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

By Frederick Douglass, 

In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Massachusetts, 


In the month of August, 1841, 1 attended an anti* 
slavery convention in Nantucket, at which it was my 
happiness to become acquainted with Frederick Doug- 
lass, 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 ex- 
cited to ascertain the principles and measures of the 
abolitionists, — of whom he had heard a somewhat 
vague description while he was a slave, — he was in- 
duced 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 millions of his manacled brethren, yet panting 
for deliverance from their awful thraldom ! — fortunate 
for the cause of negro emancipation, and of universal 
liberty ! — fortunate for the land of his birth, which he 
has already done so much to save and bless ! — fortu- 
nate 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 sub- 
ject of slavery, and who have been melted to tears by 
his pathos, or roused to virtuous indignation by his stir- 
ring eloquence against the enslavers of men ! — fortu- 
tunate for himself, as it at once brought him into tho 


field of public usefulness, " gave the world assurance 
of a MAN," quickened the slumbering energies of his 
soul, and consecrated him to the great work of break- 
ing 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 percep- 
tion 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 propor- 
tion and stature commanding and exact — in intellect 
richly endowed — in natural eloquence a prodigy — 'm 
soul manifestly " created but a little lower than the 
angels " — yet a slave, ay, a fugitive slave, — trembling 
for his safety, hardly daring to believe 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, never- 
theless I 

A beloved friend from New Bedford prevailed on 
Mr. Douglass to address the convention. He came 
forward to the platform with a hesitancy and embar- 
rassment, 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 
histoiy as a slave, and in the course of his speech gave 
utterance to many noble thoughts and thrilling reflec- 
tions. As soon as he had taken his seat, filled 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 fugi- 
tive. So I believed at that time — such is my belief 
now. I reminded the audience of the peril which sur- 
rounded 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 resi- 
dent of the old Bay State .? " " YES ! " shouted the 
whole mass, with an energy so startling, that the ruth- 
less 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 determina- 
tion, 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 blovv at the same time inflicted 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 eftbrt 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 en- 
tirely coincided with my own. At first, he could give 
no encouragement ; with unfeigned diffidence, he ex- 
pressed 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 ap- 
prehensive 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 agi- 
tating the public mind, has far surpassed the most san- 
guine expectations that were raised at the commence- 
ment of his brilliant career. He has borne himself 
with gentleness and meekness, yet with true manliness 
of character. As a public speaker, he excels in pa- 
thos, 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 enlight- 
enment of the heads and a winning of the hearts of 
others. May his strength continue to be equal to his 
day 1 May he continue to " grow in grace, and in the 
knowledge of God," that he may be increasingly ser- 
viceable in the cause of bleeding humanity, whether at 
home or abroad ! 

It is certainly a very remarkable fact, that one of 
the most efficient advocates of the slave population, 
now before the public, is a fugitive slave, in the person 
ol' 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 ex- 
torted the highest applause of multitudes on both sides 
of the Atlantic. Let the calumniators of the colored 


race despise themselves for their baseness and illib- 
erality 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. 

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, v/ithout 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, oblit- 
erate 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 illustrate 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 mighiiest champion of prostrate but not conquered 
Ireland, relates the following anecdote in a speech de- 
livered by him in the Conciliation 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 
stultified — he had lost all reasoning power; and hav- 
ing forgotten his native language, could only utter some 
savage gibberish between Arabic and English, which 
nobody could understand, and which even he himself 
found difficulty in pronouncing. So much for the hu- 
manizing 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 ability, rather than to employ some one else. 
It is, therefore, entirely his own production ; and, con- 
sidering how long and dark was the career he had to run 
as a slave, — how few have been his opportunities to 
improve his mJnd 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 afflicted spirit, — without being 
filled with an unutterable abhorrence of slavery and 
all its abettors, and animated with a determination to 
seek the immediate overthrow of that execrable sys- 
tem, — 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 
qualified to act the part of a trafficker " in slaves and 
the souls of men." I am confident that it is essen- 
tially true in all its statements ; that nothing has been 
set down in malice, nothing exaggerated, nothing drawn 
from the imagination ; that it comes short of the reality, 
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 re- 
garded 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 


inflicted 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 liave the 
same mind in them that was in Christ Jesus ! to what 
dreadful liabilities was he continually subjected ! how 
destitute of friendly counsel and aid, even in his 
greatest extremities ! how heavy was the midnight of 
woe which shrouded in blackness Ihe last ray of hope, 
and tilled the future with terror and gloom ! what 
longings after freedom look possession of his breast, 
and how his misery augmented, in proportion as he 
grew reflective and intelligent, — 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 pitiless enemies! 

This Narrative contains many affecting incidents, 
many passages of great eloquence and power; but I 
think the most thrilling one of them all is the descrip- 
tion Douglass gives of his feelings, as he stood so- 
liloquizing respecting his fate, and the chances of his 
one day being a freeman, on the banks of the Chesa- 
peake Bay — viewing tne receding vessels as they flew 
with their white wings before the breeze, and apostro- 
phizing them as animated by the living spirit of free- 
dom. 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 sen- 
timent — 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, 
iniage, 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 con- 
tinually ? What does its presence imply but the ab- 
sence of all fear of God, all regard for man, on the 
part of the people of the United States? Heaven 
speed its eternal overthrow ! 

So profoundly ignorant of the nature of slavery are 
many persons, that they are stubbornly incredulous 
whenever they read or listen to any recital of the 
cruelties which are daily inflicted 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 bar- 
barity. Tell them of cruel scourgings, of muiilations 
and brandings, of scenes of pollution and blood, of the 
banishment of all light and knowledge, and they affect 
to be greatly indignant at such enormous exagger- 
ations, 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 hu- 
man 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 life and 
liberty, it will not be wielded with destructive sway ! 
Skeptics of this character abound in society. In some 
few instances, their incredulity 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 try to discredit the shocking 
tales of slaveholding cruelty which are recorded in 
this truthful Narrative ; but they will labor 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 also of those who 
committed the crimes which he has alleged against 
them. His statements, therefore, may easily be dis- 
proved, if they are untrue. 

