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My Bondage and My Freedom, My Bondage and My Freedom

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nearly covered over with festering sores, caused by the lash of
her cruel mistress. I do not know that her master ever whipped
her, but I have often been an eye witness of the revolting and
brutal inflictions by Mrs. Hamilton; and what lends a deeper
shade to this woman's conduct, is the fact, that, almost in the
very moments of her shocking outrages of humanity and decency,
she would charm you by the sweetness of her voice and her seeming
piety. She used to sit in a large rocking chair, near the middle
of the room, with a heavy cowskin, such as I have elsewhere
described; and I speak within the truth when I say, that these
girls seldom passed that chair, during the day, without a blow
from that cowskin, either upon their bare arms, or upon their
shoulders. As they passed her, she would draw her cowskin and
give them a blow, saying, _"move faster, you black jip!"_ and,
again, _"take that, you black jip!"_ continuing, _"if you don't
move faster, I will give you more."_ Then the lady would go on,
singing her sweet hymns, as though her _righteous_ soul were
sighing for the holy realms of paradise.

Added to the cruel lashings to which these poor slave-girls were
subjected--enough in themselves to crush the spirit of men--they
were, really, kept nearly half starved; they seldom knew <117
MRS. HAMILTON'S CRUELTY TO HER SLAVES>what it was to eat a full
meal, except when they got it in the kitchens of neighbors, less
mean and stingy than the psalm-singing Mrs. Hamilton. I have
seen poor Mary contending for the offal, with the pigs in the
street. So much was the poor girl pinched, kicked, cut and
pecked to pieces, that the boys in the street knew her only by
the name of _"pecked,"_ a name derived from the scars and
blotches on her neck, head and shoulders.

It is some relief to this picture of slavery in Baltimore, to
say--what is but the simple truth--that Mrs. Hamilton's treatment
of her slaves was generally condemned, as disgraceful and
shocking; but while I say this, it must also be remembered, that
the very parties who censured the cruelty of Mrs. Hamilton, would
have condemned and promptly punished any attempt to interfere
with Mrs. Hamilton's _right_ to cut and slash her slaves to
pieces. There must be no force between the slave and the
slaveholder, to restrain the power of the one, and protect the
weakness of the other; and the cruelty of Mrs. Hamilton is as
justly chargeable to the upholders of the slave system, as
drunkenness is chargeable on those who, by precept and example,
or by indifference, uphold the drinking system.

CHAPTER XI
_"A Change Came O'er the Spirit of My Dream"_

HOW I LEARNED TO READ--MY MISTRESS--HER SLAVEHOLDING DUTIES--
THEIR DEPLORABLE EFFECTS UPON HER ORIGINALLY NOBLE NATURE--THE
CONFLICT IN HER MIND--HER FINAL OPPOSITION TO MY LEARNING TO
READ--TOO LATE--SHE HAD GIVEN ME THE INCH, I WAS RESOLVED TO TAKE
THE ELL--HOW I PURSUED MY EDUCATION--MY TUTORS--HOW I COMPENSATED
THEM--WHAT PROGRESS I MADE--SLAVERY--WHAT I HEARD SAID ABOUT IT--
THIRTEEN YEARS OLD--THE _Columbian Orator_--A RICH SCENE--A
DIALOGUE--SPEECHES OF CHATHAM, SHERIDAN, PITT AND FOX--KNOWLEDGE
EVER INCREASING--MY EYES OPENED--LIBERTY--HOW I PINED FOR IT--MY
SADNESS--THE DISSATISFACTION OF MY POOR MISTRESS--MY HATRED OF
SLAVERY--ONE UPAS TREE OVERSHADOWED US BOTH.

I lived in the family of Master Hugh, at Baltimore, seven years,
during which time--as the almanac makers say of the weather--my
condition was variable. The most interesting feature of my
history here, was my learning to read and write, under somewhat
marked disadvantages. In attaining this knowledge, I was
compelled to resort to indirections by no means congenial to my
nature, and which were really humiliating to me. My mistress--
who, as the reader has already seen, had begun to teach me was
suddenly checked in her benevolent design, by the strong advice
of her husband. In faithful compliance with this advice, the
good lady had not only ceased to instruct me, herself, but had
set her face as a flint against my learning to read by any means.
It is due, however, to my mistress to say, that she did not adopt
this course in all its stringency at the first. She either
thought it unnecessary, or she lacked the depravity indispensable
to shutting me up in <119 EFFECTS OF SLAVEHOLDING ON MY
MISTRESS>mental darkness. It was, at least, necessary for her to
have some training, and some hardening, in the exercise of the
slaveholder's prerogative, to make her equal to forgetting my
human nature and character, and to treating me as a thing
destitute of a moral or an intellectual nature. Mrs. Auld--my
mistress--was, as I have said, a most kind and tender-hearted
woman; and, in the humanity of her heart, and the simplicity of
her mind, she set out, when I first went to live with her, to
treat me as she supposed one human being ought to treat another.

It is easy to see, that, in entering upon the duties of a
slaveholder, some little experience is needed. Nature has done
almost nothing to prepare men and women to be either slaves or
slaveholders. Nothing but rigid training, long persisted in, can
perfect the character of the one or the other. One cannot easily
forget to love freedom; and it is as hard to cease to respect
that natural love in our fellow creatures. On entering upon the
career of a slaveholding mistress, Mrs. Auld was singularly
deficient; nature, which fits nobody for such an office, had done
less for her than any lady I had known. It was no easy matter to
induce her to think and to feel that the curly-headed boy, who
stood by her side, and even leaned on her lap; who was loved by
little Tommy, and who loved little Tommy in turn; sustained to
her only the relation of a chattel. I was _more_ than that, and
she felt me to be more than that. I could talk and sing; I could
laugh and weep; I could reason and remember; I could love and
hate. I was human, and she, dear lady, knew and felt me to be
so. How could she, then, treat me as a brute, without a mighty
struggle with all the noble powers of her own soul. That
struggle came, and the will and power of the husband was
victorious. Her noble soul was overthrown; but, he that
overthrew it did not, himself, escape the consequences. He, not
less than the other parties, was injured in his domestic peace by
the fall.

When I went into their family, it was the abode of happiness and
contentment. The mistress of the house was a model of
affec<120>tion and tenderness. Her fervent piety and watchful
uprightness made it impossible to see her without thinking and
feeling--"_that woman is a Christian_." There was no sorrow nor
suffering for which she had not a tear, and there was no innocent
joy for which she did not a smile. 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 excellent qualities, and her home of its early
happiness. Conscience cannot stand much violence. Once
thoroughly broken down, _who_ is he that can repair the damage?
It may be broken toward the slave, on Sunday, and toward the
master on Monday. It cannot endure such shocks. It must stand
entire, or it does not stand at all. If my condition waxed bad,
that of the family waxed not better. The first step, in the
wrong direction, was the violence done to nature and to
conscience, in arresting the benevolence that would have
enlightened my young mind. In ceasing to instruct me, she must
begin to justify herself _to_ herself; and, once consenting to
take sides in such a debate, she was riveted to her position.
One needs very little knowledge of moral philosophy, to see
_where_ my mistress now landed. She finally became even more
violent in her opposition to my learning to read, than was her
husband himself. She was not satisfied with simply doing as
_well_ as her husband had commanded her, but seemed resolved to
better his instruction. Nothing appeared to make my poor
mistress--after her turning toward the downward path--more angry,
than seeing me, seated in some nook or corner, quietly reading a
book or a newspaper. I have had her rush at me, with the utmost
fury, and snatch from my hand such newspaper or book, with
something of the wrath and consternation which a traitor might be
supposed to feel on being discovered in a plot by some dangerous
spy.

Mrs. Auld was an apt woman, and the advice of her husband, and
her own experience, soon demonstrated, to her entire
satisfaction, that education and slavery are incompatible with
each other. When this conviction was thoroughly established, I
was <121 HOW I PURSUED MY EDUCATION>most narrowly watched in all
my movements. If I remained in a separate room from the family
for any considerable length of time, I was sure to be suspected
of having a book, and was at once called upon to give an account
of myself. All this, however, was entirely _too late_. The
first, and never to be retraced, step had been taken. In
teaching me the alphabet, in the days of her simplicity and
kindness, my mistress had given me the _"inch,"_ and now, no
ordinary precaution could prevent me from taking the _"ell."_

Seized with a determination to learn to read, at any cost, I hit
upon many expedients to accomplish the desired end. The plea
which I mainly adopted, and the one by which I was most
successful, was that of using my young white playmates, with whom
I met in the streets as teachers. I used to carry, almost
constantly, a copy of Webster's spelling book in my pocket; and,
when sent of errands, or when play time was allowed me, I would
step, with my young friends, aside, and take a lesson in
spelling. I generally paid my _tuition fee_ to the boys, with
bread, which I also carried in my pocket. For a single biscuit,
any of my hungry little comrades would give me a lesson more
valuable to me than bread. Not every one, however, demanded this
consideration, for there were those who took pleasure in teaching
me, whenever I had a chance to be taught by them. I am strongly
tempted to give the names of two or three of those little boys,
as a slight testimonial of the gratitude and affection I bear
them, but prudence forbids; not that it would injure me, but it
might, possibly, embarrass them; for it is almost an unpardonable
offense to do any thing, directly or indirectly, to promote a
slave's freedom, in a slave state. It is enough to say, of my
warm-hearted little play fellows, that they lived on Philpot
street, very near Durgin & Bailey's shipyard.

Although slavery was a delicate subject, and very cautiously
talked about among grown up people in Maryland, I frequently
talked about it--and that very freely--with the white boys. I
<122>would, sometimes, say to them, while seated on a curb stone
or a cellar door, "I wish I could be free, as you will be when
you get to be men." "You will be free, you know, as soon as you
are twenty-one, and can go where you like, but I am a slave for
life. Have I not as good a right to be free as you have?" Words
like these, I observed, always troubled them; and I had no small
satisfaction in wringing from the boys, occasionally, that fresh
and bitter condemnation of slavery, that springs from nature,
unseared and unperverted. Of all consciences let me have those
to deal with which have not been bewildered by the cares of life.
I do not remember ever to have met with a _boy_, while I was in
slavery, who defended the slave system; but I have often had boys
to console me, with the hope that something would yet occur, by
which I might be made free. Over and over again, they have told
me, that "they believed I had as good a right to be free as
_they_ had;" and that "they did not believe God ever made any one
to be a slave." The reader will easily see, that such little
conversations with my play fellows, had no tendency to weaken my
love of liberty, nor to render me contented with my condition as
a slave.

When I was about thirteen years old, and had succeeded in
learning to read, every increase of knowledge, especially
respecting the FREE STATES, added something to the almost
intolerable burden of the thought--I AM A SLAVE FOR LIFE. To my
bondage I saw no end. It was a terrible reality, and I shall
never be able to tell how sadly that thought chafed my young
spirit. Fortunately, or unfortunately, about this time in my
life, I had made enough money to buy what was then a very popular
school book, viz: the _Columbian Orator_. I bought this addition
to my library, of Mr. Knight, on Thames street, Fell's Point,
Baltimore, and paid him fifty cents for it. I was first led to
buy this book, by hearing some little boys say they were going to
learn some little pieces out of it for the Exhibition. This
volume was, indeed, a rich treasure, and every opportunity
afforded me, for <123 _The Columbian Orator_--A DIALOGUE>a time,
was spent in diligently perusing it. Among much other
interesting matter, that which I had perused and reperused with
unflagging satisfaction, was a short dialogue between a master
and his slave. The slave is represented as having been
recaptured, in a second attempt to run away; and the master opens
the dialogue with an upbraiding speech, charging the slave with
ingratitude, and demanding to know what he has to say in his own
defense. Thus upbraided, and thus called upon to reply, the
slave rejoins, that he knows how little anything that he can say
will avail, seeing that he is completely in the hands of his
owner; and with noble resolution, calmly says, "I submit to my
fate." Touched by the slave's answer, the master insists upon
his further speaking, and recapitulates the many acts of kindness
which he has performed toward the slave, and tells him he is
permitted to speak for himself. Thus invited to the debate, the
quondam slave made a spirited defense of himself, and thereafter
the whole argument, for and against slavery, was brought out.
The master was vanquished at every turn in the argument; and
seeing himself to be thus vanquished, he generously and meekly
emancipates the slave, with his best wishes for his prosperity.
It is scarcely neccessary{sic} to say, that a dialogue, with such
an origin, and such an ending--read when the fact of my being a
slave was a constant burden of grief--powerfully affected me; and
I could not help feeling that the day might come, when the well-
directed answers made by the slave to the master, in this
instance, would find their counterpart in myself.

