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    Chapter 1
    In the month of August, 1841, I attended an anti-
    slavery convention in Nantucket, at which it was
    my happiness to become acquainted with FREDERICK
    DOUGLASS, the writer of the following Narrative. He
    was a stranger to nearly every member of that body;
    but, having recently made his escape from the south-
    ern prison-house of bondage, and feeling his curiosity
    excited to ascertain the principles and measures of
    the abolitionists,--of whom he had heard a somewhat
    vague description while he was a slave,--he was in-
    duced to give his attendance, on the occasion al-
    luded to, though at that time a resident in New

    Fortunate, most fortunate occurrence!--fortunate
    for the millions of his manacled brethren, yet pant-
    ing for deliverance from their awful thraldom!--for-
    tunate for the cause of negro emancipation, and of
    universal liberty!--fortunate for the land of his birth,
    which he has already done so much to save and bless!
    --fortunate for a large circle of friends and acquaint-
    ances, whose sympathy and affection he has strongly
    secured by the many sufferings he has endured, by
    his virtuous traits of character, by his ever-abiding
    remembrance of those who are in bonds, as being
    bound with them!--fortunate for the multitudes, in
    various parts of our republic, whose minds he has
    enlightened on the subject of slavery, and who have
    been melted to tears by his pathos, or roused to
    virtuous indignation by his stirring eloquence against
    the enslavers of men!--fortunate for himself, as
    it at once brought him into the field of public use-
    fulness, "gave the world assurance of a MAN," quick-
    ened the slumbering energies of his soul, and con-
    secrated him to the great work of breaking the rod
    of the oppressor, and letting the oppressed go free!

    I shall never forget his first speech at the conven-
    tion--the extraordinary emotion it excited in my own
    mind--the powerful impression it created upon a
    crowded auditory, completely taken by surprise--the
    applause which followed from the beginning to the
    end of his felicitous remarks. I think I never hated
    slavery so intensely as at that moment; certainly, my
    perception of the enormous outrage which is in-
    flicted by it, on the godlike nature of its victims, was
    rendered far more clear than ever. There stood one,
    in physical proportion and stature commanding and
    exact--in intellect richly endowed--in natural elo-
    quence a prodigy--in soul manifestly "created but a
    little lower than the angels"--yet a slave, ay, a fugi-
    tive slave,--trembling for his safety, hardly daring to
    believe that on the American soil, a single white
    person could be found who would befriend him at
    all hazards, for the love of God and humanity! Ca-
    pable of high attainments as an intellectual and
    moral being--needing nothing but a comparatively
    small amount of cultivation to make him an orna-
    ment to society and a blessing to his race--by the law
    of the land, by the voice of the people, by the terms
    of the slave code, he was only a piece of property, a
    beast of burden, a chattel personal, nevertheless!

    A beloved friend from New Bedford prevailed on
    Mr. DOUGLASS to address the convention: He came
    forward to the platform with a hesitancy and embar-
    rassment, necessarily the attendants of a sensitive
    mind in such a novel position. After apologizing for
    his ignorance, and reminding the audience that slav-
    ery was a poor school for the human intellect and
    heart, he proceeded to narrate some of the facts in
    his own history as a slave, and in the course of his
    speech gave utterance to many noble thoughts and
    thrilling reflections. As soon as he had taken his
    seat, filled with hope and admiration, I rose, and
    declared that PATRICK HENRY, of revolutionary fame,
    never made a speech more eloquent in the cause of
    liberty, than the one we had just listened to from
    the lips of that hunted fugitive. So I believed at
    that time--such is my belief now. I reminded the
    audience of the peril which surrounded this self-
    emancipated young man at the North,--even in Mas-
    sachusetts, on the soil of the Pilgrim Fathers, among
    the descendants of revolutionary sires; and I ap-
    pealed to them, whether they would ever allow him
    to be carried back into slavery,--law or no law, con-
    stitution or no constitution. The response was unani-
    mous and in thunder-tones--"NO!" "Will you succor
    and protect him as a brother-man--a resident of the
    old Bay State?" "YES!" shouted the whole mass,
    with an energy so startling, that the ruthless tyrants
    south of Mason and Dixon's line might almost have
    heard the mighty burst of feeling, and recognized
    it as the pledge of an invincible determination, on
    the part of those who gave it, never to betray him
    that wanders, but to hide the outcast, and firmly to
    abide the consequences.

