My Bondage and My Freedom (1855)

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Frederick Douglass
Frederick douglass signature

MY BONDAGE

 

AND

 

MY FREEDOM.

 

Part I.—Life as a Slave. Part II.—Life as a Freeman.

 

By FREDERICK DOUGLASS.

 

WITH

AN INTRODUCTION.

 

By DR. JAMES M'CUNE SMITH.




By a principle essential to Christianity, a person is eternally differenced from a
thing; so that the idea of a human being, necessarily excludes the idea of property
in that being.

Coleridge.



NEW YORK AND AUBURN:

MILLER, ORTON & MULLIGAN.

New York: 25 Park Row.—Auburn: 107 Genesee-st.

1855.


Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year one thousand eight hundred and flfty-flve,
BY FREDERICK DOUGLASS,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Northern District of New York.


 

AUBURN:
MILLER, ORTON & MULLIGAN,
STEREOTYPERS AND PRINTERS.

TO

HONORABLE GERRIT SMITH,

AS A SLIGHT TOKEN OF

ESTEEM FOR HIS CHARACTER,

ADMIRATION FOR HIS GENIUS AND BENEVOLENCE,

AFFECTION FOR HIS PERSON, AND

GRATITUDE FOR HIS FRIENDSHIP,

AND AS

A Small but most Sincere Acknowledgment of

HIS PRE-EMINENT SERVICES IN BEHALF OF THE RIGHTS AND LIBERTIES

OF AN

AFFILICTED, DESPISED AND DEEPLY OUTRAGED PEOPLE,

BY RANKING SLAVERY WITH PIRACY AND MURDER,

AND BY

DENYING IT EITHER A LEGAL OR CONSTITUTIONAL EXISTENCE,

This Volume is Respectfully Dedicated,

BY HIS FAITHFUL AND FIRMLY ATTACHED FRIEND,

FREDERICK DOUGLASS.

ROCHESTER, N. Y.

 

EDITOR'S PREFACE.



If the volume now presented to the public were a mere work of Art, the history of its misfortune might be written in two very simple words—too late. The nature and character of slavery have been subjects of an almost endless variety of artistic representation; and after the brilliant achievements in that field, and while those achievements are yet fresh in the memory of the million, he who would add another to the legion, must possess the charm of transcendent excellence, or apologize for something worse than rashness. The reader is, therefore, assured, with all due promptitude, that his attention is not invited to a work of Art, but to a work of Facts—Facts, terrible and almost incredible, it may be—yet Facts, nevertheless.

I am authorized to say that there is not a fictitious name nor place in the whole volume; but that names and places are literally given, and that every transaction therein described actually transpired.

Perhaps the best Preface to this volume is furnished in the following letter of Mr. Douglass, written in answer to my urgent solicitation for such a work:


Rochester, N. Y. July 2, 1855.

Dear Friend: I have long entertained, as you very well know, a somewhat positive repugnance to writing or speaking anything for the public, which could, with any degree of plausibility, make me liable to the imputation of seeking personal notoriety, for its own sake. Entertaining that feeling very sincerely, and permitting its control, perhaps, quite unreasonably, I have often refused to narrate my personal experience in public anti-slavery meetings, and in sympathizing circles, when urged to do so by friends, with whose views and wishes, ordinarily, it were a pleasure to comply. In my letters and speeches, I have generally aimed to discuss the question of Slavery in the light of fundamental principles, and upon facts, notorious and open to all; making, I trust, no more of the fact of my own former enslavement, than circumstances seemed absolutely to require. I have never placed my opposition to slavery on a basis so narrow as my own enslavement, but rather upon the indestructible and unchangeable laws of human nature, every one of which is perpetually and flagrantly violated by the slave system. I have also felt that it was best for those having histories worth the writing—or supposed to be so—to commit such work to hands other than their own. To write of one's self, in such a manner as not to incur the imputation of weakness, vanity, and egotism, is a work within the ability of but few; and I have little reason to believe that I belong to that fortunate few.

These considerations caused me to hesitate, when first you kindly urged me to prepare for publication a full account of my life as a slave, and my life as a freeman.

Nevertheless, I see, with you, many reasons for regarding my autobiography as exceptional in its character, and as being, in some sense, naturally beyond the reach of those reproaches which honorable and sensitive minds dislike to incur. It is not to illustrate any heroic achievements of a man, but to vindicate a just and beneficent principle, in its application to the whole human family, by letting in the light of truth upon a system, esteemed by some as a blessing, and by others as a curse and a crime. I agree with you, that this system is now at the bar of public opinion—not only of this country, but of the whole civilized world—for judgment. Its friends have made for it the usual plea—"not guilty;" the case must, therefore, proceed. Any facts, either from slaves, slaveholders, or by-standers, calculated to enlighten the public mind, by revealing the true nature, character, and tendency of the slave system, are in order, and can scarcely be innocently withheld.