This, however, was not all the fanaticism which I found in this
_Columbian Orator_. I met there one of Sheridan's mighty
speeches, on the subject of Catholic Emancipation, Lord Chatham's
speech on the American war, and speeches by the great William
Pitt and by Fox. These were all choice documents to me, and I
read them, over and over again, with an interest that was ever
increasing, because it was ever gaining in intelligence; for the
more I read them, the better I understood them. The reading of
<124>these speeches added much to my limited stock of language,
and enabled me to give tongue to many interesting thoughts, which
had frequently flashed through my soul, and died away for want of
utterance. The mighty power and heart-searching directness of
truth, penetrating even the heart of a slaveholder, compelling
him to yield up his earthly interests to the claims of eternal
justice, were finely illustrated in the dialogue, just referred
to; and from the speeches of Sheridan, I got a bold and powerful
denunciation of oppression, and a most brilliant vindication of
the rights of man. Here was, indeed, a noble acquisition. If I
ever wavered under the consideration, that the Almighty, in some
way, ordained slavery, and willed my enslavement for his own
glory, I wavered no longer. I had now penetrated the secret of
all slavery and oppression, and had ascertained their true
foundation to be in the pride, the power and the avarice of man.
The dialogue and the speeches were all redolent of the principles
of liberty, and poured floods of light on the nature and
character of slavery. With a book of this kind in my hand, my
own human nature, and the facts of my experience, to help me, I
was equal to a contest with the religious advocates of slavery,
whether among the whites or among the colored people, for
blindness, in this matter, is not confined to the former. I have
met many religious colored people, at the south, who are under
the delusion that God requires them to submit to slavery, and to
wear their chains with meekness and humility. I could entertain
no such nonsense as this; and I almost lost my patience when I
found any colored man weak enough to believe such stuff.
Nevertheless, the increase of knowledge was attended with bitter,
as well as sweet results. The more I read, the more I was led to
abhor and detest slavery, and my enslavers. "Slaveholders,"
thought I, "are only a band of successful robbers, who left their
homes and went into Africa for the purpose of stealing and
reducing my people to slavery." I loathed them as the meanest
and the most wicked of men. As I read, behold! the very
discontent so graphically pre<125 MY EYES OPENED>dicted by Master
Hugh, had already come upon me. I was no longer the light-
hearted, gleesome boy, full of mirth and play, as when I landed
first at Baltimore. Knowledge had come; light had penetrated the
moral dungeon where I dwelt; and, behold! there lay the bloody
whip, for my back, and here was the iron chain; and my good,
_kind master_, he was the author of my situation. The revelation
haunted me, stung me, and made me gloomy and miserable. As I
writhed under the sting and torment of this knowledge, I almost
envied my fellow slaves their stupid contentment. This knowledge
opened my eyes to the horrible pit, and revealed the teeth of the
frightful dragon that was ready to pounce upon me, but it opened
no way for my escape. I have often wished myself a beast, or a
bird--anything, rather than a slave. I was wretched and gloomy,
beyond my ability to describe. I was too thoughtful to be happy.
It was this everlasting thinking which distressed and tormented
me; and yet there was no getting rid of the subject of my
thoughts. All nature was redolent of it. Once awakened by the
silver trump of knowledge, my spirit was roused to eternal
wakefulness. Liberty! the inestimable birthright of every man,
had, for me, converted every object into an asserter of this
great right. It was heard in every sound, and beheld in every
object. It was ever present, to torment me with a sense of my
wretched condition. The more beautiful and charming were the
smiles of nature, the more horrible and desolate was my
condition. I saw nothing without seeing it, and I heard nothing
without hearing it. I do not exaggerate, when I say, that it
looked from every star, smiled in every calm, breathed in every
wind, and moved in every storm.

I have no doubt that my state of mind had something to do with
the change in the treatment adopted, by my once kind mistress
toward me. I can easily believe, that my leaden, downcast, and
discontented look, was very offensive to her. Poor lady! She
did not know my trouble, and I dared not tell her. Could I have
freely made her acquainted with the real state of my mind, and
<126>given her the reasons therefor, it might have been well for
both of us. Her abuse of me fell upon me like the blows of the
false prophet upon his ass; she did not know that an _angel_
stood in the way; and--such is the relation of master and slave I
could not tell her. Nature had made us _friends;_ slavery made
us _enemies_. My interests were in a direction opposite to hers,
and we both had our private thoughts and plans. She aimed to
keep me ignorant; and I resolved to know, although knowledge only
increased my discontent. My feelings were not the result of any
marked cruelty in the treatment I received; they sprung from the
consideration of my being a slave at all. It was _slavery_--not
its mere _incidents_--that I hated. I had been cheated. I saw
through the attempt to keep me in ignorance; I saw that
slaveholders would have gladly made me believe that they were
merely acting under the authority of God, in making a slave of
me, and in making slaves of others; and I treated them as robbers
and deceivers. The feeding and clothing me well, could not atone
for taking my liberty from me. The smiles of my mistress could
not remove the deep sorrow that dwelt in my young bosom. Indeed,
these, in time, came only to deepen my sorrow. She had changed;
and the reader will see that I had changed, too. We were both
victims to the same overshadowing evil--_she_, as mistress, I, as
slave. I will not censure her harshly; she cannot censure me,
for she knows I speak but the truth, and have acted in my
opposition to slavery, just as she herself would have acted, in a
reverse of circumstances.

CHAPTER XII
_Religious Nature Awakened_

ABOLITIONISTS SPOKEN OF--MY EAGERNESS TO KNOW WHAT THIS WORD
MEANT--MY CONSULTATION OF THE DICTIONARY--INCENDIARY
INFORMATION--HOW AND WHERE DERIVED--THE ENIGMA SOLVED--NATHANIEL
TURNER'S INSURRECTION--THE CHOLERA--RELIGION--FIRST AWAKENED BY A
METHODIST MINISTER NAMED HANSON--MY DEAR AND GOOD OLD COLORED
FRIEND, LAWSON--HIS CHARACTER AND OCCUPATION--HIS INFLUENCE OVER
ME--OUR MUTUAL ATTACHMENT--THE COMFORT I DERIVED FROM HIS
TEACHING--NEW HOPES AND ASPIRATIONS--HEAVENLY LIGHT AMIDST
EARTHLY DARKNESS--THE TWO IRISHMEN ON THE WHARF--THEIR
CONVERSATION--HOW I LEARNED TO WRITE--WHAT WERE MY AIMS.

Whilst in the painful state of mind described in the foregoing
chapter, almost regretting my very existence, because doomed to a
life of bondage, so goaded and so wretched, at times, that I was
even tempted to destroy my own life, I was keenly sensitive and
eager to know any, and every thing that transpired, having any
relation to the subject of slavery. I was all ears, all eyes,
whenever the words _slave, slavery_, dropped from the lips of any
white person, and the occasions were not unfrequent when these
words became leading ones, in high, social debate, at our house.
Every little while, I could hear Master Hugh, or some of his
company, speaking with much warmth and excitement about
_"abolitionists."_ Of _who_ or _what_ these were, I was totally
ignorant. I found, however, that whatever they might be, they
were most cordially hated and soundly abused by slaveholders, of
every grade. I very soon discovered, too, that slavery was, in
some <128>sort, under consideration, whenever the abolitionists
were alluded to. This made the term a very interesting one to
me. If a slave, for instance, had made good his escape from
slavery, it was generally alleged, that he had been persuaded and
assisted by the abolitionists. If, also, a slave killed his
master--as was sometimes the case--or struck down his overseer,
or set fire to his master's dwelling, or committed any violence
or crime, out of the common way, it was certain to be said, that
such a crime was the legitimate fruits of the abolition movement.
Hearing such charges often repeated, I, naturally enough,
received the impression that abolition--whatever else it might
be--could not be unfriendly to the slave, nor very friendly to
the slaveholder. I therefore set about finding out, if possible,
_who_ and _what_ the abolitionists were, and _why_ they were so
obnoxious to the slaveholders. The dictionary afforded me very
little help. It taught me that abolition was the "act of
abolishing;" but it left me in ignorance at the very point where
I most wanted information--and that was, as to the _thing_ to be
abolished. A city newspaper, the _Baltimore American_, gave me
the incendiary information denied me by the dictionary. In its
columns I found, that, on a certain day, a vast number of
petitions and memorials had been presented to congress, praying
for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, and for
the abolition of the slave trade between the states of the Union.
This was enough. The vindictive bitterness, the marked caution,
the studied reverse, and the cumbrous ambiguity, practiced by our
white folks, when alluding to this subject, was now fully
explained. Ever, after that, when I heard the words "abolition,"
or "abolition movement," mentioned, I felt the matter one of a
personal concern; and I drew near to listen, when I could do so,
without seeming too solicitous and prying. There was HOPE in
those words. Ever and anon, too, I could see some terrible
denunciation of slavery, in our papers--copied from abolition
papers at the north--and the injustice of such denunciation
commented on. These I read with avidity. <129 ABOLITIONISM--THE
ENIGMA SOLVED>I had a deep satisfaction in the thought, that the
rascality of slaveholders was not concealed from the eyes of the
world, and that I was not alone in abhorring the cruelty and
brutality of slavery. A still deeper train of thought was
stirred. I saw that there was _fear_, as well as _rage_, in the
manner of speaking of the abolitionists. The latter, therefore,
I was compelled to regard as having some power in the country;
and I felt that they might, possibly, succeed in their designs.
When I met with a slave to whom I deemed it safe to talk on the
subject, I would impart to him so much of the mystery as I had
been able to penetrate. Thus, the light of this grand movement
broke in upon my mind, by degrees; and I must say, that, ignorant
as I then was of the philosophy of that movement, I believe in it
from the first--and I believed in it, partly, because I saw that
it alarmed the consciences of slaveholders. The insurrection of
Nathaniel Turner had been quelled, but the alarm and terror had
not subsided. The cholera was on its way, and the thought was
present, that God was angry with the white people because of
their slaveholding wickedness, and, therefore, his judgments were
abroad in the land. It was impossible for me not to hope much
from the abolition movement, when I saw it supported by the
Almighty, and armed with DEATH!

Previous to my contemplation of the anti-slavery movement, and
its probable results, my mind had been seriously awakened to the
subject of religion. I was not more than thirteen years old,
when I felt the need of God, as a father and protector. My
religious nature was awakened by the preaching of a white
Methodist minister, named Hanson. He thought that all men, great
and small, bond and free, were sinners in the sight of God; that
they were, by nature, rebels against His government; and that
they must repent of their sins, and be reconciled to God, through
Christ. I cannot say that I had a very distinct notion of what
was required of me; but one thing I knew very well--I was
wretched, and had no means of making myself otherwise. Moreover,
I knew that I could pray for light. I consulted a good colored
man, named <130>Charles Johnson; and, in tones of holy affection,
he told me to pray, and what to pray for. I was, for weeks, a
poor, brokenhearted mourner, traveling through the darkness and
misery of doubts and fears. I finally found that change of heart
which comes by "casting all one's care" upon God, and by having
faith in Jesus Christ, as the Redeemer, Friend, and Savior of
those who diligently seek Him.

