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Chapter 18

_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.

Frederick Douglass

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