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Chapter 4

_A General Survey of the Slave Plantation_


It is generally supposed that slavery, in the state of Maryland,
exists in its mildest form, and that it is totally divested of
those harsh and terrible peculiarities, which mark and
characterize the slave system, in the southern and south-western
states of the American union. The argument in favor of this
opinion, is the contiguity of the free states, and the exposed
condition of slavery in Maryland to the moral, religious and
humane sentiment of the free states.

I am not about to refute this argument, so far as it relates to
slavery in that state, generally; on the contrary, I am willing
to admit that, to this general point, the arguments is well
grounded. Public opinion is, indeed, an unfailing restraint upon
the cruelty and barbarity of masters, overseers, and slave-
drivers, whenever and wherever it can reach them; but there are
certain secluded and out-of-the-way places, even in the state of
Maryland, seldom visited by a single ray of healthy public
sentiment--<48>where slavery, wrapt in its own congenial,
midnight darkness, _can_, and _does_, develop all its malign and
shocking characteristics; where it can be indecent without shame,
cruel without shuddering, and murderous without apprehension or
fear of exposure.

Just such a secluded, dark, and out-of-the-way place, is the
"home plantation" of Col. Edward Lloyd, on the Eastern Shore,
Maryland. It is far away from all the great thoroughfares, and
is proximate to no town or village. There is neither school-
house, nor town-house in its neighborhood. The school-house is
unnecessary, for there are no children to go to school. The
children and grand-children of Col. Lloyd were taught in the
house, by a private tutor--a Mr. Page a tall, gaunt sapling of a
man, who did not speak a dozen words to a slave in a whole year.
The overseers' children go off somewhere to school; and they,
therefore, bring no foreign or dangerous influence from abroad,
to embarrass the natural operation of the slave system of the
place. Not even the mechanics--through whom there is an
occasional out-burst of honest and telling indignation, at
cruelty and wrong on other plantations--are white men, on this
plantation. Its whole public is made up of, and divided into,
blacksmiths, wheelwrights, shoemakers, weavers, and coopers, are
slaves. Not even commerce, selfish and iron-hearted at it is,
and ready, as it ever is, to side with the strong against the
weak--the rich against the poor--is trusted or permitted within
its secluded precincts. Whether with a view of guarding against
the escape of its secrets, I know not, but it is a fact, the
every leaf and grain of the produce of this plantation, and those
of the neighboring farms belonging to Col. Lloyd, are transported
to Baltimore in Col. Lloyd's own vessels; every man and boy on
board of which--except the captain--are owned by him. In return,
everything brought to the plantation, comes through the same
channel. Thus, even the glimmering and unsteady light of trade,
which sometimes exerts a civilizing influence, is excluded from
this "tabooed" spot.

Nearly all the plantations or farms in the vicinity of the "home
plantation" of Col. Lloyd, belong to him; and those which do not,
are owned by personal friends of his, as deeply interested in
maintaining the slave system, in all its rigor, as Col. Lloyd
himself. Some of his neighbors are said to be even more
stringent than he. The Skinners, the Peakers, the Tilgmans, the
Lockermans, and the Gipsons, are in the same boat; being
slaveholding neighbors, they may have strengthened each other in
their iron rule. They are on intimate terms, and their interests
and tastes are identical.

Public opinion in such a quarter, the reader will see, is not
likely to very efficient in protecting the slave from cruelty.
On the contrary, it must increase and intensify his wrongs.
Public opinion seldom differs very widely from public practice.
To be a restraint upon cruelty and vice, public opinion must
emanate from a humane and virtuous community. To no such humane
and virtuous community, is Col. Lloyd's plantation exposed. That
plantation is a little nation of its own, having its own
language, its own rules, regulations and customs. The laws and
institutions of the state, apparently touch it nowhere. The
troubles arising here, are not settled by the civil power of the
state. The overseer is generally accuser, judge, jury, advocate
and executioner. The criminal is always dumb. The overseer
attends to all sides of a case.