    It was at once deeply impressed upon my mind,
    that, if Mr. DOUGLASS could be persuaded to conse-
    crate his time and talents to the promotion of the
    anti-slavery enterprise, a powerful impetus would
    be given to it, and a stunning blow at the same time
    inflicted on northern prejudice against a colored
    complexion. I therefore endeavored to instil hope
    and courage into his mind, in order that he might
    dare to engage in a vocation so anomalous and re-
    sponsible for a person in his situation; and I was
    seconded in this effort by warm-hearted friends, es-
    pecially by the late General Agent of the Massa-
    chusetts Anti-Slavery Society, Mr. JOHN A. COLLINS,
    whose judgment in this instance entirely coincided
    with my own. At first, he could give no encourage-
    ment; with unfeigned diffidence, he expressed his
    conviction that he was not adequate to the perform-
    ance of so great a task; the path marked out was
    wholly an untrodden one; he was sincerely appre-
    hensive that he should do more harm than good.
    After much deliberation, however, he consented to
    make a trial; and ever since that period, he has acted
    as a lecturing agent, under the auspices either of the
    American or the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society.
    In labors he has been most abundant; and his success
    in combating prejudice, in gaining proselytes, in agi-
    tating the public mind, has far surpassed the most
    sanguine expectations that were raised at the com-
    mencement of his brilliant career. He has borne him-
    self with gentleness and meekness, yet with true
    manliness of character. As a public speaker, he excels
    in pathos, wit, comparison, imitation, strength of
    reasoning, and fluency of language. There is in him
    that union of head and heart, which is indispensable
    to an enlightenment of the heads and a winning of
    the hearts of others. May his strength continue to
    be equal to his day! May he continue to "grow in
    grace, and in the knowledge of God," that he may
    be increasingly serviceable in the cause of bleeding
    humanity, whether at home or abroad!

    It is certainly a very remarkable fact, that one of
    the most efficient advocates of the slave population,
    now before the public, is a fugitive slave, in the
    person of FREDERICK DOUGLASS; and that the free
    colored population of the United States are as ably
    represented by one of their own number, in the per-
    son of CHARLES LENOX REMOND, whose eloquent
    appeals have extorted the highest applause of multi-
    tudes on both sides of the Atlantic. Let the calum-
    niators of the colored race despise themselves for
    their baseness and illiberality of spirit, and hence-
    forth cease to talk of the natural inferiority of those
    who require nothing but time and opportunity to
    attain to the highest point of human excellence.

    It may, perhaps, be fairly questioned, whether any
    other portion of the population of the earth could
    have endured the privations, sufferings and horrors
    of slavery, without having become more degraded
    in the scale of humanity than the slaves of African
    descent. Nothing has been left undone to cripple
    their intellects, darken their minds, debase their
    moral nature, obliterate all traces of their relation-
    ship to mankind; and yet how wonderfully they have
    sustained the mighty load of a most frightful bond-
    age, under which they have been groaning for cen-
    turies! To illustrate the effect of slavery on the white
    man,--to show that he has no powers of endurance,
    in such a condition, superior to those of his black
    brother,--DANIEL O'CONNELL, the distinguished
    advocate of universal emancipation, and the mighti-
    est champion of prostrate but not conquered Ireland,
    relates the following anecdote in a speech delivered
    by him in the Conciliation Hall, Dublin, before the
    Loyal National Repeal Association, March 31, 1845.
    "No matter," said Mr. O'CONNELL, "under what
    specious term it may disguise itself, slavery is still
    hideous. ~It has a natural, an inevitable tendency to
    brutalize every noble faculty of man.~ An American
    sailor, who was cast away on the shore of Africa,
    where he was kept in slavery for three years, was, at
    the expiration of that period, found to be imbruted
    and stultified--he had lost all reasoning power; and
    having forgotten his native language, could only ut-
    ter some savage gibberish between Arabic and Eng-
    lish, which nobody could understand, and which
    even he himself found difficulty in pronouncing. So
    much for the humanizing influence of THE DOMESTIC
    INSTITUTION!" Admitting this to have been an ex-
    traordinary case of mental deterioration, it proves at
    least that the white slave can sink as low in the
    scale of humanity as the black one.

