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    Chapter 19

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    Chapter 20
    Previous Chapter
    _The Run-Away Plot_

    NEW YEAR'S THOUGHTS AND MEDITATIONS--AGAIN BOUGHT BY FREELAND--NO
    AMBITION TO BE A SLAVE--KINDNESS NO COMPENSATION FOR SLAVERY--
    INCIPIENT STEPS TOWARD ESCAPE--CONSIDERATIONS LEADING THERETO--
    IRRECONCILABLE HOSTILITY TO SLAVERY--SOLEMN VOW TAKEN--PLAN
    DIVULGED TO THE SLAVES--_Columbian Orator--_SCHEME GAINS FAVOR,
    DESPITE PRO-SLAVERY PREACHING--DANGER OF DISCOVERY--SKILL OF
    SLAVEHOLDERS IN READING THE MINDS OF THEIR SLAVES--SUSPICION AND
    COERCION--HYMNS WITH DOUBLE MEANING--VALUE, IN DOLLARS, OF OUR
    COMPANY--PRELIMINARY CONSULTATION--PASS-WORD--CONFLICTS OF HOPE
    AND FEAR--DIFFICULTIES TO BE OVERCOME--IGNORANCE OF GEOGRAPHY--
    SURVEY OF IMAGINARY DIFFICULTIES--EFFECT ON OUR MINDS--PATRICK
    HENRY--SANDY BECOMES A DREAMER--ROUTE TO THE NORTH LAID OUT--
    OBJECTIONS CONSIDERED--FRAUDS PRACTICED ON FREEMEN--PASSES
    WRITTEN--ANXIETIES AS THE TIME DREW NEAR--DREAD OF FAILURE--
    APPEALS TO COMRADES--STRANGE PRESENTIMENT--COINCIDENCE--THE
    BETRAYAL DISCOVERED--THE MANNER OF ARRESTING US--RESISTANCE MADE
    BY HENRY HARRIS--ITS EFFECT--THE UNIQUE SPEECH OF MRS. FREELAND--
    OUR SAD PROCESSION TO PRISON--BRUTAL JEERS BY THE MULTITUDE ALONG
    THE ROAD--PASSES EATEN--THE DENIAL--SANDY TOO WELL LOVED TO BE
    SUSPECTED--DRAGGED BEHIND HORSES--THE JAIL A RELIEF--A NEW SET OF
    TORMENTORS--SLAVE-TRADERS--JOHN, CHARLES AND HENRY RELEASED--
    ALONE IN PRISON--I AM TAKEN OUT, AND SENT TO BALTIMORE.

    I am now at the beginning of the year 1836, a time favorable for
    serious thoughts. The mind naturally occupies itself with the
    mysteries of life in all its phases--the ideal, the real and the
    actual. Sober people look both ways at the beginning of the
    year, surveying the errors of the past, and providing against
    possible errors of the future. I, too, was thus exercised. I
    had little pleasure in retrospect, and the prospect was not
    very brilliant. "Notwithstanding," thought I, "the many
    resolutions and prayers I have made, in behalf of freedom, I am,
    this first day of the year 1836, still a slave, still wandering
    in the depths of spirit-devouring thralldom. My faculties and
    powers of body and soul are not my own, but are the property of a
    fellow mortal, in no sense superior to me, except that he has the
    physical power to compel me to be owned and controlled by him.
    By the combined physical force of the community, I am his slave--
    a slave for life." With thoughts like these, I was perplexed and
    chafed; they rendered me gloomy and disconsolate. The anguish of
    my mind may not be written.

    At the close of the year 1835, Mr. Freeland, my temporary master,
    had bought me of Capt. Thomas Auld, for the year 1836. His
    promptness in securing my services, would have been flattering to
    my vanity, had I been ambitious to win the reputation of being a
    valuable slave. Even as it was, I felt a slight degree of
    complacency at the circumstance. It showed he was as well
    pleased with me as a slave, as I was with him as a master. I
    have already intimated my regard for Mr. Freeland, and I may say
    here, in addressing northern readers--where is no selfish motive
    for speaking in praise of a slaveholder--that Mr. Freeland was a
    man of many excellent qualities, and to me quite preferable to
    any master I ever had.

    But the kindness of the slavemaster only gilds the chain of
    slavery, and detracts nothing from its weight or power. The
    thought that men are made for other and better uses than slavery,
    thrives best under the gentle treatment of a kind master. But
    the grim visage of slavery can assume no smiles which can
    fascinate the partially enlightened slave, into a forgetfulness
    of his bondage, nor of the desirableness of liberty.