There are no conflicting rights of property, for all the people
are owned by one man; and they can themselves own no property.
Religion and politics are alike excluded. One class of the
population is too high to be reached by the preacher; and the
other class is too low to be cared for by the preacher. The poor
have the gospel preached to them, in this neighborhood, only when
they are able to pay for it. The slaves, having no money, get no
gospel. The politician keeps away, because the people have no
votes, and the preacher keeps away, because the people have no
money. The rich planter can afford to learn politics in the
parlor, and to dispense with religion altogether.

In its isolation, seclusion, and self-reliant independence, Col.
Lloyd's plantation resembles what the baronial domains were
during the middle ages in Europe. Grim, cold, and unapproachable
by all genial influences from communities without, _there it
stands;_ full three hundred years behind the age, in all that
relates to humanity and morals.

This, however, is not the only view that the place presents.
Civilization is shut out, but nature cannot be. Though separated
from the rest of the world; though public opinion, as I have
said, seldom gets a chance to penetrate its dark domain; though
the whole place is stamped with its own peculiar, ironlike
individuality; and though crimes, high-handed and atrocious, may
there be committed, with almost as much impunity as upon the deck
of a pirate ship--it is, nevertheless, altogether, to outward
seeming, a most strikingly interesting place, full of life,
activity, and spirit; and presents a very favorable contrast to
the indolent monotony and languor of Tuckahoe. Keen as was my
regret and great as was my sorrow at leaving the latter, I was
not long in adapting myself to this, my new home. A man's
troubles are always half disposed of, when he finds endurance his
only remedy. I found myself here; there was no getting away; and
what remained for me, but to make the best of it? Here were
plenty of children to play with, and plenty of places of pleasant
resort for boys of my age, and boys older. The little tendrils
of affection, so rudely and treacherously broken from around the
darling objects of my grandmother's hut, gradually began to
extend, and to entwine about the new objects by which I now found
myself surrounded.

There was a windmill (always a commanding object to a child's
eye) on Long Point--a tract of land dividing Miles river from the
Wye a mile or more from my old master's house. There was a creek
to swim in, at the bottom of an open flat space, of twenty acres
or more, called "the Long Green"--a very beautiful play-ground
for the children.

In the river, a short distance from the shore, lying quietly at
anchor, with her small boat dancing at her stern, was a large
sloop--the Sally Lloyd; called by that name in honor of a
favorite daughter of the colonel. The sloop and the mill were
wondrous things, full of thoughts and ideas. A child cannot well
look at such objects without _thinking_.

Then here were a great many houses; human habitations, full of
the mysteries of life at every stage of it. There was the little
red house, up the road, occupied by Mr. Sevier, the overseer. A
little nearer to my old master's, stood a very long, rough, low
building, literally alive with slaves, of all ages, conditions
and sizes. This was called "the Longe Quarter." Perched upon a
hill, across the Long Green, was a very tall, dilapidated, old
brick building--the architectural dimensions of which proclaimed
its erection for a different purpose--now occupied by slaves, in
a similar manner to the Long Quarter. Besides these, there were
numerous other slave houses and huts, scattered around in the
neighborhood, every nook and corner of which was completely
occupied. Old master's house, a long, brick building, plain, but
substantial, stood in the center of the plantation life, and
constituted one independent establishment on the premises of Col.

