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Chapter 7

_Life in the Great House_


The close-fisted stinginess that fed the poor slave on coarse
corn-meal and tainted meat; that clothed him in crashy tow-linen,
and hurried him to toil through the field, in all weathers, with
wind and rain beating through his tattered garments; that
scarcely gave even the young slave-mother time to nurse her
hungry infant in the fence corner; wholly vanishes on approaching
the sacred precincts of the great house, the home of the Lloyds.
There the scriptural phrase finds an exact illustration; the
highly favored inmates of this mansion are literally arrayed "in
purple and fine linen," and fare sumptuously every day! The
table groans under the heavy and blood-bought luxuries gathered
with painstaking care, at home and abroad. Fields, forests,
rivers and seas, are made tributary here. Immense wealth, and
its lavish expenditure, fill the great house with all that can
please the eye, or tempt the taste. Here, appetite, not food, is
the great _desideratum_. Fish, flesh and fowl, are here in
profusion. Chickens, of <84>all breeds; ducks, of all kinds,
wild and tame, the common, and the huge Muscovite; Guinea fowls,
turkeys, geese, and pea fowls, are in their several pens, fat and
fatting for the destined vortex. The graceful swan, the
mongrels, the black-necked wild goose; partridges, quails,
pheasants and pigeons; choice water fowl, with all their strange
varieties, are caught in this huge family net. Beef, veal,
mutton and venison, of the most select kinds and quality, roll
bounteously to this grand consumer. The teeming riches of the
Chesapeake bay, its rock, perch, drums, crocus, trout, oysters,
crabs, and terrapin, are drawn hither to adorn the glittering
table of the great house. The dairy, too, probably the finest on
the Eastern Shore of Maryland--supplied by cattle of the best
English stock, imported for the purpose, pours its rich donations
of fragant cheese, golden butter, and delicious cream, to
heighten the attraction of the gorgeous, unending round of
feasting. Nor are the fruits of the earth forgotten or
neglected. The fertile garden, many acres in size, constituting
a separate establishment, distinct from the common farm--with its
scientific gardener, imported from Scotland (a Mr. McDermott)
with four men under his direction, was not behind, either in the
abundance or in the delicacy of its contributions to the same
full board. The tender asparagus, the succulent celery, and the
delicate cauliflower; egg plants, beets, lettuce, parsnips, peas,
and French beans, early and late; radishes, cantelopes, melons of
all kinds; the fruits and flowers of all climes and of all
descriptions, from the hardy apple of the north, to the lemon and
orange of the south, culminated at this point. Baltimore
gathered figs, raisins, almonds and juicy grapes from Spain.
Wines and brandies from France; teas of various flavor, from
China; and rich, aromatic coffee from Java, all conspired to
swell the tide of high life, where pride and indolence rolled and
lounged in magnificence and satiety.

Behind the tall-backed and elaborately wrought chairs, stand the
servants, men and maidens--fifteen in number--discriminately
selected, not only with a view to their industry and faith<85
HOUSE SERVANTS>fulness, but with special regard to their personal
appearance, their graceful agility and captivating address. Some
of these are armed with fans, and are fanning reviving breezes
toward the over-heated brows of the alabaster ladies; others
watch with eager eye, and with fawn-like step anticipate and
supply wants before they are sufficiently formed to be announced
by word or sign.

These servants constituted a sort of black aristocracy on Col.
Lloyd's plantation. They resembled the field hands in nothing,
except in color, and in this they held the advantage of a velvet-
like glossiness, rich and beautiful. The hair, too, showed the
same advantage. The delicate colored maid rustled in the
scarcely worn silk of her young mistress, while the servant men
were equally well attired from the over-flowing wardrobe of their
young masters; so that, in dress, as well as in form and feature,
in manner and speech, in tastes and habits, the distance between
these favored few, and the sorrow and hunger-smitten multitudes
of the quarter and the field, was immense; and this is seldom
passed over.