    Mr. DOUGLASS has very properly chosen to write
    his own Narrative, in his own style, and according
    to the best of his ability, rather than to employ some
    one else. It is, therefore, entirely his own produc-
    tion; and, considering how long and dark was the ca-
    reer he had to run as a slave,--how few have been his
    opportunities to improve his mind since he broke his
    iron fetters,--it is, in my judgment, highly creditable
    to his head and heart. He who can peruse it without
    a tearful eye, a heaving breast, an afflicted spirit,--
    without being filled with an unutterable abhorrence
    of slavery and all its abettors, and animated with a
    determination to seek the immediate overthrow of
    that execrable system,--without trembling for the
    fate of this country in the hands of a righteous God,
    who is ever on the side of the oppressed, and whose
    arm is not shortened that it cannot save,--must have
    a flinty heart, and be qualified to act the part of a
    trafficker "in slaves and the souls of men." I am con-
    fident that it is essentially true in all its statements;
    that nothing has been set down in malice, nothing
    exaggerated, nothing drawn from the imagination;
    that it comes short of the reality, rather than over-
    states a single fact in regard to SLAVERY AS IT IS.
    The experience of FREDERICK DOUGLASS, as a slave,
    was not a peculiar one; his lot was not especially
    a hard one; his case may be regarded as a very fair
    specimen of the treatment of slaves in Maryland, in
    which State it is conceded that they are better fed
    and less cruelly treated than in Georgia, Alabama,
    or Louisiana. Many have suffered incomparably
    more, while very few on the plantations have suf-
    fered less, than himself. Yet how deplorable was his
    situation! what terrible chastisements were inflicted
    upon his person! what still more shocking outrages
    were perpetrated upon his mind! with all his noble
    powers and sublime aspirations, how like a brute
    was he treated, even by those professing to have the
    same mind in them that was in Christ Jesus! to what
    dreadful liabilities was he continually subjected! how
    destitute of friendly counsel and aid, even in his
    greatest extremities! how heavy was the midnight of
    woe which shrouded in blackness the last ray of hope,
    and filled the future with terror and gloom! what
    longings after freedom took possession of his breast,
    and how his misery augmented, in proportion as he
    grew reflective and intelligent,--thus demonstrating
    that a happy slave is an extinct man! how he
    thought, reasoned, felt, under the lash of the driver,
    with the chains upon his limbs! what perils he en-
    countered in his endeavors to escape from his hor-
    rible doom! and how signal have been his deliverance
    and preservation in the midst of a nation of pitiless

    This Narrative contains many affecting incidents,
    many passages of great eloquence and power; but I
    think the most thrilling one of them all is the de-
    scription DOUGLASS gives of his feelings, as he stood
    soliloquizing respecting his fate, and the chances of
    his one day being a freeman, on the banks of the
    Chesapeake Bay--viewing the receding vessels as they
    flew with their white wings before the breeze, and
    apostrophizing them as animated by the living spirit
    of freedom. Who can read that passage, and be in-
    sensible to its pathos and sublimity? Compressed
    into it is a whole Alexandrian library of thought,
    feeling, and sentiment--all that can, all that need be
    urged, in the form of expostulation, entreaty, rebuke,
    against that crime of crimes,--making man the prop-
    erty of his fellow-man! O, how accursed is that
    system, which entombs the godlike mind of man,
    defaces the divine image, reduces those who by crea-
    tion were crowned with glory and honor to a level
    with four-footed beasts, and exalts the dealer in hu-
    man flesh above all that is called God! Why should
    its existence be prolonged one hour? Is it not evil,
    only evil, and that continually? What does its pres-
    ence imply but the absence of all fear of God, all
    regard for man, on the part of the people of the
    United States? Heaven speed its eternal overthrow!

