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    Chapter 12

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    Chapter 13
    Previous Chapter
    _Religious Nature Awakened_

    ABOLITIONISTS SPOKEN OF--MY EAGERNESS TO KNOW WHAT THIS WORD
    MEANT--MY CONSULTATION OF THE DICTIONARY--INCENDIARY
    INFORMATION--HOW AND WHERE DERIVED--THE ENIGMA SOLVED--NATHANIEL
    TURNER'S INSURRECTION--THE CHOLERA--RELIGION--FIRST AWAKENED BY A
    METHODIST MINISTER NAMED HANSON--MY DEAR AND GOOD OLD COLORED
    FRIEND, LAWSON--HIS CHARACTER AND OCCUPATION--HIS INFLUENCE OVER
    ME--OUR MUTUAL ATTACHMENT--THE COMFORT I DERIVED FROM HIS
    TEACHING--NEW HOPES AND ASPIRATIONS--HEAVENLY LIGHT AMIDST
    EARTHLY DARKNESS--THE TWO IRISHMEN ON THE WHARF--THEIR
    CONVERSATION--HOW I LEARNED TO WRITE--WHAT WERE MY AIMS.

    Whilst in the painful state of mind described in the foregoing
    chapter, almost regretting my very existence, because doomed to a
    life of bondage, so goaded and so wretched, at times, that I was
    even tempted to destroy my own life, I was keenly sensitive and
    eager to know any, and every thing that transpired, having any
    relation to the subject of slavery. I was all ears, all eyes,
    whenever the words _slave, slavery_, dropped from the lips of any
    white person, and the occasions were not unfrequent when these
    words became leading ones, in high, social debate, at our house.
    Every little while, I could hear Master Hugh, or some of his
    company, speaking with much warmth and excitement about
    _"abolitionists."_ Of _who_ or _what_ these were, I was totally
    ignorant. I found, however, that whatever they might be, they
    were most cordially hated and soundly abused by slaveholders, of
    every grade. I very soon discovered, too, that slavery was, in
    some sort, under consideration, whenever the abolitionists
    were alluded to. This made the term a very interesting one to
    me. If a slave, for instance, had made good his escape from
    slavery, it was generally alleged, that he had been persuaded and
    assisted by the abolitionists. If, also, a slave killed his
    master--as was sometimes the case--or struck down his overseer,
    or set fire to his master's dwelling, or committed any violence
    or crime, out of the common way, it was certain to be said, that
    such a crime was the legitimate fruits of the abolition movement.
    Hearing such charges often repeated, I, naturally enough,
    received the impression that abolition--whatever else it might
    be--could not be unfriendly to the slave, nor very friendly to
    the slaveholder. I therefore set about finding out, if possible,
    _who_ and _what_ the abolitionists were, and _why_ they were so
    obnoxious to the slaveholders. The dictionary afforded me very
    little help. It taught me that abolition was the "act of
    abolishing;" but it left me in ignorance at the very point where
    I most wanted information--and that was, as to the _thing_ to be
    abolished. A city newspaper, the _Baltimore American_, gave me
    the incendiary information denied me by the dictionary. In its
    columns I found, that, on a certain day, a vast number of
    petitions and memorials had been presented to congress, praying
    for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, and for
    the abolition of the slave trade between the states of the Union.
    This was enough. The vindictive bitterness, the marked caution,
    the studied reverse, and the cumbrous ambiguity, practiced by our
    white folks, when alluding to this subject, was now fully
    explained. Ever, after that, when I heard the words "abolition,"
    or "abolition movement," mentioned, I felt the matter one of a
    personal concern; and I drew near to listen, when I could do so,
    without seeming too solicitous and prying. There was HOPE in
    those words. Ever and anon, too, I could see some terrible
    denunciation of slavery, in our papers--copied from abolition
    papers at the north--and the injustice of such denunciation
    commented on. These I read with avidity. ENIGMA SOLVED>I had a deep satisfaction in the thought, that the
    rascality of slaveholders was not concealed from the eyes of the
    world, and that I was not alone in abhorring the cruelty and
    brutality of slavery. A still deeper train of thought was
    stirred. I saw that there was _fear_, as well as _rage_, in the
    manner of speaking of the abolitionists. The latter, therefore,
    I was compelled to regard as having some power in the country;
    and I felt that they might, possibly, succeed in their designs.
    When I met with a slave to whom I deemed it safe to talk on the
    subject, I would impart to him so much of the mystery as I had
    been able to penetrate. Thus, the light of this grand movement
    broke in upon my mind, by degrees; and I must say, that, ignorant
    as I then was of the philosophy of that movement, I believe in it
    from the first--and I believed in it, partly, because I saw that
    it alarmed the consciences of slaveholders. The insurrection of
    Nathaniel Turner had been quelled, but the alarm and terror had
    not subsided. The cholera was on its way, and the thought was
    present, that God was angry with the white people because of
    their slaveholding wickedness, and, therefore, his judgments were
    abroad in the land. It was impossible for me not to hope much
    from the abolition movement, when I saw it supported by the
    Almighty, and armed with DEATH!

