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My Bondage and My Freedom, My Bondage and My Freedom

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physical wretchedness.

CHAPTER XVI
_Another Pressure of the Tyrant's Vice_

EXPERIENCE AT COVEY'S SUMMED UP--FIRST SIX MONTHS SEVERER THAN
THE SECOND--PRELIMINARIES TO THE CHANCE--REASONS FOR NARRATING
THE CIRCUMSTANCES--SCENE IN TREADING YARD--TAKEN ILL--UNUSUAL
BRUTALITY OF COVEY--ESCAPE TO ST. MICHAEL'S--THE PURSUIT--
SUFFERING IN THE WOODS--DRIVEN BACK AGAIN TO COVEY'S--BEARING OF
MASTER THOMAS--THE SLAVE IS NEVER SICK--NATURAL TO EXPECT SLAVES
TO FEIGN SICKNESS--LAZINESS OF SLAVEHOLDERS.

The foregoing chapter, with all its horrid incidents and shocking
features, may be taken as a fair representation of the first six
months of my life at Covey's. The reader has but to repeat, in
his own mind, once a week, the scene in the woods, where Covey
subjected me to his merciless lash, to have a true idea of my
bitter experience there, during the first period of the breaking
process through which Mr. Covey carried me. I have no heart to
repeat each separate transaction, in which I was victim of his
violence and brutality. Such a narration would fill a volume
much larger than the present one. I aim only to give the reader
a truthful impression of my slave life, without unnecessarily
affecting him with harrowing details.

As I have elsewhere intimated that my hardships were much greater
during the first six months of my stay at Covey's, than during
the remainder of the year, and as the change in my condition was
owing to causes which may help the reader to a better
understanding of human nature, when subjected to the terrible
extremities of slavery, I will narrate the circumstances of this
<173 SCENE IN THE TREADING YARD>change, although I may seem
thereby to applaud my own courage. You have, dear reader, seen
me humbled, degraded, broken down, enslaved, and brutalized, and
you understand how it was done; now let us see the converse of
all this, and how it was brought about; and this will take us
through the year 1834.

On one of the hottest days of the month of August, of the year
just mentioned, had the reader been passing through Covey's farm,
he might have seen me at work, in what is there called the
"treading yard"--a yard upon which wheat is trodden out from the
straw, by the horses' feet. I was there, at work, feeding the
"fan," or rather bringing wheat to the fan, while Bill Smith was
feeding. Our force consisted of Bill Hughes, Bill Smith, and a
slave by the name of Eli; the latter having been hired for this
occasion. The work was simple, and required strength and
activity, rather than any skill or intelligence, and yet, to one
entirely unused to such work, it came very hard. The heat was
intense and overpowering, and there was much hurry to get the
wheat, trodden out that day, through the fan; since, if that work
was done an hour before sundown, the hands would have, according
to a promise of Covey, that hour added to their night's rest. I
was not behind any of them in the wish to complete the day's work
before sundown, and, hence, I struggled with all my might to get
the work forward. The promise of one hour's repose on a week
day, was sufficient to quicken my pace, and to spur me on to
extra endeavor. Besides, we had all planned to go fishing, and I
certainly wished to have a hand in that. But I was disappointed,
and the day turned out to be one of the bitterest I ever
experienced. About three o'clock, while the sun was pouring down
his burning rays, and not a breeze was stirring, I broke down; my
strength failed me; I was seized with a violent aching of the
head, attended with extreme dizziness, and trembling in every
limb. Finding what was coming, and feeling it would never do to
stop work, I nerved myself up, and staggered on until I fell by
the side of the wheat fan, feeling that the earth had fallen
<174>upon me. This brought the entire work to a dead stand.
There was work for four; each one had his part to perform, and
each part depended on the other, so that when one stopped, all
were compelled to stop. Covey, who had now become my dread, as
well as my tormentor, was at the house, about a hundred yards
from where I was fanning, and instantly, upon hearing the fan
stop, he came down to the treading yard, to inquire into the
cause of our stopping. Bill Smith told him I was sick, and that
I was unable longer to bring wheat to the fan.

I had, by this time, crawled away, under the side of a post-and-
rail fence, in the shade, and was exceeding ill. The intense
heat of the sun, the heavy dust rising from the fan, the
stooping, to take up the wheat from the yard, together with the
hurrying, to get through, had caused a rush of blood to my head.
In this condition, Covey finding out where I was, came to me;
and, after standing over me a while, he asked me what the matter
was. I told him as well as I could, for it was with difficulty
that I could speak. He then gave me a savage kick in the side,
which jarred my whole frame, and commanded me to get up. The man
had obtained complete control over me; and if he had commanded me
to do any possible thing, I should, in my then state of mind,
have endeavored to comply. I made an effort to rise, but fell
back in the attempt, before gaining my feet. The brute now gave
me another heavy kick, and again told me to rise. I again tried
to rise, and succeeded in gaining my feet; but upon stooping to
get the tub with which I was feeding the fan, I again staggered
and fell to the ground; and I must have so fallen, had I been
sure that a hundred bullets would have pierced me, as the
consequence. While down, in this sad condition, and perfectly
helpless, the merciless Negro breaker took up the hickory slab,
with which Hughes had been striking off the wheat to a level with
the sides of the half bushel measure (a very hard weapon) and
with the sharp edge of it, he dealt me a heavy blow on my head
which made a large gash, and caused the blood to run freely,
saying, <175 ESCAPE TO ST. MICHAEL'S>at the same time, "If _you
have got the headache, I'll cure you_." This done, he ordered me
again to rise, but I made no effort to do so; for I had made up
my mind that it was useless, and that the heartless monster might
now do his worst; he could but kill me, and that might put me out
of my misery. Finding me unable to rise, or rather despairing of
my doing so, Covey left me, with a view to getting on with the
work without me. I was bleeding very freely, and my face was
soon covered with my warm blood. Cruel and merciless as was the
motive that dealt that blow, dear reader, the wound was fortunate
for me. Bleeding was never more efficacious. The pain in my
head speedily abated, and I was soon able to rise. Covey had, as
I have said, now left me to my fate; and the question was, shall
I return to my work, or shall I find my way to St. Michael's, and
make Capt. Auld acquainted with the atrocious cruelty of his
brother Covey, and beseech him to get me another master?
Remembering the object he had in view, in placing me under the
management of Covey, and further, his cruel treatment of my poor
crippled cousin, Henny, and his meanness in the matter of feeding
and clothing his slaves, there was little ground to hope for a
favorable reception at the hands of Capt. Thomas Auld.
Nevertheless, I resolved to go straight to Capt. Auld, thinking
that, if not animated by motives of humanity, he might be induced
to interfere on my behalf from selfish considerations. "He
cannot," thought I, "allow his property to be thus bruised and
battered, marred and defaced; and I will go to him, and tell him
the simple truth about the matter." In order to get to St.
Michael's, by the most favorable and direct road, I must walk
seven miles; and this, in my sad condition, was no easy
performance. I had already lost much blood; I was exhausted by
over exertion; my sides were sore from the heavy blows planted
there by the stout boots of Mr. Covey; and I was, in every way,
in an unfavorable plight for the journey. I however watched my
chance, while the cruel and cunning Covey was looking in an
opposite direction, and started <176>off, across the field, for
St. Michael's. This was a daring step; if it failed, it would
only exasperate Covey, and increase the rigors of my bondage,
during the remainder of my term of service under him; but the
step was taken, and I must go forward. I succeeded in getting
nearly half way across the broad field, toward the woods, before
Mr. Covey observed me. I was still bleeding, and the exertion of
running had started the blood afresh. _"Come back! Come back!"_
vociferated Covey, with threats of what he would do if I did not
return instantly. But, disregarding his calls and his threats, I
pressed on toward the woods as fast as my feeble state would
allow. Seeing no signs of my stopping, Covey caused his horse to
be brought out and saddled, as if he intended to pursue me. The
race was now to be an unequal one; and, thinking I might be
overhauled by him, if I kept the main road, I walked nearly the
whole distance in the woods, keeping far enough from the road to
avoid detection and pursuit. But, I had not gone far, before my
little strength again failed me, and I laid down. The blood was
still oozing from the wound in my head; and, for a time, I
suffered more than I can describe. There I was, in the deep
woods, sick and emaciated, pursued by a wretch whose character
for revolting cruelty beggars all opprobrious speech--bleeding,
and almost bloodless. I was not without the fear of bleeding to
death. The thought of dying in the woods, all alone, and of
being torn to pieces by the buzzards, had not yet been rendered
tolerable by my many troubles and hardships, and I was glad when
the shade of the trees, and the cool evening breeze, combined
with my matted hair to stop the flow of blood. After lying there
about three quarters of an hour, brooding over the singular and
mournful lot to which I was doomed, my mind passing over the
whole scale or circle of belief and unbelief, from faith in the
overruling providence of God, to the blackest atheism, I again
took up my journey toward St. Michael's, more weary and sad than
in the morning when I left Thomas Auld's for the home of Mr.
Covey. I was bare-footed and bare-headed, and in <177 BEARING OF
MASTER THOMAS>my shirt sleeves. The way was through bogs and
briers, and I tore my feet often during the journey. I was full
five hours in going the seven or eight miles; partly, because of
the difficulties of the way, and partly, because of the
feebleness induced by my illness, bruises and loss of blood. On
gaining my master's store, I presented an appearance of
wretchedness and woe, fitted to move any but a heart of stone.
From the crown of my head to the sole of my feet, there were
marks of blood. My hair was all clotted with dust and blood, and
the back of my shirt was literally stiff with the same. Briers
and thorns had scarred and torn my feet and legs, leaving blood
marks there. Had I escaped from a den of tigers, I could not
have looked worse than I did on reaching St. Michael's. In this
unhappy plight, I appeared before my professedly _Christian_
master, humbly to invoke the interposition of his power and
authority, to protect me from further abuse and violence. I had
begun to hope, during the latter part of my tedious journey
toward St. Michael's, that Capt. Auld would now show himself in a
nobler light than I had ever before seen him. I was
disappointed. I had jumped from a sinking ship into the sea; I
had fled from the tiger to something worse. I told him all the
circumstances, as well as I could; how I was endeavoring to
please Covey; how hard I was at work in the present instance; how
unwilling I sunk down under the heat, toil and pain; the brutal
manner in which Covey had kicked me in the side; the gash cut in
my head; my hesitation about troubling him (Capt. Auld) with
complaints; but, that now I felt it would not be best longer to
conceal from him the outrages committed on me from time to time
by Covey. At first, master Thomas seemed somewhat affected by
the story of my wrongs, but he soon repressed his feelings and
became cold as iron. It was impossible--as I stood before him at
the first--for him to seem indifferent. I distinctly saw his
human nature asserting its conviction against the slave system,
which made cases like mine _possible;_ but, as I have said,
humanity fell before the systematic tyranny of slavery. He first
walked <178>the floor, apparently much agitated by my story, and
the sad spectacle I presented; but, presently, it was _his_ turn
to talk. He began moderately, by finding excuses for Covey, and
ending with a full justification of him, and a passionate
condemnation of me. "He had no doubt I deserved the flogging.
He did not believe I was sick; I was only endeavoring to get rid
of work. My dizziness was laziness, and Covey did right to flog
me, as he had done." After thus fairly annihilating me, and
rousing himself by his own eloquence, he fiercely demanded what I
wished _him_ to do in the case!

With such a complete knock-down to all my hopes, as he had given
me, and feeling, as I did, my entire subjection to his power, I
had very little heart to reply. I must not affirm my innocence
of the allegations which he had piled up against me; for that
would be impudence, and would probably call down fresh violence
as well as wrath upon me. The guilt of a slave is always, and
everywhere, presumed; and the innocence of the slaveholder or the
slave employer, is always asserted. The word of the slave,
against this presumption, is generally treated as impudence,
worthy of punishment. "Do you contradict me, you rascal?" is a
final silencer of counter statements from the lips of a slave.