I see, too, that there are special reasons why I should write my own biography, in preference to employing another to do it. Not only is slavery on trial, but unfortunately, the enslaved people are also on trial. It is alleged, that they are, naturally, inferior; that they are so low in the scale of humanity, and so utterly stupid, that they are unconscious of their wrongs, and do not apprehend their rights. Looking, then, at your request, from this stand-point, and wishing everything of which you think me capable to go to the benefit of my afflicted people, I part with my doubts and hesitation, and proceed to furnish you the desired manuscript; hoping that you may be able to make such arrangements for its publication as shall be best adapted to accomplish that good which you so enthusiastically anticipate.

Frederick Douglass.


There was little necessity for doubt and hesitation on the part of Mr. Douglass, as to the propriety of his giving to the world a full account of himself. A man who was born and brought up in slavery, a living witness of its horrors; who often himself experienced its cruelties; and who, despite the depressing influences surrounding his birth, youth and manhood, has risen, from a dark and almost absolute obscurity, to the distinguished position which he now occupies, might very well assume the existence of a commendable curiosity, on the part of the public, to know the facts of his remarkable history.

Editor.

 

 

CONTENTS.








PAGE.
Introduction, 17
Chapter I.
THE AUTHOR'S CHILDHOOD.
Place of Birth, 33
Character of the District, 34
Time of Birth—My Grandparents, 35
Character of my Grandmother, 36
The Log Cabin—Its Charms, 37
First Knowledge of being a Slave, 38
Old Master—Griefs and Joys of Childhood, 39
Comparative Happiness of the Slave-Boy and his White Brother, 40
Chapter II.
THE AUTHOR REMOVED FROM HIS FIRST HOME.
The name "Old Master" a Terror, 43
Home Attractions—Dread of being removed from Tuckahoe, 44
The Journey to Col. Lloyd's Plantation, 46
Scene on reaching Old Master's, 47
First Meeting with my Brothers and Sisters, 48
Departure of Grandmother—Author's Grief, 49
Chapter III.
THE AUTHOR'S PARENTAGE.
Author's Father shrouded in Mystery, 51
My Mother—Her Personal Appearance, 52
Her Situation—Visits to her Boy, 53
Cruelty of "Aunt Katy"—Threatened Starvation, 55
My Mother's Interference, 56
Her Death, 57
Her Love of Knowledge, 58
Penalty for having a White Father, 59
Chapter IV.
A GENERAL SURVEY OF THE SLAVE PLANTATION.
Slaveholding Cruelty restrained by Public Opinion, 61
Isolation of Lloyd's Plantation, 62
Beyond the reach of Public Opinion, 53
Religion and Politics alike Excluded, 64
Natural and Artificial Charms of the Place, 65
The "Great House," 67
Etiquette among Slaves, 69
The Comic Slave-Doctor, 70
Praying and Flogging, 71
Business of Old Master, 73
Sufferings from Hunger, 75
Jargon of the Plantation, 76
Family of Col. Lloyd—Mas' Daniel, 77
Family of Old Master—Social Position, 78
Chapter V.
GRADUAL INITIATION INTO THE MYSTERIES OF SLAVERY.
Growing Acquaintance with Old Master—His Character, 79
Evils of Unrestrained Passion—A Man of Trouble, 80
Supposed Obtuseness of Slave-Children, 81
Brutal Outrage on my Aunt Milly by a drunken Overseer, 82
Slaveholders' Impatience at Appeals against Cruelty, 83
Wisdom of appealing to Superiors, 84
Attempt to break up a Courtship, 85
Slavery destroys all Incentives to a Virtuous Life, 86
A Harrowing Scene, 87
Chapter VI.
TREATMENT OF SLAVES ON LLOYD'S PLANTATION.
The Author's Early Reflections on Slavery, 89
Conclusions at which he Arrived, 90
Presentiment of one day being a Freeman, 91
Combat between an Overseer and & Slave-Woman, 92
Nelly's noble Resistance, 94
Advantages of Resistance, 95
Mr. Sevier, the brutal Overseer, and his Successors, 96
Allowance-day on the Home Plantation, 97