    Previous to my contemplation of the anti-slavery movement, and
    its probable results, my mind had been seriously awakened to the
    subject of religion. I was not more than thirteen years old,
    when I felt the need of God, as a father and protector. My
    religious nature was awakened by the preaching of a white
    Methodist minister, named Hanson. He thought that all men, great
    and small, bond and free, were sinners in the sight of God; that
    they were, by nature, rebels against His government; and that
    they must repent of their sins, and be reconciled to God, through
    Christ. I cannot say that I had a very distinct notion of what
    was required of me; but one thing I knew very well--I was
    wretched, and had no means of making myself otherwise. Moreover,
    I knew that I could pray for light. I consulted a good colored
    man, named Charles Johnson; and, in tones of holy affection,
    he told me to pray, and what to pray for. I was, for weeks, a
    poor, brokenhearted mourner, traveling through the darkness and
    misery of doubts and fears. I finally found that change of heart
    which comes by "casting all one's care" upon God, and by having
    faith in Jesus Christ, as the Redeemer, Friend, and Savior of
    those who diligently seek Him.

    After this, I saw the world in a new light. I seemed to live in
    a new world, surrounded by new objects, and to be animated by new
    hopes and desires. I loved all mankind--slaveholders not
    excepted; though I abhorred slavery more than ever. My great
    concern was, now, to have the world converted. The desire for
    knowledge increased, and especially did I want a thorough
    acquaintance with the contents of the bible. I have gathered
    scattered pages from this holy book, from the filthy street
    gutters of Baltimore, and washed and dried them, that in the
    moments of my leisure, I might get a word or two of wisdom from
    them. While thus religiously seeking knowledge, I became
    acquainted with a good old colored man, named Lawson. A more
    devout man than he, I never saw. He drove a dray for Mr. James
    Ramsey, the owner of a rope-walk on Fell's Point, Baltimore.
    This man not only prayed three time a day, but he prayed as he
    walked through the streets, at his work--on his dray everywhere.
    His life was a life of prayer, and his words (when he spoke to
    his friends,) were about a better world. Uncle Lawson lived near
    Master Hugh's house; and, becoming deeply attached to the old
    man, I went often with him to prayer-meeting, and spent much of
    my leisure time with him on Sunday. The old man could read a
    little, and I was a great help to him, in making out the hard
    words, for I was a better reader than he. I could teach him
    _"the letter,"_ but he could teach me _"the spirit;"_ and high,
    refreshing times we had together, in singing, praying and
    glorifying God. These meetings with Uncle Lawson went on for a
    long time, without the knowledge of Master Hugh or my mistress.
    Both knew, however, that I had
    become religious, and they seemed to respect my conscientious
    piety. My mistress was still a professor of religion, and
    belonged to class. Her leader was no less a person than the Rev.
    Beverly Waugh, the presiding elder, and now one of the bishops of
    the Methodist Episcopal church. Mr. Waugh was then stationed
    over Wilk street church. I am careful to state these facts, that
    the reader may be able to form an idea of the precise influences
    which had to do with shaping and directing my mind.

    In view of the cares and anxieties incident to the life she was
    then leading, and, especially, in view of the separation from
    religious associations to which she was subjected, my mistress
    had, as I have before stated, become lukewarm, and needed to be
    looked up by her leader. This brought Mr. Waugh to our house,
    and gave me an opportunity to hear him exhort and pray. But my
    chief instructor, in matters of religion, was Uncle Lawson. He
    was my spiritual father; and I loved him intensely, and was at
    his house every chance I got.

    This pleasure was not long allowed me. Master Hugh became averse
    to my going to Father Lawson's, and threatened to whip me if I
    ever went there again. I now felt myself persecuted by a wicked
    man; and I _would_ go to Father Lawson's, notwithstanding the
    threat. The good old man had told me, that the "Lord had a great
    work for me to do;" and I must prepare to do it; and that he had
    been shown that I must preach the gospel. His words made a deep
    impression on my mind, and I verily felt that some such work was
    before me, though I could not see _how_ I should ever engage in
    its performance. "The good Lord," he said, "would bring it to
    pass in his own good time," and that I must go on reading and
    studying the scriptures. The advice and the suggestions of Uncle
    Lawson, were not without their influence upon my character and
    destiny. He threw my thoughts into a channel from which they
    have never entirely diverged. He fanned my already intense love
    of knowledge into a flame, by assuring me that I was to be a
    useful man in the world. When I would say to him, "How can
    these things be and what can _I_ do?" his simple reply was,
    _"Trust in the Lord."_ When I told him that "I was a slave, and
    a slave FOR LIFE," he said, "the Lord can make you free, my dear.
    All things are possible with him, only _have faith in God."_
    "Ask, and it shall be given." "If you want liberty," said the
    good old man, "ask the Lord for it, _in faith_, AND HE WILL GIVE
    IT TO YOU."