    So profoundly ignorant of the nature of slavery
    are many persons, that they are stubbornly incredu-
    lous whenever they read or listen to any recital of
    the cruelties which are daily inflicted on its victims.
    They do not deny that the slaves are held as prop-
    erty; but that terrible fact seems to convey to their
    minds no idea of injustice, exposure to outrage, or
    savage barbarity. Tell them of cruel scourgings, of
    mutilations and brandings, of scenes of pollution
    and blood, of the banishment of all light and knowl-
    edge, and they affect to be greatly indignant at such
    enormous exaggerations, such wholesale misstate-
    ments, such abominable libels on the character of
    the southern planters! As if all these direful outrages
    were not the natural results of slavery! As if it were
    less cruel to reduce a human being to the condition
    of a thing, than to give him a severe flagellation,
    or to deprive him of necessary food and clothing!
    As if whips, chains, thumb-screws, paddles, blood-
    hounds, overseers, drivers, patrols, were not all in-
    dispensable to keep the slaves down, and to give
    protection to their ruthless oppressors! As if, when
    the marriage institution is abolished, concubinage,
    adultery, and incest, must not necessarily abound;
    when all the rights of humanity are annihilated, any
    barrier remains to protect the victim from the fury
    of the spoiler; when absolute power is assumed over
    life and liberty, it will not be wielded with destruc-
    tive sway! Skeptics of this character abound in so-
    ciety. In some few instances, their incredulity arises
    from a want of reflection; but, generally, it indicates
    a hatred of the light, a desire to shield slavery from
    the assaults of its foes, a contempt of the colored
    race, whether bond or free. Such will try to discredit
    the shocking tales of slaveholding cruelty which are
    recorded in this truthful Narrative; but they will
    labor in vain. Mr. DOUGLASS has frankly disclosed
    the place of his birth, the names of those who
    claimed ownership in his body and soul, and the
    names also of those who committed the crimes which
    he has alleged against them. His statements, there-
    fore, may easily be disproved, if they are untrue.

    In the course of his Narrative, he relates two in-
    stances of murderous cruelty,--in one of which a
    planter deliberately shot a slave belonging to a neigh-
    boring plantation, who had unintentionally gotten
    within his lordly domain in quest of fish; and in the
    other, an overseer blew out the brains of a slave who
    had fled to a stream of water to escape a bloody
    scourging. Mr. DOUGLASS states that in neither of
    these instances was any thing done by way of legal
    arrest or judicial investigation. The Baltimore Amer-
    ican, of March 17, 1845, relates a similar case of
    atrocity, perpetrated with similar impunity--as fol-
    lows:--"~Shooting a slave.~--We learn, upon the au-
    thority of a letter from Charles county, Maryland,
    received by a gentleman of this city, that a young
    man, named Matthews, a nephew of General Mat-
    thews, and whose father, it is believed, holds an of-
    fice at Washington, killed one of the slaves upon his
    father's farm by shooting him. The letter states that
    young Matthews had been left in charge of the farm;
    that he gave an order to the servant, which was dis-
    obeyed, when he proceeded to the house, ~obtained
    a gun, and, returning, shot the servant.~ He immedi-
    ately, the letter continues, fled to his father's resi-
    dence, where he still remains unmolested."--Let it
    never be forgotten, that no slaveholder or overseer
    can be convicted of any outrage perpetrated on the
    person of a slave, however diabolical it may be, on
    the testimony of colored witnesses, whether bond
    or free. By the slave code, they are adjudged to be
    as incompetent to testify against a white man, as
    though they were indeed a part of the brute creation.
    Hence, there is no legal protection in fact, whatever
    there may be in form, for the slave population; and
    any amount of cruelty may be inflicted on them
    with impunity. Is it possible for the human mind
    to conceive of a more horrible state of society?

