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Chapter 13

_The Vicissitudes of Slave Life_


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now all the property of my old master, slaves included, was in
the hands of strangers--strangers who had nothing to do in
accumulating it. Not a slave was left free. All remained
slaves, from youngest to oldest. If any one thing in my
experience, more than another, served to deepen my conviction of
the infernal character of slavery, and to fill me with
unutterable loathing of slaveholders, it was their base
ingratitude to my poor old grandmother. She had served my old
master faithfully from youth to old age. She had been the source
of all his wealth; she had peopled his plantation with slaves;
she had become a great-grandmother in his service. She had
rocked him in infancy, attended him in childhood, served him
through life, and at his death wiped from his icy brow the cold
death-sweat, and closed his eyes forever. She was nevertheless
left a slave--a slave for life--a slave in the hands of
strangers; and in their hands she saw her children, her
grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren, divided, like so many
sheep, without being gratified with the small privilege of a
single word, as to their or her own destiny. And, to cap the
climax of their base ingratitude and fiendish barbarity, my
grandmother, who was now very old, having outlived my old master
and all his children, having seen the beginning and end of all of
them, and her present owners finding she <141 DEATH OF MRS.
LUCRETIA>was of but little value, her frame already racked with
the pains of old age, and complete helplessness fast stealing
over her once active limbs, they took her to the woods, built her
a little hut, put up a little mud-chimney, and then made her
welcome to the privilege of supporting herself there in perfect
loneliness; thus virtually turning her out to die! If my poor
old grandmother now lives, she lives to suffer in utter
loneliness; she lives to remember and mourn over the loss of
children, the loss of grandchildren, and the loss of great-
grandchildren. They are, in the language of the slave's poet,

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

The hearth is desolate. The children, the unconscious children,
who once sang and danced in her presence, are gone. She gropes
her way, in the darkness of age, for a drink of water. Instead
of the voices of her children, she hears by day the moans of the
dove, and by night the screams of the hideous owl. All is gloom.
The grave is at the door. And now, when weighed down by the
pains and aches of old age, when the head inclines to the feet,
when the beginning and ending of human existence meet, and
helpless infancy and painful old age combine together--at this
time, this most needful time, the time for the exercise of that
tenderness and affection which children only can exercise toward
a declining parent--my poor old grandmother, the devoted mother
of twelve children, is left all alone, in yonder little hut,
before a few dim embers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frederick Douglass

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