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    "When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bustling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity."
     

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    Chapter 25

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    Chapter 26
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    _Various Incidents_

    NEWSPAPER ENTERPRISE--UNEXPECTED OPPOSITION--THE OBJECTIONS TO
    IT--THEIR PLAUSIBILITY ADMITTED--MOTIVES FOR COMING TO
    ROCHESTER--DISCIPLE OF MR. GARRISON--CHANGE OF OPINION--CAUSES
    LEADING TO IT--THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE CHANGE--PREJUDICE AGAINST
    COLOR--AMUSING CONDESCENSION--"JIM CROW CARS"--COLLISIONS WITH
    CONDUCTORS AND BRAKEMEN--TRAINS ORDERED NOT TO STOP AT LYNN--
    AMUSING DOMESTIC SCENE--SEPARATE TABLES FOR MASTER AND MAN--
    PREJUDICE UNNATURAL--ILLUSTRATIONS--IN HIGH COMPANY--ELEVATION OF
    THE FREE PEOPLE OF COLOR--PLEDGE FOR THE FUTURE.

    I have now given the reader an imperfect sketch of nine years'
    experience in freedom--three years as a common laborer on the
    wharves of New Bedford, four years as a lecturer in New England,
    and two years of semi-exile in Great Britain and Ireland. A
    single ray of light remains to be flung upon my life during the
    last eight years, and my story will be done.

    A trial awaited me on my return from England to the United
    States, for which I was but very imperfectly prepared. My plans
    for my then future usefulness as an anti-slavery advocate were
    all settled. My friends in England had resolved to raise a given
    sum to purchase for me a press and printing materials; and I
    already saw myself wielding my pen, as well as my voice, in the
    great work of renovating the public mind, and building up a
    public sentiment which should, at least, send slavery and
    oppression to the grave, and restore to "liberty and the pursuit
    of happiness" the people with whom I had suffered, both as a OBJECTIONS TO MY NEWSPAPER ENTERPRISE>slave and as a freeman.
    Intimation had reached my friends in Boston of what I intended to
    do, before my arrival, and I was prepared to find them favorably
    disposed toward my much cherished enterprise. In this I was
    mistaken. I found them very earnestly opposed to the idea of my
    starting a paper, and for several reasons. First, the paper was
    not needed; secondly, it would interfere with my usefulness as a
    lecturer; thirdly, I was better fitted to speak than to write;
    fourthly, the paper could not succeed. This opposition, from a
    quarter so highly esteemed, and to which I had been accustomed to
    look for advice and direction, caused me not only to hesitate,
    but inclined me to abandon the enterprise. All previous attempts
    to establish such a journal having failed, I felt that probably I
    should but add another to the list of failures, and thus
    contribute another proof of the mental and moral deficiencies of
    my race. Very much that was said to me in respect to my
    imperfect literary acquirements, I felt to be most painfully
    true. The unsuccessful projectors of all the previous colored
    newspapers were my superiors in point of education, and if they
    failed, how could I hope for success? Yet I did hope for
    success, and persisted in the undertaking. Some of my English
    friends greatly encouraged me to go forward, and I shall never
    cease to be grateful for their words of cheer and generous deeds.

    I can easily pardon those who have denounced me as ambitious and
    presumptuous, in view of my persistence in this enterprise. I
    was but nine years from slavery. In point of mental experience,
    I was but nine years old. That one, in such circumstances,
    should aspire to establish a printing press, among an educated
    people, might well be considered, if not ambitious, quite silly.
    My American friends looked at me with astonishment! "A wood-
    sawyer" offering himself to the public as an editor! A slave,
    brought up in the very depths of ignorance, assuming to instruct
    the highly civilized people of the north in the principles of
    liberty, justice, and humanity! The thing looked absurd.
    Nevertheless, I persevered. I felt that the want of
    education, great as it was, could be overcome by study, and that
    knowledge would come by experience; and further (which was
    perhaps the most controlling consideration). I thought that an
    intelligent public, knowing my early history, would easily pardon
    a large share of the deficiencies which I was sure that my paper
    would exhibit. The most distressing thing, however, was the
    offense which I was about to give my Boston friends, by what
    seemed to them a reckless disregard of their sage advice. I am
    not sure that I was not under the influence of something like a
    slavish adoration of my Boston friends, and I labored hard to
    convince them of the wisdom of my undertaking, but without
    success. Indeed, I never expect to succeed, although time has
    answered all their original objections. The paper has been
    successful. It is a large sheet, costing eighty dollars per
    week--has three thousand subscribers--has been published
    regularly nearly eight years--and bids fair to stand eight years
    longer. At any rate, the eight years to come are as full of
    promise as were the eight that are past.