The Singing of the Slaves no Proof of Contentment, 98
Food and Clothing of the Slaves, 100
Naked Children, 101
Nursing Children carried to the Field, 102
Description of the Cowskin, 103
Manner of making the Ash Cake—The Dinner Hour, 104
Contrast at the Great House, 105
Chapter VII.
LIFE IN THE GREAT HOUSE.
Comfort And Luxuries—Elaborate Expenditure, 107
Men and Maid Servants—Black Aristocracy, 109
Stable and Carriage House, 110
Deceptive Character of Slavery, 111
Slaves and Slaveholders alike Unhappy, 112
Fretfulness and Capriciousness of Slaveholders, 113
Whipping of Old Barney by Col. Lloyd, 114
William Wilks, a supposed son of Col. Lloyd, 115
Curious Incident—Penalty of telling the Truth, 116
Preference of Slaves for Rich Masters, 118
Chapter VIII.
A CHAPTER OF HORRORS.
Austin Gore—Sketch of his Character, 119
Absolute Power of Overseers, 121
Murder of Denby—How it Occurred, 122
How Gore made Peace with Col. Lloyd, 123
Murder of a Slave-girl by Mrs. Hicks, 125
No Laws for the Protection of Slaves can be Enforced, 127
Chapter IX.
PERSONAL TREATMENT OF THE AUTHOR.
Miss Lucretia Auld—Her Kindness, 129
A Battle with "Ike," and its Consequences, 130
Beams of Sunlight, 131
Suffering from Cold—How we took our Meals, 132
Orders to prepare to go to Baltimore—Extraordinary Cleansing, 134
Cousin Tom's Description of Baltimore, 135
The Journey, 136
Arrival at Baltimore, 137
Kindness of my new Mistress—Little Tommy, 138
A Turning Point in my History, 139
Chapter X.
LIFE IN BALTIMORE.
City Annoyances—Plantation Regrets, 141
My Improved Condition, 142
Character of my new Master, Hugh Auld, 143
My Occupation—Increased Sensitiveness, 144
Commencement of Learning to Read—Why Discontinued, 145
Master Hugh's Exposition of the true Philosophy of Slavery, 146
Increased Determination to Learn, 147
Contrast between City and Plantation Slaves, 148
Mrs. Hamilton's Brutal Treatment of her Slaves, 149
Chapter XI.
"A CHANGE CAME O'ER THE SPIRIT OF MY DREAM."
Knowledge Acquired by Stealth, 151
My Mistress—Her Slaveholding Duties, 152
Deplorable Effects on her Character, 153
How I pursued my Education—My Tutors, 155
My Deliberations on the Character of Slavery, 156
The Columbian Orator and its Lessons, 157
Speeches of Chatham, Sheridan, Pitt, and Fox, 158
Knowledge ever Increasing—My Eyes Opened, 159
How I pined for Liberty, 160
Dissatisfaction of my poor Mistress, 161
Chapter XII.
RELIGIOUS NATURE AWAKENED.
Abolitionists spoken of, 163
Eagerness to know what the word meant, 164
The Enigma solved—Turner's Insurrection, 165
First Awakened on the subject of Religion, 166
My Friend Lawson—His Character and Occupation, 167
Comfort Derived from his Teaching, 168
New Hopes and Aspirations, 169
The Irishmen on the Wharf—Their Sympathy, 170
How I learned to Write, 171
Chapter XIII.
THE VICISSITUDES OF SLAVE LIFE.
Death of Young Master Richard, 173
Author's Presence required at the Division of Old Master's Property, 174
Attachment of Slaves to their Homes, 176
Sad Prospects and Grief, 177
General Dread of Master Andrew—His Cruelty, 178
Return to Baltimore—Death of Mistress Lucretia, 179
My poor old Grandmother—Her sad Fate, 180
Second Marriage of Master Thomas, 181
Again Removed from Master Hugh's, 182
Regrets at Leaving Baltimore, 183
A Plan of Escape Entertained, 184
Chapter XIV.
EXPERIENCE IN ST. MICHAEL'S.
The Village and its Inhabitants, 185
Meteoric Phenomena—Author's Impressions, 186
Character of my new Master and Mistress, 187
Allowance of Food—Sufferings from Hunger, 188
Stealing and its Vindication, 189
A new Profession of Faith, 190
Morality of Free Society has no Application to Slave Society, 191
Southern Camp-Meeting—Master Thomas professes Conversion, 193
Hopes and Suspicions, 194
The Result—Faith and Works entirely at Variance, 195
No more Meal brought from the Mill—Methodist Preachers, 197
Their utter Disregard of the Slaves—An Exception, 198