Calming down a little in view of my silence and hesitation, and,
perhaps, from a rapid glance at the picture of misery I
presented, he inquired again, "what I would have him do?" Thus
invited a second time, I told Master Thomas I wished him to allow
me to get a new home and to find a new master; that, as sure as I
went back to live with Mr. Covey again, I should be killed by
him; that he would never forgive my coming to him (Capt. Auld)
with a complaint against him (Covey); that, since I had lived
with him, he almost crushed my spirit, and I believed that he
would ruin me for future service; that my life was not safe in
his hands. This, Master Thomas _(my brother in the church)_
regarded as "nonsence{sic}." "There was no danger of Mr. Covey's
killing me; he was a good man, industrious and religious, and he
would not think of <179 THE SLAVE IS NEVER SICK>removing me from
that home; "besides," said he and this I found was the most
distressing thought of all to him--"if you should leave Covey
now, that your year has but half expired, I should lose your
wages for the entire year. You belong to Mr. Covey for one year,
and you _must go back_ to him, come what will. You must not
trouble me with any more stories about Mr. Covey; and if you do
not go immediately home, I will get hold of you myself." This
was just what I expected, when I found he had _prejudged_ the
case against me. "But, Sir," I said, "I am sick and tired, and I
cannot get home to-night." At this, he again relented, and
finally he allowed me to remain all night at St. Michael's; but
said I must be off early in the morning, and concluded his
directions by making me swallow a huge dose of _epsom salts_--
about the only medicine ever administered to slaves.

It was quite natural for Master Thomas to presume I was feigning
sickness to escape work, for he probably thought that were _he_
in the place of a slave with no wages for his work, no praise for
well doing, no motive for toil but the lash--he would try every
possible scheme by which to escape labor. I say I have no doubt
of this; the reason is, that there are not, under the whole
heavens, a set of men who cultivate such an intense dread of
labor as do the slaveholders. The charge of laziness against the
slave is ever on their lips, and is the standing apology for
every species of cruelty and brutality. These men literally
"bind heavy burdens, grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's
shoulders; but they, themselves, will not move them with one of
their fingers."

My kind readers shall have, in the next chapter--what they were
led, perhaps, to expect to find in this--namely: an account of my
partial disenthrallment from the tyranny of Covey, and the marked
change which it brought about.

CHAPTER XVII
_The Last Flogging_

A SLEEPLESS NIGHT--RETURN TO COVEY'S--PURSUED BY COVEY--THE CHASE
DEFEATED--VENGEANCE POSTPONED--MUSINGS IN THE WOODS--THE
ALTERNATIVE--DEPLORABLE SPECTACLE--NIGHT IN THE WOODS--EXPECTED
ATTACK--ACCOSTED BY SANDY, A FRIEND, NOT A HUNTER--SANDY'S
HOSPITALITY--THE "ASH CAKE" SUPPER--THE INTERVIEW WITH SANDY--HIS
ADVICE--SANDY A CONJURER AS WELL AS A CHRISTIAN--THE MAGIC ROOT--
STRANGE MEETING WITH COVEY--HIS MANNER--COVEY'S SUNDAY FACE--MY
DEFENSIVE RESOLVE--THE FIGHT--THE VICTORY, AND ITS RESULTS.

Sleep itself does not always come to the relief of the weary in
body, and the broken in spirit; especially when past troubles
only foreshadow coming disasters. The last hope had been
extinguished. My master, who I did not venture to hope would
protect me as _a man_, had even now refused to protect me as _his
property;_ and had cast me back, covered with reproaches and
bruises, into the hands of a stranger to that mercy which was the
soul of the religion he professed. May the reader never spend
such a night as that allotted to me, previous to the morning
which was to herald my return to the den of horrors from which I
had made a temporary escape.

I remained all night--sleep I did not--at St. Michael's; and in
the morning (Saturday) I started off, according to the order of
Master Thomas, feeling that I had no friend on earth, and
doubting if I had one in heaven. I reached Covey's about nine
o'clock; and just as I stepped into the field, before I had
reached the house, Covey, true to his snakish habits, darted out
at me <181 RETURN TO COVEY'S>from a fence corner, in which he had
secreted himself, for the purpose of securing me. He was amply
provided with a cowskin and a rope; and he evidently intended to
_tie me up_, and to wreak his vengeance on me to the fullest
extent. I should have been an easy prey, had he succeeded in
getting his hands upon me, for I had taken no refreshment since
noon on Friday; and this, together with the pelting, excitement,
and the loss of blood, had reduced my strength. I, however,
darted back into the woods, before the ferocious hound could get
hold of me, and buried myself in a thicket, where he lost sight
of me. The corn-field afforded me cover, in getting to the
woods. But for the tall corn, Covey would have overtaken me, and
made me his captive. He seemed very much chagrined that he did
not catch me, and gave up the chase, very reluctantly; for I
could see his angry movements, toward the house from which he had
sallied, on his foray.

Well, now I am clear of Covey, and of his wrathful lash, for
present. I am in the wood, buried in its somber gloom, and
hushed in its solemn silence; hid from all human eyes; shut in
with nature and nature's God, and absent from all human
contrivances. Here was a good place to pray; to pray for help
for deliverance--a prayer I had often made before. But how could
I pray? Covey could pray--Capt. Auld could pray--I would fain
pray; but doubts (arising partly from my own neglect of the means
of grace, and partly from the sham religion which everywhere
prevailed, cast in my mind a doubt upon all religion, and led me
to the conviction that prayers were unavailing and delusive)
prevented my embracing the opportunity, as a religious one.
Life, in itself, had almost become burdensome to me. All my
outward relations were against me; I must stay here and starve (I
was already hungry) or go home to Covey's, and have my flesh torn
to pieces, and my spirit humbled under the cruel lash of Covey.
This was the painful alternative presented to me. The day was
long and irksome. My physical condition was deplorable. I was
weak, from the toils of the previous day, and from the want of
<182>food and rest; and had been so little concerned about my
appearance, that I had not yet washed the blood from my garments.
I was an object of horror, even to myself. Life, in Baltimore,
when most oppressive, was a paradise to this. What had I done,
what had my parents done, that such a life as this should be
mine? That day, in the woods, I would have exchanged my manhood
for the brutehood of an ox.

Night came. I was still in the woods, unresolved what to do.
Hunger had not yet pinched me to the point of going home, and I
laid myself down in the leaves to rest; for I had been watching
for hunters all day, but not being molested during the day, I
expected no disturbance during the night. I had come to the
conclusion that Covey relied upon hunger to drive me home; and in
this I was quite correct--the facts showed that he had made no
effort to catch me, since morning.

During the night, I heard the step of a man in the woods. He was
coming toward the place where I lay. A person lying still has
the advantage over one walking in the woods, in the day time, and
this advantage is much greater at night. I was not able to
engage in a physical struggle, and I had recourse to the common
resort of the weak. I hid myself in the leaves to prevent
discovery. But, as the night rambler in the woods drew nearer, I
found him to be a _friend_, not an enemy; it was a slave of Mr.
William Groomes, of Easton, a kind hearted fellow, named "Sandy."
Sandy lived with Mr. Kemp that year, about four miles from St.
Michael's. He, like myself had been hired out by the year; but,
unlike myself, had not been hired out to be broken. Sandy was
the husband of a free woman, who lived in the lower part of
_"Potpie Neck,"_ and he was now on his way through the woods, to
see her, and to spend the Sabbath with her.

As soon as I had ascertained that the disturber of my solitude
was not an enemy, but the good-hearted Sandy--a man as famous
among the slaves of the neighborhood for his good nature, as for
his good sense I came out from my hiding place, and made <183 THE
ASH CAKE SUPPER>myself known to him. I explained the
circumstances of the past two days, which had driven me to the
woods, and he deeply compassionated my distress. It was a bold
thing for him to shelter me, and I could not ask him to do so;
for, had I been found in his hut, he would have suffered the
penalty of thirty-nine lashes on his bare back, if not something
worse. But Sandy was too generous to permit the fear of
punishment to prevent his relieving a brother bondman from hunger
and exposure; and, therefore, on his own motion, I accompanied
him to his home, or rather to the home of his wife--for the house
and lot were hers. His wife was called up--for it was now about
midnight--a fire was made, some Indian meal was soon mixed with
salt and water, and an ash cake was baked in a hurry to relieve
my hunger. Sandy's wife was not behind him in kindness--both
seemed to esteem it a privilege to succor me; for, although I was
hated by Covey and by my master, I was loved by the colored
people, because _they_ thought I was hated for my knowledge, and
persecuted because I was feared. I was the _only_ slave _now_ in
that region who could read and write. There had been one other
man, belonging to Mr. Hugh Hamilton, who could read (his name was
"Jim"), but he, poor fellow, had, shortly after my coming into
the neighborhood, been sold off to the far south. I saw Jim
ironed, in the cart, to be carried to Easton for sale--pinioned
like a yearling for the slaughter. My knowledge was now the
pride of my brother slaves; and, no doubt, Sandy felt something
of the general interest in me on that account. The supper was
soon ready, and though I have feasted since, with honorables,
lord mayors and aldermen, over the sea, my supper on ash cake and
cold water, with Sandy, was the meal, of all my life, most sweet
to my taste, and now most vivid in my memory.

Supper over, Sandy and I went into a discussion of what was
_possible_ for me, under the perils and hardships which now
overshadowed my path. The question was, must I go back to Covey,
or must I now tempt to run away? Upon a careful survey, the
latter was found to be impossible; for I was on a narrow neck of
land, <184>every avenue from which would bring me in sight of
pursuers. There was the Chesapeake bay to the right, and "Pot-
pie" river to the left, and St. Michael's and its neighborhood
occupying the only space through which there was any retreat.

I found Sandy an old advisor. He was not only a religious man,
but he professed to believe in a system for which I have no name.
He was a genuine African, and had inherited some of the so-called
magical powers, said to be possessed by African and eastern
nations. He told me that he could help me; that, in those very
woods, there was an herb, which in the morning might be found,
possessing all the powers required for my protection (I put his
thoughts in my own language); and that, if I would take his
advice, he would procure me the root of the herb of which he
spoke. He told me further, that if I would take that root and
wear it on my right side, it would be impossible for Covey to
strike me a blow; that with this root about my person, no white
man could whip me. He said he had carried it for years, and that
he had fully tested its virtues. He had never received a blow
from a slaveholder since he carried it; and he never expected to
receive one, for he always meant to carry that root as a
protection. He knew Covey well, for Mrs. Covey was the daughter
of Mr. Kemp; and he (Sandy) had heard of the barbarous treatment
to which I was subjected, and he wanted to do something for me.

Now all this talk about the root, was to me, very absurd and
ridiculous, if not positively sinful. I at first rejected the
idea that the simple carrying a root on my right side (a root, by
the way, over which I walked every time I went into the woods)
could possess any such magic power as he ascribed to it, and I
was, therefore, not disposed to cumber my pocket with it. I had
a positive aversion to all pretenders to _"divination."_ It was
beneath one of my intelligence to countenance such dealings with
the devil, as this power implied. But, with all my learning--it
was really precious little--Sandy was more than a match for me.
"My book learning," he said, "had not kept Covey off me" (a
powerful <185 THE MAGIC ROOT>argument just then) and he entreated
me, with flashing eyes, to try this. If it did me no good, it
could do me no harm, and it would cost me nothing, any way.
Sandy was so earnest, and so confident of the good qualities of
this weed, that, to please him, rather than from any conviction
of its excellence, I was induced to take it. He had been to me
the good Samaritan, and had, almost providentially, found me, and
helped me when I could not help myself; how did I know but that
the hand of the Lord was in it? With thoughts of this sort, I
took the roots from Sandy, and put them in my right hand pocket.