    I was not through the first month of this, my second year with
    the kind and gentlemanly Mr. Freeland, before I was earnestly
    considering and advising plans for gaining that freedom, which,
    when I was but a mere child,
    I had ascertained to be the natural and inborn right of every
    member of the human family. The desire for this freedom had been
    benumbed, while I was under the brutalizing dominion of Covey;
    and it had been postponed, and rendered inoperative, by my truly
    pleasant Sunday school engagements with my friends, during the
    year 1835, at Mr. Freeland's. It had, however, never entirely
    subsided. I hated slavery, always, and the desire for freedom
    only needed a favorable breeze, to fan it into a blaze, at any
    moment. The thought of only being a creature of the _present_
    and the _past_, troubled me, and I longed to have a _future_--a
    future with hope in it. To be shut up entirely to the past and
    present, is abhorrent to the human mind; it is to the soul--whose
    life and happiness is unceasing progress--what the prison is to
    the body; a blight and mildew, a hell of horrors. The dawning of
    this, another year, awakened me from my temporary slumber, and
    roused into life my latent, but long cherished aspirations for
    freedom. I was now not only ashamed to be contented in slavery,
    but ashamed to _seem_ to be contented, and in my present
    favorable condition, under the mild rule of Mr. F., I am not sure
    that some kind reader will not condemn me for being over
    ambitious, and greatly wanting in proper humility, when I say the
    truth, that I now drove from me all thoughts of making the best
    of my lot, and welcomed only such thoughts as led me away from
    the house of bondage. The intense desires, now felt, _to be
    free_, quickened by my present favorable circumstances, brought
    me to the determination to act, as well as to think and speak.
    Accordingly, at the beginning of this year 1836, I took upon me a
    solemn vow, that the year which had now dawned upon me should not
    close, without witnessing an earnest attempt, on my part, to gain
    my liberty. This vow only bound me to make my escape
    individually; but the year spent with Mr. Freeland had attached
    me, as with "hooks of steel," to my brother slaves. The most
    affectionate and confiding friendship existed between us; and I
    felt it my duty to give them an opportunity to share in my
    virtuous determination by frankly disclosing to them my
    plans and purposes. Toward Henry and John Harris, I felt a
    friendship as strong as one man can feel for another; for I could
    have died with and for them. To them, therefore, with a suitable
    degree of caution, I began to disclose my sentiments and plans;
    sounding them, the while on the subject of running away, provided
    a good chance should offer. I scarcely need tell the reader,
    that I did my _very best_ to imbue the minds of my dear friends
    with my own views and feelings. Thoroughly awakened, now, and
    with a definite vow upon me, all my little reading, which had any
    bearing on the subject of human rights, was rendered available in
    my communications with my friends. That (to me) gem of a book,
    the _Columbian Orator_, with its eloquent orations and spicy
    dialogues, denouncing oppression and slavery--telling of what had
    been dared, done and suffered by men, to obtain the inestimable
    boon of liberty--was still fresh in my memory, and whirled into
    the ranks of my speech with the aptitude of well trained
    soldiers, going through the drill. The fact is, I here began my
    public speaking. I canvassed, with Henry and John, the subject
    of slavery, and dashed against it the condemning brand of God's
    eternal justice, which it every hour violates. My fellow
    servants were neither indifferent, dull, nor inapt. Our feelings
    were more alike than our opinions. All, however, were ready to
    act, when a feasible plan should be proposed. "Show us _how_ the
    thing is to be done," said they, "and all is clear."

    We were all, except Sandy, quite free from slaveholding
    priestcraft. It was in vain that we had been taught from the
    pulpit at St. Michael's, the duty of obedience to our masters; to
    recognize God as the author of our enslavement; to regard running
    away an offense, alike against God and man; to deem our
    enslavement a merciful and beneficial arrangement; to esteem our
    condition, in this country, a paradise to that from which we had
    been snatched in Africa; to consider our hard hands and dark
    color as God's mark of displeasure, and as pointing us out as the
    proper subjects of slavery;
    that the relation of master and slave was one of reciprocal
    benefits; that our work was not more serviceable to our masters,
    than our master's thinking was serviceable to us. I say, it was
    in vain that the pulpit of St. Michael's had constantly
    inculcated these plausib]e doctrine. Nature laughed them to
    scorn. For my own part, I had now become altogether too big for
    my chains. Father Lawson's solemn words, of what I ought to be,
    and might be, in the providence of God, had not fallen dead on my
    soul. I was fast verging toward manhood, and the prophecies of
    my childhood were still unfulfilled. The thought, that year
    after year had passed away, and my resolutions to run away had
    failed and faded--that I was _still a slave_, and a slave, too,
    with chances for gaining my freedom diminished and still
    diminishing--was not a matter to be slept over easily; nor did I
    easily sleep over it.

    But here came a new trouble. Thoughts and purposes so incendiary
    as those I now cherished, could not agitate the mind long,
    without danger of making themselves manifest to scrutinizing and
    unfriendly beholders. I had reason to fear that my sable face
    might prove altogether too transparent for the safe concealment
    of my hazardous enterprise. Plans of greater moment have leaked
    through stone walls, and revealed their projectors. But, here
    was no stone wall to hide my purpose. I would have given my
    poor, tell tale face for the immoveable countenance of an Indian,
    for it was far from being proof against the daily, searching
    glances of those with whom I met.

    It is the interest and business of slaveholders to study human
    nature, with a view to practical results, and many of them attain
    astonishing proficiency in discerning the thoughts and emotions
    of slaves. They have to deal not with earth, wood, or stone, but
    with _men;_ and, by every regard they have for their safety and
    prosperity, they must study to know the material on which they
    are at work. So much intellect as the slaveholder has around
    him, requires watching. Their safety depends upon their
    vigilance. Conscious of the injustice and wrong they are every
    hour perpetrating, and knowing what they themselves would do
    if made the victims of such wrongs, they are looking out for the
    first signs of the dread retribution of justice. They watch,
    therefore, with skilled and practiced eyes, and have learned to
    read, with great accuracy, the state of mind and heart of the
    slaves, through his sable face. These uneasy sinners are quick
    to inquire into the matter, where the slave is concerned.
    Unusual sobriety, apparent abstraction, sullenness and
    indifference--indeed, any mood out of the common way--afford
    ground for suspicion and inquiry. Often relying on their
    superior position and wisdom, they hector and torture the slave
    into a confession, by affecting to know the truth of their
    accusations. "You have got the devil in you," say they, "and we
    will whip him out of you." I have often been put thus to the
    torture, on bare suspicion. This system has its disadvantages as
    well as their opposite. The slave is sometimes whipped into the
    confession of offenses which he never committed. The reader will
    see that the good old rule--"a man is to be held innocent until
    proved to be guilty"--does not hold good on the slave plantation.
    Suspicion and torture are the approved methods of getting at the
    truth, here. It was necessary for me, therefore, to keep a watch
    over my deportment, lest the enemy should get the better of me.

    But with all our caution and studied reserve, I am not sure that
    Mr. Freeland did not suspect that all was not right with us. It
    _did_ seem that he watched us more narrowly, after the plan of
    escape had been conceived and discussed amongst us. Men seldom
    see themselves as others see them; and while, to ourselves,
    everything connected with our contemplated escape appeared
    concealed, Mr. Freeland may have, with the peculiar prescience of
    a slaveholder, mastered the huge thought which was disturbing our
    peace in slavery.