After this, I saw the world in a new light. I seemed to live in
a new world, surrounded by new objects, and to be animated by new
hopes and desires. I loved all mankind--slaveholders not
excepted; though I abhorred slavery more than ever. My great
concern was, now, to have the world converted. The desire for
knowledge increased, and especially did I want a thorough
acquaintance with the contents of the bible. I have gathered
scattered pages from this holy book, from the filthy street
gutters of Baltimore, and washed and dried them, that in the
moments of my leisure, I might get a word or two of wisdom from
them. While thus religiously seeking knowledge, I became
acquainted with a good old colored man, named Lawson. A more
devout man than he, I never saw. He drove a dray for Mr. James
Ramsey, the owner of a rope-walk on Fell's Point, Baltimore.
This man not only prayed three time a day, but he prayed as he
walked through the streets, at his work--on his dray everywhere.
His life was a life of prayer, and his words (when he spoke to
his friends,) were about a better world. Uncle Lawson lived near
Master Hugh's house; and, becoming deeply attached to the old
man, I went often with him to prayer-meeting, and spent much of
my leisure time with him on Sunday. The old man could read a
little, and I was a great help to him, in making out the hard
words, for I was a better reader than he. I could teach him
_"the letter,"_ but he could teach me _"the spirit;"_ and high,
refreshing times we had together, in singing, praying and
glorifying God. These meetings with Uncle Lawson went on for a
long time, without the knowledge of Master Hugh or my mistress.
Both knew, how<131 FATHER LAWSON--OUR ATTACHMENT>ever, that I had
become religious, and they seemed to respect my conscientious
piety. My mistress was still a professor of religion, and
belonged to class. Her leader was no less a person than the Rev.
Beverly Waugh, the presiding elder, and now one of the bishops of
the Methodist Episcopal church. Mr. Waugh was then stationed
over Wilk street church. I am careful to state these facts, that
the reader may be able to form an idea of the precise influences
which had to do with shaping and directing my mind.

In view of the cares and anxieties incident to the life she was
then leading, and, especially, in view of the separation from
religious associations to which she was subjected, my mistress
had, as I have before stated, become lukewarm, and needed to be
looked up by her leader. This brought Mr. Waugh to our house,
and gave me an opportunity to hear him exhort and pray. But my
chief instructor, in matters of religion, was Uncle Lawson. He
was my spiritual father; and I loved him intensely, and was at
his house every chance I got.

This pleasure was not long allowed me. Master Hugh became averse
to my going to Father Lawson's, and threatened to whip me if I
ever went there again. I now felt myself persecuted by a wicked
man; and I _would_ go to Father Lawson's, notwithstanding the
threat. The good old man had told me, that the "Lord had a great
work for me to do;" and I must prepare to do it; and that he had
been shown that I must preach the gospel. His words made a deep
impression on my mind, and I verily felt that some such work was
before me, though I could not see _how_ I should ever engage in
its performance. "The good Lord," he said, "would bring it to
pass in his own good time," and that I must go on reading and
studying the scriptures. The advice and the suggestions of Uncle
Lawson, were not without their influence upon my character and
destiny. He threw my thoughts into a channel from which they
have never entirely diverged. He fanned my already intense love
of knowledge into a flame, by assuring me that I was to be a
useful man in the world. When I would <132>say to him, "How can
these things be and what can _I_ do?" his simple reply was,
_"Trust in the Lord."_ When I told him that "I was a slave, and
a slave FOR LIFE," he said, "the Lord can make you free, my dear.
All things are possible with him, only _have faith in God."_
"Ask, and it shall be given." "If you want liberty," said the
good old man, "ask the Lord for it, _in faith_, AND HE WILL GIVE
IT TO YOU."

Thus assured, and cheered on, under the inspiration of hope, I
worked and prayed with a light heart, believing that my life was
under the guidance of a wisdom higher than my own. With all
other blessings sought at the mercy seat, I always prayed that
God would, of His great mercy, and in His own good time, deliver
me from my bondage.

I went, one day, on the wharf of Mr. Waters; and seeing two
Irishmen unloading a large scow of stone, or ballast I went on
board, unasked, and helped them. When we had finished the work,
one of the men came to me, aside, and asked me a number of
questions, and among them, if I were a slave. I told him "I was
a slave, and a slave for life." The good Irishman gave his
shoulders a shrug, and seemed deeply affected by the statement.
He said, "it was a pity so fine a little fellow as myself should
be a slave for life." They both had much to say about the
matter, and expressed the deepest sympathy with me, and the most
decided hatred of slavery. They went so far as to tell me that I
ought to run away, and go to the north; that I should find
friends there, and that I would be as free as anybody. I,
however, pretended not to be interested in what they said, for I
feared they might be treacherous. White men have been known to
encourage slaves to escape, and then--to get the reward--they
have kidnapped them, and returned them to their masters. And
while I mainly inclined to the notion that these men were honest
and meant me no ill, I feared it might be otherwise. I
nevertheless remembered their words and their advice, and looked
forward to an escape to the north, as a possible means of gaining
the liberty <133 HOW I LEARNED TO WRITE>for which my heart
panted. It was not my enslavement, at the then present time,
that most affected me; the being a slave _for life_, was the
saddest thought. I was too young to think of running away
immediately; besides, I wished to learn how to write, before
going, as I might have occasion to write my own pass. I now not
only had the hope of freedom, but a foreshadowing of the means by
which I might, some day, gain that inestimable boon. Meanwhile,
I resolved to add to my educational attainments the art of
writing.

After this manner I began to learn to write: I was much in the
ship yard--Master Hugh's, and that of Durgan & Bailey--and I
observed that the carpenters, after hewing and getting a piece of
timber ready for use, wrote on it the initials of the name of
that part of the ship for which it was intended. When, for
instance, a piece of timber was ready for the starboard side, it
was marked with a capital "S." A piece for the larboard side was
marked "L;" larboard forward, "L. F.;" larboard aft, was marked
"L. A.;" starboard aft, "S. A.;" and starboard forward "S. F." I
soon learned these letters, and for what they were placed on the
timbers.

My work was now, to keep fire under the steam box, and to watch
the ship yard while the carpenters had gone to dinner. This
interval gave me a fine opportunity for copying the letters
named. I soon astonished myself with the ease with which I made
the letters; and the thought was soon present, "if I can make
four, I can make more." But having made these easily, when I met
boys about Bethel church, or any of our play-grounds, I entered
the lists with them in the art of writing, and would make the
letters which I had been so fortunate as to learn, and ask them
to "beat that if they could." With playmates for my teachers,
fences and pavements for my copy books, and chalk for my pen and
ink, I learned the art of writing. I, however, afterward adopted
various methods of improving my hand. The most successful, was
copying the _italics_ in Webster's spelling book, until <134>I
could make them all without looking on the book. By this time,
my little "Master Tommy" had grown to be a big boy, and had
written over a number of copy books, and brought them home. They
had been shown to the neighbors, had elicited due praise, and
were now laid carefully away. Spending my time between the ship
yard and house, I was as often the lone keeper of the latter as
of the former. When my mistress left me in charge of the house,
I had a grand time; I got Master Tommy's copy books and a pen and
ink, and, in the ample spaces between the lines, I wrote other
lines, as nearly like his as possible. The process was a tedious
one, and I ran the risk of getting a flogging for marring the
highly prized copy books of the oldest son. In addition to those
opportunities, sleeping, as I did, in the kitchen loft--a room
seldom visited by any of the family--I got a flour barrel up
there, and a chair; and upon the head of that barrel I have
written (or endeavored to write) copying from the bible and the
Methodist hymn book, and other books which had accumulated on my
hands, till late at night, and when all the family were in bed
and asleep. I was supported in my endeavors by renewed advice,
and by holy promises from the good Father Lawson, with whom I
continued to meet, and pray, and read the scriptures. Although
Master Hugh was aware of my going there, I must say, for his
credit, that he never executed his threat to whip me, for having
thus, innocently, employed-my leisure time.

CHAPTER XIII
_The Vicissitudes of Slave Life_

DEATH OF OLD MASTER'S SON RICHARD, SPEEDILY FOLLOWED BY THAT OF
OLD MASTER--VALUATION AND DIVISION OF ALL THE PROPERTY, INCLUDING
THE SLAVES--MY PRESENCE REQUIRED AT HILLSBOROUGH TO BE APPRAISED
AND ALLOTTED TO A NEW OWNER--MY SAD PROSPECTS AND GRIEF--
PARTING--THE UTTER POWERLESSNESS OF THE SLAVES TO DECIDE THEIR
OWN DESTINY--A GENERAL DREAD OF MASTER ANDREW--HIS WICKEDNESS AND
CRUELTY--MISS LUCRETIA MY NEW OWNER--MY RETURN TO BALTIMORE--JOY
UNDER THE ROOF OF MASTER HUGH--DEATH OF MRS. LUCRETIA--MY POOR
OLD GRANDMOTHER--HER SAD FATE--THE LONE COT IN THE WOODS--MASTER
THOMAS AULD'S SECOND MARRIAGE--AGAIN REMOVED FROM MASTER HUGH'S--
REASONS FOR REGRETTING THE CHANGE--A PLAN OF ESCAPE ENTERTAINED.

I must now ask the reader to go with me a little back in point of
time, in my humble story, and to notice another circumstance that
entered into my slavery experience, and which, doubtless, has had
a share in deepening my horror of slavery, and increasing my
hostility toward those men and measures that practically uphold
the slave system.

It has already been observed, that though I was, after my removal
from Col. Lloyd's plantation, in _form_ the slave of Master Hugh,
I was, in _fact_, and in _law_, the slave of my old master, Capt.
Anthony. Very well.

In a very short time after I went to Baltimore, my old master's
youngest son, Richard, died; and, in three years and six months
after his death, my old master himself died, leaving only his
son, Andrew, and his daughter, Lucretia, to share his estate.
The <136>old man died while on a visit to his daughter, in
Hillsborough, where Capt. Auld and Mrs. Lucretia now lived. The
former, having given up the command of Col. Lloyd's sloop, was
now keeping a store in that town.

Cut off, thus unexpectedly, Capt. Anthony died intestate; and his
property must now be equally divided between his two children,
Andrew and Lucretia.

The valuation and the division of slaves, among contending heirs,
is an important incident in slave life. The character and
tendencies of the heirs, are generally well understood among the
slaves who are to be divided, and all have their aversions and
preferences. But, neither their aversions nor their preferences
avail them anything.

On the death of old master, I was immediately sent for, to be
valued and divided with the other property. Personally, my
concern was, mainly, about my possible removal from the home of
Master Hugh, which, after that of my grandmother, was the most
endeared to me. But, the whole thing, as a feature of slavery,
shocked me. It furnished me anew insight into the unnatural
power to which I was subjected. My detestation of slavery,
already great, rose with this new conception of its enormity.

That was a sad day for me, a sad day for little Tommy, and a sad
day for my dear Baltimore mistress and teacher, when I left for
the Eastern Shore, to be valued and divided. We, all three, wept
bitterly that day; for we might be parting, and we feared we were
parting, forever. No one could tell among which pile of chattels
I should be flung. Thus early, I got a foretaste of that painful
uncertainty which slavery brings to the ordinary lot of mortals.
Sickness, adversity and death may interfere with the plans and
purposes of all; but the slave has the added danger of changing
homes, changing hands, and of having separations unknown to other
men. Then, too, there was the intensified degradation of the
spectacle. What an assemblage! Men and women, young and old,
married and single; moral and intellectual beings, in open
contempt of their humanity, level at a blow with <137 DIVISION OF
OLD MASTER'S PROPERTY>horses, sheep, horned cattle and swine!
Horses and men--cattle and women--pigs and children--all holding
the same rank in the scale of social existence; and all subjected
to the same narrow inspection, to ascertain their value in gold
and silver--the only standard of worth applied by slaveholders to
slaves! How vividly, at that moment, did the brutalizing power
of slavery flash before me! Personality swallowed up in the
sordid idea of property! Manhood lost in chattelhood!