This was, of course, Sunday morning. Sandy now urged me to go
home, with all speed, and to walk up bravely to the house, as
though nothing had happened. I saw in Sandy too deep an insight
into human nature, with all his superstition, not to have some
respect for his advice; and perhaps, too, a slight gleam or
shadow of his superstition had fallen upon me. At any rate, I
started off toward Covey's, as directed by Sandy. Having, the
previous night, poured my griefs into Sandy's ears, and got him
enlisted in my behalf, having made his wife a sharer in my
sorrows, and having, also, become well refreshed by sleep and
food, I moved off, quite courageously, toward the much dreaded
Covey's. Singularly enough, just as I entered his yard gate, I
met him and his wife, dressed in their Sunday best--looking as
smiling as angels--on their way to church. The manner of Covey
astonished me. There was something really benignant in his
countenance. He spoke to me as never before; told me that the
pigs had got into the lot, and he wished me to drive them out;
inquired how I was, and seemed an altered man. This
extraordinary conduct of Covey, really made me begin to think
that Sandy's herb had more virtue in it than I, in my pride, had
been willing to allow; and, had the day been other than Sunday, I
should have attributed Covey's altered manner solely to the magic
power of the root. I suspected, however, that the _Sabbath_, and
not the _root_, was the real explanation of Covey's manner. His
religion hindered him from breaking the <186>Sabbath, but not
from breaking my skin. He had more respect for the _day_ than
for the _man_, for whom the day was mercifully given; for while
he would cut and slash my body during the week, he would not
hesitate, on Sunday, to teach me the value of my soul, or the way
of life and salvation by Jesus Christ.

All went well with me till Monday morning; and then, whether the
root had lost its virtue, or whether my tormentor had gone deeper
into the black art than myself (as was sometimes said of him), or
whether he had obtained a special indulgence, for his faithful
Sabbath day's worship, it is not necessary for me to know, or to
inform the reader; but, this I _may_ say--the pious and benignant
smile which graced Covey's face on _Sunday_, wholly disappeared
on _Monday_. Long before daylight, I was called up to go and
feed, rub, and curry the horses. I obeyed the call, and would
have so obeyed it, had it been made at an earilier{sic} hour, for
I had brought my mind to a firm resolve, during that Sunday's
reflection, viz: to obey every order, however unreasonable, if it
were possible, and, if Mr. Covey should then undertake to beat
me, to defend and protect myself to the best of my ability. My
religious views on the subject of resisting my master, had
suffered a serious shock, by the savage persecution to which I
had been subjected, and my hands were no longer tied by my
religion. Master Thomas's indifference had served the last link.
I had now to this extent "backslidden" from this point in the
slave's religious creed; and I soon had occasion to make my
fallen state known to my Sunday-pious brother, Covey.

Whilst I was obeying his order to feed and get the horses ready
for the field, and when in the act of going up the stable loft
for the purpose of throwing down some blades, Covey sneaked into
the stable, in his peculiar snake-like way, and seizing me
suddenly by the leg, he brought me to the stable floor, giving my
newly mended body a fearful jar. I now forgot my roots, and
remembered my pledge to _stand up in my own defense_. The brute
was endeavoring skillfully to get a slip-knot on my legs, before
I could <187 THE FIGHT>draw up my feet. As soon as I found what
he was up to, I gave a sudden spring (my two day's rest had been
of much service to me,) and by that means, no doubt, he was able
to bring me to the floor so heavily. He was defeated in his plan
of tying me. While down, he seemed to think he had me very
securely in his power. He little thought he was--as the rowdies
say--"in" for a "rough and tumble" fight; but such was the fact.
Whence came the daring spirit necessary to grapple with a man
who, eight-and-forty hours before, could, with his slightest word
have made me tremble like a leaf in a storm, I do not know; at
any rate, _I was resolved to fight_, and, what was better still,
I was actually hard at it. The fighting madness had come upon
me, and I found my strong fingers firmly attached to the throat
of my cowardly tormentor; as heedless of consequences, at the
moment, as though we stood as equals before the law. The very
color of the man was forgotten. I felt as supple as a cat, and
was ready for the snakish creature at every turn. Every blow of
his was parried, though I dealt no blows in turn. I was strictly
on the _defensive_, preventing him from injuring me, rather than
trying to injure him. I flung him on the ground several times,
when he meant to have hurled me there. I held him so firmly by
the throat, that his blood followed my nails. He held me, and I
held him.

All was fair, thus far, and the contest was about equal. My
resistance was entirely unexpected, and Covey was taken all aback
by it, for he trembled in every limb. _"Are you going to
resist_, you scoundrel?" said he. To which, I returned a polite
_"Yes sir;"_ steadily gazing my interrogator in the eye, to meet
the first approach or dawning of the blow, which I expected my
answer would call forth. But, the conflict did not long remain
thus equal. Covey soon cried out lustily for help; not that I
was obtaining any marked advantage over him, or was injuring him,
but because he was gaining none over me, and was not able, single
handed, to conquer me. He called for his cousin Hughs, to come
to his assistance, and now the scene was changed. I was
compelled to <188>give blows, as well as to parry them; and,
since I was, in any case, to suffer for resistance, I felt (as
the musty proverb goes) that "I might as well be hanged for an
old sheep as a lamb." I was still _defensive_ toward Covey, but
_aggressive_ toward Hughs; and, at the first approach of the
latter, I dealt a blow, in my desperation, which fairly sickened
my youthful assailant. He went off, bending over with pain, and
manifesting no disposition to come within my reach again. The
poor fellow was in the act of trying to catch and tie my right
hand, and while flattering himself with success, I gave him the
kick which sent him staggering away in pain, at the same time
that I held Covey with a firm hand.

Taken completely by surprise, Covey seemed to have lost his usual
strength and coolness. He was frightened, and stood puffing and
blowing, seemingly unable to command words or blows. When he saw
that poor Hughes was standing half bent with pain--his courage
quite gone the cowardly tyrant asked if I "meant to persist in my
resistance." I told him "_I did mean to resist, come what
might_;" that I had been by him treated like a _brute_, during
the last six months; and that I should stand it _no longer_.
With that, he gave me a shake, and attempted to drag me toward a
stick of wood, that was lying just outside the stable door. He
meant to knock me down with it; but, just as he leaned over to
get the stick, I seized him with both hands by the collar, and,
with a vigorous and sudden snatch, I brought my assailant
harmlessly, his full length, on the _not_ overclean ground--for
we were now in the cow yard. He had selected the place for the
fight, and it was but right that he should have all the
advantges{sic} of his own selection.

By this time, Bill, the hiredman, came home. He had been to Mr.
Hemsley's, to spend the Sunday with his nominal wife, and was
coming home on Monday morning, to go to work. Covey and I had
been skirmishing from before daybreak, till now, that the sun was
almost shooting his beams over the eastern woods, and we were
still at it. I could not see where the matter was to terminate.
He evidently was afraid to let me go, lest I should again <189
BILL REFUSES TO ASSIST COVEY>make off to the woods; otherwise, he
would probably have obtained arms from the house, to frighten me.
Holding me, Covey called upon Bill for assistance. The scene
here, had something comic about it. "Bill," who knew _precisely_
what Covey wished him to do, affected ignorance, and pretended he
did not know what to do. "What shall I do, Mr. Covey," said
Bill. "Take hold of him--take hold of him!" said Covey. With a
toss of his head, peculiar to Bill, he said, "indeed, Mr. Covey I
want to go to work." _"This is_ your work," said Covey; "take
hold of him." Bill replied, with spirit, "My master hired me
here, to work, and _not_ to help you whip Frederick." It was now
my turn to speak. "Bill," said I, "don't put your hands on me."
To which he replied, "My GOD! Frederick, I ain't goin' to tech
ye," and Bill walked off, leaving Covey and myself to settle our
matters as best we might.

But, my present advantage was threatened when I saw Caroline (the
slave-woman of Covey) coming to the cow yard to milk, for she was
a powerful woman, and could have mastered me very easily,
exhausted as I now was. As soon as she came into the yard, Covey
attempted to rally her to his aid. Strangely--and, I may add,
fortunately--Caroline was in no humor to take a hand in any such
sport. We were all in open rebellion, that morning. Caroline
answered the command of her master to _"take hold of me,"_
precisely as Bill had answered, but in _her_, it was at greater
peril so to answer; she was the slave of Covey, and he could do
what he pleased with her. It was _not_ so with Bill, and Bill
knew it. Samuel Harris, to whom Bill belonged, did not allow his
slaves to be beaten, unless they were guilty of some crime which
the law would punish. But, poor Caroline, like myself, was at
the mercy of the merciless Covey; nor did she escape the dire
effects of her refusal. He gave her several sharp blows.

Covey at length (two hours had elapsed) gave up the contest.
Letting me go, he said--puffing and blowing at a great rate--
"Now, you scoundrel, go to your work; I would not have whipped
you half so much as I have had you not resisted." The fact was,
<190>_he had not whipped me at all_. He had not, in all the
scuffle, drawn a single drop of blood from me. I had drawn blood
from him; and, even without this satisfaction, I should have been
victorious, because my aim had not been to injure him, but to
prevent his injuring me.

During the whole six months that I lived with Covey, after this
transaction, he never laid on me the weight of his finger in
anger. He would, occasionally, say he did not want to have to
get hold of me again--a declaration which I had no difficulty in
believing; and I had a secret feeling, which answered, "You need
not wish to get hold of me again, for you will be likely to come
off worse in a second fight than you did in the first."

Well, my dear reader, this battle with Mr. Covey--undignified as
it was, and as I fear my narration of it is--was the turning
point in my _"life as a slave_." It rekindled in my breast the
smouldering embers of liberty; it brought up my Baltimore dreams,
and revived a sense of my own manhood. I was a changed being
after that fight. I was _nothing_ before; I WAS A MAN NOW. It
recalled to life my crushed self-respect and my self-confidence,
and inspired me with a renewed determination to be A FREEMAN. A
man, without force, is without the essential dignity of humanity.
Human nature is so constituted, that it cannot _honor_ a helpless
man, although it can _pity_ him; and even this it cannot do long,
if the signs of power do not arise.

He can only understand the effect of this combat on my spirit,
who has himself incurred something, hazarded something, in
repelling the unjust and cruel aggressions of a tyrant. Covey
was a tyrant, and a cowardly one, withal. After resisting him, I
felt as I had never felt before. It was a resurrection from the
dark and pestiferous tomb of slavery, to the heaven of
comparative freedom. I was no longer a servile coward, trembling
under the frown of a brother worm of the dust, but, my long-cowed
spirit was roused to an attitude of manly independence. I had
reached the point, at which I was _not afraid to die_. This <191
RESULTS OF THE VICTORY>spirit made me a freeman in _fact_, while
I remained a slave in _form_. When a slave cannot be flogged he
is more than half free. He has a domain as broad as his own
manly heart to defend, and he is really _"a power on earth_."
While slaves prefer their lives, with flogging, to instant death,
they will always find Christians enough, like unto Covey, to
accommodate that preference. From this time, until that of my
escape from slavery, I was never fairly whipped. Several
attempts were made to whip me, but they were always unsuccessful.
Bruises I did get, as I shall hereafter inform the reader; but
the case I have been describing, was the end of the brutification
to which slavery had subjected me.

The reader will be glad to know why, after I had so grievously
offended Mr. Covey, he did not have me taken in hand by the
authorities; indeed, why the law of Maryland, which assigns
hanging to the slave who resists his master, was not put in force
against me; at any rate, why I was not taken up, as is usual in
such cases, and publicly whipped, for an example to other slaves,
and as a means of deterring me from committing the same offense
again. I confess, that the easy manner in which I got off, for a
long time, a surprise to me, and I cannot, even now, fully
explain the cause.

The only explanation I can venture to suggest, is the fact, that
Covey was, probably, ashamed to have it known and confessed that
he had been mastered by a boy of sixteen. Mr. Covey enjoyed the
unbounded and very valuable reputation, of being a first rate
overseer and _Negro breaker_. By means of this reputation, he
was able to procure his hands for _very trifling_ compensation,
and with very great ease. His interest and his pride mutually
suggested the wisdom of passing the matter by, in silence. The
story that he had undertaken to whip a lad, and had been
resisted, was, of itself, sufficient to damage him; for his
bearing should, in the estimation of slaveholders, be of that
imperial order that should make such an occurrence _impossible_.
I judge from these circumstances, that Covey deemed it best to
<192>give me the go-by. It is, perhaps, not altogether
creditable to my natural temper, that, after this conflict with
Mr. Covey, I did, at times, purposely aim to provoke him to an
attack, by refusing to keep with the other hands in the field,
but I could never bully him to another battle. I had made up my
mind to do him serious damage, if he ever again attempted to lay
violent hands on me.