    I am the more inclined to think that he suspected us, because,
    prudent as we were, as I now look back, I can see that we did
    many silly things, very well calculated to awaken suspicion. We
    were, at times, remarkably
    buoyant, singing hymns and making joyous exclamations, almost as
    triumphant in their tone as if we reached a land of freedom and
    safety. A keen observer might have detected in our repeated
    singing of

    _O Canaan, sweet Canaan,
    I am bound for the land of Canaan,_

    something more than a hope of reaching heaven. We meant to reach
    the _north_--and the north was our Canaan.

    _I thought I heard them say,
    There were lions in the way,
    I don't expect to Star
    Much longer here.

    Run to Jesus--shun the danger--
    I don't expect to stay
    Much longer here_.

    was a favorite air, and had a double meaning. In the lips of
    some, it meant the expectation of a speedy summons to a world of
    spirits; but, in the lips of _our_ company, it simply meant, a
    speedy pilgrimage toward a free state, and deliverance from all
    the evils and dangers of slavery.

    I had succeeded in winning to my (what slaveholders would call
    wicked) scheme, a company of five young men, the very flower of
    the neighborhood, each one of whom would have commanded one
    thousand dollars in the home market. At New Orleans, they would
    have brought fifteen hundred dollars a piece, and, perhaps, more.
    The names of our party were as follows: Henry Harris; John
    Harris, brother to Henry; Sandy Jenkins, of root memory; Charles
    Roberts, and Henry Bailey. I was the youngest, but one, of the
    party. I had, however, the advantage of them all, in experience,
    and in a knowledge of letters. This gave me great influence over
    them. Perhaps not one of them, left to himself, would have
    dreamed of escape as a possible thing. Not one of them was self-
    moved in the matter. They all wanted to be free; but the serious
    thought of running away, had not entered into their minds,
    until I won them to the undertaking. They all were tolerably
    well off--for slaves--and had dim hopes of being set free, some
    day, by their masters. If any one is to blame for disturbing the
    quiet of the slaves and slave-masters of the neighborhood of St.
    Michael's, _I am the man_. I claim to be the instigator of the
    high crime (as the slaveholders regard it) and I kept life in it,
    until life could be kept in it no longer.

    Pending the time of our contemplated departure out of our Egypt,
    we met often by night, and on every Sunday. At these meetings we
    talked the matter over; told our hopes and fears, and the
    difficulties discovered or imagined; and, like men of sense, we
    counted the cost of the enterprise to which we were committing
    ourselves.

    These meetings must have resembled, on a small scale, the
    meetings of revolutionary conspirators, in their primary
    condition. We were plotting against our (so called) lawful
    rulers; with this difference that we sought our own good, and not
    the harm of our enemies. We did not seek to overthrow them, but
    to escape from them. As for Mr. Freeland, we all liked him, and
    would have gladly remained with him, _as freeman_. LIBERTY was
    our aim; and we had now come to think that we had a right to
    liberty, against every obstacle even against the lives of our
    enslavers.

    We had several words, expressive of things, important to us,
    which we understood, but which, even if distinctly heard by an
    outsider, would convey no certain meaning. I have reasons for
    suppressing these _pass-words_, which the reader will easily
    divine. I hated the secrecy; but where slavery is powerful, and
    liberty is weak, the latter is driven to concealment or to
    destruction.

    The prospect was not always a bright one. At times, we were
    almost tempted to abandon the enterprise, and to get back to that
    comparative peace of mind, which even a man under the gallows
    might feel, when all hope of escape had vanished. Quiet bondage
    was felt to be better than the doubts, fears and uncertainties,
    which now so sadly perplexed and disturbed us.

    The infirmities of humanity, generally, were represented in our
    little band. We were confident, bold and determined, at times;
    and, again, doubting, timid and wavering; whistling, like the boy
    in the graveyard, to keep away the spirits.

    To look at the map, and observe the proximity of Eastern Shore,
    Maryland, to Delaware and Pennsylvania, it may seem to the reader
    quite absurd, to regard the proposed escape as a formidable
    undertaking. But to _understand_, some one has said a man must
    _stand under_. The real distance was great enough, but the
    imagined distance was, to our ignorance, even greater. Every
    slaveholder seeks to impress his slave with a belief in the
    boundlessness of slave territory, and of his own almost
    illimitable power. We all had vague and indistinct notions of
    the geography of the country.

    The distance, however, is not the chief trouble. The nearer are
    the lines of a slave state and the borders of a free one, the
    greater the peril. Hired kidnappers infest these borders. Then,
    too, we knew that merely reaching a free state did not free us;
    that, wherever caught, we could be returned to slavery. We could
    see no spot on this side the ocean, where we could be free. We
    had heard of Canada, the real Canaan of the American bondmen,
    simply as a country to which the wild goose and the swan repaired
    at the end of winter, to escape the heat of summer, but not as
    the home of man. I knew something of theology, but nothing of
    geography. I really did not, at that time, know that there was a
    state of New York, or a state of Massachusetts. I had heard of
    Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, and all the southern
    states, but was ignorant of the free states, generally. New York
    city was our northern limit, and to go there, and be forever
    harassed with the liability of being hunted down and returned to
    slavery--with the certainty of being treated ten times worse than
    we had ever been treated before was a prospect far from
    delightful, and it might well cause some hesitation about
    engaging in the enterprise. The case, sometimes, to our excited
    visions, stood thus: At every gate through which we had to
    pass, we saw a watchman; at every ferry, a guard; on every
    bridge, a sentinel; and in every wood, a patrol or slave-hunter.
    We were hemmed in on every side. The good to be sought, and the
    evil to be shunned, were flung in the balance, and weighed
    against each other. On the one hand, there stood slavery; a
    stern reality, glaring frightfully upon us, with the blood of
    millions in his polluted skirts--terrible to behold--greedily
    devouring our hard earnings and feeding himself upon our flesh.
    Here was the evil from which to escape. On the other hand, far
    away, back in the hazy distance, where all forms seemed but
    shadows, under the flickering light of the north star--behind
    some craggy hill or snow-covered mountain--stood a doubtful
    freedom, half frozen, beckoning us to her icy domain. This was
    the good to be sought. The inequality was as great as that
    between certainty and uncertainty. This, in itself, was enough
    to stagger us; but when we came to survey the untrodden road, and
    conjecture the many possible difficulties, we were appalled, and
    at times, as I have said, were upon the point of giving over the
    struggle altogether.