After the valuation, then came the division. This was an hour of
high excitement and distressing anxiety. Our destiny was now to
be _fixed for life_, and we had no more voice in the decision of
the question, than the oxen and cows that stood chewing at the
haymow. One word from the appraisers, against all preferences or
prayers, was enough to sunder all the ties of friendship and
affection, and even to separate husbands and wives, parents and
children. We were all appalled before that power, which, to
human seeming, could bless or blast us in a moment. Added to the
dread of separation, most painful to the majority of the slaves,
we all had a decided horror of the thought of falling into the
hands of Master Andrew. He was distinguished for cruelty and
intemperance.

Slaves generally dread to fall into the hands of drunken owners.
Master Andrew was almost a confirmed sot, and had already, by his
reckless mismanagement and profligate dissipation, wasted a large
portion of old master's property. To fall into his hands, was,
therefore, considered merely as the first step toward being sold
away to the far south. He would spend his fortune in a few
years, and his farms and slaves would be sold, we thought, at
public outcry; and we should be hurried away to the cotton
fields, and rice swamps, of the sunny south. This was the cause
of deep consternation.

The people of the north, and free people generally, I think, have
less attachment to the places where they are born and brought up,
than have the slaves. Their freedom to go and come, <138>to be
here and there, as they list, prevents any extravagant attachment
to any one particular place, in their case. On the other hand,
the slave is a fixture; he has no choice, no goal, no
destination; but is pegged down to a single spot, and must take
root here, or nowhere. The idea of removal elsewhere, comes,
generally, in the shape of a threat, and in punishment of crime.
It is, therefore, attended with fear and dread. A slave seldom
thinks of bettering his condition by being sold, and hence he
looks upon separation from his native place, with none of the
enthusiasm which animates the bosoms of young freemen, when they
contemplate a life in the far west, or in some distant country
where they intend to rise to wealth and distinction. Nor can
those from whom they separate, give them up with that
cheerfulness with which friends and relations yield each other
up, when they feel that it is for the good of the departing one
that he is removed from his native place. Then, too, there is
correspondence, and there is, at least, the hope of reunion,
because reunion is _possible_. But, with the slave, all these
mitigating circumstances are wanting. There is no improvement in
his condition _probable_,--no correspondence _possible_,--no
reunion attainable. His going out into the world, is like a
living man going into the tomb, who, with open eyes, sees himself
buried out of sight and hearing of wife, children and friends of
kindred tie.

In contemplating the likelihoods and possibilities of our
circumstances, I probably suffered more than most of my fellow
servants. I had known what it was to experience kind, and even
tender treatment; they had known nothing of the sort. Life, to
them, had been rough and thorny, as well as dark. They had--most
of them--lived on my old master's farm in Tuckahoe, and had felt
the reign of Mr. Plummer's rule. The overseer had written his
character on the living parchment of most of their backs, and
left them callous; my back (thanks to my early removal from the
plantation to Baltimore) was yet tender. I had left a kind
mistress <139 MY SAD PROSPECTS AND GRIEF>at Baltimore, who was
almost a mother to me. She was in tears when we parted, and the
probabilities of ever seeing her again, trembling in the balance
as they did, could not be viewed without alarm and agony. The
thought of leaving that kind mistress forever, and, worse still,
of being the slave of Andrew Anthony--a man who, but a few days
before the division of the property, had, in my presence, seized
my brother Perry by the throat, dashed him on the ground, and
with the heel of his boot stamped him on the head, until the
blood gushed from his nose and ears--was terrible! This fiendish
proceeding had no better apology than the fact, that Perry had
gone to play, when Master Andrew wanted him for some trifling
service. This cruelty, too, was of a piece with his general
character. After inflicting his heavy blows on my brother, on
observing me looking at him with intense astonishment, he said,
"_That_ is the way I will serve you, one of these days;" meaning,
no doubt, when I should come into his possession. This threat,
the reader may well suppose, was not very tranquilizing to my
feelings. I could see that he really thirsted to get hold of me.
But I was there only for a few days. I had not received any
orders, and had violated none, and there was, therefore, no
excuse for flogging me.

At last, the anxiety and suspense were ended; and they ended,
thanks to a kind Providence, in accordance with my wishes. I
fell to the portion of Mrs. Lucretia--the dear lady who bound up
my head, when the savage Aunt Katy was adding to my sufferings
her bitterest maledictions.

Capt. Thomas Auld and Mrs. Lucretia at once decided on my return
to Baltimore. They knew how sincerely and warmly Mrs. Hugh Auld
was attached to me, and how delighted Mr. Hugh's son would be to
have me back; and, withal, having no immediate use for one so
young, they willingly let me off to Baltimore.

I need not stop here to narrate my joy on returning to Baltimore,
nor that of little Tommy; nor the tearful joy of his mother;
<140>nor the evident saticfaction{sic} of Master Hugh. I was
just one month absent from Baltimore, before the matter was
decided; and the time really seemed full six months.

One trouble over, and on comes another. The slave's life is full
of uncertainty. I had returned to Baltimore but a short time,
when the tidings reached me, that my friend, Mrs. Lucretia, who
was only second in my regard to Mrs. Hugh Auld, was dead, leaving
her husband and only one child--a daughter, named Amanda.

Shortly after the death of Mrs. Lucretia, strange to say, Master
Andrew died, leaving his wife and one child. Thus, the whole
family of Anthonys was swept away; only two children remained.
All this happened within five years of my leaving Col. Lloyd's.

No alteration took place in the condition of the slaves, in
consequence of these deaths, yet I could not help feeling less
secure, after the death of my friend, Mrs. Lucretia, than I had
done during her life. While she lived, I felt that I had a
strong friend to plead for me in any emergency. Ten years ago,
while speaking of the state of things in our family, after the
events just named, I used this language:

Now all the property of my old master, slaves included, was in
the hands of strangers--strangers who had nothing to do in
accumulating it. Not a slave was left free. All remained
slaves, from youngest to oldest. If any one thing in my
experience, more than another, served to deepen my conviction of
the infernal character of slavery, and to fill me with
unutterable loathing of slaveholders, it was their base
ingratitude to my poor old grandmother. She had served my old
master faithfully from youth to old age. She had been the source
of all his wealth; she had peopled his plantation with slaves;
she had become a great-grandmother in his service. She had
rocked him in infancy, attended him in childhood, served him
through 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
grandchildren, 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 destiny. And, to cap the
climax of their base ingratitude and fiendish barbarity, my
grandmother, who was now very old, having outlived my old master
and all his children, having seen the beginning and end of all of
them, and her present owners finding she <141 DEATH OF MRS.
LUCRETIA>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 turning her out to die! If my poor
old grandmother now lives, she lives to suffer in utter
loneliness; she lives to remember and mourn over the loss of
children, the loss of grandchildren, and the loss of great-
grandchildren. They are, in the language of the slave's poet,
Whittier--

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

The hearth is desolate. The children, the unconscious children,
who once sang and danced in her presence, are gone. She gropes
her way, in the darkness of age, for a drink of water. Instead
of the voices of her children, she hears by day the 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 time for the exercise of that
tenderness and affection which children only can exercise toward
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.

Two years after the death of Mrs. Lucretia, Master Thomas married
his second wife. Her name was Rowena Hamilton, the eldest
daughter of Mr. William Hamilton, a rich slaveholder on the
Eastern Shore of Maryland, who lived about five miles from St.
Michael's, the then place of my master's residence.

Not long after his marriage, Master Thomas had a misunderstanding
with Master Hugh, and, as a means of punishing his brother, he
ordered him to send me home.
<142>

As the ground of misunderstanding will serve to illustrate the
character of southern chivalry, and humanity, I will relate it.

Among the children of my Aunt Milly, was a daughter, named Henny.
When quite a child, Henny had fallen into the fire, and burnt her
hands so bad that they were of very little use to her. Her
fingers were drawn almost into the palms of her hands. She could
make out to do something, but she was considered hardly worth the
having--of little more value than a horse with a broken leg.
This unprofitable piece of human property, ill shapen, and
disfigured, Capt. Auld sent off to Baltimore, making his brother
Hugh welcome to her services.

After giving poor Henny a fair trial, Master Hugh and his wife
came to the conclusion, that they had no use for the crippled
servant, and they sent her back to Master Thomas. Thus, the
latter took as an act of ingratitude, on the part of his brother;
and, as a mark of his displeasure, he required him to send me
immediately to St. Michael's, saying, if he cannot keep _"Hen,"_
he shall not have _"Fred."_

Here was another shock to my nerves, another breaking up of my
plans, and another severance of my religious and social
alliances. I was now a big boy. I had become quite useful to
several young colored men, who had made me their teacher. I had
taught some of them to read, and was accustomed to spend many of
my leisure hours with them. Our attachment was strong, and I
greatly dreaded the separation. But regrets, especially in a
slave, are unavailing. I was only a slave; my wishes were
nothing, and my happiness was the sport of my masters.

My regrets at now leaving Baltimore, were not for the same
reasons as when I before left that city, to be valued and handed
over to my proper owner. My home was not now the pleasant place
it had formerly been. A change had taken place, both in Master
Hugh, and in his once pious and affectionate wife. The influence
of brandy and bad company on him, and the influence of slavery
and social isolation upon her, had wrought disastrously upon the
<143 REASONS FOR REGRETTING THE CHANGE>characters of both.
Thomas was no longer "little Tommy," but was a big boy, and had
learned to assume the airs of his class toward me. My condition,
therefore, in the house of Master Hugh, was not, by any means, so
comfortable as in former years. My attachments were now outside
of our family. They were felt to those to whom I _imparted_
instruction, and to those little white boys from whom I
_received_ instruction. There, too, was my dear old father, the
pious Lawson, who was, in christian graces, the very counterpart
of "Uncle" Tom. The resemblance is so perfect, that he might
have been the original of Mrs. Stowe's christian hero. The
thought of leaving these dear friends, greatly troubled me, for I
was going without the hope of ever returning to Baltimore again;
the feud between Master Hugh and his brother being bitter and
irreconcilable, or, at least, supposed to be so.

In addition to thoughts of friends from whom I was parting, as I
supposed, _forever_, I had the grief of neglected chances of
escape to brood over. I had put off running away, until now I
was to be placed where the opportunities for escaping were much
fewer than in a large city like Baltimore.

On my way from Baltimore to St. Michael's, down the Chesapeake
bay, our sloop--the "Amanda"--was passed by the steamers plying
between that city and Philadelphia, and I watched the course of
those steamers, and, while going to St. Michael's, I formed a
plan to escape from slavery; of which plan, and matters connected
therewith the kind reader shall learn more hereafter.

CHAPTER XIV
_Experience in St. Michael's_

THE VILLAGE--ITS INHABITANTS--THEIR OCCUPATION AND LOW
PROPENSITIES CAPTAN{sic} THOMAS AULD--HIS CHARACTER--HIS SECOND
WIFE, ROWENA--WELL MATCHED--SUFFERINGS FROM HUNGER--OBLIGED TO
TAKE FOOD--MODE OF ARGUMENT IN VINDICATION THEREOF--NO MORAL CODE
OF FREE SOCIETY CAN APPLY TO SLAVE SOCIETY--SOUTHERN CAMP
MEETING--WHAT MASTER THOMAS DID THERE--HOPES--SUSPICIONS ABOUT
HIS CONVERSION--THE RESULT--FAITH AND WORKS ENTIRELY AT
VARIANCE--HIS RISE AND PROGRESS IN THE CHURCH--POOR COUSIN
"HENNY"--HIS TREATMENT OF HER--THE METHODIST PREACHERS--THEIR
UTTER DISREGARD OF US--ONE EXCELLENT EXCEPTION--REV. GEORGE
COOKMAN--SABBATH SCHOOL--HOW BROKEN UP AND BY WHOM--A FUNERAL
PALL CAST OVER ALL MY PROSPECTS--COVEY THE NEGRO-BREAKER.