_ Hereditary bondmen, know ye not
Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow?

_
CHAPTER XVIII
_New Relations and Duties_

CHANGE OF MASTERS--BENEFITS DERIVED BY THE CHANGE--FAME OF THE
FIGHT WITH COVEY--RECKLESS UNCONCERN--MY ABHORRENCE OF SLAVERY--
ABILITY TO READ A CAUSE OF PREJUDICE--THE HOLIDAYS--HOW SPENT--
SHARP HIT AT SLAVERY--EFFECTS OF HOLIDAYS--A DEVICE OF SLAVERY--
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COVEY AND FREELAND--AN IRRELIGIOUS MASTER
PREFERRED TO A RELIGIOUS ONE--CATALOGUE OF FLOGGABLE OFFENSES--
HARD LIFE AT COVEY'S USEFUL--IMPROVED CONDITION NOT FOLLOWED BY
CONTENTMENT--CONGENIAL SOCIETY AT FREELAND'S--SABBATH SCHOOL
INSTITUTED--SECRECY NECESSARY--AFFECTIONATE RELATIONS OF TUTOR
AND PUPILS--CONFIDENCE AND FRIENDSHIP AMONG SLAVES--I DECLINE
PUBLISHING PARTICULARS OF CONVERSATIONS WITH MY FRIENDS--SLAVERY
THE INVITER OF VENGEANCE.

My term of actual service to Mr. Edward Covey ended on Christmas
day, 1834. I gladly left the snakish Covey, although he was now
as gentle as a lamb. My home for the year 1835 was already
secured--my next master was already selected. There is always
more or less excitement about the matter of changing hands, but I
had become somewhat reckless. I cared very little into whose
hands I fell--I meant to fight my way. Despite of Covey, too,
the report got abroad, that I was hard to whip; that I was guilty
of kicking back; that though generally a good tempered Negro, I
sometimes "_got the devil in me_." These sayings were rife in
Talbot county, and they distinguished me among my servile
brethren. Slaves, generally, will fight each other, and die at
each other's hands; but there are few who are not held in awe by
a white man. Trained from the cradle up, to think and <194>feel
that their masters are superior, and invested with a sort of
sacredness, there are few who can outgrow or rise above the
control which that sentiment exercises. I had now got free from
it, and the thing was known. One bad sheep will spoil a whole
flock. Among the slaves, I was a bad sheep. I hated slavery,
slaveholders, and all pertaining to them; and I did not fail to
inspire others with the same feeling, wherever and whenever
opportunity was presented. This made me a marked lad among the
slaves, and a suspected one among the slaveholders. A knowledge
of my ability to read and write, got pretty widely spread, which
was very much against me.

The days between Christmas day and New Year's, are allowed the
slaves as holidays. During these days, all regular work was
suspended, and there was nothing to do but to keep fires, and
look after the stock. This time was regarded as our own, by the
grace of our masters, and we, therefore used it, or abused it, as
we pleased. Those who had families at a distance, were now
expected to visit them, and to spend with them the entire week.
The younger slaves, or the unmarried ones, were expected to see
to the cattle, and attend to incidental duties at home. The
holidays were variously spent. The sober, thinking and
industrious ones of our number, would employ themselves in
manufacturing corn brooms, mats, horse collars and baskets, and
some of these were very well made. Another class spent their
time in hunting opossums, coons, rabbits, and other game. But
the majority spent the holidays in sports, ball playing,
wrestling, boxing, running foot races, dancing, and drinking
whisky; and this latter mode of spending the time was generally
most agreeable to their masters. A slave who would work during
the holidays, was thought, by his master, undeserving of
holidays. Such an one had rejected the favor of his master.
There was, in this simple act of continued work, an accusation
against slaves; and a slave could not help thinking, that if he
made three dollars during the holidays, he might make three
hundred during the year. Not to be drunk during the holi<195
EFFECTS OF HOLIDAYS>days, was disgraceful; and he was esteemed a
lazy and improvident man, who could not afford to drink whisky
during Christmas.

The fiddling, dancing and _"jubilee beating_," was going on in
all directions. This latter performance is strictly southern.
It supplies the place of a violin, or of other musical
instruments, and is played so easily, that almost every farm has
its "Juba" beater. The performer improvises as he beats, and
sings his merry songs, so ordering the words as to have them fall
pat with the movement of his hands. Among a mass of nonsense and
wild frolic, once in a while a sharp hit is given to the meanness
of slaveholders. Take the following, for an example:

_We raise de wheat,
Dey gib us de corn;
We bake de bread,
Dey gib us de cruss;
We sif de meal,
Dey gib us de huss;
We peal de meat,
Dey gib us de skin,
And dat's de way
Dey takes us in.
We skim de pot,
Dey gib us the liquor,
And say dat's good enough for nigger.
Walk over! walk over!
Tom butter and de fat;
Poor nigger you can't get over dat;
Walk over_!

This is not a bad summary of the palpable injustice and fraud of
slavery, giving--as it does--to the lazy and idle, the comforts
which God designed should be given solely to the honest laborer.
But to the holiday's.

Judging from my own observation and experience, I believe these
holidays to be among the most effective means, in the hands of
slaveholders, of keeping down the spirit of insurrection among
the slaves.

To enslave men, successfully and safely, it is necessary to
<196>have their minds occupied with thoughts and aspirations
short of the liberty of which they are deprived. A certain
degree of attainable good must be kept before them. These
holidays serve the purpose of keeping the minds of the slaves
occupied with prospective pleasure, within the limits of slavery.
The young man can go wooing; the married man can visit his wife;
the father and mother can see their children; the industrious and
money loving can make a few dollars; the great wrestler can win
laurels; the young people can meet, and enjoy each other's
society; the drunken man can get plenty of whisky; and the
religious man can hold prayer meetings, preach, pray and exhort
during the holidays. Before the holidays, these are pleasures in
prospect; after the holidays, they become pleasures of memory,
and they serve to keep out thoughts and wishes of a more
dangerous character. Were slaveholders at once to abandon the
practice of allowing their slaves these liberties, periodically,
and to keep them, the year round, closely confined to the narrow
circle of their homes, I doubt not that the south would blaze
with insurrections. These holidays are conductors or safety
valves to carry off the explosive elements inseparable from the
human mind, when reduced to the condition of slavery. But for
these, the rigors of bondage would become too severe for
endurance, and the slave would be forced up to dangerous
desperation. Woe to the slaveholder when he undertakes to hinder
or to prevent the operation of these electric conductors. A
succession of earthquakes would be less destructive, than the
insurrectionary fires which would be sure to burst forth in
different parts of the south, from such interference.

Thus, the holidays, became part and parcel of the gross fraud,
wrongs and inhumanity of slavery. Ostensibly, they are
institutions of benevolence, designed to mitigate the rigors of
slave life, but, practically, they are a fraud, instituted by
human selfishness, the better to secure the ends of injustice and
oppression. The slave's happiness is not the end sought, but,
rather, the master's <197 A DEVICE OF SLAVERY>safety. It is not
from a generous unconcern for the slave's labor that this
cessation from labor is allowed, but from a prudent regard to the
safety of the slave system. I am strengthened in this opinion,
by the fact, that most slaveholders like to have their slaves
spend the holidays in such a manner as to be of no real benefit
to the slaves. It is plain, that everything like rational
enjoyment among the slaves, is frowned upon; and only those wild
and low sports, peculiar to semi-civilized people, are
encouraged. All the license allowed, appears to have no other
object than to disgust the slaves with their temporary freedom,
and to make them as glad to return to their work, as they were to
leave it. By plunging them into exhausting depths of drunkenness
and dissipation, this effect is almost certain to follow. I have
known slaveholders resort to cunning tricks, with a view of
getting their slaves deplorably drunk. A usual plan is, to make
bets on a slave, that he can drink more whisky than any other;
and so to induce a rivalry among them, for the mastery in this
degradation. The scenes, brought about in this way, were often
scandalous and loathsome in the extreme. Whole multitudes might
be found stretched out in brutal drunkenness, at once helpless
and disgusting. Thus, when the slave asks for a few hours of
virtuous freedom, his cunning master takes advantage of his
ignorance, and cheers him with a dose of vicious and revolting
dissipation, artfully labeled with the name of LIBERTY. We were
induced to drink, I among the rest, and when the holidays were
over, we all staggered up from our filth and wallowing, took a
long breath, and went away to our various fields of work;
feeling, upon the whole, rather glad to go from that which our
masters artfully deceived us into the belief was freedom, back
again to the arms of slavery. It was not what we had taken it to
be, nor what it might have been, had it not been abused by us.
It was about as well to be a slave to _master_, as to be a slave
to _rum_ and _whisky._

I am the more induced to take this view of the holiday system,
<198>adopted by slaveholders, from what I know of their treatment
of slaves, in regard to other things. It is the commonest thing
for them to try to disgust their slaves with what they do not
want them to have, or to enjoy. A slave, for instance, likes
molasses; he steals some; to cure him of the taste for it, his
master, in many cases, will go away to town, and buy a large
quantity of the _poorest_ quality, and set it before his slave,
and, with whip in hand, compel him to eat it, until the poor
fellow is made to sicken at the very thought of molasses. The
same course is often adopted to cure slaves of the disagreeable
and inconvenient practice of asking for more food, when their
allowance has failed them. The same disgusting process works
well, too, in other things, but I need not cite them. When a
slave is drunk, the slaveholder has no fear that he will plan an
insurrection; no fear that he will escape to the north. It is
the sober, thinking slave who is dangerous, and needs the
vigilance of his master, to keep him a slave. But, to proceed
with my narrative.

On the first of January, 1835, I proceeded from St. Michael's to
Mr. William Freeland's, my new home. Mr. Freeland lived only
three miles from St. Michael's, on an old worn out farm, which
required much labor to restore it to anything like a self-
supporting establishment.

I was not long in finding Mr. Freeland to be a very different man
from Mr. Covey. Though not rich, Mr. Freeland was what may be
called a well-bred southern gentleman, as different from Covey,
as a well-trained and hardened Negro breaker is from the best
specimen of the first families of the south. Though Freeland was
a slaveholder, and shared many of the vices of his class, he
seemed alive to the sentiment of honor. He had some sense of
justice, and some feelings of humanity. He was fretful,
impulsive and passionate, but I must do him the justice to say,
he was free from the mean and selfish characteristics which
distinguished the creature from which I had now, happily,
escaped. He was open, frank, imperative, and practiced no
concealments, <199 RELIGIOUS SLAVEHOLDERS>disdaining to play the
spy. In all this, he was the opposite of the crafty Covey.

Among the many advantages gained in my change from Covey's to
Freeland's--startling as the statement may be--was the fact that
the latter gentleman made no profession of religion. I assert
_most unhesitatingly_, that the religion of the south--as I have
observed it and proved it--is a mere covering for the most horrid
crimes; the justifier of the most appalling barbarity; a
sanctifier of the most hateful frauds; and a secure shelter,
under which the darkest, foulest, grossest, and most infernal
abominations fester and flourish. Were I again to be reduced to
the condition of a slave, _next_ to that calamity, I should
regard the fact of being the slave of a religious slaveholder,
the greatest that could befall me. For all slaveholders with
whom I have ever met, religious slaveholders are the worst. I
have found them, almost invariably, the vilest, meanest and
basest of their class. Exceptions there may be, but this is true
of religious slaveholders, _as a class_. It is not for me to
explain the fact. Others may do that; I simply state it as a
fact, and leave the theological, and psychological inquiry, which
it raises, to be decided by others more competent than myself.
Religious slaveholders, like religious persecutors, are ever
extreme in their malice and violence. Very near my new home, on
an adjoining farm, there lived the Rev. Daniel Weeden, who was
both pious and cruel after the real Covey pattern. Mr. Weeden
was a local preacher of the Protestant Methodist persuasion, and
a most zealous supporter of the ordinances of religion,
generally. This Weeden owned a woman called "Ceal," who was a
standing proof of his mercilessness. Poor Ceal's back, always
scantily clothed, was kept literally raw, by the lash of this
religious man and gospel minister. The most notoriously wicked
man--so called in distinction from church members--could hire
hands more easily than this brute. When sent out to find a home,
a slave would never enter the gates of the preacher Weeden, while
a sinful sinner needed a hand. Be<200>have ill, or behave well,
it was the known maxim of Weeden, that it is the duty of a master
to use the lash. If, for no other reason, he contended that this
was essential to remind a slave of his condition, and of his
master's authority. The good slave must be whipped, to be _kept_
good, and the bad slave must be whipped, to be _made_ good. Such
was Weeden's theory, and such was his practice. The back of his
slave-woman will, in the judgment, be the swiftest witness
against him.