    The reader can have little idea of the phantoms of trouble which
    flit, in such circumstances, before the uneducated mind of the
    slave. Upon either side, we saw grim death assuming a variety of
    horrid shapes. Now, it was starvation, causing us, in a strange
    and friendless land, to eat our own flesh. Now, we were
    contending with the waves (for our journey was in part by water)
    and were drowned. Now, we were hunted by dogs, and overtaken and
    torn to pieces by their merciless fangs. We were stung by
    scorpions--chased by wild beasts--bitten by snakes; and, worst of
    all, after having succeeded in swimming rivers--encountering wild
    beasts--sleeping in the woods--suffering hunger, cold, heat and
    nakedness--we supposed ourselves to be overtaken by hired
    kidnappers, who, in the name of the law, and for their thrice
    accursed reward, would, perchance, fire upon us--kill some, wound
    others, and capture all. This dark picDIFFICULTIES>ture, drawn by ignorance and fear, at times greatly
    shook our determination, and not unfrequently caused us to

    _Rather bear those ills we had
    Than fly to others which we knew not of_.

    I am not disposed to magnify this circumstance in my experience,
    and yet I think I shall seem to be so disposed, to the reader.
    No man can tell the intense agony which is felt by the slave,
    when wavering on the point of making his escape. All that he has
    is at stake; and even that which he has not, is at stake, also.
    The life which he has, may be lost, and the liberty which he
    seeks, may not be gained.

    Patrick Henry, to a listening senate, thrilled by his magic
    eloquence, and ready to stand by him in his boldest flights,
    could say, GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH, and this saying was
    a sublime one, even for a freeman; but, incomparably more
    sublime, is the same sentiment, when _practically_ asserted by
    men accustomed to the lash and chain--men whose sensibilities
    must have become more or less deadened by their bondage. With us
    it was a _doubtful_ liberty, at best, that we sought; and a
    certain, lingering death in the rice swamps and sugar fields, if
    we failed. Life is not lightly regarded by men of sane minds.
    It is precious, alike to the pauper and to the prince--to the
    slave, and to his master; and yet, I believe there was not one
    among us, who would not rather have been shot down, than pass
    away life in hopeless bondage.

    In the progress of our preparations, Sandy, the root man, became
    troubled. He began to have dreams, and some of them were very
    distressing. One of these, which happened on a Friday night,
    was, to him, of great significance; and I am quite ready to
    confess, that I felt somewhat damped by it myself. He said, "I
    dreamed, last night, that I was roused from sleep, by strange
    noises, like the voices of a swarm of angry birds, that caused a
    roar as they passed, which fell upon my ear like a coming gale
    over the tops of the trees. Looking up to see what it could
    mean," said Sandy, "I saw you, Frederick, in the claws of a huge
    bird, surrounded by a large number of birds, of all colors and
    sizes. These were all picking at you, while you, with your arms,
    seemed to be trying to protect your eyes. Passing over me, the
    birds flew in a south-westerly direction, and I watched them
    until they were clean out of sight. Now, I saw this as plainly
    as I now see you; and furder, honey, watch de Friday night dream;
    dare is sumpon in it, shose you born; dare is, indeed, honey."

    I confess I did not like this dream; but I threw off concern
    about it, by attributing it to the general excitement and
    perturbation consequent upon our contemplated plan of escape. I
    could not, however, shake off its effect at once. I felt that it
    boded me no good. Sandy was unusually emphatic and oracular, and
    his manner had much to do with the impression made upon me.

    The plan of escape which I recommended, and to which my comrades
    assented, was to take a large canoe, owned by Mr. Hamilton, and,
    on the Saturday night previous to the Easter holidays, launch out
    into the Chesapeake bay, and paddle for its head--a distance of
    seventy miles with all our might. Our course, on reaching this
    point, was, to turn the canoe adrift, and bend our steps toward
    the north star, till we reached a free state.

    There were several objections to this plan. One was, the danger
    from gales on the bay. In rough weather, the waters of the
    Chesapeake are much agitated, and there is danger, in a canoe, of
    being swamped by the waves. Another objection was, that the
    canoe would soon be missed; the absent persons would, at once, be
    suspected of having taken it; and we should be pursued by some of
    the fast sailing bay craft out of St. Michael's. Then, again, if
    we reached the head of the bay, and turned the canoe adrift, she
    might prove a guide to our track, and bring the land hunters
    after us.

    These and other objections were set aside, by the stronger ones
    which could be urged against every other plan that could then be
    suggested. On the water, we had a chance of
    being regarded as fishermen, in the service of a master. On the
    other hand, by taking the land route, through the counties
    adjoining Delaware, we should be subjected to all manner of
    interruptions, and many very disagreeable questions, which might
    give us serious trouble. Any white man is authorized to stop a
    man of color, on any road, and examine him, and arrest him, if he
    so desires.

    By this arrangement, many abuses (considered such even by
    slaveholders) occur. Cases have been known, where freemen have
    been called upon to show their free papers, by a pack of
    ruffians--and, on the presentation of the papers, the ruffians
    have torn them up, and seized their victim, and sold him to a
    life of endless bondage.