St. Michael's, the village in which was now my new home, compared
favorably with villages in slave states, generally. There were a
few comfortable dwellings in it, but the place, as a whole, wore
a dull, slovenly, enterprise-forsaken aspect. The mass of the
buildings were wood; they had never enjoyed the artificial
adornment of paint, and time and storms had worn off the bright
color of the wood, leaving them almost as black as buildings
charred by a conflagration.

St. Michael's had, in former years, (previous to 1833, for that
was the year I went to reside there,) enjoyed some reputation as
a ship building community, but that business had almost entirely
given place to oyster fishing, for the Baltimore and Philadelphia
markets--a course of life highly unfavorable to morals, industry,
and manners. Miles river was broad, and its oyster fishing <145
ARRIVAL AT ST. MICHAEL'S>grounds were extensive; and the
fishermen were out, often, all day, and a part of the night,
during autumn, winter and spring. This exposure was an excuse
for carrying with them, in considerable quanties{sic}, spirituous
liquors, the then supposed best antidote for cold. Each canoe
was supplied with its jug of rum; and tippling, among this class
of the citizens of St. Michael's, became general. This drinking
habit, in an ignorant population, fostered coarseness, vulgarity
and an indolent disregard for the social improvement of the
place, so that it was admitted, by the few sober, thinking people
who remained there, that St. Michael's had become a very
_unsaintly_, as well as unsightly place, before I went there to
reside.

I left Baltimore for St. Michael's in the month of March, 1833.
I know the year, because it was the one succeeding the first
cholera in Baltimore, and was the year, also, of that strange
phenomenon, when the heavens seemed about to part with its starry
train. I witnessed this gorgeous spectacle, and was awe-struck.
The air seemed filled with bright, descending messengers from the
sky. It was about daybreak when I saw this sublime scene. I was
not without the suggestion, at the moment, that it might be the
harbinger of the coming of the Son of Man; and, in my then state
of mind, I was prepared to hail Him as my friend and deliverer.
I had read, that the "stars shall fall from heaven"; and they
were now falling. I was suffering much in my mind. It did seem
that every time the young tendrils of my affection became
attached, they were rudely broken by some unnatural outside
power; and I was beginning to look away to heaven for the rest
denied me on earth.

But, to my story. It was now more than seven years since I had
lived with Master Thomas Auld, in the family of my old master, on
Col. Lloyd's plantation. We were almost entire strangers to each
other; for, when I knew him at the house of my old master, it was
not as a _master_, but simply as "Captain Auld," who had married
old master's daughter. All my lessons concerning his <146>temper
and disposition, and the best methods of pleasing him, were yet
to be learnt. Slaveholders, however, are not very ceremonious in
approaching a slave; and my ignorance of the new material in
shape of a master was but transient. Nor was my mistress long in
making known her animus. She was not a "Miss Lucretia," traces
of whom I yet remembered, and the more especially, as I saw them
shining in the face of little Amanda, her daughter, now living
under a step-mother's government. I had not forgotten the soft
hand, guided by a tender heart, that bound up with healing balsam
the gash made in my head by Ike, the son of Abel. Thomas and
Rowena, I found to be a well-matched pair. _He_ was stingy, and
_she_ was cruel; and--what was quite natural in such cases--she
possessed the ability to make him as cruel as herself, while she
could easily descend to the level of his meanness. In the house
of Master Thomas, I was made--for the first time in seven years
to feel the pinchings of hunger, and this was not very easy to
bear.

For, in all the changes of Master Hugh's family, there was no
change in the bountifulness with which they supplied me with
food. Not to give a slave enough to eat, is meanness
intensified, and it is so recognized among slaveholders
generally, in Maryland. The rule is, no matter how coarse the
food, only let there be enough of it. This is the theory, and--
in the part of Maryland I came from--the general practice accords
with this theory. Lloyd's plantation was an exception, as was,
also, the house of Master Thomas Auld.

All know the lightness of Indian corn-meal, as an article of
food, and can easily judge from the following facts whether the
statements I have made of the stinginess of Master Thomas, are
borne out. There were four slaves of us in the kitchen, and four
whites in the great house Thomas Auld, Mrs. Auld, Hadaway Auld
(brother of Thomas Auld) and little Amanda. The names of the
slaves in the kitchen, were Eliza, my sister; Priscilla, my aunt;
Henny, my cousin; and myself. There were eight persons <147
STEALING--MODE OF VINDICATION>in the family. There was, each
week, one half bushel of corn-meal brought from the mill; and in
the kitchen, corn-meal was almost our exclusive food, for very
little else was allowed us. Out of this bushel of corn-meal, the
family in the great house had a small loaf every morning; thus
leaving us, in the kitchen, with not quite a half a peck per
week, apiece. This allowance was less than half the allowance of
food on Lloyd's plantation. It was not enough to subsist upon;
and we were, therefore, reduced to the wretched necessity of
living at the expense of our neighbors. We were compelled either
to beg, or to steal, and we did both. I frankly confess, that
while I hated everything like stealing, _as such_, I nevertheless
did not hesitate to take food, when I was hungry, wherever I
could find it. Nor was this practice the mere result of an
unreasoning instinct; it was, in my case, the result of a clear
apprehension of the claims of morality. I weighed and considered
the matter closely, before I ventured to satisfy my hunger by
such means. Considering that my labor and person were the
property of Master Thomas, and that I was by him deprived of the
necessaries of life necessaries obtained by my own labor--it was
easy to deduce the right to supply myself with what was my own.
It was simply appropriating what was my own to the use of my
master, since the health and strength derived from such food were
exerted in _his_ service. To be sure, this was stealing,
according to the law and gospel I heard from St. Michael's
pulpit; but I had already begun to attach less importance to what
dropped from that quarter, on that point, while, as yet, I
retained my reverence for religion. It was not always convenient
to steal from master, and the same reason why I might,
innocently, steal from him, did not seem to justify me in
stealing from others. In the case of my master, it was only a
question of _removal_--the taking his meat out of one tub, and
putting it into another; the ownership of the meat was not
affected by the transaction. At first, he owned it in the _tub_,
and last, he owned it in _me_. His meat house was not always
open. There was a strict watch kept on that <148>point, and the
key was on a large bunch in Rowena's pocket. A great many times
have we, poor creatures, been severely pinched with hunger, when
meat and bread have been moulding under the lock, while the key
was in the pocket of our mistress. This had been so when she
_knew_ we were nearly half starved; and yet, that mistress, with
saintly air, would kneel with her husband, and pray each morning
that a merciful God would bless them in basket and in store, and
save them, at last, in his kingdom. But I proceed with the
argument.

It was necessary that right to steal from _others_ should be
established; and this could only rest upon a wider range of
generalization than that which supposed the right to steal from
my master.

It was sometime before I arrived at this clear right. The reader
will get some idea of my train of reasoning, by a brief statement
of the case. "I am," thought I, "not only the slave of Thomas,
but I am the slave of society at large. Society at large has
bound itself, in form and in fact, to assist Master Thomas in
robbing me of my rightful liberty, and of the just reward of my
labor; therefore, whatever rights I have against Master Thomas, I
have, equally, against those confederated with him in robbing me
of liberty. As society has marked me out as privileged plunder,
on the principle of self-preservation I am justified in
plundering in turn. Since each slave belongs to all; all must,
therefore, belong to each."

I shall here make a profession of faith which may shock some,
offend others, and be dissented from by all. It is this: Within
the bounds of his just earnings, I hold that the slave is fully
justified in helping himself to the _gold and silver, and the
best apparel of his master, or that of any other slaveholder; and
that such taking is not stealing in any just sense of that word_.

The morality of _free_ society can have no application to _slave_
society. Slaveholders have made it almost impossible for the
slave to commit any crime, known either to the laws of God or to
the laws of man. If he steals, he takes his own; if he kills his
master, <149 SELFISHNESS OF MASTER THOMAS>he imitates only the
heroes of the revolution. Slaveholders I hold to be individually
and collectively responsible for all the evils which grow out of
the horrid relation, and I believe they will be so held at the
judgment, in the sight of a just God. Make a man a slave, and
you rob him of moral responsibility. Freedom of choice is the
essence of all accountability. But my kind readers are,
probably, less concerned about my opinions, than about that which
more nearly touches my personal experience; albeit, my opinions
have, in some sort, been formed by that experience.

Bad as slaveholders are, I have seldom met with one so entirely
destitute of every element of character capable of inspiring
respect, as was my present master, Capt. Thomas Auld.

When I lived with him, I thought him incapable of a noble action.
The leading trait in his character was intense selfishness. I
think he was fully aware of this fact himself, and often tried to
conceal it. Capt. Auld was not a _born_ slaveholder--not a
birthright member of the slaveholding oligarchy. He was only a
slaveholder by _marriage-right;_ and, of all slaveholders, these
latter are, _by far_, the most exacting. There was in him all
the love of domination, the pride of mastery, and the swagger of
authority, but his rule lacked the vital element of consistency.
He could be cruel; but his methods of showing it were cowardly,
and evinced his meanness rather than his spirit. His commands
were strong, his enforcement weak.

Slaves are not insensible to the whole-souled characteristics of
a generous, dashing slaveholder, who is fearless of consequences;
and they prefer a master of this bold and daring kind--even with
the risk of being shot down for impudence to the fretful, little
soul, who never uses the lash but at the suggestion of a love of
gain.

Slaves, too, readily distinguish between the birthright bearing
of the original slaveholder and the assumed attitudes of the
accidental slaveholder; and while they cannot respect either,
they certainly despise the latter more than the former.
<150>

The luxury of having slaves wait upon him was something new to
Master Thomas; and for it he was wholly unprepared. He was a
slaveholder, without the ability to hold or manage his slaves.
We seldom called him "master," but generally addressed him by his
"bay craft" title--_Capt. Auld_." It is easy to see that such
conduct might do much to make him appear awkward, and,
consequently, fretful. His wife was especially solicitous to
have us call her husband "master." Is your _master_ at the
store?"--"Where is your _master_?"--"Go and tell your _master"_--
"I will make your _master_ acquainted with your conduct"--she
would say; but we were inapt scholars. Especially were I and my
sister Eliza inapt in this particular. Aunt Priscilla was less
stubborn and defiant in her spirit than Eliza and myself; and, I
think, her road was less rough than ours.

In the month of August, 1833, when I had almost become desperate
under the treatment of Master Thomas, and when I entertained more
strongly than ever the oft-repeated determination to run away, a
circumstance occurred which seemed to promise brighter and better
days for us all. At a Methodist camp-meeting, held in the Bay
Side (a famous place for campmeetings) about eight miles from St.
Michael's, Master Thomas came out with a profession of religion.
He had long been an object of interest to the church, and to the
ministers, as I had seen by the repeated visits and lengthy
exhortations of the latter. He was a fish quite worth catching,
for he had money and standing. In the community of St. Michael's
he was equal to the best citizen. He was strictly temperate;
_perhaps_, from principle, but most likely, from interest. There
was very little to do for him, to give him the appearance of
piety, and to make him a pillar in the church. Well, the camp-
meeting continued a week; people gathered from all parts of the
county, and two steamboat loads came from Baltimore. The ground
was happily chosen; seats were arranged; a stand erected; a rude
altar fenced in, fronting the preachers' stand, with straw in it
for the accommodation of <151 SOUTHERN CAMP MEETING>mourners.
This latter would hold at least one hundred persons. In front,
and on the sides of the preachers' stand, and outside the long
rows of seats, rose the first class of stately tents, each vieing
with the other in strength, neatness, and capacity for
accommodating its inmates. Behind this first circle of tents was
another, less imposing, which reached round the camp-ground to
the speakers' stand. Outside this second class of tents were
covered wagons, ox carts, and vehicles of every shape and size.
These served as tents to their owners. Outside of these, huge
fires were burning, in all directions, where roasting, and
boiling, and frying, were going on, for the benefit of those who
were attending to their own spiritual welfare within the circle.
_Behind_ the preachers' stand, a narrow space was marked out for
the use of the colored people. There were no seats provided for
this class of persons; the preachers addressed them, _"over the
left,"_ if they addressed them at all. After the preaching was
over, at every service, an invitation was given to mourners to
come into the pen; and, in some cases, ministers went out to
persuade men and women to come in. By one of these ministers,
Master Thomas Auld was persuaded to go inside the pen. I was
deeply interested in that matter, and followed; and, though
colored people were not allowed either in the pen or in front of
the preachers' stand, I ventured to take my stand at a sort of
half-way place between the blacks and whites, where I could
distinctly see the movements of mourners, and especially the
progress of Master Thomas.