Besides these dwellings, there were barns, stables, store-houses,
and tobacco-houses; blacksmiths' shops, wheelwrights' shops,
coopers' shops--all objects of interest; but, above all, there
stood the grandest building my eyes had then ever beheld, called,
by every one on the plantation, the "Great House." This was
occupied by Col. Lloyd and his family. They occupied it; _I_
enjoyed it. The great house was surrounded by numerous and
variously shaped out-buildings. There were kitchens, wash-
houses, dairies, summer-house, green-houses, hen-houses, turkey-
houses, pigeon-houses, and arbors, of many sizes and devices, all
neatly painted, and altogether interspersed with grand old trees,
ornamental and primitive, which afforded delightful shade in
<52>summer, and imparted to the scene a high degree of stately
beauty. The great house itself was a large, white, wooden
building, with wings on three sides of it. In front, a large
portico, extending the entire length of the building, and
supported by a long range of columns, gave to the whole
establishment an air of solemn grandeur. It was a treat to my
young and gradually opening mind, to behold this elaborate
exhibition of wealth, power, and vanity. The carriage entrance
to the house was a large gate, more than a quarter of a mile
distant from it; the intermediate space was a beautiful lawn,
very neatly trimmed, and watched with the greatest care. It was
dotted thickly over with delightful trees, shrubbery, and
flowers. The road, or lane, from the gate to the great house,
was richly paved with white pebbles from the beach, and, in its
course, formed a complete circle around the beautiful lawn.
Carriages going in and retiring from the great house, made the
circuit of the lawn, and their passengers were permitted to
behold a scene of almost Eden-like beauty. Outside this select
inclosure, were parks, where as about the residences of the
English nobility--rabbits, deer, and other wild game, might be
seen, peering and playing about, with none to molest them or make
them afraid. The tops of the stately poplars were often covered
with the red-winged black-birds, making all nature vocal with the
joyous life and beauty of their wild, warbling notes. These all
belonged to me, as well as to Col. Edward Lloyd, and for a time I
greatly enjoyed them.

A short distance from the great house, were the stately mansions
of the dead, a place of somber aspect. Vast tombs, embowered
beneath the weeping willow and the fir tree, told of the
antiquities of the Lloyd family, as well as of their wealth.
Superstition was rife among the slaves about this family burying
ground. Strange sights had been seen there by some of the older
slaves. Shrouded ghosts, riding on great black horses, had been
seen to enter; balls of fire had been seen to fly there at
midnight, and horrid sounds had been repeatedly heard. Slaves
know <53 WEALTH OF COLONEL LLOYD>enough of the rudiments of
theology to believe that those go to hell who die slaveholders;
and they often fancy such persons wishing themselves back again,
to wield the lash. Tales of sights and sounds, strange and
terrible, connected with the huge black tombs, were a very great
security to the grounds about them, for few of the slaves felt
like approaching them even in the day time. It was a dark,
gloomy and forbidding place, and it was difficult to feel that
the spirits of the sleeping dust there deposited, reigned with
the blest in the realms of eternal peace.

The business of twenty or thirty farms was transacted at this,
called, by way of eminence, "great house farm." These farms all
belonged to Col. Lloyd, as did, also, the slaves upon them. Each
farm was under the management of an overseer. As I have said of
the overseer of the home plantation, so I may say of the
overseers on the smaller ones; they stand between the slave and
all civil constitutions--their word is law, and is implicitly

The colonel, at this time, was reputed to be, and he apparently
was, very rich. His slaves, alone, were an immense fortune.
These, small and great, could not have been fewer than one
thousand in number, and though scarcely a month passed without
the sale of one or more lots to the Georgia traders, there was no
apparent diminution in the number of his human stock: the home
plantation merely groaned at a removal of the young increase, or
human crop, then proceeded as lively as ever. Horse-shoeing,
cart-mending, plow-repairing, coopering, grinding, and weaving,
for all the neighboring farms, were performed here, and slaves
were employed in all these branches. "Uncle Tony" was the
blacksmith; "Uncle Harry" was the cartwright; "Uncle Abel" was
the shoemaker; and all these had hands to assist them in their
several departments.

These mechanics were called "uncles" by all the younger slaves,
not because they really sustained that relationship to any, but
according to plantation _etiquette_, as a mark of respect, due
<54>from the younger to the older slaves. Strange, and even
ridiculous as it may seem, among a people so uncultivated, and
with so many stern trials to look in the face, there is not to be
found, among any people, a more rigid enforcement of the law of
respect to elders, than they maintain. I set this down as partly
constitutional with my race, and partly conventional. There is
no better material in the world for making a gentleman, than is
furnished in the African. He shows to others, and exacts for
himself, all the tokens of respect which he is compelled to
manifest toward his master. A young slave must approach the
company of the older with hat in hand, and woe betide him, if he
fails to acknowledge a favor, of any sort, with the accustomed
_"tank'ee,"_ &c. So uniformly are good manners enforced among
slaves, I can easily detect a "bogus" fugitive by his manners.