    It is not to be concealed, however, that the maintenance of such
    a journal, under the circumstances, has been a work of much
    difficulty; and could all the perplexity, anxiety, and trouble
    attending it, have been clearly foreseen, I might have shrunk
    from the undertaking. As it is, I rejoice in having engaged in
    the enterprise, and count it joy to have been able to suffer, in
    many ways, for its success, and for the success of the cause to
    which it has been faithfully devoted. I look upon the time,
    money, and labor bestowed upon it, as being amply rewarded, in
    the development of my own mental and moral energies, and in the
    corresponding development of my deeply injured and oppressed
    people.

    From motives of peace, instead of issuing my paper in Boston,
    among my New England friends, I came to Rochester, western New
    York, among strangers, where the circulation of my paper could
    not interfere with the local circulation of the _Liberator_ and
    the _Standard;_ for at that time I was, on the anti-slavery
    question, a faithful disciple of William
    Lloyd Garrison, and fully committed to his doctrine touching the
    pro-slavery character of the constitution of the United States,
    and the _non-voting principle_, of which he is the known and
    distinguished advocate. With Mr. Garrison, I held it to be the
    first duty of the non-slaveholding states to dissolve the union
    with the slaveholding states; and hence my cry, like his, was,
    "No union with slaveholders." With these views, I came into
    western New York; and during the first four years of my labor
    here, I advocated them with pen and tongue, according to the best
    of my ability.

    About four years ago, upon a reconsideration of the whole
    subject, I became convinced that there was no necessity for
    dissolving the "union between the northern and southern states;"
    that to seek this dissolution was no part of my duty as an
    abolitionist; that to abstain from voting, was to refuse to
    exercise a legitimate and powerful means for abolishing slavery;
    and that the constitution of the United States not only contained
    no guarantees in favor of slavery, but, on the contrary, it is,
    in its letter and spirit, an anti-slavery instrument, demanding
    the abolition of slavery as a condition of its own existence, as
    the supreme law of the land.

    Here was a radical change in my opinions, and in the action
    logically resulting from that change. To those with whom I had
    been in agreement and in sympathy, I was now in opposition. What
    they held to be a great and important truth, I now looked upon as
    a dangerous error. A very painful, and yet a very natural, thing
    now happened. Those who could not see any honest reasons for
    changing their views, as I had done, could not easily see any
    such reasons for my change, and the common punishment of
    apostates was mine.

    The opinions first entertained were naturally derived and
    honestly entertained, and I trust that my present opinions have
    the same claims to respect. Brought directly, when I escaped
    from slavery, into contact with a class of abolitionists
    regarding the constitution as a slaveholding instrument, and
    finding their views supported by the united and entire history of
    every department of the government, it is not strange that I
    assumed the constitution to be just what their interpretation
    made it. I was bound, not only by their superior knowledge, to
    take their opinions as the true ones, in respect to the subject,
    but also because I had no means of showing their unsoundness.
    But for the responsibility of conducting a public journal, and
    the necessity imposed upon me of meeting opposite views from
    abolitionists in this state, I should in all probability have
    remained as firm in my disunion views as any other disciple of
    William Lloyd Garrison.

    My new circumstances compelled me to re-think the whole subject,
    and to study, with some care, not only the just and proper rules
    of legal interpretation, but the origin, design, nature, rights,
    powers, and duties of civil government, and also the relations
    which human beings sustain to it. By such a course of thought
    and reading, I was conducted to the conclusion that the
    constitution of the United States--inaugurated "to form a more
    perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity,
    provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and
    secure the blessing of liberty"--could not well have been
    designed at the same time to maintain and perpetuate a system of
    rapine and murder, like slavery; especially, as not one word can
    be found in the constitution to authorize such a belief. Then,
    again, if the declared purposes of an instrument are to govern
    the meaning of all its parts and details, as they clearly should,
    the constitution of our country is our warrant for the abolition
    of slavery in every state in the American Union. I mean,
    however, not to argue, but simply to state my views. It would
    require very many pages of a volume like this, to set forth the
    arguments demonstrating the unconstitutionality and the complete
    illegality of slavery in our land; and as my experience, and not
    my arguments, is within the scope and contemplation of this
    volume, I omit the latter and proceed with the former.