"If he has got religion," thought I, "he will emancipate his
slaves; and if he should not do so much as this, he will, at any
rate, behave toward us more kindly, and feed us more generously
than he has heretofore done." Appealing to my own religious
experience, and judging my master by what was true in my own
case, I could not regard him as soundly converted, unless some
such good results followed his profession of religion.

But in my expectations I was doubly disappointed; Master Thomas
was _Master Thomas_ still. The fruits of his righteousness
<152>were to show themselves in no such way as I had anticipated.
His conversion was not to change his relation toward men--at any
rate not toward BLACK men--but toward God. My faith, I confess,
was not great. There was something in his appearance that, in my
mind, cast a doubt over his conversion. Standing where I did, I
could see his every movement. I watched narrowly while he
remained in the little pen; and although I saw that his face was
extremely red, and his hair disheveled, and though I heard him
groan, and saw a stray tear halting on his cheek, as if inquiring
"which way shall I go?"--I could not wholly confide in the
genuineness of his conversion. The hesitating behavior of that
tear-drop and its loneliness, distressed me, and cast a doubt
upon the whole transaction, of which it was a part. But people
said, _"Capt. Auld had come through,"_ and it was for me to hope
for the best. I was bound to do this, in charity, for I, too,
was religious, and had been in the church full three years,
although now I was not more than sixteen years old. Slaveholders
may, sometimes, have confidence in the piety of some of their
slaves; but the slaves seldom have confidence in the piety of
their masters. _"He cant go to heaven with our blood in his
skirts_," is a settled point in the creed of every slave; rising
superior to all teaching to the contrary, and standing forever as
a fixed fact. The highest evidence the slaveholder can give the
slave of his acceptance with God, is the emancipation of his
slaves. This is proof that he is willing to give up all to God,
and for the sake of God. Not to do this, was, in my estimation,
and in the opinion of all the slaves, an evidence of half-
heartedness, and wholly inconsistent with the idea of genuine
conversion. I had read, also, somewhere in the Methodist
Discipline, the following question and answer:

"_Question_. What shall be done for the extirpation of slavery?

"_Answer_. We declare that we are much as ever convinced of the
great evil of slavery; therefore, no slaveholder shall be
eligible to any official station in our church."

These words sounded in my ears for a long time, and en<153 FAITH
AND WORKS AT VARIANCE>couraged me to hope. But, as I have before
said, I was doomed to disappointment. Master Thomas seemed to be
aware of my hopes and expectations concerning him. I have
thought, before now, that he looked at me in answer to my
glances, as much as to say, "I will teach you, young man, that,
though I have parted with my sins, I have not parted with my
sense. I shall hold my slaves, and go to heaven too."

Possibly, to convince us that we must not presume _too much_ upon
his recent conversion, he became rather more rigid and stringent
in his exactions. There always was a scarcity of good nature
about the man; but now his whole countenance was _soured_ over
with the seemings of piety. His religion, therefore, neither
made him emancipate his slaves, nor caused him to treat them with
greater humanity. If religion had any effect on his character at
all, it made him more cruel and hateful in all his ways. The
natural wickedness of his heart had not been removed, but only
reinforced, by the profession of religion. Do I judge him
harshly? God forbid. Facts _are_ facts. Capt. Auld made the
greatest profession of piety. His house was, literally, a house
of prayer. In the morning, and in the evening, loud prayers and
hymns were heard there, in which both himself and his wife
joined; yet, _no more meal_ was brought from the mill, _no more
attention_ was paid to the moral welfare of the kitchen; and
nothing was done to make us feel that the heart of Master Thomas
was one whit better than it was before he went into the little
pen, opposite to the preachers' stand, on the camp ground.

Our hopes (founded on the discipline) soon vanished; for the
authorities let him into the church _at once_, and before he was
out of his term of _probation_, I heard of his leading class! He
distinguished himself greatly among the brethren, and was soon an
exhorter. His progress was almost as rapid as the growth of the
fabled vine of Jack's bean. No man was more active than he, in
revivals. He would go many miles to assist in carrying them on,
and in getting outsiders interested in religion. His house being
<154>one of the holiest, if not the happiest in St. Michael's,
became the "preachers' home." These preachers evidently liked to
share Master Thomas's hospitality; for while he _starved us_, he
_stuffed_ them. Three or four of these ambassadors of the
gospel--according to slavery--have been there at a time; all
living on the fat of the land, while we, in the kitchen, were
nearly starving. Not often did we get a smile of recognition
from these holy men. They seemed almost as unconcerned about our
getting to heaven, as they were about our getting out of slavery.
To this general charge there was one exception--the Rev. GEORGE
COOKMAN. Unlike Rev. Messrs. Storks, Ewry, Hickey, Humphrey and
Cooper (all whom were on the St. Michael's circuit) he kindly
took an interest in our temporal and spiritual welfare. Our
souls and our bodies were all alike sacred in his sight; and he
really had a good deal of genuine anti-slavery feeling mingled
with his colonization ideas. There was not a slave in our
neighborhood that did not love, and almost venerate, Mr. Cookman.
It was pretty generally believed that he had been chiefly
instrumental in bringing one of the largest slaveholders--Mr.
Samuel Harrison--in that neighborhood, to emancipate all his
slaves, and, indeed, the general impression was, that Mr. Cookman
had labored faithfully with slaveholders, whenever he met them,
to induce them to emancipate their bondmen, and that he did this
as a religious duty. When this good man was at our house, we
were all sure to be called in to prayers in the morning; and he
was not slow in making inquiries as to the state of our minds,
nor in giving us a word of exhortation and of encouragement.
Great was the sorrow of all the slaves, when this faithful
preacher of the gospel was removed from the Talbot county
circuit. He was an eloquent preacher, and possessed what few
ministers, south of Mason Dixon's line, possess, or _dare_ to
show, viz: a warm and philanthropic heart. The Mr. Cookman, of
whom I speak, was an Englishman by birth, and perished while on
his way to England, on board the ill-fated "President". Could
the thousands of slaves <155 THE SABBATH SCHOOL>in Maryland know
the fate of the good man, to whose words of comfort they were so
largely indebted, they would thank me for dropping a tear on this
page, in memory of their favorite preacher, friend and
benefactor.

But, let me return to Master Thomas, and to my experience, after
his conversion. In Baltimore, I could, occasionally, get into a
Sabbath school, among the free children, and receive lessons,
with the rest; but, having already learned both to read and to
write, I was more of a teacher than a pupil, even there. When,
however, I went back to the Eastern Shore, and was at the house
of Master Thomas, I was neither allowed to teach, nor to be
taught. The whole community--with but a single exception, among
the whites--frowned upon everything like imparting instruction
either to slaves or to free colored persons. That single
exception, a pious young man, named Wilson, asked me, one day, if
I would like to assist him in teaching a little Sabbath school,
at the house of a free colored man in St. Michael's, named James
Mitchell. The idea was to me a delightful one, and I told him I
would gladly devote as much of my Sabbath as I could command, to
that most laudable work. Mr. Wilson soon mustered up a dozen old
spelling books, and a few testaments; and we commenced
operations, with some twenty scholars, in our Sunday school.
Here, thought I, is something worth living for; here is an
excellent chance for usefulness; and I shall soon have a company
of young friends, lovers of knowledge, like some of my Baltimore
friends, from whom I now felt parted forever.

Our first Sabbath passed delightfully, and I spent the week after
very joyously. I could not go to Baltimore, but I could make a
little Baltimore here. At our second meeting, I learned that
there was some objection to the existence of the Sabbath school;
and, sure enough, we had scarcely got at work--_good work_,
simply teaching a few colored children how to read the gospel of
the Son of God--when in rushed a mob, headed by Mr. Wright
Fairbanks and Mr. Garrison West--two class-leaders<156>--and
Master Thomas; who, armed with sticks and other missiles, drove
us off, and commanded us never to meet for such a purpose again.
One of this pious crew told me, that as for my part, I wanted to
be another Nat Turner; and if I did not look out, I should get as
many balls into me, as Nat did into him. Thus ended the infant
Sabbath school, in the town of St. Michael's. The reader will
not be surprised when I say, that the breaking up of my Sabbath
school, by these class-leaders, and professedly holy men, did not
serve to strengthen my religious convictions. The cloud over my
St. Michael's home grew heavier and blacker than ever.

It was not merely the agency of Master Thomas, in breaking up and
destroying my Sabbath school, that shook my confidence in the
power of southern religion to make men wiser or better; but I saw
in him all the cruelty and meanness, _after_ his conversion,
which he had exhibited before he made a profession of religion.
His cruelty and meanness were especially displayed in his
treatment of my unfortunate cousin, Henny, whose lameness made
her a burden to him. I have no extraordinary personal hard usage
toward myself to complain of, against him, but I have seen him
tie up the lame and maimed woman, and whip her in a manner most
brutal, and shocking; and then, with blood-chilling blasphemy, he
would quote the passage of scripture, "That servant which knew
his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according
to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes." Master would
keep this lacerated woman tied up by her wrists, to a bolt in the
joist, three, four and five hours at a time. He would tie her up
early in the morning, whip her with a cowskin before breakfast;
leave her tied up; go to his store, and, returning to his dinner,
repeat the castigation; laying on the rugged lash, on flesh
already made raw by repeated blows. He seemed desirous to get
the poor girl out of existence, or, at any rate, off his hands.
In proof of this, he afterwards gave her away to his sister Sarah
(Mrs. Cline) but, as in the case of Master <157 BARBAROUS
TREATMENT OF HENNY>Hugh, Henny was soon returned on his hands.
Finally, upon a pretense that he could do nothing with her (I use
his own words) he "set her adrift, to take care of herself."
Here was a recently converted man, holding, with tight grasp, the
well-framed, and able bodied slaves left him by old master--the
persons, who, in freedom, could have taken care of themselves;
yet, turning loose the only cripple among them, virtually to
starve and die.

No doubt, had Master Thomas been asked, by some pious northern
brother, _why_ he continued to sustain the relation of a
slaveholder, to those whom he retained, his answer would have
been precisely the same as many other religious slaveholders have
returned to that inquiry, viz: "I hold my slaves for their own
good."