    The week before our intended start, I wrote a pass for each of
    our party, giving them permission to visit Baltimore, during the
    Easter holidays. The pass ran after this manner:

    This is to certify, that I, the undersigned, have given the
    bearer, my servant, John, full liberty to go to Baltimore, to
    spend the Easter holidays.
    W.H.
    Near St. Michael's, Talbot county, Maryland

    Although we were not going to Baltimore, and were intending to
    land east of North Point, in the direction where I had seen the
    Philadelphia steamers go, these passes might be made useful to us
    in the lower part of the bay, while steering toward Baltimore.
    These were not, however, to be shown by us, until all other
    answers failed to satisfy the inquirer. We were all fully alive
    to the importance of being calm and self-possessed, when
    accosted, if accosted we should be; and we more times than one
    rehearsed to each other how we should behave in the hour of
    trial.

    These were long, tedious days and nights. The suspense was
    painful, in the extreme. To balance probabilities, where life
    and liberty hang on the result, requires steady nerves. I panted
    for action, and was glad when the day, at the close of which we
    were to start, dawned upon us. Sleeping, the night before, was
    out of the question. I probably felt more deeply than any
    of my companions, because I was the instigator of the movement.
    The responsibility of the whole enterprise rested on my
    shoulders. The glory of success, and the shame and confusion of
    failure, could not be matters of indifference to me. Our food
    was prepared; our clothes were packed up; we were all ready to
    go, and impatient for Saturday morning--considering that the last
    morning of our bondage.

    I cannot describe the tempest and tumult of my brain, that
    morning. The reader will please to bear in mind, that, in a
    slave state, an unsuccessful runaway is not only subjected to
    cruel torture, and sold away to the far south, but he is
    frequently execrated by the other slaves. He is charged with
    making the condition of the other slaves intolerable, by laying
    them all under the suspicion of their masters--subjecting them to
    greater vigilance, and imposing greater limitations on their
    privileges. I dreaded murmurs from this quarter. It is
    difficult, too, for a slavemaster to believe that slaves escaping
    have not been aided in their flight by some one of their fellow
    slaves. When, therefore, a slave is missing, every slave on the
    place is closely examined as to his knowledge of the undertaking;
    and they are sometimes even tortured, to make them disclose what
    they are suspected of knowing of such escape.

    Our anxiety grew more and more intense, as the time of our
    intended departure for the north drew nigh. It was truly felt to
    be a matter of life and death with us; and we fully intended to
    _fight_ as well as _run_, if necessity should occur for that
    extremity. But the trial hour was not yet to come. It was easy
    to resolve, but not so easy to act. I expected there might be
    some drawing back, at the last. It was natural that there should
    be; therefore, during the intervening time, I lost no opportunity
    to explain away difficulties, to remove doubts, to dispel fears,
    and to inspire all with firmness. It was too late to look back;
    and _now_ was the time to go forward. Like most other men, we
    had done the talking part of our work,
    long and well; and the time had come to _act_ as if we were in
    earnest, and meant to be as true in action as in words. I did
    not forget to appeal to the pride of my comrades, by telling them
    that, if after having solemnly promised to go, as they had done,
    they now failed to make the attempt, they would, in effect, brand
    themselves with cowardice, and might as well sit down, fold their
    arms, and acknowledge themselves as fit only to be _slaves_.
    This detestable character, all were unwilling to assume. Every
    man except Sandy (he, much to our regret, withdrew) stood firm;
    and at our last meeting we pledged ourselves afresh, and in the
    most solemn manner, that, at the time appointed, we _would_
    certainly start on our long journey for a free country. This
    meeting was in the middle of the week, at the end of which we
    were to start.

    Early that morning we went, as usual, to the field, but with
    hearts that beat quickly and anxiously. Any one intimately
    acquainted with us, might have seen that all was not well with
    us, and that some monster lingered in our thoughts. Our work
    that morning was the same as it had been for several days past--
    drawing out and spreading manure. While thus engaged, I had a
    sudden presentiment, which flashed upon me like lightning in a
    dark night, revealing to the lonely traveler the gulf before, and
    the enemy behind. I instantly turned to Sandy Jenkins, who was
    near me, and said to him, _"Sandy, we are betrayed;_ something
    has just told me so." I felt as sure of it, as if the officers
    were there in sight. Sandy said, "Man, dat is strange; but I
    feel just as you do." If my mother--then long in her grave--had
    appeared before me, and told me that we were betrayed, I could
    not, at that moment, have felt more certain of the fact.

    In a few minutes after this, the long, low and distant notes of
    the horn summoned us from the field to breakfast. I felt as one
    may be supposed to feel before being led forth to be executed for
    some great offense. I wanted no breakfast; but I went with the
    other slaves toward the house, for form's sake. My feelings were
    not disturbed as to the right of running away; on that point
    I had no trouble, whatever. My anxiety arose from a sense of the
    consequences of failure.

