DOUGLASS has very properly chosen to write his own Narrative, in his own style, and according to the best of his ability, rather than to employ some one else. It is, therefore, entirely his own production; and, considering how long and dark was the career he had to run as a slave,--how few have been his opportunities to improve his mind since he broke his iron fetters--it is, in my judgment, highly creditable to his head and heart. He who can peruse it without a tearful eye, a heaving breast, an afflicted spirit,--without being filled with an unutterable abhorrence of slavery and all its abettors, and animated with a determination to seek the immediate overthrow of that execrable system,--without trembling for the fate of this country in the hands of a righteous God, who is ever on the side of the oppressed, and whose arm is not shortened that it cannot save,--must have a flinty heart, and be qualified to act the part of a trafficker "in slaves and the souls of men.
Many have suffered incomparably more, while very few on the plantations have suffered less, than himself. Yet how deplorable was his situation! This Narrative contains many affecting incidents, many passages of great eloquence and power; but I think the most thrilling one of them all is the description DOUGLASS gives of his feelings, as he stood soliloquizing respecting his fate, and the chances of his one day being a freeman, on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay--viewing the receding vessels as they flew with their white wings before the breeze, and apostrophizing them as animated by the living spirit of freedom.
Who can read that passage, and be insensible to its pathos and sublimity?
Compressed into it is a whole Alexandrian library of thought, feeling, and sentiment--all that can, all that need be urged, in the form of expostulation, entreaty, rebuke, against that crime of crimes,--making man the property of his fellow-man! O, how accursed is that system, which entombs the godlike mind of man, defaces the divine image, reduces those who by creation were crowned Page x with glory and honor to a level with four-footed beasts, and exalts the dealer in human flesh above all that is called God!
Why should its existence be prolonged one hour? Is it not evil, only evil, and that continually?
What does its presence imply but the absence of all fear of God, all regard for man, on the part of the people of the United States? Heaven speed its eternal overthrow! So profoundly ignorant of the nature of slavery are many persons, that they are stubbornly incredulous whenever they read or listen to any recital of the cruelties which are daily inflicted on its victims.
They do not deny that the slaves are held as property; but that terrible fact seems to convey to their minds no idea of injustice, exposure to outrage, or savage barbarity. Tell them of cruel scourgings, of mutilations and brandings, of scenes of pollution and blood, of the banishment of all light and knowledge, and they affect to be greatly indignant at such enormous exaggerations, such wholesale misstatements, such abominable libels on the character of the southern planters!
In the first chapter, Douglass also makes mention of the hypocrisy of Christian slave owners who used religious teachings to justify their abhorrent treatment of slaves; the religious practice of slave owners is a recurrent theme in the text. McFeely, William S. In his self-emancipation from slavery, his efforts to shape his own story, and to speak his mind, he stands as an exemplar of leadership and its virtues. Over the next seven years, Douglass recalls, "I succeeded in learning to read and write. He pointed to the obviousness of the humanity of blacks, and to the hypocrisy of the apologists for slavery in America on this question: why should there be special laws prohibiting the free actions of blacks, such as rebelling against the master or any other white person, if slaves were bestial and incapable of independent, responsible behavior?
As if all these direful outrages were not the natural results of slavery! As if it were less cruel to reduce a human being to the condition of a thing, than to give him a severe flagellation, or to deprive him of necessary food and clothing! As if whips, chains, thumb-screws, paddles, bloodhounds, overseers, drivers, patrols, were not all indispensable to keep the slaves down, and to give protection to their ruthless oppressors! As if, when the marriage institution is abolished, concubinage, adultery, and incest, must not necessarily abound; when all the rights of humanity are annihilated, any barrier remains to protect the victim from the fury of the spoiler; when absolute power is assumed over life and liberty, it will not be wielded with destructive sway!
Skeptics of this character abound in society. In some few instances, their incredulity arises from a want of Page xi reflection; but, generally, it indicates a hatred of the light, a desire to shield slavery from the assaults of its foes, a contempt of the colored race, whether bond or free.
Such will try to discredit the shocking tales of slaveholding cruelty which are recorded in this truthful Narrative; but they will labor in vain. DOUGLASS has frankly disclosed the place of his birth, the names of those who claimed ownership in his body and soul, and the names also of those who committed the crimes which he has alleged against them.
His statements, therefore, may easily be disproved, if they are untrue. In the course of his Narrative, he relates two instances of murderous cruelty,--in one of which a planter deliberately shot a slave belonging to a neighboring plantation, who had unintentionally gotten within his lordly domain in quest of fish; and in the other, an overseer blew out the brains of a slave who had fled to a stream of water to escape a bloody scourging.
The Baltimore American, of March 17, , relates a similar case of atrocity, perpetrated with similar impunity--as follows" Shooting a Slave. The letter states that young Matthews had been left in charge of the farm; that he gave an order to the servant, which was disobeyed, when he proceeded to the house, obtained a gun, and, returning, shot the servant. He immediately, the letter continues, fled to his father's residence, where he still remains unmolested. By the slave code, they are adjudged to be as incompetent to testify against a white man, as though they were indeed a part of the brute creation.