In the course of his Narrative, he relates two in- 
stances of murderous cruelty, — in one of which a 
planter deliberately shot a slave belonging to a neigh- 
boring plantation, who had unintentionally gotten with- 
in his lordly domain in quest of fish ; 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 ofiice at Washington, killed one o{ 
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 ser- 
vant, 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 oi 
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, v^hatever there may- 
be in form, for the slave population ; and any amount 
of cruelty may be inflicted on them wilh impunity. 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 follow- 
ing Narrative, and shown to be any thing but salutary. 
In the nature of the case, it must be in the highest de- 
gree pernicious. The testimony of Mr. Douglass, on 
this point, is sustained by a cloud of witnesses, whose 
veracity is unimpeachable. " A slaveholder's profes- 
sion 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-troclden vic- 
tims? If with the former, then are you the foe of 
God and man. If with the latter, what are you pre* 
pared 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 political 
motto — "No Compromise v\^ith Slavery! No 
Union with Slaveholders ! " 


Boston, May 1, 1845. 



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 

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 sufficiently 
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 abolitionists 
are to be made. 1 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 life 


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 sin- 
cerity. 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 whole- 
sale complaints, — but strict justice done, whenever 
individual kindUness 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 twilight 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-free colored man 
of Massachusetts is worse off than the pampered 
slave of the rice swamps ! 

In reading your life, no one can say that we have 


unfairly picked out some rare specimens of cruelty. 
We know that the bitter drops, which even you have 
drained from the cup, are no incidental aggravations, 
no individual ills, 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 

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, till 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 Massa- 
chusetts, 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 over- 
shadows, 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 North- 
ern 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 fear- 
less efforts of those who, trampling the laws and Con- 
stitution 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 cruel* 
ties of which he has been the victim. 

Yet it is sad to think, that these very throbbing hearts 
which welcome your story, and form your best safe- 
guard in telling it, are all beating contrary to the " stat- 
ute in such case made and provided." Go on, my dear 
friend, till you, and those who, like you, have been 
saved, so as by fire, from the dark prison-house, shall 
stereotype these free, illegal 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 " /tic/e the out- 
cast," 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 bro- 
ken-hearted bondman leap up at the thought of old 

God speed the day ! 

Till then, and ever, 

Yours truly, 


Feederick Douglass. 




I WAS born in Tuckahoe, near Hillsborough, and 
about twelve miles from Easton, in Talbot county, 
Maryland. I have no accurate knowledge of my age, 
never having seen any authentic record containing it. 
By far the larger part of the slaves know as little 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 con- 
cerning 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, 1 was about seven- 
teen years old. 

My mother was named Harriet Bailey. She was 
the daughter of Isaac and Betsey Bailey, both colored, 
and quite dark. My mother was of a darker com- 
plexion than either my grandmother or grandfather. 

My father was a white man. He was admitted to 
be such by alt 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 sep- 
aration 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 

I never saw my mother, to know her as such, more 
than four or five times in my life ; 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, travelling 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 per- 
mission from his or her master to the contrary — a 
oermission 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 little com- 
munication ever took place between us. Death soon 
ended what little we could have while she lived, and 
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 illness, 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 re- 
ceived the tidings of her death with much the same 
emotions I should have probably felt at the death of a 

Called thus suddenly away, she left me without the 
slightest intimation of who my father was. The whis- 
per that my master was my father, may or may not 
be true ; and, true or false, it is of but little conse- 
quence to my purpose whilst the fact remains, in all its 
glaring odiousness, that slaveholders have ordained^ 
and by law established, that the children of slave 
women shall in all cases follow the condition of tlieir 


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 rela- 
tion 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 tbeir 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 hu- 
manity for him to do so ; for, unless he does this, he 
must not only whip them himself, but must stand by 
and see one white son lie 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 par- 
tiality, and only makes a bad matter worse, both for 
himself and the slave whom he would protect and 

Every year brings with it multitudes of this class of 
slaves. It was doubtless in consequence of a knowl- 
edge 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 
fulfilled 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 origin- 
ally brought to this country from Africa ; and if their 
increase will 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 en- 
slaved, it is certain that slavery at the south must soon 
become unscriptural ; for thousands are ushered into 
the world, annually, who, like myself, owe their ex- 
istence to white fathers, and those fathers most fre- 
quently 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 sailing a craft on the 
Chesapeake Bay. He was not considered a rich slave- 
holder. Fie 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 Plum- 
mer. Mr. Plummer was a miserable drunkard, a pro* 
fane 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 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 life 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 
npon 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 en- 
trance 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 live 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 
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, calling 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 length, so that she 
stood upon the ends of her toes. He then said to her, 

'^Now, you d d b h, I'll learn you how to 

disobey my orders!" and after rolling 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 till long after the bloody transaction wiia 
over, i' 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 there- 
fore been, until now, out of the way of the bloody 
scenes that often occurred on the plantation. 


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 superintend- 
ent. 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 planta- 
tion 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 gr«3at abun- 


dance ; 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 colonePs 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 Design. " Wye 
Town " was under the overseership of a man named 
Noah Willis. New Design was under the overseer- 
ship of a Mr. Townsend. The overseers of these, and 
all the rest of the farms, numbering over twenty, re- 
ceived 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 misde- 
meanor, became unmanageable, or evinced a deter- 
mination 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, like 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 
difficulty from the want of beds, than 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 facilities for doing either of these, very 
many of their sleeping hours are consumed in pre- 
paring 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 
they 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 unfortu- 
nate as not to hear, or, from any other cause, was pre- 
vented 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 the 
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 
tiled as he lived, uttering, with his dying groans, bitter 


curses and horrid oaths. His death was regarded by 
the slaves as tiie result of a merciful providence. 

Mr. Severe's place was filled 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 village. 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 planta- 
tion. 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 evi- 
dence 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 living for. He was called the smartest 


and most trusty fellow, who had this honor conferred 
upon him the most frequently. The competitors for 
this office sought as diligently to please their overseers, 
as the office-seekers in the political parties seek to 
please and deceive the people. The same traits of 
character might be seen in Colonel Lloyd's slaves, as 
are seen in the slaves of the political parties. 

The slaves selected to go to the Great House Farm, 
for ihe 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, reveal- 
ing 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 senti- 
ment 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 : — 

" 1 am going away to the Great House Farm ! 
O, yea ! O, yea ! O ! " 

Tills they would sing, as a chorus, to words which to 
many would seem unmeaning jargon, but which, never- 
theless, 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 mean- 
ing 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 boiling 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 filled 
me with ineffable sadness. I have frequently found 
myself in tears while hearing them. The mere re- 
currence to those songs, even now, afflicts 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 
jdeepen my hatred of slavery, and quicken my sympa- 
thies for my brethren in bonds. If any one wishes to 
be impressed with the soul-killing effects of slavery, 
let him go to Colonel Lloyd's plantation, and, on allow- 
ance-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 sing- 


mg, among slaves, as evidence of their contentment 
and happiness. It is impossible to conceive of a great- 
er mistake. Slaves sing most when they are most un- 
happy. 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 sor- 
row, 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 appro- 
priately considered as evidence of contentment and 
happiness, as tiie singing of a slave ; the songs of the 
one and of the other are prompted by the same 


Colonel Lloyd kept a large and finely cultivated 
garden, which afforded almost constant employment 
for four men, besides the chief gardener, (Mr. M'Dur- 
mond.) This garden was probably the greatest attrac- 
tion 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 strat- 
agems 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 impossibility of touching tar without 
being defiled. 