    In thirty minutes after that vivid presentiment came the
    apprehended crash. On reaching the house, for breakfast, and
    glancing my eye toward the lane gate, the worst was at once made
    known. The lane gate off Mr. Freeland's house, is nearly a half
    mile from the door, and shaded by the heavy wood which bordered
    the main road. I was, however, able to descry four white men,
    and two colored men, approaching. The white men were on
    horseback, and the colored men were walking behind, and seemed to
    be tied. _"It is all over with us,"_ thought I, _"we are surely
    betrayed_." I now became composed, or at least comparatively so,
    and calmly awaited the result. I watched the ill-omened company,
    till I saw them enter the gate. Successful flight was
    impossible, and I made up my mind to stand, and meet the evil,
    whatever it might be; for I was not without a slight hope that
    things might turn differently from what I at first expected. In
    a few moments, in came Mr. William Hamilton, riding very rapidly,
    and evidently much excited. He was in the habit of riding very
    slowly, and was seldom known to gallop his horse. This time, his
    horse was nearly at full speed, causing the dust to roll thick
    behind him. Mr. Hamilton, though one of the most resolute men in
    the whole neighborhood, was, nevertheless, a remarkably mild
    spoken man; and, even when greatly excited, his language was cool
    and circumspect. He came to the door, and inquired if Mr.
    Freeland was in. I told him that Mr. Freeland was at the barn.
    Off the old gentleman rode, toward the barn, with unwonted speed.
    Mary, the cook, was at a loss to know what was the matter, and I
    did not profess any skill in making her understand. I knew she
    would have united, as readily as any one, in cursing me for
    bringing trouble into the family; so I held my peace, leaving
    matters to develop themselves, without my assistance. In a few
    moments, Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Freeland came down from the barn to
    the house; and, just as they made
    their appearance in the front yard, three men (who proved to be
    constables) came dashing into the lane, on horseback, as if
    summoned by a sign requiring quick work. A few seconds brought
    them into the front yard, where they hastily dismounted, and tied
    their horses. This done, they joined Mr. Freeland and Mr.
    Hamilton, who were standing a short distance from the kitchen. A
    few moments were spent, as if in consulting how to proceed, and
    then the whole party walked up to the kitchen door. There was
    now no one in the kitchen but myself and John Harris. Henry and
    Sandy were yet at the barn. Mr. Freeland came inside the kitchen
    door, and with an agitated voice, called me by name, and told me
    to come forward; that there was some gentlemen who wished to see
    me. I stepped toward them, at the door, and asked what they
    wanted, when the constables grabbed me, and told me that I had
    better not resist; that I had been in a scrape, or was said to
    have been in one; that they were merely going to take me where I
    could be examined; that they were going to carry me to St.
    Michael's, to have me brought before my master. They further
    said, that, in case the evidence against me was not true, I
    should be acquitted. I was now firmly tied, and completely at
    the mercy of my captors. Resistance was idle. They were five in
    number, armed to the very teeth. When they had secured me, they
    next turned to John Harris, and, in a few moments, succeeded in
    tying him as firmly as they had already tied me. They next
    turned toward Henry Harris, who had now returned from the barn.
    "Cross your hands," said the constables, to Henry. "I won't"
    said Henry, in a voice so firm and clear, and in a manner so
    determined, as for a moment to arrest all proceedings. "Won't
    you cross your hands?" said Tom Graham, the constable. "_No I
    won't_," said Henry, with increasing emphasis. Mr. Hamilton, Mr.
    Freeland, and the officers, now came near to Henry. Two of the
    constables drew out their shining pistols, and swore by the name
    of God, that he should cross his hands, or they would shoot him
    down. Each of these hired ruffians now cocked their pistols,
    and, with fingers apparently on the triggers, presented
    their deadly weapons to the breast of the unarmed slave, saying,
    at the same time, if he did not cross his hands, they would "blow
    his d--d heart out of him."

    _"Shoot! shoot me!"_ said Henry. "_You can't kill me but once_.
    Shoot!--shoot! and be d--d. _I won't be tied_." This, the brave
    fellow said in a voice as defiant and heroic in its tone, as was
    the language itself; and, at the moment of saying this, with the
    pistols at his very breast, he quickly raised his arms, and
    dashed them from the puny hands of his assassins, the weapons
    flying in opposite directions. Now came the struggle. All hands
    was now rushed upon the brave fellow, and, after beating him for
    some time, they succeeded in overpowering and tying him. Henry
    put me to shame; he fought, and fought bravely. John and I had
    made no resistance. The fact is, I never see much use in
    fighting, unless there is a reasonable probability of whipping
    somebody. Yet there was something almost providential in the
    resistance made by the gallant Henry. But for that resistance,
    every soul of us would have been hurried off to the far south.
    Just a moment previous to the trouble with Henry, Mr. Hamilton
    _mildly_ said--and this gave me the unmistakable clue to the
    cause of our arrest--"Perhaps we had now better make a search for
    those protections, which we understand Frederick has written for
    himself and the rest." Had these passes been found, they would
    have been point blank proof against us, and would have confirmed
    all the statements of our betrayer. Thanks to the resistance of
    Henry, the excitement produced by the scuffle drew all attention
    in that direction, and I succeeded in flinging my pass,
    unobserved, into the fire. The confusion attendant upon the
    scuffle, and the apprehension of further trouble, perhaps, led
    our captors to forego, for the present, any search for _"those
    protections" which Frederick was said to have written for his
    companions_; so we were not yet convicted of the purpose to run
    away; and it was evident that there was some doubt, on the part
    of all, whether we had been guilty of such a purpose.

    Just as we were all completely tied, and about ready to start
    toward St. Michael's, and thence to jail, Mrs. Betsey Freeland
    (mother to William, who was very much attached--after the
    southern fashion--to Henry and John, they having been reared from
    childhood in her house) came to the kitchen door, with her hands
    full of biscuits--for we had not had time to take our breakfast
    that morning--and divided them between Henry and John. This
    done, the lady made the following parting address to me, looking
    and pointing her bony finger at me. "You devil! you yellow
    devil! It was you that put it into the heads of Henry and John
    to run away. But for _you_, you _long legged yellow devil_,
    Henry and John would never have thought of running away." I gave
    the lady a look, which called forth a scream of mingled wrath and
    terror, as she slammed the kitchen door, and went in, leaving me,
    with the rest, in hands as harsh as her own broken voice.