Let us now glance at the stables and the carriage house, and we
shall find the same evidences of pride and luxurious
extravagance. Here are three splendid coaches, soft within and
lustrous without. Here, too, are gigs, phaetons, barouches,
sulkeys and sleighs. Here are saddles and harnesses--beautifully
wrought and silver mounted--kept with every care. In the stable
you will find, kept only for pleasure, full thirty-five horses,
of the most approved blood for speed and beauty. There are two
men here constantly employed in taking care of these horses. One
of these men must be always in the stable, to answer every call
from the great house. Over the way from the stable, is a house
built expressly for the hounds--a pack of twenty-five or thirty--
whose fare would have made glad the heart of a dozen slaves.
Horses and hounds are not the only consumers of the slave's toil.
There was practiced, at the Lloyd's, a hospitality which would
have <86>astonished and charmed any health-seeking northern
divine or merchant, who might have chanced to share it. Viewed
from his own table, and _not_ from the field, the colonel was a
model of generous hospitality. His house was, literally, a
hotel, for weeks during the summer months. At these times,
especially, the air was freighted with the rich fumes of baking,
boiling, roasting and broiling. The odors I shared with the
winds; but the meats were under a more stringent monopoly except
that, occasionally, I got a cake from Mas' Daniel. In Mas'
Daniel I had a friend at court, from whom I learned many things
which my eager curiosity was excited to know. I always knew when
company was expected, and who they were, although I was an
outsider, being the property, not of Col. Lloyd, but of a servant
of the wealthy colonel. On these occasions, all that pride,
taste and money could do, to dazzle and charm, was done.

Who could say that the servants of Col. Lloyd were not well clad
and cared for, after witnessing one of his magnificent
entertainments? Who could say that they did not seem to glory in
being the slaves of such a master? Who, but a fanatic, could get
up any sympathy for persons whose every movement was agile, easy
and graceful, and who evinced a consciousness of high
superiority? And who would ever venture to suspect that Col.
Lloyd was subject to the troubles of ordinary mortals? Master
and slave seem alike in their glory here? Can it all be seeming?
Alas! it may only be a sham at last! This immense wealth; this
gilded splendor; this profusion of luxury; this exemption from
toil; this life of ease; this sea of plenty; aye, what of it all?
Are the pearly gates of happiness and sweet content flung open to
such suitors? _far from it!_ The poor slave, on his hard, pine
plank, but scantily covered with his thin blanket, sleeps more
soundly than the feverish voluptuary who reclines upon his
feather bed and downy pillow. Food, to the indolent lounger, is
poison, not sustenance. Lurking beneath all their dishes, are
invisible spirits of evil, ready to feed the self-deluded
gormandizers <87 DECEPTIVE CHARACTER OF SLAVERY>which aches,
pains, fierce temper, uncontrolled passions, dyspepsia,
rheumatism, lumbago and gout; and of these the Lloyds got their
full share. To the pampered love of ease, there is no resting
place. What is pleasant today, is repulsive tomorrow; what is
soft now, is hard at another time; what is sweet in the morning,
is bitter in the evening. Neither to the wicked, nor to the
idler, is there any solid peace: _"Troubled, like the restless