The colonel also kept a splendid riding equipage. 
His stable and carriage-house presented the appear- 
ance of some of our large city livery 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. 

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 office 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 de- 
pended 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 sufficiently 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 im- 
properly 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, listen, 
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 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 William 
Wilkes, the coach-driver. I have seen Winder make 
one of the house-servants stand off from him a suitable 
distance to be touched with the end of his whip, and 
at every stroke raise great ridges upon his back. 

To describe the wealth of Colonel Lloyd would be 
almost equal to describing 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 be- 
longed, rode on; the man also went on about his 
business, not dreaming that he had been conversing 
yith his master. He thought, said, and heard nothing 
more of the matter, until two or three weeks after- 
wards. The poor man was then informed by his over- 
seer that, for having found fault with his master, he 
was now to be sold to a Georgia trader. He was im- 
mediately 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 penahy of telling 
the truth, of telling 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 charac- 
ter of their masters, almost universally say they are 
contented, and that their masters are kind. The slave- 
holders 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 tongue makes a wise head. They suppress the 
truth rather than take the consequences of telling it, 
and in so doing prove themselves a part of the human 
family. If they have any thing to say of their mas- 
ters, it is generally in their masters' favor, especially 
when speaking to an untried man. I have been fre- 
quently 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 influ- 
ence 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 most of a man. Colonel Lloyd's 
slaves would boast his ability to buy and sell Jacob 
Jepson. Mr. Jepson's slaves would boast his abiUty 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 ! 


Mr. Hopkins remained but a short time in the oflice 
of overseer. Why his career was so short, I do not 
know, biU suppose he lacked the necessary severity to 
suit C()U)ne! Liovd. Mr. Hopkins w;\s succi/ede'd by 
Mr. Austin Gore, a man po>^sessing, in an emiuenl 
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 expla- 
nation 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 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 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 inflict 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 trem- 
bling 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 will 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 h-e 
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 con- 
summate 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 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 remem- 
ber,) that Demby had become unmanageable. He was 
setting a dangerous example to the other slaves, — one 
which, if suffered to pass without some such demon- 
stration on his part, would finally lead to the total sub- 
version of all rule and order upon the plantation. He 
argued that if one slave refused to be corrected, and 
escaped with his life, the other slaves would soon copy 
the example ; the result of which would be, the free- 
dom of the slaves, and the enslavement of the whites. 
Mr. Gore's defence was satisfactory. He was contin- 
ued 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 guilty 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 lives there now ; and if so, he is now, as 
he was then, as highly esteemed and as much re- 
spected as though his guilty soul had not been stained 
with his brother's blood. 

I speak advisedly when I say this, — that killing a 
slave, or any colored person, in Talbot county, Mary- 
land, is not treated as a crime, either by the courts 
or the community. Mr. Thomas Lanman, of St. 
Michael's, killed two slaves, one of whom he killed 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 Hick, living but a short dis- 
tance from where I used to live, murdered my wife's 
cousin, a young girl between fifteen and sixteen years 
of age, mangling her person in the most horrible man- 
ner, 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. Hick's baby 


and during the night she fell asleep, and the baby 
cried. She, having lost her rest for several nights pre- 
vious, 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 life. 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 only punishment, 
but even the pain of being arraigned before a court for 
her horrid crime. 

Whilst I am detailing 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 prem- 
ises of Mr. Beal Bondly. At this trespass, Mr. Bondly 
took ofience, and with his musket came down to the 
shore, and blew its deadly contents into the poor old 

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 little said about it at all, 
and nothing done. It was a common saying, even 
among little white boys, that it was worth a half-cent 
to kill a " nigger," and a half-cent to bury one. 


As to my own treatment while I lived on Colonel 
Lloyd's plantation, it was very similar to that of the 
other slave children. I was not old enough to work in 
the field, and there being little else than field work to 
do, I had a great deal of leisure time. The most 1 
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 be- 
came 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 suf- 
fered little 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, reach 


ing 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 frosty that 
the pen with which I am writing might be laid in the 

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 children were then 
called, like 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 re- 
ceived the intelligence that my old master (Anthony) 
had determined to let me go to Baltimore, to live 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 

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 sufficient 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, work- 
ing 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, my grand- 
mother lived 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 rela- 
tionship from our memories. I looked for home else- 
where, and was confident of finding none which I 
should relish less than the one which I was leaving. 
If, however, I found in my new home hardship, hun- 
ger, 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 en- 
dured them there, I very naturally inferred my ability 
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 Ire- 
land." 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 its 
pictures, was far inferior to many buildings in Bal- 
timore. 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 
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 mo- 
ments, 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 villages, I thought it a wonderfui 
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 Bovi^ley's 
Wharf. We had on board the sloop a large flock of 
sheep ; and after aiding in driving them to the slaughter- 
house 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 AUiciana 
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 little 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 little Thomas ; and thus I entered 
upon the duties of my new home with the most cheer- 
ing prospect ahead. 

I look upon my departure from Colonel Lloyd's 
plantation as one of the most interesting events of my 
life. 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 Narrative, been confined in the galling 


chains of slavery. Going to live 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 life 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 

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 sup- 
pressed 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 ab- 
horrence. 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 
living 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. 



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 living. 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 dehu- 
manizing 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 
servility, usually so acceptable a quality in a slave, 
did not answer when manifested toward her. Her 
favor was not gained by it; she seemed to be dis- 
turbed by it. She did not deem it impudent or unman- 
nerly for a slave to look her in the face. The mean- 
est 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 live with Mr. and Mrs* 
Auld, she very kindly commenced to teach me the 
A, B, C. After I had 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, telling her, among other things, that it was 
unlawful, as well as unsafe, to teach a slave to read. 
To use his own words, further, he said, " If you give a 
nigger an inch, he will take 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 vi^ould 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 w^as 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 difficulty — 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 under- 
stood 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 difficulty of learning without 
a teacher, I set out with high hope, and a fixed pur- 
pose, 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 uttering. 
It gave me the best assurance that I might rely with 
the utmost confidence on the resuhs which, he said, 
would flow from teaching me to read. What he most 
dreaded, that I most desired. What he most loved, 
that 1 most hated. That which to him was a great 
evil, to be carefully shunned, was to me a great good, 
to be diligently 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 de- 
cency, a sense of shame, that does much to curb and 


check those outbreaks of atrocious cruelty so com- 
monly 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 willing 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, lived 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, 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 hous§ 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 Hack gip ! " 
at the same time giving them a blow with the cow- 


skin over the head or shoulders, often drawing the 
blood. She would then say, " Take that, you Hack 
gip ! " — continuing, " If you don't move faster, I'll 
move you ! " Added to the cruel leishings 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 "j»ecA:ed" than by her name. 