    The effect of a religious profession on the conduct
    of southern masters is vividly described in the fol-
    lowing Narrative, and shown to be any thing but
    salutary. In the nature of the case, it must be in
    the highest degree pernicious. The testimony of Mr.
    DOUGLASS, on this point, is sustained by a cloud of
    witnesses, whose veracity is unimpeachable. "A slave-
    holder's profession of Christianity is a palpable im-
    posture. He is a felon of the highest grade. He is a
    man-stealer. It is of no importance what you put in
    the other scale."

    Reader! are you with the man-stealers in sympathy
    and purpose, or on the side of their down-trodden
    victims? If with the former, then are you the foe of
    God and man. If with the latter, what are you pre-
    pared to do and dare in their behalf? Be faithful,
    be vigilant, be untiring in your efforts to break every
    yoke, and let the oppressed go free. Come what may
    --cost what it may--inscribe on the banner which
    you unfurl to the breeze, as your religious and po-
    litical motto--"NO COMPROMISE WITH SLAVERY! NO

    BOSTON, ~May~ 1, 1845.



    BOSTON, APRIL 22, 1845.

    My Dear Friend:

    You remember the old fable of "The Man and
    the Lion," where the lion complained that he should
    not be so misrepresented "when the lions wrote his-

    I am glad the time has come when the "lions
    write history." We have been left long enough to
    gather the character of slavery from the involuntary
    evidence of the masters. One might, indeed, rest
    sufficiently satisfied with what, it is evident, must
    be, in general, the results of such a relation, with-
    out seeking farther to find whether they have fol-
    lowed in every instance. Indeed, those who stare at
    the half-peck of corn a week, and love to count the
    lashes on the slave's back, are seldom the "stuff" out
    of which reformers and abolitionists are to be made.
    I remember that, in 1838, many were waiting for
    the results of the West India experiment, before
    they could come into our ranks. Those "results" have
    come long ago; but, alas! few of that number have
    come with them, as converts. A man must be dis-
    posed to judge of emancipation by other tests than
    whether it has increased the produce of sugar,--and
    to hate slavery for other reasons than because it
    starves men and whips women,--before he is ready
    to lay the first stone of his anti-slavery life.

    I was glad to learn, in your story, how early the
    most neglected of God's children waken to a sense
    of their rights, and of the injustice done them. Ex-
    perience is a keen teacher; and long before you had
    mastered your A B C, or knew where the "white
    sails" of the Chesapeake were bound, you began, I
    see, to gauge the wretchedness of the slave, not by
    his hunger and want, not by his lashes and toil, but
    by the cruel and blighting death which gathers over
    his soul.

    In connection with this, there is one circumstance
    which makes your recollections peculiarly valuable,
    and renders your early insight the more remarkable.
    You come from that part of the country where we
    are told slavery appears with its fairest features. Let
    us hear, then, what it is at its best estate--gaze on
    its bright side, if it has one; and then imagination
    may task her powers to add dark lines to the picture,
    as she travels southward to that (for the colored
    man) Valley of the Shadow of Death, where the
    Mississippi sweeps along.

    Again, we have known you long, and can put the
    most entire confidence in your truth, candor, and
    sincerity. Every one who has heard you speak has
    felt, and, I am confident, every one who reads your
    book will feel, persuaded that you give them a fair
    specimen of the whole truth. No one-sided portrait,
    --no wholesale complaints,--but strict justice done,
    whenever individual kindliness has neutralized, for
    a moment, the deadly system with which it was
    strangely allied. You have been with us, too, some
    years, and can fairly compare the twilight of rights,
    which your race enjoy at the North, with that "noon
    of night" under which they labor south of Mason
    and Dixon's line. Tell us whether, after all, the half-
    free colored man of Massachusetts is worse off than
    the pampered slave of the rice swamps!