Bad as my condition was when I lived with Master Thomas, I was
soon to experience a life far more goading and bitter. The many
differences springing up between myself and Master Thomas, owing
to the clear perception I had of his character, and the boldness
with which I defended myself against his capricious complaints,
led him to declare that I was unsuited to his wants; that my city
life had affected me perniciously; that, in fact, it had almost
ruined me for every good purpose, and had fitted me for
everything that was bad. One of my greatest faults, or offenses,
was that of letting his horse get away, and go down to the farm
belonging to his father-in-law. The animal had a liking for that
farm, with which I fully sympathized. Whenever I let it out, it
would go dashing down the road to Mr. Hamilton's, as if going on
a grand frolic. My horse gone, of course I must go after it.
The explanation of our mutual attachment to the place is the
same; the horse found there good pasturage, and I found there
plenty of bread. Mr. Hamilton had his faults, but starving his
slaves was not among them. He gave food, in abundance, and that,
too, of an excellent quality. In Mr. Hamilton's cook--Aunt
Mary--I found a most generous and considerate friend. She never
allowed me to go there without giving me bread enough <158>to
make good the deficiencies of a day or two. Master Thomas at
last resolved to endure my behavior no longer; he could neither
keep me, nor his horse, we liked so well to be at his father-in-
law's farm. I had now lived with him nearly nine months, and he
had given me a number of severe whippings, without any visible
improvement in my character, or my conduct; and now he was
resolved to put me out--as he said--"_to be broken."_

There was, in the Bay Side, very near the camp ground, where my
master got his religious impressions, a man named Edward Covey,
who enjoyed the execrated reputation, of being a first rate hand
at breaking young Negroes. This Covey was a poor man, a farm
renter; and this reputation (hateful as it was to the slaves and
to all good men) was, at the same time, of immense advantage to
him. It enabled him to get his farm tilled with very little
expense, compared with what it would have cost him without this
most extraordinary reputation. Some slaveholders thought it an
advantage to let Mr. Covey have the government of their slaves a
year or two, almost free of charge, for the sake of the excellent
training such slaves got under his happy management! Like some
horse breakers, noted for their skill, who ride the best horses
in the country without expense, Mr. Covey could have under him,
the most fiery bloods of the neighborhood, for the simple reward
of returning them to their owners, _well broken_. Added to the
natural fitness of Mr. Covey for the duties of his profession, he
was said to "enjoy religion," and was as strict in the
cultivation of piety, as he was in the cultivation of his farm.
I was made aware of his character by some who had been under his
hand; and while I could not look forward to going to him with any
pleasure, I was glad to get away from St. Michael's. I was sure
of getting enough to eat at Covey's, even if I suffered in other
respects. _This_, to a hungry man, is not a prospect to be
regarded with indifference.

CHAPTER XV
_Covey, the Negro Breaker_

JOURNEY TO MY NEW MASTER'S--MEDITATIONS BY THE WAY--VIEW OF
COVEY'S RESIDENCE--THE FAMILY--MY AWKWARDNESS AS A FIELD HAND--A
CRUEL BEATING--WHY IT WAS GIVEN--DESCRIPTION OF COVEY--FIRST
ADVENTURE AT OX DRIVING--HAIR BREADTH ESCAPES--OX AND MAN ALIKE
PROPERTY--COVEY'S MANNER OF PROCEEDING TO WHIP--HARD LABOR BETTER
THAN THE WHIP FOR BREAKING DOWN THE SPIRIT--CUNNING AND TRICKERY
OF COVEY--FAMILY WORSHIP--SHOCKING CONTEMPT FOR CHASTITY--I AM
BROKEN DOWN--GREAT MENTAL AGITATION IN CONTRASTING THE FREEDOM OF
THE SHIPS WITH HIS OWN SLAVERY--ANGUISH BEYOND DESCRIPTION.

The morning of the first of January, 1834, with its chilling wind
and pinching frost, quite in harmony with the winter in my own
mind, found me, with my little bundle of clothing on the end of a
stick, swung across my shoulder, on the main road, bending my way
toward Covey's, whither I had been imperiously ordered by Master
Thomas. The latter had been as good as his word, and had
committed me, without reserve, to the mastery of Mr. Edward
Covey. Eight or ten years had now passed since I had been taken
from my grandmother's cabin, in Tuckahoe; and these years, for
the most part, I had spent in Baltimore, where--as the reader has
already seen--I was treated with comparative tenderness. I was
now about to sound profounder depths in slave life. The rigors
of a field, less tolerable than the field of battle, awaited me.
My new master was notorious for his fierce and savage
disposition, and my only consolation in going to live <160>with
him was, the certainty of finding him precisely as represented by
common fame. There was neither joy in my heart, nor elasticity
in my step, as I started in search of the tyrant's home.
Starvation made me glad to leave Thomas Auld's, and the cruel
lash made me dread to go to Covey's. Escape was impossible; so,
heavy and sad, I paced the seven miles, which separated Covey's
house from St. Michael's--thinking much by the solitary way--
averse to my condition; but _thinking_ was all I could do. Like
a fish in a net, allowed to play for a time, I was now drawn
rapidly to the shore, secured at all points. "I am," thought I,
"but the sport of a power which makes no account, either of my
welfare or of my happiness. By a law which I can clearly
comprehend, but cannot evade nor resist, I am ruthlessly snatched
from the hearth of a fond grandmother, and hurried away to the
home of a mysterious `old master;' again I am removed from there,
to a master in Baltimore; thence am I snatched away to the
Eastern Shore, to be valued with the beasts of the field, and,
with them, divided and set apart for a possessor; then I am sent
back to Baltimore; and by the time I have formed new attachments,
and have begun to hope that no more rude shocks shall touch me, a
difference arises between brothers, and I am again broken up, and
sent to St. Michael's; and now, from the latter place, I am
footing my way to the home of a new master, where, I am given to
understand, that, like a wild young working animal, I am to be
broken to the yoke of a bitter and life-long bondage."

With thoughts and reflections like these, I came in sight of a
small wood-colored building, about a mile from the main road,
which, from the description I had received, at starting, I easily
recognized as my new home. The Chesapeake bay--upon the jutting
banks of which the little wood-colored house was standing--white
with foam, raised by the heavy north-west wind; Poplar Island,
covered with a thick, black pine forest, standing out amid this
half ocean; and Kent Point, stretching its sandy, desert-like
shores out into the foam-cested bay--were all in <161 COVEY'S
RESIDENCE--THE FAMILY>sight, and deepened the wild and desolate
aspect of my new home.

The good clothes I had brought with me from Baltimore were now
worn thin, and had not been replaced; for Master Thomas was as
little careful to provide us against cold, as against hunger.
Met here by a north wind, sweeping through an open space of forty
miles, I was glad to make any port; and, therefore, I speedily
pressed on to the little wood-colored house. The family
consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Covey; Miss Kemp (a broken-backed
woman) a sister of Mrs. Covey; William Hughes, cousin to Edward
Covey; Caroline, the cook; Bill Smith, a hired man; and myself.
Bill Smith, Bill Hughes, and myself, were the working force of
the farm, which consisted of three or four hundred acres. I was
now, for the first time in my life, to be a field hand; and in my
new employment I found myself even more awkward than a green
country boy may be supposed to be, upon his first entrance into
the bewildering scenes of city life; and my awkwardness gave me
much trouble. Strange and unnatural as it may seem, I had been
at my new home but three days, before Mr. Covey (my brother in
the Methodist church) gave me a bitter foretaste of what was in
reserve for me. I presume he thought, that since he had but a
single year in which to complete his work, the sooner he began,
the better. Perhaps he thought that by coming to blows at once,
we should mutually better understand our relations. But to
whatever motive, direct or indirect, the cause may be referred, I
had not been in his possession three whole days, before he
subjected me to a most brutal chastisement. Under his heavy
blows, blood flowed freely, and wales were left on my back as
large as my little finger. The sores on my back, from this
flogging, continued for weeks, for they were kept open by the
rough and coarse cloth which I wore for shirting. The occasion
and details of this first chapter of my experience as a field
hand, must be told, that the reader may see how unreasonable, as
well as how cruel, my new master, Covey, was. <162>The whole
thing I found to be characteristic of the man; and I was probably
treated no worse by him than scores of lads who had previously
been committed to him, for reasons similar to those which induced
my master to place me with him. But, here are the facts
connected with the affair, precisely as they occurred.

On one of the coldest days of the whole month of January, 1834, I
was ordered, at day break, to get a load of wood, from a forest
about two miles from the house. In order to perform this work,
Mr. Covey gave me a pair of unbroken oxen, for, it seems, his
breaking abilities had not been turned in this direction; and I
may remark, in passing, that working animals in the south, are
seldom so well trained as in the north. In due form, and with
all proper ceremony, I was introduced to this huge yoke of
unbroken oxen, and was carefully told which was "Buck," and which
was "Darby"--which was the "in hand," and which was the "off
hand" ox. The master of this important ceremony was no less a
person than Mr. Covey, himself; and the introduction was the
first of the kind I had ever had. My life, hitherto, had led me
away from horned cattle, and I had no knowledge of the art of
managing them. What was meant by the "in ox," as against the
"off ox," when both were equally fastened to one cart, and under
one yoke, I could not very easily divine; and the difference,
implied by the names, and the peculiar duties of each, were alike
_Greek_ to me. Why was not the "off ox" called the "in ox?"
Where and what is the reason for this distinction in names, when
there is none in the things themselves? After initiating me into
the _"woa," "back" "gee," "hither"_--the entire spoken language
between oxen and driver--Mr. Covey took a rope, about ten feet
long and one inch thick, and placed one end of it around the
horns of the "in hand ox," and gave the other end to me, telling
me that if the oxen started to run away, as the scamp knew they
would, I must hold on to the rope and stop them. I need not tell
any one who is acquainted with either the strength of the
disposition of an untamed ox, that this order <163 FIRST
ADVENTURE AT OX DRIVING>was about as unreasonable as a command to
shoulder a mad bull! I had never driven oxen before, and I was
as awkward, as a driver, as it is possible to conceive. It did
not answer for me to plead ignorance, to Mr. Covey; there was
something in his manner that quite forbade that. He was a man to
whom a slave seldom felt any disposition to speak. Cold,
distant, morose, with a face wearing all the marks of captious
pride and malicious sternness, he repelled all advances. Covey
was not a large man; he was only about five feet ten inches in
height, I should think; short necked, round shoulders; of quick
and wiry motion, of thin and wolfish visage; with a pair of
small, greenish-gray eyes, set well back under a forehead without
dignity, and constantly in motion, and floating his passions,
rather than his thoughts, in sight, but denying them utterance in
words. The creature presented an appearance altogether ferocious
and sinister, disagreeable and forbidding, in the extreme. When
he spoke, it was from the corner of his mouth, and in a sort of
light growl, like a dog, when an attempt is made to take a bone
from him. The fellow had already made me believe him even
_worse_ than he had been presented. With his directions, and
without stopping to question, I started for the woods, quite
anxious to perform my first exploit in driving, in a creditable
manner. The distance from the house to the woods gate a full
mile, I should think--was passed over with very little
difficulty; for although the animals ran, I was fleet enough, in
the open field, to keep pace with them; especially as they pulled
me along at the end of the rope; but, on reaching the woods, I
was speedily thrown into a distressing plight. The animals took
fright, and started off ferociously into the woods, carrying the
cart, full tilt, against trees, over stumps, and dashing from
side to side, in a manner altogether frightful. As I held the
rope, I expected every moment to be crushed between the cart and
the huge trees, among which they were so furiously dashing.
After running thus for several minutes, my oxen were, finally,
brought to a stand, by a tree, against which they dashed
<164>themselves with great violence, upsetting the cart, and
entangling themselves among sundry young saplings. By the shock,
the body of the cart was flung in one direction, and the wheels
and tongue in another, and all in the greatest confusion. There
I was, all alone, in a thick wood, to which I was a stranger; my
cart upset and shattered; my oxen entangled, wild, and enraged;
and I, poor soul! but a green hand, to set all this disorder
right. I knew no more of oxen than the ox driver is supposed to
know of wisdom. After standing a few moments surveying the
damage and disorder, and not without a presentiment that this
trouble would draw after it others, even more distressing, I took
one end of the cart body, and, by an extra outlay of strength, I
lifted it toward the axle-tree, from which it had been violently
flung; and after much pulling and straining, I succeeded in
getting the body of the cart in its place. This was an important
step out of the difficulty, and its performance increased my
courage for the work which remained to be done. The cart was
provided with an ax, a tool with which I had become pretty well
acquainted in the ship yard at Baltimore. With this, I cut down
the saplings by which my oxen were entangled, and again pursued
my journey, with my heart in my mouth, lest the oxen should again
take it into their senseless heads to cut up a caper. My fears
were groundless. Their spree was over for the present, and the
rascals now moved off as soberly as though their behavior had
been natural and exemplary. On reaching the part of the forest
where I had been, the day before, chopping wood, I filled the
cart with a heavy load, as a security against another running
away. But, the neck of an ox is equal in strength to iron. It
defies all ordinary burdens, when excited. Tame and docile to a
proverb, when _well_ trained, the ox is the most sullen and
intractable of animals when but half broken to the yoke.