While I am stating particular cases, I might as well immortalize
another of my neighbors, by calling him by name, and putting him
in print. He did not think that a "chiel" was near, "taking
notes," and will, doubtless, feel quite angry at having his
character touched off in the ragged style of a slave's pen. I
beg to introduce the reader to REV. RIGBY HOPKINS. Mr. Hopkins
resides between Easton and St. Michael's, in Talbot county,
Maryland. The severity of this man made him a perfect terror to
the slaves of his neighborhood. The peculiar feature of his
government, was, his system of whipping slaves, as he said, _in
advance_ of deserving it. He always managed to have one or two
slaves to whip on Monday morning, so as to start his hands to
their work, under the inspiration of a new assurance on Monday,
that his preaching about kindness, mercy, brotherly love, and the
like, on Sunday, did not interfere with, or prevent him from
establishing his authority, by the cowskin. He seemed to wish to
assure them, that his tears over poor, lost and ruined sinners,
and his pity for them, did not reach to the blacks who tilled his
fields. This saintly Hopkins used to boast, that he was the best
hand to manage a Negro in the county. He whipped for the
smallest offenses, by way of preventing the commission of large
ones.

The reader might imagine a difficulty in finding faults enough
for such frequent whipping. But this is because you have no idea
how easy a matter it is to offend a man who is on the look-out
for offenses. The man, unaccustomed to slaveholding, would be
astonished to observe how many _foggable_ offenses there are in
<201>CATALOGUE OF FLOGGABLE OFFENSES>the slaveholder's catalogue
of crimes; and how easy it is to commit any one of them, even
when the slave least intends it. A slaveholder, bent on finding
fault, will hatch up a dozen a day, if he chooses to do so, and
each one of these shall be of a punishable description. A mere
look, word, or motion, a mistake, accident, or want of power, are
all matters for which a slave may be whipped at any time. Does a
slave look dissatisfied with his condition? It is said, that he
has the devil in him, and it must be whipped out. Does he answer
_loudly_, when spoken to by his master, with an air of self-
consciousness? Then, must he be taken down a button-hole lower,
by the lash, well laid on. Does he forget, and omit to pull off
his hat, when approaching a white person? Then, he must, or may
be, whipped for his bad manners. Does he ever venture to
vindicate his conduct, when harshly and unjustly accused? Then,
he is guilty of impudence, one of the greatest crimes in the
social catalogue of southern society. To allow a slave to escape
punishment, who has impudently attempted to exculpate himself
from unjust charges, preferred against him by some white person,
is to be guilty of great dereliction of duty. Does a slave ever
venture to suggest a better way of doing a thing, no matter what?
He is, altogether, too officious--wise above what is written--and
he deserves, even if he does not get, a flogging for his
presumption. Does he, while plowing, break a plow, or while
hoeing, break a hoe, or while chopping, break an ax? No matter
what were the imperfections of the implement broken, or the
natural liabilities for breaking, the slave can be whipped for
carelessness. The _reverend_ slaveholder could always find
something of this sort, to justify him in using the lash several
times during the week. Hopkins--like Covey and Weeden--were
shunned by slaves who had the privilege (as many had) of finding
their own masters at the end of each year; and yet, there was not
a man in all that section of country, who made a louder
profession of religion, than did MR. RIGBY HOPKINS.
<202>

But, to continue the thread of my story, through my experience
when at Mr. William Freeland's.

My poor, weather-beaten bark now reached smoother water, and
gentler breezes. My stormy life at Covey's had been of service
to me. The things that would have seemed very hard, had I gone
direct to Mr. Freeland's, from the home of Master Thomas, were
now (after the hardships at Covey's) "trifles light as air." I
was still a field hand, and had come to prefer the severe labor
of the field, to the enervating duties of a house servant. I had
become large and strong; and had begun to take pride in the fact,
that I could do as much hard work as some of the older men.
There is much rivalry among slaves, at times, as to which can do
the most work, and masters generally seek to promote such
rivalry. But some of us were too wise to race with each other
very long. Such racing, we had the sagacity to see, was not
likely to pay. We had our times for measuring each other's
strength, but we knew too much to keep up the competition so long
as to produce an extraordinary day's work. We knew that if, by
extraordinary exertion, a large quantity of work was done in one
day, the fact, becoming known to the master, might lead him to
require the same amount every day. This thought was enough to
bring us to a dead halt when over so much excited for the race.

At Mr. Freeland's, my condition was every way improved. I was no
longer the poor scape-goat that I was when at Covey's, where
every wrong thing done was saddled upon me, and where other
slaves were whipped over my shoulders. Mr. Freeland was too just
a man thus to impose upon me, or upon any one else.

It is quite usual to make one slave the object of especial abuse,
and to beat him often, with a view to its effect upon others,
rather than with any expectation that the slave whipped will be
improved by it, but the man with whom I now was, could descend to
no such meanness and wickedness. Every man here was held
individually responsible for his own conduct.

This was a vast improvement on the rule at Covey's. There, I
<203 NOT YET CONTENTED>was the general pack horse. Bill Smith
was protected, by a positive prohibition made by his rich master,
and the command of the rich slaveholder is LAW to the poor one;
Hughes was favored, because of his relationship to Covey; and the
hands hired temporarily, escaped flogging, except as they got it
over my poor shoulders. Of course, this comparison refers to the
time when Covey _could_ whip me.

Mr. Freeland, like Mr. Covey, gave his hands enough to eat, but,
unlike Mr. Covey, he gave them time to take their meals; he
worked us hard during the day, but gave us the night for rest--
another advantage to be set to the credit of the sinner, as
against that of the saint. We were seldom in the field after
dark in the evening, or before sunrise in the morning. Our
implements of husbandry were of the most improved pattern, and
much superior to those used at Covey's.

Nothwithstanding the improved condition which was now mine, and
the many advantages I had gained by my new home, and my new
master, I was still restless and discontented. I was about as
hard to please by a master, as a master is by slave. The freedom
from bodily torture and unceasing labor, had given my mind an
increased sensibility, and imparted to it greater activity. I
was not yet exactly in right relations. "How be it, that was not
first which is spiritual, but that which is natural, and
afterward that which is spiritual." When entombed at Covey's,
shrouded in darkness and physical wretchedness, temporal
wellbeing was the grand _desideratum;_ but, temporal wants
supplied, the spirit puts in its claims. Beat and cuff your
slave, keep him hungry and spiritless, and he will follow the
chain of his master like a dog; but, feed and clothe him well--
work him moderately--surround him with physical comfort--and
dreams of freedom intrude. Give him a _bad_ master, and he
aspires to a _good_ master; give him a good master, and he wishes
to become his _own_ master. Such is human nature. You may hurl
a man so low, beneath the level of his kind, that he loses all
just ideas of his natural position; <204>but elevate him a
little, and the clear conception of rights arises to life and
power, and leads him onward. Thus elevated, a little, at
Freeland's, the dreams called into being by that good man, Father
Lawson, when in Baltimore, began to visit me; and shoots from the
tree of liberty began to put forth tender buds, and dim hopes of
the future began to dawn.

I found myself in congenial society, at Mr. Freeland's. There
were Henry Harris, John Harris, Handy Caldwell, and Sandy
Jenkins.[6]

Henry and John were brothers, and belonged to Mr. Freeland. They
were both remarkably bright and intelligent, though neither of
them could read. Now for mischief! I had not been long at
Freeland's before I was up to my old tricks. I early began to
address my companions on the subject of education, and the
advantages of intelligence over ignorance, and, as far as I
dared, I tried to show the agency of ignorance in keeping men in
slavery. Webster's spelling book and the _Columbian Orator_ were
looked into again. As summer came on, and the long Sabbath days
stretched themselves over our idleness, I became uneasy, and
wanted a Sabbath school, in which to exercise my gifts, and to
impart the little knowledge of letters which I possessed, to my
brother slaves. A house was hardly necessary in the summer time;
I could hold my school under the shade of an old oak tree, as
well as any where else. The thing was, to get the scholars, and
to have them thoroughly imbued with the desire to learn. Two
such boys were quickly secured, in Henry and John, and from them
the contagion spread. I was not long bringing around me twenty
or thirty young men, who enrolled themselves, gladly, in my
Sabbath school, and were willing to meet me regularly, under the
trees or elsewhere, for the purpose of learning to read. It was

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

<205 SABBATH SCHOOL INSTITUTED>surprising with what ease they
provided themselves with spelling books. These were mostly the
cast off books of their young masters or mistresses. I taught,
at first, on our own farm. All were impressed with the necessity
of keeping the matter as private as possible, for the fate of the
St. Michael's attempt was notorious, and fresh in the minds of
all. Our pious masters, at St. Michael's, must not know that a
few of their dusky brothers were learning to read the word of
God, lest they should come down upon us with the lash and chain.
We might have met to drink whisky, to wrestle, fight, and to do
other unseemly things, with no fear of interruption from the
saints or sinners of St. Michael's.

But, to meet for the purpose of improving the mind and heart, by
learning to read the sacred scriptures, was esteemed a most
dangerous nuisance, to be instantly stopped. The slaveholders of
St. Michael's, like slaveholders elsewhere, would always prefer
to see the slaves engaged in degrading sports, rather than to see
them acting like moral and accountable beings.

Had any one asked a religious white man, in St. Michael's, twenty
years ago, the names of three men in that town, whose lives were
most after the pattern of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, the
first three would have been as follows:

GARRISON WEST, _Class Leader_.
WRIGHT FAIRBANKS, _Class Leader_.
THOMAS AULD, _Class Leader_.

And yet, these were men who ferociously rushed in upon my Sabbath
school, at St. Michael's, armed with mob-like missiles, and I
must say, I thought him a Christian, until he took part in bloody
by the lash. This same Garrison West was my class leader, and I
must say, I thought him a Christian, until he took part in
breaking up my school. He led me no more after that. The plea
for this outrage was then, as it is now and at all times--the
danger to good order. If the slaves learnt to read, they would
learn something else, and something worse. The peace of slavery
would be disturbed; slave rule would be endangered. I leave the
reader to <206>characterize a system which is endangered by such
causes. I do not dispute the soundness of the reasoning. It is
perfectly sound; and, if slavery be _right_, Sabbath schools for
teaching slaves to read the bible are _wrong_, and ought to be
put down. These Christian class leaders were, to this extent,
consistent. They had settled the question, that slavery is
_right_, and, by that standard, they determined that Sabbath
schools are wrong. To be sure, they were Protestant, and held to
the great Protestant right of every man to _"search the
scriptures"_ for himself; but, then, to all general rules, there
are _exceptions_. How convenient! What crimes may not be
committed under the doctrine of the last remark. But, my dear,
class leading Methodist brethren, did not condescend to give me a
reason for breaking up the Sabbath school at St. Michael's; it
was enough that they had determined upon its destruction. I am,
however, digressing.

After getting the school cleverly into operation, the second time
holding it in the woods, behind the barn, and in the shade of
trees--I succeeded in inducing a free colored man, who lived
several miles from our house, to permit me to hold my school in a
room at his house. He, very kindly, gave me this liberty; but he
incurred much peril in doing so, for the assemblage was an
unlawful one. I shall not mention, here, the name of this man;
for it might, even now, subject him to persecution, although the
offenses were committed more than twenty years ago. I had, at
one time, more than forty scholars, all of the right sort; and
many of them succeeded in learning to read. I have met several
slaves from Maryland, who were once my scholars; and who obtained
their freedom, I doubt not, partly in consequence of the ideas
imparted to them in that school. I have had various employments
during my short life; but I look back to _none_ with more
satisfaction, than to that afforded by my Sunday school. An
attachment, deep and lasting, sprung up between me and my
persecuted pupils, which made parting from them intensely
grievous; and, <207 FRIENDSHIP AMONG SLAVES>when I think that
most of these dear souls are yet shut up in this abject
thralldom, I am overwhelmed with grief.