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 shut- 
ting me up in mental darkness. It was at least neces* 
sary 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 arid tender* 
hearted woman ; and in the simplicity of her soul she 
commenced, when I first went to live 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 ten- 
der-hearted woman. There was no sorrow or suffer- 
ing 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 ability to divest her of these heavenly 
qualities. Under its influence, the tender heart became 
stone, and the lamblike disposition gave way to one of 
tiger-like fierceness. The first 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 news- 
paper. 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 little experience soon demonstrated, to 
her satisfaction, that education and slavery were in- 
compatible 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 little white boys whom 1 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 little 
urchins, who, in return, would give me that more valu- 
able bread of knowledge. I am strongly tempted to 
give the names of two or three of those little 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 unpar- 
donable offence to teach slaves to read in this Christian 
country. It is enough to say of the dear little 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, hut 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 en- 
titled " 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 eman- 
cipation. These were choice documents to me. I 
read them over and over again with unabated interest. 
They gave tongue to interesting thoughts of my own 
soul, which had frequently flashed through my mind, 


and died away for want of utterance. The mora, 
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 for- 
ward to sustain slavery ; but while they relieved me 
of one difficulty, 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 en- 
slavers. 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, be- 
hold ! 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 think- 
ing ! 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 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 
killed myself, or done something for which I should 
have been killed. While in this state of mind, I was 
eager to hear any one speak of slavery. I was a ready 
listener. Every little while, I could hear something 
about the abolitionists. It was some time before I found 
what the word meant. It was always used in 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 killed 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 abolition. 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 little about. After a 
patient waiting, I got one of our city papers, contain* 


ing an account of the number of petitions from the 
north, praying for the abolition of slavery in the Dis- 
trict of Columbia, and of the slave trade between the 
States. From this time I understood the words dbo' 
lition and aholitionist^ 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 ye a slave for life ? " I told him that 1 
was. The good Irishman seemed to be deeply affected 
fey the statement. He said to the other that it was a 
pity so fine a little fellow as myself should be a slave 
for life. 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 pre- 
tended 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 sug- 
gested 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 apiece was for starboard side for* 
ward, it would be marked thus — " S. F." For lar- 
board aft, it would be marked thus — " L. A." For 
starboard aft, it would be marked thus — " S. A." 1 
soon learned the names of these letters, and for what 
they were intended when placed upon a piece of tim- 
ber in the ship-yard. I immediately commenced copy- 
ing them, and in a short time was able to make the 
four letters 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 pos- 
sible 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. 
1 then commenced and continued copying the Italics in 


Webster's Spelling Book, until I could make them ali 
without looking on the book. By this time, my little 
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 meeting- 
house 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. 1 
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. 


In a very short time after I went to live 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 
Hillsborough. Cut off thus unexpectedly, he left no 
will as to the disposal of his property. It was there- 
fore 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 apprehen- 
sion. 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 ex- 
amination. Silvery-headed age and sprightly youth, 
maids and 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 life 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 falling 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 dissipa- 
tion, 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 con- 
dition, — a condition held by us all in 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 
little 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 mas- 
ter and mistress than myself ; and the thought of pass- 
ing 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 little brother by the 
throat, threw him on the ground, and with the heel of 
his boot stamped upon his head till the blood gushed 
from his nose and 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 Balti- 
more, to live 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 accumu- 
lating 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 faith- 
fully 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 life, and at his death 
wiped from his icy brow the cold death-sweat, and closed 
his eyes forever. She was nevertheless left a slave 

— a slave for life — a slave in the hands of strangers ; 


and in their hands she saw her children, her grand- 
children, and her great-grandchildren, divided, like so 
many sheep, without being gratified with the small 
privilege of a single word, as to their or her own des- 
tiny. 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 
little 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 little hut, put up a little mud-chimney, and 
then made her welcome to the privilege of supporting 
herself there in perfect loneliness ; thus virtually turn- 
ing 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-grandchil- 
dren. 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 falhng dews, 

Where the sickly sunbeams glare 

Through the hot and misty air : — 
Gone, gone, sold and gone 
To the rice swamp dank and lone, 
From Virginia hills and waters — 
Woe is me, my stolen daughters • " 


The hearth is desolate. The children, the uncon- 
scious children, who once sang and danced in her 
presence, are gone. She gropes her way, in the dark- 
ness of age, for a drink of water. Instead of the voices 
of her children, she hears by day the moans of the dove, 
and by night the screams of the hideous owl. All is 
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 f!me for the exercise of that ten- 
derness 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 little hut, before a few dim embers. She 
stands — she sits — she staggers — she falls — she 
groans — she dies — and there are none of her chil- 
dren 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 right- 
eous 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. William Hamilton. Master now lived in St. 
Michael's. Not long after his marriage, a misunder- 
standing 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, how- 
ever, was not so severe as the one I dreaded at the 

>50 NAR^riVE OF THE' 

division of property; for, during this interval, a great 
change had taken place in Masjer Hugh and his once 
kind and affectionate wife. The influence of brandy 
upon him, and of slavery upon her, had effected a dis- 
astrous change in the characters of both ; so that, as 
far as they were concerned, I thought I had little to 
lose by the change. But it was not to them that I 
was attached. It was to those little 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 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 determina- 
tion to run away was again revived. I resolved to 
wait only so long as the offering of a favorable oppor- 
tunity. When that came, I was determined to be off. 




