been
accustomed to regard their poverty as the necessary
consequence of their being non-slaveholders. I had somehow
imbibed the opinion that, in the absence of slaves, there could
be no wealth, and very littl e refinement. And upon coming to
the north, I expected to meet with a rough, hard-handed, and
uncultivated population, li ving in the most Spartan-like
simplicity, knowing nothing of the ease, luxury, pomp, and

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 97

grandeur of southern slaveholders. Such being my conjectures,
any one acquainted with the appearance of New Bedford may
very readily infer how palpably 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 the strongest proofs of wealth. Lying at
the wharves, and riding in the stream, I saw 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
widest dimensions, stowed to their utmost capacity with the
necessaries and comforts of li fe. Added to this, almost every
body seemed to be at work, but noiselessly so, compared with
what I had been accustomed to in Baltimore. There were no
loud songs heard from those engaged in loading and unloading
ships. I heard no deep oaths or horrid curses on the laborer. I
saw no whipping of men; but all seemed to go smoothly on.
Every man appeared to understand his work, and went at it with
a sober, yet cheerful earnestness, which betokened the deep
interest which he felt in what he was doing, as well as a sense of
his own dignity as a man. To me this looked exceedingly
strange. From the wharves I strolled around and over the town,
gazing with wonder and admiration at the splendid churches,
beautiful dwelli ngs, and finely-cultivated gardens; evincing an
amount of wealth, comfort, taste, and refinement, such as I had
never seen in any part of slaveholding Maryland.

Every thing looked clean, new, and beautiful. I saw few or
no dilapidated houses, with poverty-stricken inmates; no half-
naked children and barefooted women, 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 a view of extreme wealth, without being saddened by seeing
extreme poverty. But the most astonishing as well as the most

NARRATIVE OF THE 98

interesting thing to me was the condition of the colored people,
a great many of whom, like myself, had escaped thither as a
refuge from the hunters of men. I found many, who had not
been seven years out of their chains, li ving in finer houses, and
evidently enjoying more of the comforts of li fe, than the
average of slaveholders in Maryland. I will venture to assert,
that my friend Mr. Nathan Johnson (of whom I can say with 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”) li ved in a neater house; dined at a better table; took, paid
for, and read, more newspapers; better understood the moral,
religious, and politi cal character of the nation,—than nine tenths
of the slaveholders in Talbot county Maryland. 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
people much more spirited than I had supposed they would be. I
found among them a determination to protect each other from
the blood-thirsty kidnapper, at all hazards. Soon after my
arrival, I was told of a circumstance which ill ustrated their
spirit. A colored man and a fugitive slave were on unfriendly
terms. The former was heard to threaten the latter with
informing his master of his whereabouts. Straightway a meeting
was called among the colored people, under the stereotyped
notice, “Business of importance!” The betrayer was invited to
attend. The people came at the appointed hour, and organized
the meeting by appointing a very religious old gentleman as
president, who, I believe, made a prayer, after which he
addressed the meeting as follows: “Friends, we have got him
here, and I would recommend that you young men just take him
outside the door, and kill him!” With this, a number of them
bolted at him; but they were intercepted by some more timid
than themselves, and the betrayer escaped their vengeance, and
has not been seen in New Bedford since. I believe there have

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 99

been no more such threats, and should there 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 a load of oil . It was new, dirty, and hard
work for me; but I went at it with a glad heart and a willi ng
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. It was the first work, the reward of which was to be
entirely my own. There was no Master Hugh standing ready, the
moment I earned the money, to rob me of it. I worked that day
with a pleasure I had never before experienced. I was at work
for myself and newly-married wife. It was to me the starting-
point of a new existence. When I got through with that job, I
went in pursuit of a job of calking; but such was the strength of
prejudice against color, among the white calkers, that they
refused to work with me, and of course I could get no
employment.* 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. Johnson kindly let me
have his wood-horse and saw, and I very soon found myself a
plenty of work. There was no work too hard—none too dirty. I
was ready to saw wood, shovel coal, carry wood, sweep the
chimney, or roll oil casks,—all of which I did for nearly three
years in New Bedford, before I became known to the anti-
slavery world.

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 him I did; but, just having made my
escape from slavery, I remarked that I was unable to pay for it
then. I, however, finally became a subscriber to it. The paper
came, and I read it from week to week with such feelings as it

* I am told that colored persons can now get employment at calking in

New Bedford—a result of anti-slavery effort.

NARRATIVE OF THE 100

would be quite idle for me to attempt to describe. The paper
became my meat and my drink. My soul was set all on fire. Its
sympathy for my brethren in bonds—its scathing denunciations
of slaveholders—its faithful exposures of slavery—and its
powerful attacks upon the upholders of the institution—sent a
thrill of joy through my soul, such as I had never felt before!

I had not long been a reader of the “Liberator,” before I got
a pretty correct idea of the principles, measures and spirit of the
anti-slavery reform. I took right hold of the cause. I could do
but lit tle; but what I could, I did with a joyful heart, and never
felt happier than when in an anti-slavery meeting. I seldom had
much to say at the meetings, because what I wanted to say was
said so much better by others. But, while attending an anti-
slavery convention at Nantucket, on the 11th of August, 1841, I
felt strongly moved to speak, and was at the same time much
urged to do so by Mr. Willi am C. Coff in, a gentleman who had
heard me speak in the colored people’s meeting at New
Bedford. It was a severe cross, and I took it up reluctantly. The
truth was, I felt myself a slave, and the idea of speaking to white
people weighed me down. I spoke but a few moments, when I
felt a degree of freedom, and said what I desired with
considerable ease. From that time until now, I have been
engaged in pleading the cause of my brethren—with what
success, and with what devotion, I leave those acquainted with
my labors to decide.