I had excellent opportunities of witnessing the restless
discontent and the capricious irritation of the Lloyds. My
fondness for horses--not peculiar to me more than to other boys
attracted me, much of the time, to the stables. This
establishment was especially under the care of "old" and "young"
Barney--father and son. Old Barney was a fine looking old man,
of a brownish complexion, who was quite portly, and wore a
dignified aspect for a slave. He was, evidently, much devoted to
his profession, and held his office an honorable one. He was a
farrier as well as an ostler; he could bleed, remove lampers from
the mouths of the horses, and was well instructed in horse
medicines. No one on the farm knew, so well as Old Barney, what
to do with a sick horse. But his gifts and acquirements were of
little advantage to him. His office was by no means an enviable
one. He often got presents, but he got stripes as well; for in
nothing was Col. Lloyd more unreasonable and exacting, than in
respect to the management of his pleasure horses. Any supposed
inattention to these animals were sure to be visited with
degrading punishment. His horses and dogs fared better than his
men. Their beds must be softer and cleaner than those of his
human cattle. No excuse could shield Old Barney, if the colonel
only suspected something wrong about his horses; and,
consequently, he was often punished when faultless. It was
absolutely painful to listen to the many unreasonable and fretful
scoldings, poured out at the stable, by Col. Lloyd, his sons and
sons-in-law. Of the latter, he had three--Messrs. Nicholson,
Winder and Lownes. These all <88>lived at the great house a
portion of the year, and enjoyed the luxury of whipping the
servants when they pleased, which was by no means unfrequently.
A horse was seldom brought out of the stable to which no
objection could be raised. "There was dust in his hair;" "there
was a twist in his reins;" "his mane did not lie straight;" "he
had not been properly grained;" "his head did not look well;"
"his fore-top was not combed out;" "his fetlocks had not been
properly trimmed;" something was always wrong. Listening to
complaints, however groundless, Barney must stand, hat in hand,
lips sealed, never answering a word. He must make no reply, no
explanation; the judgment of the master must be deemed
infallible, for his power is absolute and irresponsible. In a
free state, a master, thus complaining without cause, of his
ostler, might be told--"Sir, I am sorry I cannot please you, but,
since I have done the best I can, your remedy is to dismiss me."
Here, however, the ostler must stand, listen and tremble. One of
the most heart-saddening and humiliating scenes I ever witnessed,
was the whipping of Old Barney, by Col. Lloyd himself. Here were
two men, both advanced in years; there were the silvery locks of
Col. L., and there was the bald and toil-worn brow of Old Barney;
master and slave; superior and inferior here, but _equals_ at the
bar of God; and, in the common course of events, they must both
soon meet in another world, in a world where all distinctions,
except those based on obedience and disobedience, are blotted out
forever. "Uncover your head!" said the imperious master; he was
obeyed. "Take off your jacket, you old rascal!" and off came
Barney's jacket. "Down on your knees!" down knelt the old man,
his shoulders bare, his bald head glistening in the sun, and his
aged knees on the cold, damp ground. In his humble and debasing
attitude, the master--that master to whom he had given the best
years and the best strength of his life--came forward, and laid
on thirty lashes, with his horse whip. The old man bore it
patiently, to the last, answering each blow with a slight shrug
of the shoulders, and a groan. I cannot think that <89 A
HUMILIATING SPECTACLE>Col. Lloyd succeeded in marring the flesh
of Old Barney very seriously, for the whip was a light, riding
whip; but the spectacle of an aged man--a husband and a father--
humbly kneeling before a worm of the dust, surprised and shocked
me at the time; and since I have grown old enough to think on the
wickedness of slavery, few facts have been of more value to me
than this, to which I was a witness. It reveals slavery in its
true color, and in its maturity of repulsive hatefulness. I owe
it to truth, however, to say, that this was the first and the
last time I ever saw Old Barney, or any other slave, compelled to
kneel to receive a whipping.

I saw, at the stable, another incident, which I will relate, as
it is illustrative of a phase of slavery to which I have already
referred in another connection. Besides two other coachmen, Col.
Lloyd owned one named William, who, strangely enough, was often
called by his surname, Wilks, by white and colored people on the
home plantation. Wilks was a very fine looking man. He was
about as white as anybody on the plantation; and in manliness of
form, and comeliness of features, he bore a very striking
resemblance to Mr. Murray Lloyd. It was whispered, and pretty
generally admitted as a fact, that William Wilks was a son of
Col. Lloyd, by a highly favored slave-woman, who was still on the
plantation. There were many reasons for believing this whisper,
not only in William's appearance, but in the undeniable freedom
which he enjoyed over all others, and his apparent consciousness
of being something more than a slave to his master. It was
notorious, too, that William had a deadly enemy in Murray Lloyd,
whom he so much resembled, and that the latter greatly worried
his father with importunities to sell William. Indeed, he gave
his father no rest until he did sell him, to Austin Woldfolk, the
great slave-trader at that time. Before selling him, however,
Mr. L. tried what giving William a whipping would do, toward
making things smooth; but this was a failure. It was a
compromise, and defeated itself; for, imme<90>diately after the
infliction, the heart-sickened colonel atoned to William for the
abuse, by giving him a gold watch and chain. Another fact,
somewhat curious, is, that though sold to the remorseless
_Woldfolk_, taken in irons to Baltimore and cast into prison,
with a view to being driven to the south, William, by _some_
means--always a mystery to me--outbid all his purchasers, paid
for himself, _and now resides in Baltimore, a_ FREEMAN. Is there
not room to suspect, that, as the gold watch was presented to
atone for the whipping, a purse of gold was given him by the same
hand, with which to effect his purchase, as an atonement for the
indignity involved in selling his own flesh and blood. All the
circumstances of William, on the great house farm, show him to
have occupied a different position from the other slaves, and,
certainly, there is nothing in the supposed hostility of
slaveholders to amalgamation, to forbid the supposition that
William Wilks was the son of Edward Lloyd. _Practical_
amalgamation is common in every neighborhood where I have been in