1 HAVE now reached a period of my life when I can 
give dates. I left Baltimore, and went to live with 
Master Thomas Auld, at St. Michael's, in March, 1832. 
It was now more than seven years since I lived with 
him in theJamily 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 tem- 
per and disposition ; he was equally so of mine. A 
very short time, however, brought us into full acquaint- 
ance 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 sufficiency. It was tenfold 
harder after living 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 re- 
garded as the most aggravated development of mean- 
ness even among slaveholders. The rule is, no mat- 
ter 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 EUza, 
my aunt Priscilla, Henny, and myself; and we were 
allowed less than a half of a bushel of corn-meal per 
week, and very little 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 living 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, like 
most other mean men, he lacked the ability to conceal 
his meanness. Captain Auld was not born a slave- 
holder. 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 Na- 
poleon 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 re- 
sources within himself, he was 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 ability 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 calling him so, but to 
no purpose. In August, 1832, my master attended a 
Methodist camp-meeting held in the Bay-side, Talbo.t 
county, and there experienced religion. I indulged a 


faint hope that his conversion would lead him to emanci- 
pate 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. 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 lived 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 get- 
ting Mr. Samuel Harrison, a very rich slaveholder, to 
emancipate his slaves ; and by some means got the im- 
pression that he was laboring to effect the emancipa- 
tion 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 some- 
times 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 lived 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 little Sabbath school in the pious town of 
St. Michael's. 

I have said my master found religious sanction for 
his cruelty. As an example, I will state one of many 
facts going to prove the charge. I have seen him 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." 

Master would keep this la'cerated young woman tied 
up in this horrid situation four or five hours at a time. 
1 have known him to tie her up early in the morn- 
ing, 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 into the fire, 
and burned herself horribly. Her hands were so burnt 
that she never got the use of them. She could do very 
little 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 get- 
ting 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, hold- 
ing 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 differ- 
ences. He found me unsuitable to his purpose. My 
city life, 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 care- 
lessness, or carefulness, was, that I could always get 
something to eat when I went there. Master William 
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 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 Ed- 
ward 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 tilled 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 qual- 
ities of Mr. Covey, he was a professor of religion — a 
pious soul — a member and a class-leader in the Meth- 
odist church. All of this added weight to his reputa- 
tion 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. 



I LEFT Master Thomas's house, and went to live with 
Mr. Covey, on the 1st of January, 1833. I was now, 
for the first time in my life, a field hand. In my new 
employment, I found myself even more awkward than 
a country 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 little 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, how- 
ever, succeeded in getting to the edge of the woods 
with Uttle difficulty ; 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 consider- 
able 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 shat- 
tered, my oxen were entangled among the young trees, 
and there was none to help me. After a long spell 
of effort, I succeeded in getting my cart righted, my 
oxen disentangled, and again yoked to the cart. I 
now proceeded with my team to the place where 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 es- 
caped death by the merest chance. On my return, 
I told Mr. Covey what had happened, and how it hap- 
pened. 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 

I lived with Mr. Covey one year. During the first 
six months, of that year, scarce a week passed with- 
out 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 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 its 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, ex- 
ample, 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. Ha 


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 de- 
tection, 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 com- 
ings 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 win- 
dow, 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, watch- 
ing 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 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 the going down of the sun. 

Mr. Covey's ybr^e consisted in his power to deceive. 
His life 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 wor- 
shipper of the most high God ; and this, too, at a time 
when he may be said to have been guilty of compelling 
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 hfe ; he was only 
able to buy one slave ; and, shocking as is the fact, he 
bought her, as he said, for a hreeder. This woma.n 
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 one child, 
which proved her to be just what he wanted. After 
buying her, he hired a married man of Mr. Samuel 
Harrison, to live 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 confine- 
ment was too good, or too hard, to be done. The chil- 
dren were regarded as being quite an addition to his 

If at any one time of my life 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. 
"VVork, 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 flickered 
for a moment, and then vanished. I sank down again, 
mourning over my wretched condition. I was some- 
times prompted to take my life, and that of Covey, but 


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

Our house stood within a few rods of the Chesa* 
peake 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 stillness 
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 mul- 
titude 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 ! that I were free ! 0, 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 ! 0, 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 un- 
ending 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 life to lose. I had 
as well be killed 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 live and die a slave. I will take to the water. 
This very bay shall yet bear me into 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 turn 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 op- 
portunity offer, and, come what will, I am off. Mean- 
while, I will try 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 

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

I have already intimated that my condition was 
much worse, during the first 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, William 
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 intel- 
lect ; 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 diz- 
ziness ; 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 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 this, I must that 
afternoon walk seven miles ; and this, under the cir- 
cumstances, 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, watched my 
chance, while Covey was looking in an opposite direc- 
tion, 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 little 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 bare- 
headed, tearing my feet sometimes at nearly every 
step ; and after a journey of about seven miles, occupy- 
ing 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. My legs and feet were torn in sundiy 
places with briers and thorns, and were also covered 
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 protec- 
tion. I told him all the circumstances as well as 1 
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 lived 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 
Thomas ridiculed the idea that there was any danger 


of Mr. Covey's killing me, and said that he knew Mr. 
Covey ; that he was a 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 be- 
longed 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, telling 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 wze, 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 morn- 
ing,) 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 whippe*^ to death, or 
stay in the woods and be starved to dea^h. That 
eight, I fell in 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 ad- 
vice as to what 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 earnest- 
ness, telling 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 in- 
clined to think the root to be something more than 1 
at first had taken it to be. All went well till Mon- 
day 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. 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 reso- 
lution, I seized Covey hard by the throat ; and as I did 
so, I rose. He held on to me, and I to him. My re- 
sistance 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, at- 
tempted 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 w^as 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, Bill came. 
Ck)vey 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, puffing 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 en- 
tirely the worst end of the bargain ; for he had drawn 
no blood from me, but I had from him. The whole 
six months 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-con- 
fidence, and inspired me again with a determination to 
be free. The gratification afibrded by the triumph 


was a full compensation for whatever else might fol- 
low, 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, how- 
ever 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 killing 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 

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 ex- 
planation I can now think of does not entirely satisfy 
me ; but such as it is, I will give it. Mr. Covey en- 
joyed the most unbounded reputation for being a first- 
rate overseer and negro-breaker. It w-as of consider- 
able importance to him. That reputation was at stake ; 
and had he sent me — a boy about sixteen years old — 
to the public whipping-post, his reputation would have 
been lost ; so, to save his reputation, he suffered 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 holi- 
days ; and, accordingly, we were not required to per- 
form 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 fami- 
lies 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 merri- 
ments as playing ball, wrestling, running foot-races, 
fiddhng, dancing, and drinking whisky ; and this lat- 
ter 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 rebellious 
spirit 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 
appalling earthquake. 

The holidays are part and parcel of the gross fraud, 
wrong, and inhumanity of slavery. They are pro- 
fessedly 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 man- 
ner 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 like 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 dissi- 


pation, 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 little 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, — 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 quan- 
tity ; 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 ask- 
ing 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 willing 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 
illustrations of the same principle, drawn from my own 


observation, but think the cases I have cited sufficient. 
The practice is a very common one. 