    In reading your life, no one can say that we have
    unfairly picked out some rare specimens of cruelty.
    We know that the bitter drops, which even you have
    drained from the cup, are no incidental aggravations,
    no individual ills, but such as must mingle always
    and necessarily in the lot of every slave. They are the
    essential ingredients, not the occasional results, of
    the system.

    After all, I shall read your book with trembling
    for you. Some years ago, when you were beginning
    to tell me your real name and birthplace, you may
    remember I stopped you, and preferred to remain
    ignorant of all. With the exception of a vague de-
    scription, so I continued, till the other day, when
    you read me your memoirs. I hardly knew, at the
    time, whether to thank you or not for the sight of
    them, when I reflected that it was still dangerous,
    in Massachusetts, for honest men to tell their names!
    They say the fathers, in 1776, signed the Declaration
    of Independence with the halter about their necks.
    You, too, publish your declaration of freedom with
    danger compassing you around. In all the broad lands
    which the Constitution of the United States over-
    shadows, there is no single spot,--however narrow or
    desolate,--where a fugitive slave can plant himself
    and say, "I am safe." The whole armory of North-
    ern Law has no shield for you. I am free to say that,
    in your place, I should throw the MS. into the fire.

    You, perhaps, may tell your story in safety, en-
    deared as you are to so many warm hearts by rare
    gifts, and a still rarer devotion of them to the service
    of others. But it will be owing only to your labors,
    and the fearless efforts of those who, trampling the
    laws and Constitution of the country under their
    feet, are determined that they will "hide the out-
    cast," and that their hearths shall be, spite of the
    law, an asylum for the oppressed, if, some time or
    other, the humblest may stand in our streets, and
    bear witness in safety against the cruelties of which
    he has been the victim.

    Yet it is sad to think, that these very throbbing
    hearts which welcome your story, and form your best
    safeguard in telling it, are all beating contrary to the
    "statute in such case made and provided." Go on,
    my dear friend, till you, and those who, like you,
    have been saved, so as by fire, from the dark prison-
    house, shall stereotype these free, illegal pulses into
    statutes; and New England, cutting loose from a
    blood-stained Union, shall glory in being the house
    of refuge for the oppressed,--till we no longer merely
    "~hide~ the outcast," or make a merit of standing idly
    by while he is hunted in our midst; but, consecrat-
    ing anew the soil of the Pilgrims as an asylum for the
    oppressed, proclaim our WELCOME to the slave so
    loudly, that the tones shall reach every hut in the
    Carolinas, and make the broken-hearted bondman
    leap up at the thought of old Massachusetts.

    God speed the day!

    ~Till then, and ever,~
    ~Yours truly,~


    Frederick Douglass was born in slavery as Fred-
    erick Augustus Washington Bailey near Easton in
    Talbot County, Maryland. He was not sure of the
    exact year of his birth, but he knew that it was 1817
    or 1818. As a young boy he was sent to Baltimore,
    to be a house servant, where he learned to read and
    write, with the assistance of his master's wife. In
    1838 he escaped from slavery and went to New York
    City, where he married Anna Murray, a free colored
    woman whom he had met in Baltimore. Soon there-
    after he changed his name to Frederick Douglass.
    In 1841 he addressed a convention of the Massa-
    chusetts Anti-Slavery Society in Nantucket and so
    greatly impressed the group that they immediately
    employed him as an agent. He was such an impres-
    sive orator that numerous persons doubted if he had
    ever been a slave, so he wrote NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE
    OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS. During the Civil War he as-
    sisted in the recruiting of colored men for the 54th
    and 55th Massachusetts Regiments and consistently
    argued for the emancipation of slaves. After the war
    he was active in securing and protecting the rights
    of the freemen. In his later years, at different times,
    he was secretary of the Santo Domingo Commission,
    marshall and recorder of deeds of the District of
    Columbia, and United States Minister to Haiti. His
    other autobiographical works are MY BONDAGE AND
    DOUGLASS, published in 1855 and 1881 respectively.
    He died in 1895.
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