Besides my Sunday school, I devoted three evenings a week to my
fellow slaves, during the winter. Let the reader reflect upon
the fact, that, in this christian country, men and women are
hiding from professors of religion, in barns, in the woods and
fields, in order to learn to read the _holy bible_. Those dear
souls, who came to my Sabbath school, came _not_ because it was
popular or reputable to attend such a place, for they came under
the liability of having forty stripes laid on their naked backs.
Every moment they spend in my school, they were under this
terrible liability; and, in this respect, I was sharer with them.
Their minds had been cramped and starved by their cruel masters;
the light of education had been completely excluded; and their
hard earnings had been taken to educate their master's children.
I felt a delight in circumventing the tyrants, and in blessing
the victims of their curses.

The year at Mr. Freeland's passed off very smoothly, to outward
seeming. Not a blow was given me during the whole year. To the
credit of Mr. Freeland--irreligious though he was--it must be
stated, that he was the best master I ever had, until I became my
own master, and assumed for myself, as I had a right to do, the
responsibility of my own existence and the exercise of my own
powers. For much of the happiness--or absence of misery--with
which I passed this year with Mr. Freeland, I am indebted to the
genial temper and ardent friendship of my brother slaves. They
were, every one of them, manly, generous and brave, yes; I say
they were brave, and I will add, fine looking. It is seldom the
lot of mortals to have truer and better friends than were the
slaves on this farm. It is not uncommon to charge slaves with
great treachery toward each other, and to believe them incapable
of confiding in each other; but I must say, that I never loved,
esteemed, or confided in men, more than I did in these. They
were as true as steel, and no band of brothers could have been
more <208>loving. There were no mean advantages taken of each
other, as is sometimes the case where slaves are situated as we
were; no tattling; no giving each other bad names to Mr.
Freeland; and no elevating one at the expense of the other. We
never undertook to do any thing, of any importance, which was
likely to affect each other, without mutual consultation. We
were generally a unit, and moved together. Thoughts and
sentiments were exchanged between us, which might well be called
very incendiary, by oppressors and tyrants; and perhaps the time
has not even now come, when it is safe to unfold all the flying
suggestions which arise in the minds of intelligent slaves.
Several of my friends and brothers, if yet alive, are still in
some part of the house of bondage; and though twenty years have
passed away, the suspicious malice of slavery might punish them
for even listening to my thoughts.

The slaveholder, kind or cruel, is a slaveholder still--the every
hour violator of the just and inalienable rights of man; and he
is, therefore, every hour silently whetting the knife of
vengeance for his own throat. He never lisps a syllable in
commendation of the fathers of this republic, nor denounces any
attempted oppression of himself, without inviting the knife to
his own throat, and asserting the rights of rebellion for his own
slaves.

The year is ended, and we are now in the midst of the Christmas
holidays, which are kept this year as last, according to the
general description previously given.

CHAPTER XIX
_The Run-Away Plot_

NEW YEAR'S THOUGHTS AND MEDITATIONS--AGAIN BOUGHT BY FREELAND--NO
AMBITION TO BE A SLAVE--KINDNESS NO COMPENSATION FOR SLAVERY--
INCIPIENT STEPS TOWARD ESCAPE--CONSIDERATIONS LEADING THERETO--
IRRECONCILABLE HOSTILITY TO SLAVERY--SOLEMN VOW TAKEN--PLAN
DIVULGED TO THE SLAVES--_Columbian Orator--_SCHEME GAINS FAVOR,
DESPITE PRO-SLAVERY PREACHING--DANGER OF DISCOVERY--SKILL OF
SLAVEHOLDERS IN READING THE MINDS OF THEIR SLAVES--SUSPICION AND
COERCION--HYMNS WITH DOUBLE MEANING--VALUE, IN DOLLARS, OF OUR
COMPANY--PRELIMINARY CONSULTATION--PASS-WORD--CONFLICTS OF HOPE
AND FEAR--DIFFICULTIES TO BE OVERCOME--IGNORANCE OF GEOGRAPHY--
SURVEY OF IMAGINARY DIFFICULTIES--EFFECT ON OUR MINDS--PATRICK
HENRY--SANDY BECOMES A DREAMER--ROUTE TO THE NORTH LAID OUT--
OBJECTIONS CONSIDERED--FRAUDS PRACTICED ON FREEMEN--PASSES
WRITTEN--ANXIETIES AS THE TIME DREW NEAR--DREAD OF FAILURE--
APPEALS TO COMRADES--STRANGE PRESENTIMENT--COINCIDENCE--THE
BETRAYAL DISCOVERED--THE MANNER OF ARRESTING US--RESISTANCE MADE
BY HENRY HARRIS--ITS EFFECT--THE UNIQUE SPEECH OF MRS. FREELAND--
OUR SAD PROCESSION TO PRISON--BRUTAL JEERS BY THE MULTITUDE ALONG
THE ROAD--PASSES EATEN--THE DENIAL--SANDY TOO WELL LOVED TO BE
SUSPECTED--DRAGGED BEHIND HORSES--THE JAIL A RELIEF--A NEW SET OF
TORMENTORS--SLAVE-TRADERS--JOHN, CHARLES AND HENRY RELEASED--
ALONE IN PRISON--I AM TAKEN OUT, AND SENT TO BALTIMORE.

I am now at the beginning of the year 1836, a time favorable for
serious thoughts. The mind naturally occupies itself with the
mysteries of life in all its phases--the ideal, the real and the
actual. Sober people look both ways at the beginning of the
year, surveying the errors of the past, and providing against
possible errors of the future. I, too, was thus exercised. I
had little pleasure <210>in retrospect, and the prospect was not
very brilliant. "Notwithstanding," thought I, "the many
resolutions and prayers I have made, in behalf of freedom, I am,
this first day of the year 1836, still a slave, still wandering
in the depths of spirit-devouring thralldom. My faculties and
powers of body and soul are not my own, but are the property of a
fellow mortal, in no sense superior to me, except that he has the
physical power to compel me to be owned and controlled by him.
By the combined physical force of the community, I am his slave--
a slave for life." With thoughts like these, I was perplexed and
chafed; they rendered me gloomy and disconsolate. The anguish of
my mind may not be written.

At the close of the year 1835, Mr. Freeland, my temporary master,
had bought me of Capt. Thomas Auld, for the year 1836. His
promptness in securing my services, would have been flattering to
my vanity, had I been ambitious to win the reputation of being a
valuable slave. Even as it was, I felt a slight degree of
complacency at the circumstance. It showed he was as well
pleased with me as a slave, as I was with him as a master. I
have already intimated my regard for Mr. Freeland, and I may say
here, in addressing northern readers--where is no selfish motive
for speaking in praise of a slaveholder--that Mr. Freeland was a
man of many excellent qualities, and to me quite preferable to
any master I ever had.

But the kindness of the slavemaster only gilds the chain of
slavery, and detracts nothing from its weight or power. The
thought that men are made for other and better uses than slavery,
thrives best under the gentle treatment of a kind master. But
the grim visage of slavery can assume no smiles which can
fascinate the partially enlightened slave, into a forgetfulness
of his bondage, nor of the desirableness of liberty.

I was not through the first month of this, my second year with
the kind and gentlemanly Mr. Freeland, before I was earnestly
considering and advising plans for gaining that freedom, which,
<211 INCIPIENT STEPS TOWARDS ESCAPE>when I was but a mere child,
I had ascertained to be the natural and inborn right of every
member of the human family. The desire for this freedom had been
benumbed, while I was under the brutalizing dominion of Covey;
and it had been postponed, and rendered inoperative, by my truly
pleasant Sunday school engagements with my friends, during the
year 1835, at Mr. Freeland's. It had, however, never entirely
subsided. I hated slavery, always, and the desire for freedom
only needed a favorable breeze, to fan it into a blaze, at any
moment. The thought of only being a creature of the _present_
and the _past_, troubled me, and I longed to have a _future_--a
future with hope in it. To be shut up entirely to the past and
present, is abhorrent to the human mind; it is to the soul--whose
life and happiness is unceasing progress--what the prison is to
the body; a blight and mildew, a hell of horrors. The dawning of
this, another year, awakened me from my temporary slumber, and
roused into life my latent, but long cherished aspirations for
freedom. I was now not only ashamed to be contented in slavery,
but ashamed to _seem_ to be contented, and in my present
favorable condition, under the mild rule of Mr. F., I am not sure
that some kind reader will not condemn me for being over
ambitious, and greatly wanting in proper humility, when I say the
truth, that I now drove from me all thoughts of making the best
of my lot, and welcomed only such thoughts as led me away from
the house of bondage. The intense desires, now felt, _to be
free_, quickened by my present favorable circumstances, brought
me to the determination to act, as well as to think and speak.
Accordingly, at the beginning of this year 1836, I took upon me a
solemn vow, that the year which had now dawned upon me should not
close, without witnessing an earnest attempt, on my part, to gain
my liberty. This vow only bound me to make my escape
individually; but the year spent with Mr. Freeland had attached
me, as with "hooks of steel," to my brother slaves. The most
affectionate and confiding friendship existed between us; and I
felt it my duty to give them an opportunity to share in my
<212>virtuous determination by frankly disclosing to them my
plans and purposes. Toward Henry and John Harris, I felt a
friendship as strong as one man can feel for another; for I could
have died with and for them. To them, therefore, with a suitable
degree of caution, I began to disclose my sentiments and plans;
sounding them, the while on the subject of running away, provided
a good chance should offer. I scarcely need tell the reader,
that I did my _very best_ to imbue the minds of my dear friends
with my own views and feelings. Thoroughly awakened, now, and
with a definite vow upon me, all my little reading, which had any
bearing on the subject of human rights, was rendered available in
my communications with my friends. That (to me) gem of a book,
the _Columbian Orator_, with its eloquent orations and spicy
dialogues, denouncing oppression and slavery--telling of what had
been dared, done and suffered by men, to obtain the inestimable
boon of liberty--was still fresh in my memory, and whirled into
the ranks of my speech with the aptitude of well trained
soldiers, going through the drill. The fact is, I here began my
public speaking. I canvassed, with Henry and John, the subject
of slavery, and dashed against it the condemning brand of God's
eternal justice, which it every hour violates. My fellow
servants were neither indifferent, dull, nor inapt. Our feelings
were more alike than our opinions. All, however, were ready to
act, when a feasible plan should be proposed. "Show us _how_ the
thing is to be done," said they, "and all is clear."

We were all, except Sandy, quite free from slaveholding
priestcraft. It was in vain that we had been taught from the
pulpit at St. Michael's, the duty of obedience to our masters; to
recognize God as the author of our enslavement; to regard running
away an offense, alike against God and man; to deem our
enslavement a merciful and beneficial arrangement; to esteem our
condition, in this country, a paradise to that from which we had
been snatched in Africa; to consider our hard hands and dark
color as God's mark of displeasure, and as pointing us out as the
proper <213 FREE FROM PROSLAVERY PRIESTCRAFT>subjects of slavery;
that the relation of master and slave was one of reciprocal
benefits; that our work was not more serviceable to our masters,
than our master's thinking was serviceable to us. I say, it was
in vain that the pulpit of St. Michael's had constantly
inculcated these plausib]e doctrine. Nature laughed them to
scorn. For my own part, I had now become altogether too big for
my chains. Father Lawson's solemn words, of what I ought to be,
and might be, in the providence of God, had not fallen dead on my
soul. I was fast verging toward manhood, and the prophecies of
my childhood were still unfulfilled. The thought, that year
after year had passed away, and my resolutions to run away had
failed and faded--that I was _still a slave_, and a slave, too,
with chances for gaining my freedom diminished and still
diminishing--was not a matter to be slept over easily; nor did I
easily sleep over it.