APPENDIX.

I FIND, since reading over the foregoing Narrative, that I

have, in several instances, spoken in such a tone and manner,
respecting religion, as may possibly lead those unacquainted
with my religious views to suppose me an opponent of all
religion. To remove the liabili ty of such misapprehension, I
deem it proper to append the following brief explanation. What
I have said respecting and against religion, I mean strictly to
apply to the slaveholding religion of this land, and with no
possible reference to Christianity proper; for, between the
Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I
recognize the widest possible difference—so wide, that to
receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject
the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the
one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure,
peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate
the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering,
partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can
see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calli ng the religion
of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all
misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all
libels. Never was there a clearer case of “ stealing the livery of
the court of heaven to serve the devil i n.” I am fill ed with
unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and
show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which every
where surround me. We have men-stealers for ministers,
women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for

APPENDIX TO THE 102

church members. The man who wields the blood-clotted
cowskin during the week fill s the pulpit on Sunday, and claims
to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus. The man who robs
me of my earnings at the end of each week meets me as a class-
leader on Sunday morning, to show me the way of li fe, and the
path of salvation. He who sells my sister, for purposes of
prostitution, stands forth as the pious advocate of purity. He
who proclaims it a religious duty to read the Bible denies me
the right of learning to read the name of the God who made me.
He who is the religious advocate of marriage robs whole
milli ons of its sacred influence, and leaves them to the ravages
of wholesale pollution. The warm defender of the sacredness of
the family relation is the same that scatters whole families,—
sundering husbands and wives, parents and children, sisters and
brothers,—leaving the hut vacant, and the hearth desolate. We
see the thief preaching against theft, and the adulterer against
adultery. 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 of God and the good of souls!
The slave auctioneer’s bell and the church-going bell chime in
with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-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 fetters and the rattling of chains in the prison, and
the pious psalm and solemn prayer in the church, may be heard
at the same time. The dealers in the bodies and souls of men
erect their stand in the presence of the pulpit, and they mutually
help 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 of Christianity. Here we have religion
and robbery the alli es of each other—devils dressed in angels’
robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise.

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 103

“Just God! and these are they,
Who minister at thine altar, God of right!
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 aff li cted 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 as truly said, as it was of the ancient scribes
and Pharisees, “They bind heavy 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 their works
they do for to be seen of men.—They love the uppermost rooms
at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, . . . . . . and to be
called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.—But woe unto you, scribes and
Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven
against men; for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye
them that are entering to go in. Ye devour widows’ houses, and
for a pretence make long prayers; therefore ye shall receive the
greater damnation. Ye compass sea and land to make one

APPENDIX TO THE 104

proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the
child of hell than yourselves.—Woe unto you, scribes and
Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint, and anise, and
cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law,
judgment, mercy, and faith; these ought ye to have done, and
not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides! which strain at a
gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and
Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup
and of the platter; but within, they are full of extortion and
excess.—Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for
ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear
beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and
of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous
unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”

Dark and terrible as is this picture, I hold it to be strictly
true of the overwhelming 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 would be shocked at
the proposition of fellowshipping a sheep-stealer; and at the
same time they hug to their communion a man-stealer, and
brand me with being an infidel, if I find fault with them for it.
They attend with Pharisaical strictness to the outward forms of
religion, and at the same time neglect the weightier matters of
the law, judgment, mercy, and faith. They are always ready to
sacrifice, but seldom to show mercy. They are they who are
represented as professing to love God whom they have not seen,
whilst they hate their brother whom they have seen. They love
the heathen on the other side of the globe. They can pray for
him, pay money to have the Bible put into his hand, and
missionaries to instruct him; while they despise and totally
neglect the heathen at their own doors.

Such is, very briefly, my view of the religion of this land;
and to avoid any misunderstanding, growing out of the use of

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 105

general terms, I mean by the religion of this land, that which is
revealed in the words, deeds, and actions, of those bodies, north
and south, calli ng themselves Christian churches, and yet in
union with slaveholders. It is against religion, as presented by
these bodies, that I have felt it my duty to testify.

I conclude these remarks by copying the following portrait
of the religion of the south, (which is, by communion and
fellowship, the religion of the north,) which I soberly aff irm is
“ true to the li fe,” and without caricature or the slightest
exaggeration. It is said to have been drawn, several years before
the present anti-slavery agitation began, by a northern
Methodist preacher, who, while residing at the south, had an
opportunity to see slaveholding morals, manners, and piety,
with his own eyes. “Shall I not visit for these things? saith the
Lord. Shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?”

“A PARODY

“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,

APPENDIX TO THE 106

Of human rights, and bread and ham;
Kidnapper’s heavenly union.

“They’ ll l oudly 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,
Haili ng 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 guil ty 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 li ke Bashan bull ,
Or braying ass, of mischief full ,
Then seize old Jacob by the wool,
And pull for heavenly union.

LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 107

“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 l oved 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.

“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 fli rts 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 littl e book may do

something toward throwing light on the American slave system,
and hastening the glad day of deliverance to the milli ons of my

APPENDIX TO THE 108

brethren in bonds—faithfully relying upon the power of truth,
love, and justice, for success in my humble efforts—and
solemnly pledging myself anew to the sacred cause,—I
subscribe myself,

FREDERICK DOUGLASS.

LYNN, Mass., April 28, 1845.

THE END.

Copyright Information

Preface

Letter from Wendell Phillips, Esq.

Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI

Chapter VII

Chapter VIII

Chapter IX

Chapter X

Chapter XI

Appendix

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