On the first of January, 1834, I left Mr. Covey, and 
went to live with Mr. William Freeland, who lived 
about three miles from St. Michael's. I 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 rever- 
ence 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 slave- 
holders, such as being very passionate and fretful ; but 
I must do him the justice to say, that he was exceed- 
ingly 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 advan- 
tage I gained in my new master was, he made no pre- 
tensions 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 appalling 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 be- 
fall 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 live 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 ability to manage slaves. The 
peculiar feature of his government was that of whip- 
ping 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 
life, 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 dissatis* 
fied ? 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 guilty 
of impudence, — one of the greatest crimes of which a 
slave can be guilty. 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 whc 
had the getting their own home, would not prefer to live, 
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, 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 sufficient 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 con- 
sisted of myself, Sandy Jenkins,* and Handy Caldwell, 
Henry and John were quite inteUigent, and in a very 
little 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 spelling-books, and nothing 
would do but that I must keep a Sabbath school. I 
agreed to do so, and accordingly devoted my Sundays 
to teaching these 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 

* 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 com- 
mon among the more ignorant slaves. A slave seldom diea 
mt that his death is attributed to trickery. 


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 little dis- 
play 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 try- 
ing 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 little Sabbath school, 
at St. Michael's — all calling 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 men- 
tion ; 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 
cress indeed. When I think that these precious souls 


are to-day shut up in the prison-house of slavery, ray 
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 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 con- 
dition 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 

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, some- 
what 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 inter- 


linked with each other. I loved them with a love 
stronger than any thing I have experienced since. It 
is sometimeis said that we slaves do not love and con- 
fide 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 lived 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 sub- 
jected 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 live upon free land as well 
as with Freeland ; and I was no longer content, there- 
fore, to live 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 re- 
solved that 1835 should not pass without witnessing 
an attempt, on my part, to secure my liberty. But I 
was not willing to cherish this determination alone. My 
fellow-slaves were dear to me. I was anxious to have 
them participate with me in this, my life-giving deter- 
mination. I therefore, though with great prudence, 
commenced early to ascertain their views and feelings 
in regard to their condition, and to imbue their muida 


with thoughts of freedom. I bent myself to devising 
ways and means for our escape, and meanVjile 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 difficulties, 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 shrink- 
ing — 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. Our 
knowledge of the north did not extend farther than 
New York ; and to go there, and be forever harassed 
with the frightful liability 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 difficulties, real or im- 
agined — the good to be sought, and the evil to be 
shunned. On the one hand, there stood slavery, a 
stern reality, glaring frightfully upon us, — its robes 
already crimsoned with the blood of millions, and even 
now feasting itself greedily upon our own flesh. On the 
other hand, away back in the dim distance, under the 
flickering light of the north star, behind some craggy 
hill or snow-covered mountain, stood a doubtful free- 
dom — half frozen — beckoning us to come and share 
its hospitality. 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 over- 
taken, 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 ills we had, 
Than fly to others, that we knew not of." 

In coming to a fixed determination to run away, we 
did more than Patrick Henry, when he resolved upon 


liberty or death. With us it was a doubtful liberty 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 
still 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. 
William Hamilton. 

The plan we finally concluded upon was, to get a 
large canoe belonging to Mr. Hamilton, and upon the 
Saturday night previous to Easter holidays, paddle di- 
rectly 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 re- 
garded 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 

The week before our intended start, I wrote sev- 
eral 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 liberty 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." 

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 hfe and death with us. The strength of our deter- 
mination was about to be fully tested. At this time, I 
was very active in explaining every difficulty, remov- 
ing every doubt, dispelling every fear, and inspiring all 
with the firmness indispensable to success in our un- 
dertaking ; 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 ac- 
knowledge 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 our- 
selves 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 under- 
taking. 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. 1 
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 com- 
mon consent, at the head of the whole affair. The 
responsibility 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 manure ; 
and all at once, while thus engaged, I was over- 
whelmed 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 they 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 William was in. 
He was told he was at the barn. Mr. Hamilton, with- 
out dismounting, rode up to the barn with extraor- 


dinary speed. In a few moments, he and Mr. Free* 
land returned to the house. By this time, the three 
constables rode up, and in great haste dismounted, tied 
their horses, and met Master William and Mr. Hamil- 
ton 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 
be examined before my master ; and if their informa- 
tion proved false, I should not be hurt. 

In a few moments, they succeeded in tying Johp. 
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 readi- 
ness to meet the consequences of his refusal. " Won't 
you ? " said Tom Graham, the constable. " No, I 
won't ! " said Renry, 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 oncCt 


Shoot, shoot, — and be damned ! / wonH he 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 over- 
powered 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 
William 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 I 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 
m^de no reply, and was immediately hurried off to- 
wards St. Michael's. Just a moment previous to the 
scuffle with Henry, Mr. Hamilton suggested the pro- 
priety of making a search for the protections which he 
had understood Frederick had written for himself and 
the rest. But, just at the moment he was about carry- 
ing his proposal into effect, his aid was needed in help- 
ing to tie Henry ; and the excitement attending the 
scuffle 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 notJiing ! " said we all. Our confidence in 
each other was unshaken. We were resolved to suc- 
ceed 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 get- 
ting clear of being sold ; for, as I have said, we were 
ready for that. The fact was, we cared but little 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 E-aston. 
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. 

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 1 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 oui 
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, telling us that they could take 
the devil out of us in a very little 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 expecta- 
tions, 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 transac- 
tion. I was ready for any thing rather than separa- 
tion. I supposed that they had consulted together, and 
had decided that, as I was the whole cause of the in- 
tention of the others to run away, it was hard to 
make the innocent suffer with the guilty ; 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 seemed almost 
as reluctant at leaving the prison as at leaving home 
to come to the prison. But we knew we should, in all 
probability, be separated, if we were sold ; and since 
he was in their hands, he concluded to go peaceably 

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 cov- 
ered with gloom, sunk down to the utmost despair. I 
thought the possibility 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 as- 
tonishment, came up, and took me out, with the inten- 
tion of sending me, with a gentleman of his acquaint- 
ance, into x^labama. But, from some cause or other, 
he did not send me to Alabama, but concluded to send 
me back to Baltimore, to live again with his brother 
Hugh, and to learn a trade. 