Among other slave notabilities of the plantation, was one called
by everybody Uncle Isaac Copper. It is seldom that a slave gets
a surname from anybody in Maryland; and so completely has the
south shaped the manners of the north, in this respect, that even
abolitionists make very little of the surname of a Negro. The
only improvement on the "Bills," "Jacks," "Jims," and "Neds" of
the south, observable here is, that "William," "John," "James,"
"Edward," are substituted. It goes against the grain to treat
and address a Negro precisely as they would treat and address a
white man. But, once in a while, in slavery as in the free
states, by some extraordinary circumstance, the Negro has a
surname fastened to him, and holds it against all
conventionalities. This was the case with Uncle Isaac Copper.
When the "uncle" was dropped, he generally had the prefix
"doctor," in its stead. He was our doctor of medicine, and
doctor of divinity as well. Where he took his degree I am unable
to say, for he was not very communicative to inferiors, and I was
emphatically such, being but a boy seven or eight years old. He
was too well established in his profession to permit questions as
to his native skill, or his attainments. One qualification he
undoubtedly had--he <55 PRAYING AND FLOGGING>was a confirmed
_cripple;_ and he could neither work, nor would he bring anything
if offered for sale in the market. The old man, though lame, was
no sluggard. He was a man that made his crutches do him good
service. He was always on the alert, looking up the sick, and
all such as were supposed to need his counsel. His remedial
prescriptions embraced four articles. For diseases of the body,
_Epsom salts and castor oil;_ for those of the soul, _the Lord's
Prayer_, and _hickory switches_!

I was not long at Col. Lloyd's before I was placed under the care
of Doctor Issac Copper. I was sent to him with twenty or thirty
other children, to learn the "Lord's Prayer." I found the old
gentleman seated on a huge three-legged oaken stool, armed with
several large hickory switches; and, from his position, he could
reach--lame as he was--any boy in the room. After standing
awhile to learn what was expected of us, the old gentleman, in
any other than a devotional tone, commanded us to kneel down.
This done, he commenced telling us to say everything he said.
"Our Father"--this was repeated after him with promptness and
uniformity; "Who art in heaven"--was less promptly and uniformly
repeated; and the old gentleman paused in the prayer, to give us
a short lecture upon the consequences of inattention, both
immediate and future, and especially those more immediate. About
these he was absolutely certain, for he held in his right hand
the means of bringing all his predictions and warnings to pass.
On he proceeded with the prayer; and we with our thick tongues
and unskilled ears, followed him to the best of our ability.
This, however, was not sufficient to please the old gentleman.
Everybody, in the south, wants the privilege of whipping somebody
else. Uncle Isaac shared the common passion of his country, and,
therefore, seldom found any means of keeping his disciples in
order short of flogging. "Say everything I say;" and bang would
come the switch on some poor boy's undevotional head. _"What you
looking at there"--"Stop that pushing"_--and down again would
come the lash.

The whip is all in all. It is supposed to secure obedience to
the slaveholder, and is held as a sovereign remedy among the
slaves themselves, for every form of disobedience, temporal or
spiritual. Slaves, as well as slaveholders, use it with an
unsparing hand. Our devotions at Uncle Isaac's combined too much
of the tragic and comic, to make them very salutary in a
spiritual point of view; and it is due to truth to say, I was
often a truant when the time for attending the praying and
flogging of Doctor Isaac Copper came on.