    Thus assured, and cheered on, under the inspiration of hope, I
    worked and prayed with a light heart, believing that my life was
    under the guidance of a wisdom higher than my own. With all
    other blessings sought at the mercy seat, I always prayed that
    God would, of His great mercy, and in His own good time, deliver
    me from my bondage.

    I went, one day, on the wharf of Mr. Waters; and seeing two
    Irishmen unloading a large scow of stone, or ballast I went on
    board, unasked, and helped them. When we had finished the work,
    one of the men came to me, aside, and asked me a number of
    questions, and among them, if I were a slave. I told him "I was
    a slave, and a slave for life." The good Irishman gave his
    shoulders a shrug, and seemed deeply affected by the statement.
    He said, "it was a pity so fine a little fellow as myself should
    be a slave for life." They both had much to say about the
    matter, and expressed the deepest sympathy with me, and the most
    decided hatred of slavery. They went so far as to tell me that I
    ought to run away, and go to the north; that I should find
    friends there, and that I would be as free as anybody. I,
    however, pretended not to be interested in what they said, for I
    feared they might be treacherous. White men have been known to
    encourage slaves to escape, and then--to get the reward--they
    have kidnapped them, and returned them to their masters. And
    while I mainly inclined to the notion that these men were honest
    and meant me no ill, I feared it might be otherwise. I
    nevertheless remembered their words and their advice, and looked
    forward to an escape to the north, as a possible means of gaining
    the liberty for which my heart
    panted. It was not my enslavement, at the then present time,
    that most affected me; the being a slave _for life_, was the
    saddest thought. I was too young to think of running away
    immediately; besides, I wished to learn how to write, before
    going, as I might have occasion to write my own pass. I now not
    only had the hope of freedom, but a foreshadowing of the means by
    which I might, some day, gain that inestimable boon. Meanwhile,
    I resolved to add to my educational attainments the art of
    writing.

    After this manner I began to learn to write: I was much in the
    ship yard--Master Hugh's, and that of Durgan & Bailey--and I
    observed that the carpenters, after hewing and getting a piece of
    timber ready for use, wrote on it the initials of the name of
    that part of the ship for which it was intended. When, for
    instance, a piece of timber was ready for the starboard side, it
    was marked with a capital "S." A piece for the larboard side was
    marked "L;" larboard forward, "L. F.;" larboard aft, was marked
    "L. A.;" starboard aft, "S. A.;" and starboard forward "S. F." I
    soon learned these letters, and for what they were placed on the
    timbers.

    My work was now, to keep fire under the steam box, and to watch
    the ship yard while the carpenters had gone to dinner. This
    interval gave me a fine opportunity for copying the letters
    named. I soon astonished myself with the ease with which I made
    the letters; and the thought was soon present, "if I can make
    four, I can make more." But having made these easily, when I met
    boys about Bethel church, or any of our play-grounds, I entered
    the lists with them in the art of writing, and would make the
    letters which I had been so fortunate as to learn, and ask them
    to "beat that if they could." With playmates for my teachers,
    fences and pavements for my copy books, and chalk for my pen and
    ink, I learned the art of writing. I, however, afterward adopted
    various methods of improving my hand. The most successful, was
    copying the _italics_ in Webster's spelling book, until I
    could make them all without looking on the book. By this time,
    my little "Master Tommy" had grown to be a big boy, and had
    written over a number of copy books, and brought them home. They
    had been shown to the neighbors, had elicited due praise, and
    were now laid carefully away. Spending my time between the ship
    yard and house, I was as often the lone keeper of the latter as
    of the former. When my mistress left me in charge of the house,
    I had a grand time; I got Master Tommy's copy books and a pen and
    ink, and, in the ample spaces between the lines, I wrote other
    lines, as nearly like his as possible. The process was a tedious
    one, and I ran the risk of getting a flogging for marring the
    highly prized copy books of the oldest son. In addition to those
    opportunities, sleeping, as I did, in the kitchen loft--a room
    seldom visited by any of the family--I got a flour barrel up
    there, and a chair; and upon the head of that barrel I have
    written (or endeavored to write) copying from the bible and the
    Methodist hymn book, and other books which had accumulated on my
    hands, till late at night, and when all the family were in bed
    and asleep. I was supported in my endeavors by renewed advice,
    and by holy promises from the good Father Lawson, with whom I
    continued to meet, and pray, and read the scriptures. Although
    Master Hugh was aware of my going there, I must say, for his
    credit, that he never executed his threat to whip me, for having
    thus, innocently, employed-my leisure time.
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    Chapter 13
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