I now saw, in my situation, several points of similarity with
that of the oxen. They were property, so was I; they were to be
<165 SENT BACK TO THE WOODS>broken, so was I. Covey was to break
me, I was to break them; break and be broken--such is life.

Half the day already gone, and my face not yet homeward! It
required only two day's experience and observation to teach me,
that such apparent waste of time would not be lightly overlooked
by Covey. I therefore hurried toward home; but, on reaching the
lane gate, I met with the crowning disaster for the day. This
gate was a fair specimen of southern handicraft. There were two
huge posts, eighteen inches in diameter, rough hewed and square,
and the heavy gate was so hung on one of these, that it opened
only about half the proper distance. On arriving here, it was
necessary for me to let go the end of the rope on the horns of
the "in hand ox;" and now as soon as the gate was open, and I let
go of it to get the rope, again, off went my oxen--making nothing
of their load--full tilt; and in doing so they caught the huge
gate between the wheel and the cart body, literally crushing it
to splinters, and coming only within a few inches of subjecting
me to a similar crushing, for I was just in advance of the wheel
when it struck the left gate post. With these two hair-breadth
escape, I thought I could sucessfully{sic} explain to Mr. Covey
the delay, and avert apprehended punishment. I was not without a
faint hope of being commended for the stern resolution which I
had displayed in accomplishing the difficult task--a task which,
I afterwards learned, even Covey himself would not have
undertaken, without first driving the oxen for some time in the
open field, preparatory to their going into the woods. But, in
this I was disappointed. On coming to him, his countenance
assumed an aspect of rigid displeasure, and, as I gave him a
history of the casualties of my trip, his wolfish face, with his
greenish eyes, became intensely ferocious. "Go back to the woods
again," he said, muttering something else about wasting time. I
hastily obeyed; but I had not gone far on my way, when I saw him
coming after me. My oxen now behaved themselves with singular
<166>propriety, opposing their present conduct to my
representation of their former antics. I almost wished, now that
Covey was coming, they would do something in keeping with the
character I had given them; but no, they had already had their
spree, and they could afford now to be extra good, readily
obeying my orders, and seeming to understand them quite as well
as I did myself. On reaching the woods, my tormentor--who seemed
all the way to be remarking upon the good behavior of his oxen--
came up to me, and ordered me to stop the cart, accompanying the
same with the threat that he would now teach me how to break
gates, and idle away my time, when he sent me to the woods.
Suiting the action to the word, Covey paced off, in his own wiry
fashion, to a large, black gum tree, the young shoots of which
are generally used for ox _goads_, they being exceedingly tough.
Three of these _goads_, from four to six feet long, he cut off,
and trimmed up, with his large jack-knife. This done, he ordered
me to take off my clothes. To this unreasonable order I made no
reply, but sternly refused to take off my clothing. "If you will
beat me," thought I, "you shall do so over my clothes." After
many threats, which made no impression on me, he rushed at me
with something of the savage fierceness of a wolf, tore off the
few and thinly worn clothes I had on, and proceeded to wear out,
on my back, the heavy goads which he had cut from the gum tree.
This flogging was the first of a series of floggings; and though
very severe, it was less so than many which came after it, and
these, for offenses far lighter than the gate breaking

I remained with Mr. Covey one year (I cannot say I _lived_ with
him) and during the first six months that I was there, I was
whipped, either with sticks or cowskins, every week. Aching
bones and a sore back were my constant companions. Frequent as
the lash was used, Mr. Covey thought less of it, as a means of
breaking down my spirit, than that of hard and long continued
labor. He worked me steadily, up to the point of my powers of
endurance. From the dawn of day in the morning, till the
dark<167 CUNNING AND TRICKERY OF COVEY>ness was complete in the
evening, I was kept at hard work, in the field or the woods. At
certain seasons of the year, we were all kept in the field till
eleven and twelve o'clock at night. At these times, Covey would
attend us in the field, and urge us on with words or blows, as it
seemed best to him. He had, in his life, been an overseer, and
he well understood the business of slave driving. There was no
deceiving him. He knew just what a man or boy could do, and he
held both to strict account. When he pleased, he would work
himself, like a very Turk, making everything fly before him. It
was, however, scarcely necessary for Mr. Covey to be really
present in the field, to have his work go on industriously. He
had the faculty of making us feel that he was always present. By
a series of adroitly managed surprises, which he practiced, I was
prepared to expect him at any moment. His plan was, never to
approach the spot where his hands were at work, in an open, manly
and direct manner. No thief was ever more artful in his devices
than this man Covey. He would creep and crawl, in ditches and
gullies; hide behind stumps and bushes, and practice so much of
the cunning of the serpent, that Bill Smith and I--between
ourselves--never called him by any other name than _"the snake."_
We fancied that in his eyes and his gait we could see a snakish
resemblance. One half of his proficiency in the art of Negro
breaking, consisted, I should think, in this species of cunning.
We were never secure. He could see or hear us nearly all the
time. He was, to us, behind every stump, tree, bush and fence on
the plantation. He carried this kind of trickery so far, that he
would sometimes mount his horse, and make believe he was going to
St. Michael's; and, in thirty minutes afterward, you might find
his horse tied in the woods, and the snake-like Covey lying flat
in the ditch, with his head lifted above its edge, or in a fence
corner, watching every movement of the slaves! I have known him
walk up to us and give us special orders, as to our work, in
advance, as if he were leaving home with a view to being absent
several days; and before he got half way to the <168>house, he
would avail himself of our inattention to his movements, to turn
short on his heels, conceal himself behind a fence corner or a
tree, and watch us until the going down of the sun. Mean and
contemptible as is all this, it is in keeping with the character
which the life of a slaveholder is calculated to produce. There
is no earthly inducement, in the slave's condition, to incite him
to labor faithfully. The fear of punishment is the sole motive
for any sort of industry, with him. Knowing this fact, as the
slaveholder does, and judging the slave by himself, he naturally
concludes the slave will be idle whenever the cause for this fear
is absent. Hence, all sorts of petty deceptions are practiced,
to inspire this fear.

But, with Mr. Covey, trickery was natural. Everything in the
shape of learning or religion, which he possessed, was made to
conform to this semi-lying propensity. He did not seem conscious
that the practice had anything unmanly, base or contemptible
about it. It was a part of an important system, with him,
essential to the relation of master and slave. I thought I saw,
in his very religious devotions, this controlling element of his
character. A long prayer at night made up for the short prayer
in the morning; and few men could seem more devotional than he,
when he had nothing else to do.

Mr. Covey was not content with the cold style of family worship,
adopted in these cold latitudes, which begin and end with a
simple prayer. No! the voice of praise, as well as of prayer,
must be heard in his house, night and morning. At first, I was
called upon to bear some part in these exercises; but the
repeated flogging given me by Covey, turned the whole thing into
mockery. He was a poor singer, and mainly relied on me for
raising the hymn for the family, and when I failed to do so, he
was thrown into much confusion. I do not think that he ever
abused me on account of these vexations. His religion was a
thing altogether apart from his worldly concerns. He knew
nothing of it as a holy principle, directing and controlling his
daily life, <169 SHOCKING CONTEMPT FOR CHASTITY>making the latter
conform to the requirements of the gospel. One or two facts will
illustrate his character better than a volume of
generalties{sic}.

I have already said, or implied, that Mr. Edward Covey was a poor
man. He was, in fact, just commencing to lay the foundation of
his fortune, as fortune is regarded in a slave state. The first
condition of wealth and respectability there, being the ownership
of human property, every nerve is strained, by the poor man, to
obtain it, and very little regard is had to the manner of
obtaining it. In pursuit of this object, pious as Mr. Covey was,
he proved himself to be as unscrupulous and base as the worst of
his neighbors. In the beginning, he was only able--as he said--
"to buy one slave;" and, scandalous and shocking as is the fact,
he boasted that he bought her simply "_as a breeder_." But the
worst is not told in this naked statement. This young woman
(Caroline was her name) was virtually compelled by Mr. Covey to
abandon herself to the object for which he had purchased her; and
the result was, the birth of twins at the end of the year. At
this addition to his human stock, both Edward Covey and his wife,
Susan, were ecstatic with joy. No one dreamed of reproaching the
woman, or of finding fault with the hired man--Bill Smith--the
father of the children, for Mr. Covey himself had locked the two
up together every night, thus inviting the result.

But I will pursue this revolting subject no further. No better
illustration of the unchaste and demoralizing character of
slavery can be found, than is furnished in the fact that this
professedly Christian slaveholder, amidst all his prayers and
hymns, was shamelessly and boastfully encouraging, and actually
compelling, in his own house, undisguised and unmitigated
fornication, as a means of increasing his human stock. I may
remark here, that, while this fact will be read with disgust and
shame at the north, it will be _laughed at_, as smart and
praiseworthy in Mr. Covey, at the south; for a man is no more
condemned there for buying a woman and devoting her to this life
of dishonor, <170>than for buying a cow, and raising stock from
her. The same rules are observed, with a view to increasing the
number and quality of the former, as of the latter.

I will here reproduce what I said of my own experience in this
wretched place, more than ten years ago:

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 all
weathers. It was never too hot or too cold; it could never rain,
blow, snow, or hail too hard for us to work in the field. Work,
work, work, was scarcely more the order of the day than the
night. The longest days were too short for him, and the shortest
nights were too long for him. I was somewhat unmanageable when I
first went there; but a few months of his 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,
flickered for a moment, and then vanished. I sank down again,
mourning over my wretched condition. I was sometimes 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 Chesapeake bay, whose
broad bosom was ever white with sails from every quarter of the
habitable globe. Those beautiful vessels, robed in purest white,
so delightful to the eye of freemen, were to me so many shrouded
ghosts, to terrify and torment me with thoughts of my wretched
condition. I have often, in the deep stillness of a summer's
Sabbath, stood all alone upon the banks of that noble bay, and
traced, with saddened heart and tearful eye, the countless number
of sails moving off to the mighty ocean. The sight of these
always affected me powerfully. My thoughts would compel
utterance; and there, with no audience but the Almighty, I would
pour out my soul's complaint in my rude way, with an apostrophe
to the moving multitude of ships:

"You are loosed from your moorings, and 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 around the world; I am confined in bands
of iron! O, that I were free! O, that I were on one of your
gallant decks, and under your protecting wing! Alas! betwixt me
<171 ANGUISH BEYOND DESCRIPTION>and you the turbid waters roll.
Go on, go on. O that I could also go! Could I but swim! If I
could fly! O, why was I born a man, of whom to make a brute!
The glad ship is gone; she hides in the dim distance. I am left
in the hottest hell of unending slavery. O God, save me! God,
deliver me! Let me be free! Is there any God? Why am I a
slave? I will run away. I will not stand it. Get caught, or
get clear, I'll try it. I had as well die with ague as with
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 coast 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 will travel without being disturbed. Let but the first
opportunity offer, and come what will, I am off. Meanwhile, 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 coming."

I shall never be able to narrate the mental experience through
which it was my lot to pass during my stay at Covey's. I was
completely wrecked, changed and bewildered; goaded almost to
madness at one time, and at another reconciling myself to my
wretched condition. Everything in the way of kindness, which I
had experienced at Baltimore; all my former hopes and aspirations
for usefulness in the world, and the happy moments spent in the
exercises of religion, contrasted with my then present lot, but
increased my anguish.

I suffered bodily as well as mentally. I had neither sufficient
time in which to eat or to sleep, except on Sundays. The
overwork, and the brutal chastisements of which I was the victim,
combined with that ever-gnawing and soul-devouring thought--"_I
am a slave--a slave for life--a slave with no rational ground to
hope for freedom_"--rendered me a living embodiment of mental and

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