The windmill under the care of Mr. Kinney, a kind hearted old
Englishman, was to me a source of infinite interest and pleasure.
The old man always seemed pleased when he saw a troop of darkey
little urchins, with their tow-linen shirts fluttering in the
breeze, approaching to view and admire the whirling wings of his
wondrous machine. From the mill we could see other objects of
deep interest. These were, the vessels from St. Michael's, on
their way to Baltimore. It was a source of much amusement to
view the flowing sails and complicated rigging, as the little
crafts dashed by, and to speculate upon Baltimore, as to the kind
and quality of the place. With so many sources of interest
around me, the reader may be prepared to learn that I began to
think very highly of Col. L.'s plantation. It was just a place
to my boyish taste. There were fish to be caught in the creek,
if one only had a hook and line; and crabs, clams and oysters
were to be caught by wading, digging and raking for them. Here
was a field for industry and enterprise, strongly inviting; and
the reader may be assured that I entered upon it with spirit.

Even the much dreaded old master, whose merciless fiat had
brought me from Tuckahoe, gradually, to my mind, parted with his
terrors. Strange enough, his reverence seemed to take no
particular notice of me, nor of my coming. Instead of leaping
out and devouring me, he scarcely seemed conscious of my
presence. The fact is, he was occupied with matters more weighty
and important than either looking after or vexing me. He
probably thought as <57 "OLD MASTER" LOSING ITS TERRORS>little of
my advent, as he would have thought of the addition of a single
pig to his stock!

As the chief butler on Col. Lloyd's plantation, his duties were
numerous and perplexing. In almost all important matters he
answered in Col. Lloyd's stead. The overseers of all the farms
were in some sort under him, and received the law from his mouth.
The colonel himself seldom addressed an overseer, or allowed an
overseer to address him. Old master carried the keys of all
store houses; measured out the allowance for each slave at the
end of every month; superintended the storing of all goods
brought to the plantation; dealt out the raw material to all the
handicraftsmen; shipped the grain, tobacco, and all saleable
produce of the plantation to market, and had the general
oversight of the coopers' shop, wheelwrights' shop, blacksmiths'
shop, and shoemakers' shop. Besides the care of these, he often
had business for the plantation which required him to be absent
two and three days.

Thus largely employed, he had little time, and perhaps as little
disposition, to interfere with the children individually. What
he was to Col. Lloyd, he made Aunt Katy to him. When he had
anything to say or do about us, it was said or done in a
wholesale manner; disposing of us in classes or sizes, leaving
all minor details to Aunt Katy, a person of whom the reader has
already received no very favorable impression. Aunt Katy was a
woman who never allowed herself to act greatly within the margin
of power granted to her, no matter how broad that authority might
be. Ambitious, ill-tempered and cruel, she found in her present
position an ample field for the exercise of her ill-omened
qualities. She had a strong hold on old master she was
considered a first rate cook, and she really was very
industrious. She was, therefore, greatly favored by old master,
and as one mark of his favor, she was the only mother who was
permitted to retain her children around her. Even to these
children she was often fiendish in her brutality. She pursued
her son Phil, one day, in <58>my presence, with a huge butcher
knife, and dealt a blow with its edge which left a shocking gash
on his arm, near the wrist. For this, old master did sharply
rebuke her, and threatened that if she ever should do the like
again, he would take the skin off her back. Cruel, however, as
Aunt Katy was to her own children, at times she was not destitute
of maternal feeling, as I often had occasion to know, in the
bitter pinches of hunger I had to endure. Differing from the
practice of Col. Lloyd, old master, instead of allowing so much
for each slave, committed the allowance for all to the care of
Aunt Katy, to be divided after cooking it, amongst us. The
allowance, consisting of coarse corn-meal, was not very
abundant--indeed, it was very slender; and in passing through
Aunt Katy's hands, it was made more slender still, for some of
us. William, Phil and Jerry were her children, and it is not to
accuse her too severely, to allege that she was often guilty of
starving myself and the other children, while she was literally
cramming her own. Want of food was my chief trouble the first
summer at my old master's. Oysters and clams would do very well,
with an occasional supply of bread, but they soon failed in the
absence of bread. I speak but the simple truth, when I say, I
have often been so pinched with hunger, that I have fought with
the dog--"Old Nep"--for the smallest crumbs that fell from the
kitchen table, and have been glad when I won a single crumb in
the combat. Many times have I followed, with eager step, the
waiting-girl when she went out to shake the table cloth, to get
the crumbs and small bones flung out for the cats. The water, in
which meat had been boiled, was as eagerly sought for by me. It
was a great thing to get the privilege of dipping a piece of
bread in such water; and the skin taken from rusty bacon, was a
positive luxury. Nevertheless, I sometimes got full meals and
kind words from sympathizing old slaves, who knew my sufferings,
and received the comforting assurance that I should be a man some
day. "Never mind, honey--better day comin'," was even then a
solace, a cheering consolation to me in my <59 JARGON OF THE
PLANTATION>troubles. Nor were all the kind words I received from
slaves. I had a friend in the parlor, as well, and one to whom I
shall be glad to do justice, before I have finished this part of
my story.