    Could the kind reader have been quietly riding along the main
    road to or from Easton, that morning, his eye would have met a
    painful sight. He would have seen five young men, guilty of no
    crime, save that of preferring _liberty_ to a life of _bondage_,
    drawn along the public highway--firmly bound together--tramping
    through dust and heat, bare-footed and bare-headed--fastened to
    three strong horses, whose riders were armed to the teeth, with
    pistols and daggers--on their way to prison, like felons, and
    suffering every possible insult from the crowds of idle, vulgar
    people, who clustered around, and heartlessly made their failure
    the occasion for all manner of ribaldry and sport. As I looked
    upon this crowd of vile persons, and saw myself and friends thus
    assailed and persecuted, I could not help seeing the fulfillment
    of Sandy's dream. I was in the hands of moral vultures, and
    firmly held in their sharp talons, and was hurried away toward
    Easton, in a south-easterly direction, amid the jeers of new
    birds of the same feather, through every neighborhood we passed.
    It seemed to me (and this shows the good understanding between
    the slaveholders and their allies) that every body we met knew
    the cause of our arrest, and were out, awaiting our passing
    by, to feast their vindictive eyes on our misery and to gloat
    over our ruin. Some said, _I ought to be hanged_, and others, _I
    ought to be burnt_, others, I ought to have the _"hide"_ taken
    from my back; while no one gave us a kind word or sympathizing
    look, except the poor slaves, who were lifting their heavy hoes,
    and who cautiously glanced at us through the post-and-rail
    fences, behind which they were at work. Our sufferings, that
    morning, can be more easily imagined than described. Our hopes
    were all blasted, at a blow. The cruel injustice, the victorious
    crime, and the helplessness of innocence, led me to ask, in my
    ignorance and weakness "Where now is the God of justice and
    mercy? And why have these wicked men the power thus to trample
    upon our rights, and to insult our feelings?" And yet, in the
    next moment, came the consoling thought, _"The day of oppressor
    will come at last."_ Of one thing I could be glad--not one of my
    dear friends, upon whom I had brought this great calamity, either
    by word or look, reproached me for having led them into it. We
    were a band of brothers, and never dearer to each other than now.
    The thought which gave us the most pain, was the probable
    separation which would now take place, in case we were sold off
    to the far south, as we were likely to be. While the constables
    were looking forward, Henry and I, being fastened together, could
    occasionally exchange a word, without being observed by the
    kidnappers who had us in charge. "What shall I do with my pass?"
    said Henry. "Eat it with your biscuit," said I; "it won't do to
    tear it up." We were now near St. Michael's. The direction
    concerning the passes was passed around, and executed. _"Own
    nothing!"_ said I. _"Own nothing!"_ was passed around and
    enjoined, and assented to. Our confidence in each other was
    unshaken; and we were quite resolved to succeed or fail
    together--as much after the calamity which had befallen us, as
    before.

    On reaching St. Michael's, we underwent a sort of examination at
    my master's store, and it was evident to my mind, that Master
    Thomas suspected the truthfulness of the evidence
    upon which they had acted in arresting us; and that he only
    affected, to some extent, the positiveness with which he asserted
    our guilt. There was nothing said by any of our company, which
    could, in any manner, prejudice our cause; and there was hope,
    yet, that we should be able to return to our homes--if for
    nothing else, at least to find out the guilty man or woman who
    had betrayed us.

    To this end, we all denied that we had been guilty of intended
    flight. Master Thomas said that the evidence he had of our
    intention to run away, was strong enough to hang us, in a case of
    murder. "But," said I, "the cases are not equal. If murder were
    committed, some one must have committed it--the thing is done!
    In our case, nothing has been done! We have not run away. Where
    is the evidence against us? We were quietly at our work." I
    talked thus, with unusual freedom, to bring out the evidence
    against us, for we all wanted, above all things, to know the
    guilty wretch who had betrayed us, that we might have something
    tangible upon which to pour the execrations. From something
    which dropped, in the course of the talk, it appeared that there
    was but one witness against us--and that that witness could not
    be produced. Master Thomas would not tell us _who_ his informant
    was; but we suspected, and suspected _one_ person _only_.
    Several circumstances seemed to point SANDY out, as our betrayer.
    His entire knowledge of our plans his participation in them--his
    withdrawal from us--his dream, and his simultaneous presentiment
    that we were betrayed--the taking us, and the leaving him--were
    calculated to turn suspicion toward him; and yet, we could not
    suspect him. We all loved him too well to think it _possible_
    that he could have betrayed us. So we rolled the guilt on other
    shoulders.

    We were literally dragged, that morning, behind horses, a
    distance of fifteen miles, and placed in the Easton jail. We
    were glad to reach the end of our journey, for our pathway had
    been the scene of insult and mortification. Such is the power of
    public opinion, that it is hard, even for the innocent, to
    feel the happy consolations of innocence, when they fall under
    the maledictions of this power. How could we regard ourselves as
    in the right, when all about us denounced us as criminals, and
    had the power and the disposition to treat us as such.

    In jail, we were placed under the care of Mr. Joseph Graham, the
    sheriff of the county. Henry, and John, and myself, were placed
    in one room, and Henry Baily and Charles Roberts, in another, by
    themselves. This separation was intended to deprive us of the
    advantage of concert, and to prevent trouble in jail.

    Once shut up, a new set of tormentors came upon us. A swarm of
    imps, in human shape the slave-traders, deputy slave-traders, and
    agents of slave-traders--that gather in every country town of the
    state, watching for chances to buy human flesh (as buzzards to
    eat carrion) flocked in upon us, to ascertain if our masters had
    placed us in jail to be sold. Such a set of debased and
    villainous creatures, I never saw before, and hope never to see
    again. I felt myself surrounded as by a pack of _fiends_, fresh
    from _perdition_. They laughed, leered, and grinned at us;
    saying, "Ah! boys, we've got you, havn't we? So you were about
    to make your escape? Where were you going to?" After taunting
    us, and peering at us, as long as they liked, they one by one
    subjected us to an examination, with a view to ascertain our
    value; feeling our arms and legs, and shaking us by the shoulders
    to see if we were sound and healthy; impudently asking us, "how
    we would like to have them for masters?" To such questions, we
    were, very much to their annoyance, quite dumb, disdaining to
    answer them. For one, I detested the whisky-bloated gamblers in
    human flesh; and I believe I was as much detested by them in
    turn. One fellow told me, "if he had me, he would cut the devil
    out of me pretty quick."

