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Chapter 9

_Personal Treatment_


I have nothing cruel or shocking to relate of my own personal
experience, while I remained on Col. Lloyd's plantation, at the
home of my old master. An occasional cuff from Aunt Katy, and a
regular whipping from old master, such as any heedless and
mischievous boy might get from his father, is all that I can
mention of this sort. I was not old enough to work in the field,
and, there being little else than field work to perform, I had
much leisure. The most I had to do, was, to drive up the cows in
the evening, to keep the front yard clean, and to perform small
errands for my young mistress, Lucretia Auld. I have reasons for
thinking this lady was very kindly disposed toward me, and,
although I was not often the object of her attention, I
constantly regarded her as my friend, and was always glad when it
was my privilege to do her a service. In a family where there
was so much that was harsh, cold and indifferent, the slightest
word or look of kindness passed, with me, for its full value.
Miss Lucretia--<102>as we all continued to call her long after
her marriage--had bestowed upon me such words and looks as taught
me that she pitied me, if she did not love me. In addition to
words and looks, she sometimes gave me a piece of bread and
butter; a thing not set down in the bill of fare, and which must
have been an extra ration, planned aside from either Aunt Katy or
old master, solely out of the tender regard and friendship she
had for me. Then, too, I one day got into the wars with Uncle
Able's son, "Ike," and had got sadly worsted; in fact, the little
rascal had struck me directly in the forehead with a sharp piece
of cinder, fused with iron, from the old blacksmith's forge,
which made a cross in my forehead very plainly to be seen now.
The gash bled very freely, and I roared very loudly and betook
myself home. The coldhearted Aunt Katy paid no attention either
to my wound or my roaring, except to tell me it served me right;
I had no business with Ike; it was good for me; I would now keep
away _"from dem Lloyd niggers."_ Miss Lucretia, in this state of
the case, came forward; and, in quite a different spirit from
that manifested by Aunt Katy, she called me into the parlor (an
extra privilege of itself) and, without using toward me any of
the hard-hearted and reproachful epithets of my kitchen
tormentor, she quietly acted the good Samaritan. With her own
soft hand she washed the blood from my head and face, fetched her
own balsam bottle, and with the balsam wetted a nice piece of
white linen, and bound up my head. The balsam was not more
healing to the wound in my head, than her kindness was healing to
the wounds in my spirit, made by the unfeeling words of Aunt
Katy. After this, Miss Lucretia was my friend. I felt her to be
such; and I have no doubt that the simple act of binding up my
head, did much to awaken in her mind an interest in my welfare.
It is quite true, that this interest was never very marked, and
it seldom showed itself in anything more than in giving me a
piece of bread when I was hungry; but this was a great favor on a
slave plantation, and I was the only one of the children to whom
such attention was paid. <103 REALMS OF SUNLIGHT>When very
hungry, I would go into the back yard and play under Miss
Lucretia's window. When pretty severely pinched by hunger, I had
a habit of singing, which the good lady very soon came to
understand as a petition for a piece of bread. When I sung under
Miss Lucretia's window, I was very apt to get well paid for my
music. The reader will see that I now had two friends, both at
important points--Mas' Daniel at the great house, and Miss
Lucretia at home. From Mas' Daniel I got protection from the
bigger boys; and from Miss Lucretia I got bread, by singing when
I was hungry, and sympathy when I was abused by that termagant,
who had the reins of government in the kitchen. For such
friendship I felt deeply grateful, and bitter as are my
recollections of slavery, I love to recall any instances of
kindness, any sunbeams of humane treatment, which found way to my
soul through the iron grating of my house of bondage. Such beams
seem all the brighter from the general darkness into which they
penetrate, and the impression they make is vividly distinct and

As I have before intimated, I was seldom whipped--and never
severely--by my old master. I suffered little from the treatment
I received, except from hunger and cold. These were my two great
physical troubles. I could neither get a sufficiency of food nor
of clothing; but I suffered less from hunger than from cold. In
hottest summer and coldest winter, I was kept almost in a state
of nudity; no shoes, no stockings, no jacket, no trowsers;
nothing but coarse sackcloth or tow-linen, made into a sort of
shirt, reaching down to my knees. This I wore night and day,
changing it once a week. In the day time I could protect myself
pretty well, by keeping on the sunny side of the house; and in
bad weather, in the corner of the kitchen chimney. The great
difficulty was, to keep warm during the night. I had no bed.
The pigs in the pen had leaves, and the horses in the stable had
straw, but the children had no beds. They lodged anywhere in the
ample kitchen. I slept, generally, in a little closet, without
even a blanket to cover me. In very cold weather. I sometimes
got down the bag in which corn<104>meal was usually carried to
the mill, and crawled into that. Sleeping there, with my head in
and feet out, I was partly protected, though not comfortable. My
feet have been so cracked with the frost, that the pen with which
I am writing might be laid in the gashes. The manner of taking
our meals at old master's, indicated but little refinement. Our
corn-meal mush, when sufficiently cooled, was placed in a large
wooden tray, or trough, like those used in making maple sugar
here in the north. This tray was set down, either on the floor
of the kitchen, or out of doors on the ground; and the children
were called, like so many pigs; and like so many pigs they would
come, and literally devour the mush--some with oyster shells,
some with pieces of shingles, and none with spoons. He that eat
fastest got most, and he that was strongest got the best place;
and few left the trough really satisfied. I was the most unlucky
of any, for Aunt Katy had no good feeling for me; and if I pushed
any of the other children, or if they told her anything
unfavorable of me, she always believed the worst, and was sure to
whip me.