I was not long at old master's, before I learned that his surname
was Anthony, and that he was generally called "Captain Anthony"--
a title which he probably acquired by sailing a craft in the
Chesapeake Bay. Col. Lloyd's slaves never called Capt. Anthony
"old master," but always Capt. Anthony; and _me_ they called
"Captain Anthony Fred." There is not, probably, in the whole
south, a plantation where the English language is more
imperfectly spoken than on Col. Lloyd's. It is a mixture of
Guinea and everything else you please. At the time of which I am
now writing, there were slaves there who had been brought from
the coast of Africa. They never used the "s" in indication of
the possessive case. "Cap'n Ant'ney Tom," "Lloyd Bill," "Aunt
Rose Harry," means "Captain Anthony's Tom," "Lloyd's Bill," &c.
_"Oo you dem long to?"_ means, "Whom do you belong to?" _"Oo dem
got any peachy?"_ means, "Have you got any peaches?" I could
scarcely understand them when I first went among them, so broken
was their speech; and I am persuaded that I could not have been
dropped anywhere on the globe, where I could reap less, in the
way of knowledge, from my immediate associates, than on this
plantation. Even "MAS' DANIEL," by his association with his
father's slaves, had measurably adopted their dialect and their
ideas, so far as they had ideas to be adopted. The equality of
nature is strongly asserted in childhood, and childhood requires
children for associates. _Color_ makes no difference with a
child. Are you a child with wants, tastes and pursuits common to
children, not put on, but natural? then, were you black as ebony
you would be welcome to the child of alabaster whiteness. The
law of compensation holds here, as well as elsewhere. Mas'
Daniel could not associate with ignorance without sharing its
shade; and he could not give his black playmates his company,
without giving them his intelligence, as well. Without knowing
<60>this, or caring about it, at the time, I, for some cause or
other, spent much of my time with Mas' Daniel, in preference to
spending it with most of the other boys.

Mas' Daniel was the youngest son of Col. Lloyd; his older
brothers were Edward and Murray--both grown up, and fine looking
men. Edward was especially esteemed by the children, and by me
among the rest; not that he ever said anything to us or for us,
which could be called especially kind; it was enough for us, that
he never looked nor acted scornfully toward us. There were also
three sisters, all married; one to Edward Winder; a second to
Edward Nicholson; a third to Mr. Lownes.

The family of old master consisted of two sons, Andrew and
Richard; his daughter, Lucretia, and her newly married husband,
Capt. Auld. This was the house family. The kitchen family
consisted of Aunt Katy, Aunt Esther, and ten or a dozen children,
most of them older than myself. Capt. Anthony was not considered
a rich slaveholder, but was pretty well off in the world. He
owned about thirty _"head"_ of slaves, and three farms in
Tuckahoe. The most valuable part of his property was his slaves,
of whom he could afford to sell one every year. This crop,
therefore, brought him seven or eight hundred dollars a year,
besides his yearly salary, and other revenue from his farms.

The idea of rank and station was rigidly maintained on Col.
Lloyd's plantation. Our family never visited the great house,
and the Lloyds never came to our home. Equal non-intercourse was
observed between Capt. Anthony's family and that of Mr. Sevier,
the overseer.

Such, kind reader, was the community, and such the place, in
which my earliest and most lasting impressions of slavery, and of
slave-life, were received; of which impressions you will learn
more in the coming chapters of this book.

Frederick Douglass

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