A Sabbath School Instituted, 199
How broken up and by whom, 200
Cruel Treatment of Cousin Henny by Master Thomas, 201
Differences with Master Thomas, and the Consequences, 202
Edward Covey—His Character, 203
Chapter XV.
COVEY, THE NEGRO-BREAKER.
Journey to my new Master's, 205
Meditations by the way, 206
View of Covey's Residence—The Family, 207
Awkwardness as a Field Hand, 208
First Adventure at Ox Driving, 209
Unruly Animals—Hair-breadth Escapes, 211
Oxen and Men—Points of Similarity, 212
Sent back to the Woods, 213
Covey's Manner of proceeding to Whip, 214
His Cunning and Trickery—Severe Labor, 215
Family Worship, 217
Shocking Contempt for Chastity—An Illustration, 218
Author Broken Down—His only Leisure Time, 219
Freedom of the Ships and his own Slavery Contrasted, 220
Anguish beyond Description, 221
Chapter XVI.
ANOTHER PRESSURE OF THE TYRANT'S VICE.
Experience at Covey's summed up, 222
Scene in the Treading Yard, 223
Author taken Ill, 224
Unusual Brutality of Covey, 225
Escape to St Michael's—Suffering in the Woods, 227
Circumstances Narrated to Master Thomas—His Bearing, 229
The Case Prejudged—Driven back to Covey's, 231
Chapter XVII.
THE LAST FLOGGING.
A Sleepless Night—Return to Covey's, 233
His Conduct—Again Escape to the Woods, 234
Deplorable Spectacle—Night in the Woods, 235
An Alarm—A Friend, not an Enemy, 236
Sandy's Hospitality—The Ash Cake Supper, 237
A Conjuror—His Advice—The Magic Root, 238
Want of Faith—The Talisman Accepted, 239
Meeting with Covey—His Sunday Face, 240
His Manner on Monday—A Defensive Resolve, 241
A Rough and Tumble Fight, 242
Unexpected Resistance, 243
Covey's Ineffectual Commands for Assistance, 244
The Victory and its Results, 246
Effects upon my own Character, 247
Chapter XVIII.
NEW RELATIONS AND DUTIES.
Change of Masters—Resolve to Fight my Way, 250
Ability to Read a cause of Prejudice, 251
Manner of Spending the Holidays, 252
The Effects—Sharp hit at Slavery, 253
A Device of Slavery, 255
Difference between Master Freeland and Covey, 257
An Irreligious Master Preferred—The Reasons Why, 258
The Reverend Rigby Hopkins, 259
Catalogue of Floggable Offenses, 260
Rivalry among Slaves Encouraged, 261
Improved Condition at Freeland's, 262
Reasons for continued Discontent, 263
Congenial Society—The Sabbath School, 264
Its Members—Necessity for Secrecy, 265
Affectionate Relations of Master and Pupils, 267
Confidence and Friendship among Slaves, 268
Slavery the Inviter of Vengeance, 269
Chapter XIX.
THE RUNAWAY PLOT.
New Year's Thoughts and Reflections, 271
Again hired by Freeland, 272
Still Devising Plans for gaining Freedom, 273
A Solemn Vow—Plan Divulged to the Slaves, 274
Arguments in its Support—The Scheme gains Favor, 275
Danger of Discovery—Difficulty of Concealment, 276
Skill of Slaveholders—Suspicion and Coercion, 277
Hymns with a Double Meaning, 278
Author's Confederates—His Influence over them, 279
Preliminary Consultations—Pass-Words, 280
Conflict of Hopes and Fears—Ignorance of Geography, 281
Survey of Imaginary Difficulties, 282
Effect upon our Minds, 283
Sandy becomes a Dreamer, 284
Route to the North laid out—Objections Considered, 285
Frauds Practiced on Freemen—Passes Written, 286
Anxieties as the Time drew near, 287
Appeals to Comrades—A Presentiment, 289
The Betrayal Discovered, 290
Manner of Arresting us, 291
Resistance made by Henry Harris—Its Effects, 292
Unique Speech of Mrs. Freeland, 294
Our Sad Procession to Easton, 295
Passes Eaten—The Examination at St. Michael's, 296
No Evidence Produced—Who was the Betrayer? 297
Dragged behind Horses—The Jail a Relief, 298
A New set of Tormentors, 299
Release of my Companions, 300
Author taken out of Prison and sent to Baltimore, 302
Chapter XX.
APPRENTICESHIP LIFE.
Nothing Lost by the Attempt to Run Away, 304
Reasons for sending the Author Away, 305
Unlooked for Clemency in Master Thomas, 306