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

In a few weeks after I went to Baltimore, Master 
Hugh hired me to Mr. William 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 govern- 
ment. 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 ship-yard, my orders from Mr. Gardner 
were, to do whatever the carpenters commanded me to 
do. This was placing me at the beck and call of about 
seventy-five men. I was to regard all these as mas- 
ters. 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 light- 
ning under that steam-box." — " Halloo, nigger ! come, 
turn this grindstone." — " Come, come ! move, move ! 
and howse this timber forward." — " I say, darky, blast 
your eyes, v^hy don't you heat up some pitch } " — 
"Halloo! halloo! halloo!" (Three voices at the 
game 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 bad with four of the white apprentices, in which 
my left eye was nearly knocked out, and I was hor- 
ribly mangled in other respects. The facts in the case 
were these : Until a very little 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, arfd 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 men would be thrown out of employ- 
ment. 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 carpen- 
ters. 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 killed ; and, being encouraged by the journeymen, 
ihey 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 num- 
ber 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 in- 
terfered, 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 the damned nigger ! Kill 
him ! kill him ! He struck a white person." I found 
my only chance for life 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- 

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, com- 
pared with that of his brother Thomas under similar 
circumstances. He listened attentively to my narra- 
tion 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 little 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 mid- 
day, 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 killed in the pres- 
ence 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 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 sympa- 
thized 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 
abolitionism, and that name subjected its bearer to 
frightful liabilities. The watchwords of the bloody- 
minded in that region, and in those days, were, " Damn 
the abolitionists ! " and " Damn the niggers ! " There 
was nothing done, and probably nothing would have 
been done if I had been killed. Such was, and such 
remains, the state of things in the Christian city of 

Master Hugh, finding he could get no redress, re- 
fused 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 employ- 
ment 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 calk- 
ers. 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 com- 
fortable. 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 per- 
petual whirl of excitement, I could think of nothing, 
scarcely, but my life ; and in thinking 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 in- 
consistencies 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-vis- 
aged pirate upon the high seas is exactly the same. 



I NOW come to that part of my life during which 1 
planned, and finally succeeded in making, my escape 
from slavery. But before narrating any of the pe- 
culiar 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 difficul- 
ties. Secondly, such a statement would most undoubt- 
edly induce greater vigilance on the part of slave- 
holders than has existed heretofore among them ; 
which would, of course, be the means of guarding a 
door whereby soQie dear brother bondman might 
escape his galling chains. I deeply regret the neces- 
sity that impels me to suppress any thing of impor- 
tance connected with my experience in slavery. It 
would afford me great pleasure indeed, as well as ma- 
terially 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 impu- 
tations which evil-minded men might suggest, rather 
than exculpate myself, and thereby run the hazard 


of closing the slightest avenue by which a brothef 
slave might clear himself of the chains and fetters of 

I have never approved of the very public manner in 
which some of our western friends have conducted 
what they call the underground railroad, but which, I 
think, by their open declarations, has been made most 
emphatically the upperground railroad. I honor those 
good men and women for their noble daring, and ap- 
plaud them for willingly subjecting themselves to 
bloody persecution, by openly avowing their participa- 
tion in the escape of slaves. I, however, can see very 
little good resulting from such a course, either to them- 
selves or the slaves escaping ; while, upon the other 
hand, I see and feel assured that those open declara- 
tions are a positive evil to the slaves remaining, who 
are seeking to escape. They do nothing towards en- 
lightening the slave, whilst they do much towards en- 
lightening the master. They stimulate him to greater 
watchfulness, and enhance his power to capture his 
slave. We owe something to the slaves 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 merci- 
less slaveholder profoundly ignorant of the means of 
flight adopted by the slave. I would leave him to im- 
agine himself surrounded by myriads of invisible tor- 
mentors, ever ready to snatch from his infernal grasp 
his trembling prey. Let him be left to feel his way m 
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 the reward of my toil into 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 
le^ 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 regard***^ 
it as a sort of admission of my right to the wl 
The fact that he gave me any part of my wages 
proof, to my mind, that he believed me entitled to 
whole of them. I always felt worse for having recei 
any thing ; for I feared that the giving me a few ct 
would ease his conscience, and make him feel hims 
to be a pretty honorable sort of robber. My discOi 
tent grew upon me. I was ever on the look-out for 
means of escape ; and, finding no direct means, I de- 
termined 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 Balti- 
more to purchase his spring goods, I got an opportu- 


nity, 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. Pie said, if I behaved myself properly, he 
would take care of me. Indeed, he advised me to com- 
plete 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 in- 
tellectual nature, in order to contentment in slavery. 
But in spite of him, and even in spite of myself, I con- 
tinued to think, and to think about the injustice of my 
enslavement, and the means of escape. 

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 Mas- 
ter 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 follow- 
ing 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 bar- 
gain. 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 responsibilities 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 little 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 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 in- 


tended 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 long- 
er ; 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 employ- 
ment in future. I thought the matter over during 
the next day, Sunday, and finally resolved upon 
the third day of September, as the day upon which I 
would make a second attempt to secure my freedom. 
I now had three weeks during 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 me why I did not 
do the same the week before. He little knew what 
my plans were. My object in working steadily was to 
remove any suspicion he might entertain of my in- 
tent 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 

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 life, — 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 dreaa 
and apprehension of a failure exceeded what I had 
experienced at my first attempt. The appalling de- 
feat 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 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 blessed- 
ness of freedom, were perpetually before me. It was 
life and death with me. But I remained firm, and, ac- 
cording to my resolution, on the third day of Septem- 
ber, 1838, I left my chains, and succeeded in reach- 
ing 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 

I have been frequently asked how I felt when I found 
myself in a free State. I have never been able to an- 
swer the question with any satisfaction to myself. It 
was a moment of the highest excitement I ever expe- 
rienced. I suppose I felt as one may imagine the un- 
armed 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 like 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 enthu- 
siasm. But the loneliness overcame me. There I 
was in the midst of thousands, and yet a perfect stran- 
ger ; without home and without friends, in the midst 
of thousands of my own brethren — children of a com- 
mon 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 
falling into the hands of money-loving kidnappers, 
whose business it was to lie in wait for the panting fu- 
gitive, as the ferocious beasts of the forest 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 circum- 
stances. Let him be a fugitive slave in a strange 
land — aland given up to be the hunting-ground for 
slaveholders — whose inhabitants are legalized kidnap- 
pers — where he is every moment subjected to the 
terrible liability of being seized upon by his fellow- 
men, as the hideous crocodile seizes upon his prey ! — 
1 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 trem- 
bling 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 situ- 
ation 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 hu- 
mane 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 afflicted with blindness, and is himself in 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. Rug- 
gles 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 suc- 
cessful 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, per- 
formed the marriage ceremony, and gave us a certifi- 
cate, of which the following is an exact copy : — 

" This may certify, that I joined together in holy 
matrimony Frederick Johnsont 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." 