But here came a new trouble. Thoughts and purposes so incendiary
as those I now cherished, could not agitate the mind long,
without danger of making themselves manifest to scrutinizing and
unfriendly beholders. I had reason to fear that my sable face
might prove altogether too transparent for the safe concealment
of my hazardous enterprise. Plans of greater moment have leaked
through stone walls, and revealed their projectors. But, here
was no stone wall to hide my purpose. I would have given my
poor, tell tale face for the immoveable countenance of an Indian,
for it was far from being proof against the daily, searching
glances of those with whom I met.

It is the interest and business of slaveholders to study human
nature, with a view to practical results, and many of them attain
astonishing proficiency in discerning the thoughts and emotions
of slaves. They have to deal not with earth, wood, or stone, but
with _men;_ and, by every regard they have for their safety and
prosperity, they must study to know the material on which they
are at work. So much intellect as the slaveholder has around
him, requires watching. Their safety depends upon their
vigilance. Conscious of the injustice and wrong they are every
hour perpe<214>trating, and knowing what they themselves would do
if made the victims of such wrongs, they are looking out for the
first signs of the dread retribution of justice. They watch,
therefore, with skilled and practiced eyes, and have learned to
read, with great accuracy, the state of mind and heart of the
slaves, through his sable face. These uneasy sinners are quick
to inquire into the matter, where the slave is concerned.
Unusual sobriety, apparent abstraction, sullenness and
indifference--indeed, any mood out of the common way--afford
ground for suspicion and inquiry. Often relying on their
superior position and wisdom, they hector and torture the slave
into a confession, by affecting to know the truth of their
accusations. "You have got the devil in you," say they, "and we
will whip him out of you." I have often been put thus to the
torture, on bare suspicion. This system has its disadvantages as
well as their opposite. The slave is sometimes whipped into the
confession of offenses which he never committed. The reader will
see that the good old rule--"a man is to be held innocent until
proved to be guilty"--does not hold good on the slave plantation.
Suspicion and torture are the approved methods of getting at the
truth, here. It was necessary for me, therefore, to keep a watch
over my deportment, lest the enemy should get the better of me.

But with all our caution and studied reserve, I am not sure that
Mr. Freeland did not suspect that all was not right with us. It
_did_ seem that he watched us more narrowly, after the plan of
escape had been conceived and discussed amongst us. Men seldom
see themselves as others see them; and while, to ourselves,
everything connected with our contemplated escape appeared
concealed, Mr. Freeland may have, with the peculiar prescience of
a slaveholder, mastered the huge thought which was disturbing our
peace in slavery.

I am the more inclined to think that he suspected us, because,
prudent as we were, as I now look back, I can see that we did
many silly things, very well calculated to awaken suspicion. We
were, <215 HYMNS WITH A DOUBLE MEANING>at times, remarkably
buoyant, singing hymns and making joyous exclamations, almost as
triumphant in their tone as if we reached a land of freedom and
safety. A keen observer might have detected in our repeated
singing of

_O Canaan, sweet Canaan,
I am bound for the land of Canaan,_

something more than a hope of reaching heaven. We meant to reach
the _north_--and the north was our Canaan.

_I thought I heard them say,
There were lions in the way,
I don't expect to Star
Much longer here.

Run to Jesus--shun the danger--
I don't expect to stay
Much longer here_.

was a favorite air, and had a double meaning. In the lips of
some, it meant the expectation of a speedy summons to a world of
spirits; but, in the lips of _our_ company, it simply meant, a
speedy pilgrimage toward a free state, and deliverance from all
the evils and dangers of slavery.

I had succeeded in winning to my (what slaveholders would call
wicked) scheme, a company of five young men, the very flower of
the neighborhood, each one of whom would have commanded one
thousand dollars in the home market. At New Orleans, they would
have brought fifteen hundred dollars a piece, and, perhaps, more.
The names of our party were as follows: Henry Harris; John
Harris, brother to Henry; Sandy Jenkins, of root memory; Charles
Roberts, and Henry Bailey. I was the youngest, but one, of the
party. I had, however, the advantage of them all, in experience,
and in a knowledge of letters. This gave me great influence over
them. Perhaps not one of them, left to himself, would have
dreamed of escape as a possible thing. Not one of them was self-
moved in the matter. They all wanted to be free; but the serious
thought of running away, had not entered into <216>their minds,
until I won them to the undertaking. They all were tolerably
well off--for slaves--and had dim hopes of being set free, some
day, by their masters. If any one is to blame for disturbing the
quiet of the slaves and slave-masters of the neighborhood of St.
Michael's, _I am the man_. I claim to be the instigator of the
high crime (as the slaveholders regard it) and I kept life in it,
until life could be kept in it no longer.

Pending the time of our contemplated departure out of our Egypt,
we met often by night, and on every Sunday. At these meetings we
talked the matter over; told our hopes and fears, and the
difficulties discovered or imagined; and, like men of sense, we
counted the cost of the enterprise to which we were committing
ourselves.

These meetings must have resembled, on a small scale, the
meetings of revolutionary conspirators, in their primary
condition. We were plotting against our (so called) lawful
rulers; with this difference that we sought our own good, and not
the harm of our enemies. We did not seek to overthrow them, but
to escape from them. As for Mr. Freeland, we all liked him, and
would have gladly remained with him, _as freeman_. LIBERTY was
our aim; and we had now come to think that we had a right to
liberty, against every obstacle even against the lives of our
enslavers.

We had several words, expressive of things, important to us,
which we understood, but which, even if distinctly heard by an
outsider, would convey no certain meaning. I have reasons for
suppressing these _pass-words_, which the reader will easily
divine. I hated the secrecy; but where slavery is powerful, and
liberty is weak, the latter is driven to concealment or to
destruction.

The prospect was not always a bright one. At times, we were
almost tempted to abandon the enterprise, and to get back to that
comparative peace of mind, which even a man under the gallows
might feel, when all hope of escape had vanished. Quiet bondage
was felt to be better than the doubts, fears and uncertainties,
which now so sadly perplexed and disturbed us.
<217 IGNORANCE OF GEOGRAPHY>

The infirmities of humanity, generally, were represented in our
little band. We were confident, bold and determined, at times;
and, again, doubting, timid and wavering; whistling, like the boy
in the graveyard, to keep away the spirits.

To look at the map, and observe the proximity of Eastern Shore,
Maryland, to Delaware and Pennsylvania, it may seem to the reader
quite absurd, to regard the proposed escape as a formidable
undertaking. But to _understand_, some one has said a man must
_stand under_. The real distance was great enough, but the
imagined distance was, to our ignorance, even greater. Every
slaveholder seeks to impress his slave with a belief in the
boundlessness of slave territory, and of his own almost
illimitable power. We all had vague and indistinct notions of
the geography of the country.

The distance, however, is not the chief trouble. The nearer are
the lines of a slave state and the borders of a free one, the
greater the peril. Hired kidnappers infest these borders. Then,
too, we knew that merely reaching a free state did not free us;
that, wherever caught, we could be returned to slavery. We could
see no spot on this side the ocean, where we could be free. We
had heard of Canada, the real Canaan of the American bondmen,
simply as a country to which the wild goose and the swan repaired
at the end of winter, to escape the heat of summer, but not as
the home of man. I knew something of theology, but nothing of
geography. I really did not, at that time, know that there was a
state of New York, or a state of Massachusetts. I had heard of
Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, and all the southern
states, but was ignorant of the free states, generally. New York
city was our northern limit, and to go there, and be forever
harassed with the liability of being hunted down and returned to
slavery--with the certainty of being treated ten times worse than
we had ever been treated before was a prospect far from
delightful, and it might well cause some hesitation about
engaging in the enterprise. The case, sometimes, to our excited
visions, <218>stood thus: At every gate through which we had to
pass, we saw a watchman; at every ferry, a guard; on every
bridge, a sentinel; and in every wood, a patrol or slave-hunter.
We were hemmed in on every side. The good to be sought, and the
evil to be shunned, were flung in the balance, and weighed
against each other. On the one hand, there stood slavery; a
stern reality, glaring frightfully upon us, with the blood of
millions in his polluted skirts--terrible to behold--greedily
devouring our hard earnings and feeding himself upon our flesh.
Here was the evil from which to escape. On the other hand, far
away, back in the hazy distance, where all forms seemed but
shadows, under the flickering light of the north star--behind
some craggy hill or snow-covered mountain--stood a doubtful
freedom, half frozen, beckoning us to her icy domain. This was
the good to be sought. The inequality was as great as that
between certainty and uncertainty. This, in itself, was enough
to stagger us; but when we came to survey the untrodden road, and
conjecture the many possible difficulties, we were appalled, and
at times, as I have said, were upon the point of giving over the
struggle altogether.

The reader can have little idea of the phantoms of trouble which
flit, in such circumstances, before the uneducated mind of the
slave. Upon either side, we saw grim death assuming a variety of
horrid shapes. Now, it was starvation, causing us, in a strange
and friendless land, to eat our own flesh. Now, we were
contending with the waves (for our journey was in part by water)
and were drowned. Now, we were hunted by dogs, and overtaken and
torn to pieces by their merciless fangs. We were stung by
scorpions--chased by wild beasts--bitten by snakes; and, worst of
all, after having succeeded in swimming rivers--encountering wild
beasts--sleeping in the woods--suffering hunger, cold, heat and
nakedness--we supposed ourselves to be overtaken by hired
kidnappers, who, in the name of the law, and for their thrice
accursed reward, would, perchance, fire upon us--kill some, wound
others, and capture all. This dark pic<219 IMAGINARY
DIFFICULTIES>ture, drawn by ignorance and fear, at times greatly
shook our determination, and not unfrequently caused us to

_Rather bear those ills we had
Than fly to others which we knew not of_.

I am not disposed to magnify this circumstance in my experience,
and yet I think I shall seem to be so disposed, to the reader.
No man can tell the intense agony which is felt by the slave,
when wavering on the point of making his escape. All that he has
is at stake; and even that which he has not, is at stake, also.
The life which he has, may be lost, and the liberty which he
seeks, may not be gained.

Patrick Henry, to a listening senate, thrilled by his magic
eloquence, and ready to stand by him in his boldest flights,
could say, GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH, and this saying was
a sublime one, even for a freeman; but, incomparably more
sublime, is the same sentiment, when _practically_ asserted by
men accustomed to the lash and chain--men whose sensibilities
must have become more or less deadened by their bondage. With us
it was a _doubtful_ liberty, at best, that we sought; and a
certain, lingering death in the rice swamps and sugar fields, if
we failed. Life is not lightly regarded by men of sane minds.
It is precious, alike to the pauper and to the prince--to the
slave, and to his master; and yet, I believe there was not one
among us, who would not rather have been shot down, than pass
away life in hopeless bondage.

In the progress of our preparations, Sandy, the root man, became
troubled. He began to have dreams, and some of them were very
distressing. One of these, which happened on a Friday night,
was, to him, of great significance; and I am quite ready to
confess, that I felt somewhat damped by it myself. He said, "I
dreamed, last night, that I was roused from sleep, by strange
noises, like the voices of a swarm of angry birds, that caused a
roar as they passed, which fell upon my ear like a coming gale
<220>over the tops of the trees. Looking up to see what it could
mean," said Sandy, "I saw you, Frederick, in the claws of a huge
bird, surrounded by a large number of birds, of all colors and
sizes. These were all picking at you, while you, with your arms,
seemed to be trying to protect your eyes. Passing over me, the
birds flew in a south-westerly direction, and I watched them
until they were clean out of sight. Now, I saw this as plainly
as I now see you; and furder, honey, watch de Friday night dream;
dare is sumpon in it, shose you born; dare is, indeed, honey."

I confess I did not like this dream; but I threw off concern
about it, by attributing it to the general excitement and
perturbation consequent upon our contemplated plan of escape. I
could not, however, shake off its effect at once. I felt that it
boded me no good. Sandy was unusually emphatic and oracular, and
his manner had much to do with the impression made upon me.

The plan of escape which I recommended, and to which my comrades
assented, was to take a large canoe, owned by Mr. Hamilton, and,
on the Saturday night previous to the Easter holidays, launch out
into the Chesapeake bay, and paddle for its head--a distance of
seventy miles with all our might. Our course, on reaching this
point, was, to turn the canoe adrift, and bend our steps toward
the north star, till we reached a free state.