As I grew older and more thoughtful, I was more and more filled
with a sense of my wretchedness. The cruelty of Aunt Katy, the
hunger and cold I suffered, and the terrible reports of wrong and
outrage which came to my ear, together with what I almost daily
witnessed, led me, when yet but eight or nine years old, to wish
I had never been born. I used to contrast my condition with the
black-birds, in whose wild and sweet songs I fancied them so
happy! Their apparent joy only deepened the shades of my sorrow.
There are thoughtful days in the lives of children--at least
there were in mine when they grapple with all the great, primary
subjects of knowledge, and reach, in a moment, conclusions which
no subsequent experience can shake. I was just as well aware of
the unjust, unnatural and murderous character of slavery, when
nine years old, as I am now. Without any appeal to books, to
laws, or to authorities of any kind, it was enough to accept God
as a father, to regard slavery as a crime.

I was not ten years old when I left Col. Lloyd's plantation for
Balitmore{sic}. I left that plantation with inexpressible joy.
I never shall forget the ecstacy with which I received the
intelligence from my friend, Miss Lucretia, that my old master
had determined to let me go to Baltimore to live with Mr. Hugh
Auld, a brother to Mr. Thomas Auld, my old master's son-in-law.
I received this information about three days before my departure.
They were three of the happiest days of my childhood. I spent
the largest part of these three days in the creek, washing off
the plantation scurf, and preparing for my new home. Mrs.
Lucretia took a lively interest in getting me ready. She told me
I must get all the dead skin off my feet and knees, before I
could go to Baltimore, for the people there were very cleanly,
and would laugh at me if I looked dirty; and, besides, she was
intending to give me a pair of trowsers, which I should not put
on unless I got all the dirt off. This was a warning to which I
was bound to take heed; for the thought of owning a pair of
trowsers, was great, indeed. It was almost a sufficient motive,
not only to induce me to scrub off the _mange_ (as pig drovers
would call it) but the skin as well. So I went at it in good
earnest, working for the first time in the hope of reward. I was
greatly excited, and could hardly consent to sleep, lest I should
be left. The ties that, ordinarily, bind children to their
homes, were all severed, or they never had any existence in my
case, at least so far as the home plantation of Col. L. was
concerned. I therefore found no severe trail at the moment of my
departure, such as I had experienced when separated from my home
in Tuckahoe. My home at my old master's was charmless to me; it
was not home, but a prison to me; on parting from it, I could not
feel that I was leaving anything which I could have enjoyed by
staying. My mother was now long dead; my grandmother was far
away, so that I seldom saw her; Aunt Katy was my unrelenting
tormentor; and my two sisters and brothers, owing to our early
separation in life, and the family-destroying power of slavery,
were, comparatively, stran<106>gers to me. The fact of our
relationship was almost blotted out. I looked for _home_
elsewhere, and was confident of finding none which I should
relish less than the one I was leaving. If, however, I found in
my new home to which I was going with such blissful
anticipations--hardship, whipping and nakedness, I had the
questionable consolation that I should not have escaped any one
of these evils by remaining under the management of Aunt Katy.
Then, too, I thought, since I had endured much in this line on
Lloyd's plantation, I could endure as much elsewhere, and
especially at Baltimore; for I had something of the feeling about
that city which is expressed in the saying, that being "hanged in
England, is better than dying a natural death in Ireland." I had
the strongest desire to see Baltimore. My cousin Tom--a boy two
or three years older than I--had been there, and though not
fluent (he stuttered immoderately) in speech, he had inspired me
with that desire, by his eloquent description of the place. Tom
was, sometimes, Capt. Auld's cabin boy; and when he came from
Baltimore, he was always a sort of hero amongst us, at least till
his Baltimore trip was forgotten. I could never tell him of
anything, or point out anything that struck me as beautiful or
powerful, but that he had seen something in Baltimore far
surpassing it. Even the great house itself, with all its
pictures within, and pillars without, he had the hardihood to say
"was nothing to Baltimore." He bought a trumpet (worth six
pence) and brought it home; told what he had seen in the windows
of stores; that he had heard shooting crackers, and seen
soldiers; that he had seen a steamboat; that there were ships in
Baltimore that could carry four such sloops as the "Sally Lloyd."
He said a great deal about the market-house; he spoke of the
bells ringing; and of many other things which roused my curiosity
very much; and, indeed, which heightened my hopes of happiness in
my new home.