Hence, there is no legal protection in fact, whatever there may be in form, for the slave population; and any amount of cruelty may be inflicted on them with impunity. Is it possible for the human mind to conceive of a more horrible state of society?
The effect of a religious profession on the conduct of southern masters is vividly described in the following Narrative, and shown to be any thing but salutary. In the nature of the case, it must be in the highest degree pernicious. The testimony of Mr. He is a felon of the highest grade. He is a man-stealer. It is of no importance what you put in the other scale. If with the former, then are you the foe of God and man. If with the latter, what are you prepared to do and dare in their behalf?
Be faithful, be vigilant, be untiring in your efforts to break every yoke, and let the oppressed go free. My Dear Friend:. You remember the old fable of "The Man and the Lion," where the lion complained that he should not be so misrepresented "when the lions write history. One might, indeed, rest sufficiently satisfied with what, it is evident, must be, in general the results of such a relation, without seeking farther to find whether they have followed in every instance.
Indeed, those who stare at the half-peck of corn a week, and love to count the lashes on the slave's back, are seldom the "stuff " out of which reformers and abolitionists are to be made. I remember that, in , many were waiting for the results of the West India experiment, before they could come into our ranks. Those "results" have come long ago; but, alas! A man must be disposed to judge of emancipation by other tests than whether it has increased the produce of sugar,--and to hate slavery for other reasons because it starves men and whips, women,--before he is ready to lay the first stone of his anti-slavery life.
Page xiv I was glad to learn, in your story, how early the most neglected of God's children waken to a sense of their rights, and of the injustice done them. Experience is a keen teacher; and long before you had mastered your A B C, or knew where the "white sails" of the Chesapeake were bound, you began, I see, to gauge the wretchedness of the slave, not by his hunger and want, not by his lashes and toil, but by the cruel and blighting death which gathers over his soul. In connection with this, there is one circumstance which makes your recollections peculiarly valuable, and renders your early insight the more remarkable.
You come from that part of the country where we are told slavery appears with its fairest features. Let us hear, then, what it is at its best estate--gaze on its bright side, if it has one; and then imagination may task her powers to add dark lines to the picture, as she travels southward to that for the colored man Valley of the Shadow of Death, where the Mississippi sweeps along. Again, we have known you long, and can put the most entire confidence in your truth, candor, and sincerity. Every one who has heard you speak has felt, and, I am confident, every one who reads your book will feel, persuaded that you give them a fair specimen of the whole truth.
No one-sided portrait,--no wholesale complaints,-- but strict justice done, whenever individual kindliness has neutralized, for a moment, the deadly system with which it was strangely allied. You have been with us, too, some years, and can fairly compare the twilight of rights, which your race enjoy at the North, with that "noon of night" under which they labor south of Mason and Dixon's line. Tell us whether, after all, the half-free colored man of Massachusetts is worse off than the pampered slave of the rice swamps!
In reading your life, no one can say that we have Page xv unfairly picked out some rare specimens of cruelty. We know that the bitter drops, which even you have drained from the cup, are no incidental aggravations, no individual ills, but such as must mingle always and necessarily in the lot of every slave. They are the essential ingredients, not the occasional results, of the system. After a two-hour long physical battle, Douglass ultimately conquers Covey.
After this fight, he is never beaten again. Douglass is not punished by the law, which is believed to be due to the fact that Covey cherishes his reputation as a "negro-breaker", which would be jeopardized if others knew what happened. When his one-year contract ends under Covey, Douglass is sent to live on William Freeland's plantation. Douglass comments on the abuse suffered under Covey, a religious man, and the relative peace under the more favourable, but more secular, Freeland.
On Freeland's plantation, Douglass befriends other slaves and teaches them how to read. Douglass and a small group of slaves make a plan to escape, but before doing so, they are caught and Douglass is put in jail.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is an memoir and treatise on abolition written by famous orator and former slave Frederick Douglass during his time in Lynn, Massachusetts. It is generally held to be the most famous of a number of. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is an memoir and treatise on abolition written by famous orator and former slave Frederick Douglass during his.
Following his release about a week later, he is sent to Baltimore once more, but this time to learn a trade. He becomes an apprentice in a shipyard under Mr. Gardner where he is disliked by several white apprentices due to his slave status and race; at one point he gets into a fight with them and they nearly gouge out his left eye. Woefully beaten, Douglass goes to Master Hugh, who is kind regarding this situation and refuses to let Douglass return to the shipyard. Master Hugh tries to find a lawyer but all refuse, saying they can only do something for a white person.
Sophia Auld, who had turned cruel under the influence of slavery, feels pity for Douglass and tends to the wound at his left eye until he is healed. At this point, Douglass is employed as a calker and receives wages, but is forced to give every cent to Master Auld in due time. Douglass eventually finds his own job and plans the date in which he will escape to the North.
He succeeds in reaching New Bedford , but does not give details of how he does so in order to protect those who helped him and to allow the possibility for other slaves escape by similar means.