Return to Baltimore—Change in Little Tommy, 307
Trials in Gardiner's Ship Yard, 308
Desperate Fight with the White Apprentices, 309
Conflict between White and Black Labor, 310
Description of the Outrage, 313
Conduct of Master Hugh, 315
Testimony of a Colored Man Nothing, 316
Spirit of Slavery in Baltimore, 317
Author's Condition Improves, 318
New Associates—Benefits derived therefrom, 319
How to make a Contented Slave, 320
Chapter XXI.
MY ESCAPE FROM SLAVERY.
Manner of Escape not given—Reasons why, 321
Craftiness and Malice of Slaveholders, 322
Want of Wisdom in Publishing Details of Escape, 324
Suspicions Implied by Master Hugh's Manner, 325
Difficulty of Escape—Discontent, 326
Author allowed to Hire his Time, 327
A Gleam of Hope—Hard Terms, 328
Author attends Camp Meeting without Permission, 329
Anger of Master Hugh thereat, 330
Plans of Escape Accelerated thereby, 332
Painful Thoughts of Separation from Friends, 333
The Attempt made—Its Success, 334
Chapter XXII.
LIBERTY ATTAINED.
Author a Wanderer in New York—Feelings on Reaching that City, 336
An Old Acquaintance met, 337
Unfavorable Impressions—Loneliness and Insecurity, 338
Apology for Slaves who Return to their Masters, 339
Make known my Condition—David Ruggles, 340
Author's Marriage—Removal to New Bedford, 341
Kindness of Nathan Johnson—Change of Name, 342
Dark Notions of Northern Civilization enlightened, 344
Contrast between the North and the South, 345
Colored People in New Bedford, 346
An Incident Illustrating their Spirit, 347
The Author finds Employment, 348
Denied Work at his Trade, 349
The first Winter at the North, 350
Proscription in the Church, 351
An Incident at the Communion Table, 353
First Acquaintance with the Liberator, 354
Character of its Editor, 355
Prompt Attendance at Anti-Slavery Meetings, 356
Chapter XXIII.
INTRODUCED TO THE ABOLITIONISTS.
Anti-Slavery Convention at Nantucket, 357
Author's First Speech, 358
Becomes a Public Lecturer, 359
Youthful Enthusiasm, 360
Difficulties in his Position, 361
His Fugitive Slaveship Doubted, 362
Publishes his Narrative—Danger of Recapture, 363
Advised not to Publish his Story, 364
Chapter XXIV.
TWENTY-ONE MONTHS IN GREAT BRITAIN.
Good arising out of Unpropitious Events, 365
Embarks for England—Denied Cabin Passage, 366
Mob on board the Cambria—Happy Introduction to the British Public, 367
Letter to Mr. Garrison, 368
"We dont allow Niggers in here," 371
Time and Labors Abroad, 373
Freedom Purchased—Free Papers, 374
Abolitionists Displeased with the Ransom, 375
How the Author's Energies were Directed in Great Britain, 376
Reception Speech in Finsbury Chapel, London, 377
Character of the Speech Defended, 378
Causes Contributing to my Success, 380
The Free Church of Scotland—Its Position, 381
Agitation of the Slavery Question, 382
Debates in the General Assembly—"Send back the Money," 383
Dr. Cunningham's Speech—A Striking Incident, 385
The World's Temperance Convention—Collision with Dr. Cox, 387
Proposed Testimonial to the Author, 388
Project of Establishing a Newspaper, 389
Return to America—Again Denied Cabin Passage, 390
Chapter XXV.
VARIOUS INCIDENTS.
Unexpected Opposition to my Newspaper Enterprise, 392
The Objections to it—Their Plausibility Admitted, 393
Motives for going to Rochester, 395
A Change of Opinions—Causes leading to it, 396
Prejudice against Color—The "Jim Crow Car," 399
An Amusing Domestic Scene, 401
The Author in High Company, 403
Elevation of the Free People of Color—Pledge for the Future, 405
Appendix.
EXTRACTS FROM SPEECHES, ETC.
Reception Speech at Finsbury Chapel, Moorfields, England, 407
Letter to his Old Master, 421
The Nature of Slavery, 429
Inhumanity of Slavery, 435
What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? 441
The Internal Slave Trade, 446
The Slavery Party, 451
The Anti-Slavery Movement, 457

This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.