Upon receiving this certificate, and a five -dollar bill 
from Mr. Ruggles, I shouldered one part of our bag- 
gage, 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 

* She was free. 

i 1 had changed my name from Frederick Bailey to that 
of Johnson. 


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 ob- 
tain further assistance ; but upon our arrival at New- 
port, 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 gentle- 
men, residents of New Bedford, whose names I after- 
ward 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 in- 
terest in our welfare. They proved themselves quite 
worthy of the name of abolitionists. 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 responsibilities 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 Au- 
gustus Washington Bailey." I, however, had dispensed 


with the two middle names long before I left Maryland 
so that I was generally known by the name of " Fred- 
erick 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 difficult 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 pre- 
serve 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 Doug- 
lass ; " 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 erro- 
neous. I had very strangely supposed, while in slavery, 
that few of the comforts, and scarcely any of the 
luxuries, of life 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-slave- 
holding population of the south. I knew they were ex« 


ceedingly poor, and I had been accustomed to regara 
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 little refinement. And upon com- 
ing to the north, I expected to meet with a rough, 
hard-handed, and uncultivated population, living in the 
most Spartan-like simplicity, knowing nothing of the 
ease, luxury, pomp, and grandeur of southern slave- 
holders. Such being my conjectures, any one ac- 
quainted with the appearance of New Bedford may 
very readily infer how palpably I must have seen my 

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 suiTounded 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 
life. 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 ap- 
peared 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, aa 


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 won- 
der and admiration at the splendid churches, beautiful 
dwellings, and finely -cultivated gardens; evincing an 
amount of wealth, comfort, taste, and refinement, such 
as I had never seen in any part of slaveholding 

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 interesting thing to me was the con- 
dition 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, living in finer houses, 
and evidently enjoying more of the comforts of life, 
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 hun- 
gry, and he gave me meat ; I was thirsty, and he gave 
me drink ; I was a stranger, and he took me in") lived 
m a neater house ; dined at a better table ; took, paid for, 
and read, more newspapers ; better understood the 
moral, religious, and political 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 illustrated their spirit. A colored 
man and a fugitive slave were on unfriendly terms. 
The former was heard to threaten the latter with in- 
forming 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 Mm 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 been no more such threats, and should there be 
hereafter, I doubt not that death would be the con- 

I found employment, the third day after my arrival, 
in stowing a sloop whh a load of oil. It was new, 
dirty, and hard work for me ; but I went at it with a 
glad heart and a willing hand. I was now my own 
master. It was a happy moment, the rapture of which 


can be understood only by tbose who have been slaves. 
It was the first work, the reward of which was to be 
entirely my own. There was no Master Hugh stand- 
ing 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 the hod, 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 re- 
marked that I was unable to pay for it then. I, how- 
ever, finally became a subscriber to it. The paper 
came, and I read it from week to week with such 

* I am told that colored persons can now get employment 
ftt calking in New Bedford — a result of anti-slavery effort. 


feelings as it 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 insti- 
tution — sent a thrill of joy through my soul, such as 
I had never felt before ! 

I had not long been a reader of the ** Liberatot," 
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 little ; but 
what I could, I did with a joyful heart, and never felt 
happier than when in an anti-slavery meeting. I sel- 
dom 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. William C. Coffin, 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 ray brethren — with what success, and 
with what devotion, I leave those acquainted with my 
labors to decide. 


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 liabil- 
ity of such misapprehension, I deem it proper to ap- 
pend 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 Chris- 
tianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible differ- 
ence — 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 calling the religion 
of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the cli- 
max 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 in." I am filled 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 church members. The man who wields 
the blood-clotted cowskin during the week fills 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 
life, 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 mil- 
lions 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 rehgion 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 pulph, and the pul- 
pit, in return, covers his infernal business with the garb 
of Christianity. Here we have religion and robbery 
the allies of each other — devils dressed in angels' 
robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise, 

« 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 afflicted poor ? 
Talk of thy glorious liberty, and then 

Bolt hard the captive's door ? 

" What ! servants of thy own 

Merciful Son, who came to seek and save 

The homeless and the outcast, fettering down 
The tasked and plundered slave ! 

« Pilate and Herod friends ! 

Chief priests and rulers, as of old, combine ! 
Just God and holy ! is that church which lends 

Strength to the spoiler thine ? " 

The Christianity of America is a Christianity, of 
whose votaries it may be 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 proselyte, and when he is made, ye 
make him twofold more the child of hell than your- 
selves. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypo- 
crites ! for ye pay tithe of mint, and anise, and cum- 
in, 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, hypo- 
crites ! 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, hyp- 
ocrites ! 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 propo- 
sition of fellowshipping a sheep-stealer ; and at the 
same time they hug to their communion a wan-stealer, 
and brand me with being an infidel, if I find fault with 
them for it. They attend with Pharisaical strictness to 
the ojtward 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 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, calling 
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 isfby 
communion and fellowship, the religion of the north,) 
which I soberly affirm is " true to the life," and with- 
out caricature or the slightest exaggeration. It is said 
to have been drawn, several years before the present 


anti-slavery agitation began, by a northern Methodis*. 
preacher, who, while residing at the south, had an op- 
portunity 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 .? " 


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

« They '11 loudly talk of Christ's reward, 
And bind his image with a cord, 
And scold, and swing the lash abhorred. 
And sell their brother in the Lord 
To handcuffed heavenly union. 

** They 11 read and sing a sacred song, 

And make a prayer both loud and long, • 


And teach the right and do the wrong, 
Hailing the brother, sister throng, 
With "words of heavenly union. 

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

" They '11 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 'U crack old Tony on the skull, 
And preach and roar like Bashan bull, 
Or braying ass, of mischief full. 
Then seize old Jacob by the wool, 
And pull for heavenly union. 

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

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

" Another preacher whining spoke 
Of One whose heart for sinners broke : 


He tied old Nanny to an oak, 
And drew the blood at every stroke, 
And prayed for heavenly union. 

« 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 anotlier takes. 
And entertains their flirts and rakes, 
Who dress as sleek as glossy snakes, 
And cram their mouths with sweetened cakes ; 
And this goes down for union." 

Sincerely and earnestly hoping that this little book may 
do something toward throwing light on the Americaa 
slave system, and hastening the glad day of deliverance 
to the millions of my brethren in bonds — faithfully re» 
lying upon the power of truth, love, and justice, forsuc* 
cess in my humble efforts — and solemnly pledging my 
self anew to the sacred cause, — I subscribe myself, 


Lynn, Mass., April 28, 1845.