There were several objections to this plan. One was, the danger
from gales on the bay. In rough weather, the waters of the
Chesapeake are much agitated, and there is danger, in a canoe, of
being swamped by the waves. Another objection was, that the
canoe would soon be missed; the absent persons would, at once, be
suspected of having taken it; and we should be pursued by some of
the fast sailing bay craft out of St. Michael's. Then, again, if
we reached the head of the bay, and turned the canoe adrift, she
might prove a guide to our track, and bring the land hunters
after us.

These and other objections were set aside, by the stronger ones
which could be urged against every other plan that could then be
<221 PASSES WRITTEN>suggested. On the water, we had a chance of
being regarded as fishermen, in the service of a master. On the
other hand, by taking the land route, through the counties
adjoining Delaware, we should be subjected to all manner of
interruptions, and many very disagreeable questions, which might
give us serious trouble. Any white man is authorized to stop a
man of color, on any road, and examine him, and arrest him, if he
so desires.

By this arrangement, many abuses (considered such even by
slaveholders) occur. Cases have been known, where freemen have
been called upon to show their free papers, by a pack of
ruffians--and, on the presentation of the papers, the ruffians
have torn them up, and seized their victim, and sold him to a
life of endless bondage.

The week before our intended start, I wrote a pass for each of
our party, giving them permission to visit Baltimore, during the
Easter holidays. The pass ran after this manner:

This is to certify, that I, the undersigned, have given the
bearer, my servant, John, full liberty to go to Baltimore, to
spend the Easter holidays.
W.H.
Near St. Michael's, Talbot county, Maryland

Although we were not going to Baltimore, and were intending to
land east of North Point, in the direction where I had seen the
Philadelphia steamers go, these passes might be made useful to us
in the lower part of the bay, while steering toward Baltimore.
These were not, however, to be shown by us, until all other
answers failed to satisfy the inquirer. We were all fully alive
to the importance of being calm and self-possessed, when
accosted, if accosted we should be; and we more times than one
rehearsed to each other how we should behave in the hour of
trial.

These were long, tedious days and nights. The suspense was
painful, in the extreme. To balance probabilities, where life
and liberty hang on the result, requires steady nerves. I panted
for action, and was glad when the day, at the close of which we
were to start, dawned upon us. Sleeping, the night before, was
<222>out of the question. I probably felt more deeply than any
of my companions, because I was the instigator of the movement.
The responsibility of the whole enterprise rested on my
shoulders. The glory of success, and the shame and confusion of
failure, could not be matters of indifference to me. Our food
was prepared; our clothes were packed up; we were all ready to
go, and impatient for Saturday morning--considering that the last
morning of our bondage.

I cannot describe the tempest and tumult of my brain, that
morning. The reader will please to bear in mind, that, in a
slave state, an unsuccessful runaway is not only subjected to
cruel torture, and sold away to the far south, but he is
frequently execrated by the other slaves. He is charged with
making the condition of the other slaves intolerable, by laying
them all under the suspicion of their masters--subjecting them to
greater vigilance, and imposing greater limitations on their
privileges. I dreaded murmurs from this quarter. It is
difficult, too, for a slavemaster to believe that slaves escaping
have not been aided in their flight by some one of their fellow
slaves. When, therefore, a slave is missing, every slave on the
place is closely examined as to his knowledge of the undertaking;
and they are sometimes even tortured, to make them disclose what
they are suspected of knowing of such escape.

Our anxiety grew more and more intense, as the time of our
intended departure for the north drew nigh. It was truly felt to
be a matter of life and death with us; and we fully intended to
_fight_ as well as _run_, if necessity should occur for that
extremity. But the trial hour was not yet to come. It was easy
to resolve, but not so easy to act. I expected there might be
some drawing back, at the last. It was natural that there should
be; therefore, during the intervening time, I lost no opportunity
to explain away difficulties, to remove doubts, to dispel fears,
and to inspire all with firmness. It was too late to look back;
and _now_ was the time to go forward. Like most other men, we
had done the talking part of our <223 APPEALS TO COMRADES>work,
long and well; and the time had come to _act_ as if we were in
earnest, and meant to be as true in action as in words. I did
not forget to appeal to the pride of my comrades, by telling them
that, if after having solemnly promised to go, as they had done,
they now failed to make the attempt, they would, in effect, brand
themselves with cowardice, and might as well sit down, fold their
arms, and acknowledge themselves as fit only to be _slaves_.
This detestable character, all were unwilling to assume. Every
man except Sandy (he, much to our regret, withdrew) stood firm;
and at our last meeting we pledged ourselves afresh, and in the
most solemn manner, that, at the time appointed, we _would_
certainly start on our long journey for a free country. This
meeting was in the middle of the week, at the end of which we
were to start.

Early that morning we went, as usual, to the field, but with
hearts that beat quickly and anxiously. Any one intimately
acquainted with us, might have seen that all was not well with
us, and that some monster lingered in our thoughts. Our work
that morning was the same as it had been for several days past--
drawing out and spreading manure. While thus engaged, I had a
sudden presentiment, which flashed upon me like lightning in a
dark night, revealing to the lonely traveler the gulf before, and
the enemy behind. I instantly turned to Sandy Jenkins, who was
near me, and said to him, _"Sandy, we are betrayed;_ something
has just told me so." I felt as sure of it, as if the officers
were there in sight. Sandy said, "Man, dat is strange; but I
feel just as you do." If my mother--then long in her grave--had
appeared before me, and told me that we were betrayed, I could
not, at that moment, have felt more certain of the fact.

In a few minutes after this, the long, low and distant notes of
the horn summoned us from the field to breakfast. I felt as one
may be supposed to feel before being led forth to be executed for
some great offense. I wanted no breakfast; but I went with the
other slaves toward the house, for form's sake. My feelings were
<224>not disturbed as to the right of running away; on that point
I had no trouble, whatever. My anxiety arose from a sense of the
consequences of failure.

In thirty minutes after that vivid presentiment came the
apprehended crash. On reaching the house, for breakfast, and
glancing my eye toward the lane gate, the worst was at once made
known. The lane gate off Mr. Freeland's house, is nearly a half
mile from the door, and shaded by the heavy wood which bordered
the main road. I was, however, able to descry four white men,
and two colored men, approaching. The white men were on
horseback, and the colored men were walking behind, and seemed to
be tied. _"It is all over with us,"_ thought I, _"we are surely
betrayed_." I now became composed, or at least comparatively so,
and calmly awaited the result. I watched the ill-omened company,
till I saw them enter the gate. Successful flight was
impossible, and I made up my mind to stand, and meet the evil,
whatever it might be; for I was not without a slight hope that
things might turn differently from what I at first expected. In
a few moments, in came Mr. William Hamilton, riding very rapidly,
and evidently much excited. He was in the habit of riding very
slowly, and was seldom known to gallop his horse. This time, his
horse was nearly at full speed, causing the dust to roll thick
behind him. Mr. Hamilton, though one of the most resolute men in
the whole neighborhood, was, nevertheless, a remarkably mild
spoken man; and, even when greatly excited, his language was cool
and circumspect. He came to the door, and inquired if Mr.
Freeland was in. I told him that Mr. Freeland was at the barn.
Off the old gentleman rode, toward the barn, with unwonted speed.
Mary, the cook, was at a loss to know what was the matter, and I
did not profess any skill in making her understand. I knew she
would have united, as readily as any one, in cursing me for
bringing trouble into the family; so I held my peace, leaving
matters to develop themselves, without my assistance. In a few
moments, Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Freeland came down from the barn to
the house; and, just as they <225 THE MANNER OF ARRESTING US>made
their appearance in the front yard, three men (who proved to be
constables) came dashing into the lane, on horseback, as if
summoned by a sign requiring quick work. A few seconds brought
them into the front yard, where they hastily dismounted, and tied
their horses. This done, they joined Mr. Freeland and Mr.
Hamilton, who were standing a short distance from the kitchen. A
few moments were spent, as if in consulting how to proceed, and
then the whole party walked up to the kitchen door. There was
now no one in the kitchen but myself and John Harris. Henry and
Sandy were yet at the barn. Mr. Freeland came inside the kitchen
door, and with an agitated voice, called me by name, and told me
to come forward; that there was some gentlemen who wished to see
me. I stepped toward them, at the door, and asked what they
wanted, when the constables grabbed me, and told me that I had
better not resist; that I had been in a scrape, or was said to
have been in one; that they were merely going to take me where I
could be examined; that they were going to carry me to St.
Michael's, to have me brought before my master. They further
said, that, in case the evidence against me was not true, I
should be acquitted. I was now firmly tied, and completely at
the mercy of my captors. Resistance was idle. They were five in
number, armed to the very teeth. When they had secured me, they
next turned to John Harris, and, in a few moments, succeeded in
tying him as firmly as they had already tied me. They next
turned toward Henry Harris, who had now returned from the barn.
"Cross your hands," said the constables, to Henry. "I won't"
said Henry, in a voice so firm and clear, and in a manner so
determined, as for a moment to arrest all proceedings. "Won't
you cross your hands?" said Tom Graham, the constable. "_No I
won't_," said Henry, with increasing emphasis. Mr. Hamilton, Mr.
Freeland, and the officers, now came near to Henry. Two of the
constables drew out their shining pistols, and swore by the name
of God, that he should cross his hands, or they would shoot him
down. Each of these hired ruffians now cocked their pistols,
<226>and, with fingers apparently on the triggers, presented
their deadly weapons to the breast of the unarmed slave, saying,
at the same time, if he did not cross his hands, they would "blow
his d--d heart out of him."

_"Shoot! shoot me!"_ said Henry. "_You can't kill me but once_.
Shoot!--shoot! and be d--d. _I won't be tied_." This, the brave
fellow said in a voice as defiant and heroic in its tone, as was
the language itself; and, at the moment of saying this, with the
pistols at his very breast, he quickly raised his arms, and
dashed them from the puny hands of his assassins, the weapons
flying in opposite directions. Now came the struggle. All hands
was now rushed upon the brave fellow, and, after beating him for
some time, they succeeded in overpowering and tying him. Henry
put me to shame; he fought, and fought bravely. John and I had
made no resistance. The fact is, I never see much use in
fighting, unless there is a reasonable probability of whipping
somebody. Yet there was something almost providential in the
resistance made by the gallant Henry. But for that resistance,
every soul of us would have been hurried off to the far south.
Just a moment previous to the trouble with Henry, Mr. Hamilton
_mildly_ said--and this gave me the unmistakable clue to the
cause of our arrest--"Perhaps we had now better make a search for
those protections, which we understand Frederick has written for
himself and the rest." Had these passes been found, they would
have been point blank proof against us, and would have confirmed
all the statements of our betrayer. Thanks to the resistance of
Henry, the excitement produced by the scuffle drew all attention
in that direction, and I succeeded in flinging my pass,
unobserved, into the fire. The confusion attendant upon the
scuffle, and the apprehension of further trouble, perhaps, led
our captors to forego, for the present, any search for _"those
protections" which Frederick was said to have written for his
companions_; so we were not yet convicted of the purpose to run
away; and it was evident that there was some doubt, on the part
of all, whether we had been guilty of such a purpose.
<227 THE UNIQUE SPEECH OF MRS. FREELAND>

Just as we were all completely tied, and about ready to start
toward St. Michael's, and thence to jail, Mrs. Betsey Freeland
(mother to William, who was very much attached--after the
southern fashion--to Henry and John, they having been reared from
childhood in her house) came to the kitchen door, with her hands
full of biscuits--for we had not had time to take our breakfast
that morning--and divided them between Henry and John. This
done, the lady made the following parting address to me, looking
and pointing her bony finger at me. "You devil! you yellow
devil! It was you that put it into the heads of Henry and John
to run away. But for _you_, you _long legged yellow devil_,
Henry and John would never have thought of running away." I gave
the lady a look, which called forth a scream of mingled wrath and
terror, as she slammed the kitchen door, and went in, leaving me,
with the rest, in hands as harsh as her own broken voice.

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