We sailed out of Miles river for Baltimore early on a Saturday
morning. I remember only the day of the week; for, at that time,
<107 ARRIVAL AT BALTIMORE>I had no knowledge of the days of the
month, nor, indeed, of the months of the year. On setting sail,
I walked aft, and gave to Col. Lloyd's plantation what I hoped
would be the last look I should ever give to it, or to any place
like it. My strong aversion to the great farm, was not owing to
my own personal suffering, but the daily suffering of others, and
to the certainty that I must, sooner or later, be placed under
the barbarous rule of an overseer, such as the accomplished Gore,
or the brutal and drunken Plummer. After taking this last view,
I quitted the quarter deck, made my way to the bow of the sloop,
and spent the remainder of the day in looking ahead; interesting
myself in what was in the distance, rather than what was near by
or behind. The vessels, sweeping along the bay, were very
interesting objects. The broad bay opened like a shoreless ocean
on my boyish vision, filling me with wonder and admiration.

Late in the afternoon, we reached Annapolis, the capital of the
state, stopping there not long enough to admit of my going
ashore. It was the first large town I had ever seen; and though
it was inferior to many a factory village in New England, my
feelings, on seeing it, were excited to a pitch very little below
that reached by travelers at the first view of Rome. The dome of
the state house was especially imposing, and surpassed in
grandeur the appearance of the great house. The great world was
opening upon me very rapidly, and I was eagerly acquainting
myself with its multifarious lessons.

We arrived in Baltimore on Sunday morning, and landed at Smith's
wharf, not far from Bowly's wharf. We had on board the sloop a
large flock of sheep, for the Baltimore market; and, after
assisting in driving them to the slaughter house of Mr. Curtis,
on Loudon Slater's Hill, I was speedily conducted by Rich--one of
the hands belonging to the sloop--to my new home in Alliciana
street, near Gardiner's ship-yard, on Fell's Point. Mr. and Mrs.
Hugh Auld, my new mistress and master, were both at home, and met
me at the door with their rosy cheeked little son, Thomas,
<108>to take care of whom was to constitute my future occupation.
In fact, it was to "little Tommy," rather than to his parents,
that old master made a present of me; and though there was no
_legal_ form or arrangement entered into, I have no doubt that
Mr. and Mrs. Auld felt that, in due time, I should be the legal
property of their bright-eyed and beloved boy, Tommy. I was
struck with the appearance, especially, of my new mistress. Her
face was lighted with the kindliest emotions; and the reflex
influence of her countenance, as well as the tenderness with
which she seemed to regard me, while asking me sundry little
questions, greatly delighted me, and lit up, to my fancy, the
pathway of my future. Miss Lucretia was kind; but my new
mistress, "Miss Sophy," surpassed her in kindness of manner.
Little Thomas was affectionately told by his mother, that _"there
was his Freddy,"_ and that "Freddy would take care of him;" and I
was told to "be kind to little Tommy"--an injunction I scarcely
needed, for I had already fallen in love with the dear boy; and
with these little ceremonies I was initiated into my new home,
and entered upon my peculiar duties, with not a cloud above the

I may say here, that I regard my removal from Col. Lloyd's
plantation as one of the most interesting and fortunate events of
my life. Viewing it in the light of human likelihoods, it is
quite probable that, but for the mere circumstance of being thus
removed before the rigors of slavery had fastened upon me; before
my young spirit had been crushed under the iron control of the
slave-driver, instead of being, today, a FREEMAN, I might have
been wearing the galling chains of slavery. I have sometimes
felt, however, that there was something more intelligent than
_chance_, and something more certain than _luck_, to be seen in
the circumstance. If I have made any progress in knowledge; if I
have cherished any honorable aspirations, or have, in any manner,
worthily discharged the duties of a member of an oppressed
people; this little circumstance must be allowed its due weight
<109 A TURNING POINT IN MY HISTORY>in giving my life that
direction. I have ever regarded it as the first plain
manifestation of that

_Divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough hew them as we will_.

I was not the only boy on the plantation that might have been
sent to live in Baltimore. There was a wide margin from which to
select. There were boys younger, boys older, and boys of the
same age, belonging to my old master some at his own house, and
some at his farm--but the high privilege fell to my lot.

I may be deemed superstitious and egotistical, in regarding this
event as a special interposition of Divine Providence in my
favor; but the thought is a part of my history, and I should be
false to the earliest and most cherished sentiments of my soul,
if I suppressed, or hesitated to avow that opinion, although it
may be characterized as irrational by the wise, and ridiculous by
the scoffer. From my earliest recollections of serious matters,
I date the entertainment of something like an ineffaceable
conviction, that slavery would not always be able to hold me
within its foul embrace; and this conviction, like a word of
living faith, strengthened me through the darkest trials of my
lot. This good spirit was from God; and to him I offer
thanksgiving and praise.

Frederick Douglass

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