    These Negro buyers are very offensive to the genteel southern
    Christian public. They are looked upon, in respectable Maryland
    society, as necessary, but detestable characters. As a class,
    they are hardened ruffians, made such by
    nature and by occupation. Their ears are made quite familiar
    with the agonizing cry of outraged and woe-smitted humanity.
    Their eyes are forever open to human misery. They walk amid
    desecrated affections, insulted virtue, and blasted hopes. They
    have grown intimate with vice and blood; they gloat over the
    wildest illustrations of their soul-damning and earth-polluting
    business, and are moral pests. Yes; they are a legitimate fruit
    of slavery; and it is a puzzle to make out a case of greater
    villainy for them, than for the slaveholders, who make such a
    class _possible_. They are mere hucksters of the surplus slave
    produce of Maryland and Virginia coarse, cruel, and swaggering
    bullies, whose very breathing is of blasphemy and blood.

    Aside from these slave-buyers, who infested the prison, from time
    to time, our quarters were much more comfortable than we had any
    right to expect they would be. Our allowance of food was small
    and coarse, but our room was the best in the jail--neat and
    spacious, and with nothing about it necessarily reminding us of
    being in prison, but its heavy locks and bolts and the black,
    iron lattice-work at the windows. We were prisoners of state,
    compared with most slaves who are put into that Easton jail. But
    the place was not one of contentment. Bolts, bars and grated
    windows are not acceptable to freedom-loving people of any color.
    The suspense, too, was painful. Every step on the stairway was
    listened to, in the hope that the comer would cast a ray of light
    on our fate. We would have given the hair off our heads for half
    a dozen words with one of the waiters in Sol. Lowe's hotel. Such
    waiters were in the way of hearing, at the table, the probable
    course of things. We could see them flitting about in their
    white jackets in front of this hotel, but could speak to none of
    them.

    Soon after the holidays were over, contrary to all our
    expectations, Messrs. Hamilton and Freeland came up to Easton;
    not to make a bargain with the "Georgia traders," nor to send us
    up to Austin Woldfolk, as is usual in the case of run-away
    salves, but to release Charles, Henry Harris, Henry Baily
    and John Harris, from prison, and this, too, without the
    infliction of a single blow. I was now left entirely alone in
    prison. The innocent had been taken, and the guilty left. My
    friends were separated from me, and apparently forever. This
    circumstance caused me more pain than any other incident
    connected with our capture and imprisonment. Thirty-nine lashes
    on my naked and bleeding back, would have been joyfully borne, in
    preference to this separation from these, the friends of my
    youth. And yet, I could not but feel that I was the victim of
    something like justice. Why should these young men, who were led
    into this scheme by me, suffer as much as the instigator? I felt
    glad that they were leased from prison, and from the dread
    prospect of a life (or death I should rather say) in the rice
    swamps. It is due to the noble Henry, to say, that he seemed
    almost as reluctant to leave the prison with me in it, as he was
    to be tied and dragged to prison. But he and the rest knew that
    we should, in all the likelihoods of the case, be separated, in
    the event of being sold; and since we were now completely in the
    hands of our owners, we all concluded it would be best to go
    peaceably home.

    Not until this last separation, dear reader, had I touched those
    profounder depths of desolation, which it is the lot of slaves
    often to reach. I was solitary in the world, and alone within
    the walls of a stone prison, left to a fate of life-long misery.
    I had hoped and expected much, for months before, but my hopes
    and expectations were now withered and blasted. The ever dreaded
    slave life in Georgia, Louisiana and Alabama--from which escape
    is next to impossible now, in my loneliness, stared me in the
    face. The possibility of ever becoming anything but an abject
    slave, a mere machine in the hands of an owner, had now fled, and
    it seemed to me it had fled forever. A life of living death,
    beset with the innumerable horrors of the cotton field, and the
    sugar plantation, seemed to be my doom. The fiends, who rushed
    into the prison when we were first put there, continued to visit
    me, and to ply me with questions and
    with their tantalizing remarks. I was insulted, but helpless;
    keenly alive to the demands of justice and liberty, but with no
    means of asserting them. To talk to those imps about justice and
    mercy, would have been as absurd as to reason with bears and
    tigers. Lead and steel are the only arguments that they
    understand.

    After remaining in this life of misery and despair about a week,
    which, by the way, seemed a month, Master Thomas, very much to my
    surprise, and greatly to my relief, came to the prison, and took
    me out, for the purpose, as he said, of sending me to Alabama,
    with a friend of his, who would emancipate me at the end of eight
    years. I was glad enough to get out of prison; but I had no
    faith in the story that this friend of Capt. Auld would
    emancipate me, at the end of the time indicated. Besides, I
    never had heard of his having a friend in Alabama, and I took the
    announcement, simply as an easy and comfortable method of
    shipping me off to the far south. There was a little scandal,
    too, connected with the idea of one Christian selling another to
    the Georgia traders, while it was deemed every way proper for
    them to sell to others. I thought this friend in Alabama was an
    invention, to meet this difficulty, for Master Thomas was quite
    jealous of his Christian reputation, however unconcerned he might
    be about his real Christian character. In these remarks,
    however, it is possible that I do Master Thomas Auld injustice.
    He certainly did not exhaust his power upon me, in the case, but
    acted, upon the whole, very generously, considering the nature of
    my offense. He had the power and the provocation to send me,
    without reserve, into the very everglades of Florida, beyond the
    remotest hope of emancipation; and his refusal to exercise that
    power, must be set down to his credit.

    After lingering about St. Michael's a few days, and no friend
    from Alabama making his appearance, to take me there, Master
    Thomas decided to send me back again to Baltimore, to live with
    his brother Hugh, with whom he was now at peace; possibly he
    became so by his profession of religion, at the camp-meeting
    in the Bay Side. Master Thomas told me that he wished me to go
    to Baltimore, and learn a trade; and that, if I behaved myself
    properly, he would _emancipate me at twenty-five!_ Thanks for
    this one beam of hope in the future. The promise had but one
    fault; it seemed too good to be true.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 20
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