Col. Lloyd was not in the way of knowing much of the real
opinions and feelings of his slaves respecting him. The distance
between him and them was far too great to admit of such
knowledge. His slaves were so numerous, that he did not know
them when he saw them. Nor, indeed, did all his slaves know him.
In this respect, he was inconveniently rich. It is reported of
him, that, while riding along the road one day, he met a colored
man, and addressed him in the usual way of speaking to colored
people on the public highways of the south: "Well, boy, who do
you belong to?" "To Col. Lloyd," replied the slave. "Well, does
the colonel treat you well?" "No, sir," was the ready reply.
"What? does he work you too hard?" "Yes, sir." "Well, don't he
give enough to eat?" "Yes, sir, he gives me enough, such as it
is." The colonel, after ascertaining where the slave belonged,
rode on; the slave also went on about his business, not dreaming
that he had been conversing with his master. He thought, said
and heard nothing more of the matter, until two or three weeks
after<91 PENALTY FOR TELLING THE TRUTH>wards. The poor man was
then informed by his overseer, that, for having found fault with
his master, he was now to be sold to a Georgia trader. He was
immediately chained and handcuffed; and thus, without a moment's
warning he was snatched away, and forever sundered from his
family and friends, by a hand more unrelenting than that of
death. _This_ is the penalty of telling the simple truth, in
answer to a series of plain questions. It is partly in
consequence of such facts, that slaves, when inquired of as to
their condition and the character of their masters, almost
invariably say they are contented, and that their masters are
kind. Slaveholders have been known to send spies among their
slaves, to ascertain, if possible, their views and feelings in
regard to their condition. The frequency of this had the effect
to establish among the slaves the maxim, that a still tongue
makes a wise head. They suppress the truth rather than take the
consequence of telling it, and, in so doing, they prove
themselves a part of the human family. If they have anything to
say of their master, it is, generally, something in his favor,
especially when speaking to strangers. I was frequently asked,
while a slave, if I had a kind master, and I do not remember ever
to have given a negative reply. Nor did I, when pursuing this
course, consider myself as uttering what was utterly false; for I
always measured the kindness of my master by the standard of
kindness set up by slaveholders around us. However, slaves are
like other people, and imbibe similar prejudices. They are apt
to think _their condition_ better than that of others. Many,
under the influence of this prejudice, think their own masters
are better than the masters of other slaves; and this, too, in
some cases, when the very reverse is true. Indeed, it is not
uncommon for slaves even to fall out and quarrel among themselves
about the relative kindness of their masters, contending for the
superior goodness of his own over that of others. At the very
same time, they mutually execrate their masters, when viewed
separately. It was so on our plantation. When Col. Lloyd's
slaves met those of Jacob Jepson, they <92>seldom parted without
a quarrel about their masters; Col. Lloyd's slaves contending
that he was the richest, and Mr. Jepson's slaves that he was the
smartest, man of the two. Col. Lloyd's slaves would boost his
ability to buy and sell Jacob Jepson; Mr. Jepson's slaves would
boast his ability to whip Col. Lloyd. These quarrels would
almost always end in a fight between the parties; those that beat
were supposed to have gained the point at issue. They seemed to
think that the greatness of their masters was transferable to
themselves. To be a SLAVE, was thought to be bad enough; but to
be a _poor man's_ slave, was deemed a disgrace, indeed.

Frederick Douglass

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