    I will now ask the kind reader to go back a little in my story,
    while I bring up a thread left behind for convenience sake, but
    which, small as it is, cannot be properly omitted altogether; and
    that thread is American prejudice against color, and its varied
    illustrations in my own experience.

    When I first went among the abolitionists of New England, and
    began to travel, I found this prejudice very strong and very
    annoying. The abolitionists themselves were not entirely free
    from it, and I could see that they were nobly struggling against
    it. In their eagerness, sometimes, to show their contempt for
    the feeling, they proved that they had not entirely recovered
    from it; often illustrating the saying, in their conduct, that a
    man may "stand up so straight as to lean backward." When it was
    said to me, "Mr. Douglass, I will walk to meeting with you; I am
    not afraid of a black man," I could not help thinking--seeing
    nothing very frightful in my appearance--"And why should you be?"
    The children at the north had all been educated to believe that
    if they were bad, the old _black_ man--not the old _devil_--would
    get them; and it was evidence of some courage, for any so
    educated to get the better of their fears.

    The custom of providing separate cars for the accommodation of
    colored travelers, was established on nearly all the railroads of
    New England, a dozen years ago. Regarding this custom as
    fostering the spirit of caste, I made it a rule to seat myself in
    the cars for the accommodation of passengers generally. Thus
    seated, I was sure to be called upon to betake myself to the
    "_Jim Crow car_." Refusing to obey, I was often dragged out of
    my seat, beaten, and severely bruised, by conductors and
    brakemen. Attempting to start from Lynn, one day, for
    Newburyport, on the Eastern railroad, I went, as my custom was,
    into one of the best railroad carriages on the road. The seats
    were very luxuriant and beautiful. I was soon waited upon by the
    conductor, and ordered out; whereupon I demanded the reason for
    my invidious removal. After a good deal of parleying, I was told
    that it was because I was black. This I denied, and
    appealed to the company to sustain my denial; but they were
    evidently unwilling to commit themselves, on a point so delicate,
    and requiring such nice powers of discrimination, for they
    remained as dumb as death. I was soon waited on by half a dozen
    fellows of the baser sort (just such as would volunteer to take a
    bull-dog out of a meeting-house in time of public worship), and
    told that I must move out of that seat, and if I did not, they
    would drag me out. I refused to move, and they clutched me,
    head, neck, and shoulders. But, in anticipation of the
    stretching to which I was about to be subjected, I had interwoven
    myself among the seats. In dragging me out, on this occasion, it
    must have cost the company twenty-five or thirty dollars, for I
    tore up seats and all. So great was the excitement in Lynn, on
    the subject, that the superintendent, Mr. Stephen A. Chase,
    ordered the trains to run through Lynn without stopping, while I
    remained in that town; and this ridiculous farce was enacted.
    For several days the trains went dashing through Lynn without
    stopping. At the same time that they excluded a free colored man
    from their cars, this same company allowed slaves, in company
    with their masters and mistresses, to ride unmolested.

    After many battles with the railroad conductors, and being
    roughly handled in not a few instances, proscription was at last
    abandoned; and the "Jim Crow car"--set up for the degradation of
    colored people--is nowhere found in New England. This result was
    not brought about without the intervention of the people, and the
    threatened enactment of a law compelling railroad companies to
    respect the rights of travelers. Hon. Charles Francis Adams
    performed signal service in the Massachusetts legislature, in
    bringing this reformation; and to him the colored citizens of
    that state are deeply indebted.

    Although often annoyed, and sometimes outraged, by this prejudice
    against color, I am indebted to it for many passages of quiet
    amusement. A half-cured subject of it is sometimes driven into
    awkward straits, especially if he happens to get a genuine
    specimen of the race into his house.

    In the summer of 1843, I was traveling and lecturing, in company
    with William A. White, Esq., through the state of Indiana. Anti-
    slavery friends were not very abundant in Indiana, at that time,
    and beds were not more plentiful than friends. We often slept
    out, in preference to sleeping in the houses, at some points. At
    the close of one of our meetings, we were invited home with a
    kindly-disposed old farmer, who, in the generous enthusiasm of
    the moment, seemed to have forgotten that he had but one spare
    bed, and that his guests were an ill-matched pair. All went on
    pretty well, till near bed time, when signs of uneasiness began
    to show themselves, among the unsophisticated sons and daughters.
    White is remarkably fine looking, and very evidently a born
    gentleman; the idea of putting us in the same bed was hardly to
    be tolerated; and yet, there we were, and but the one bed for us,
    and that, by the way, was in the same room occupied by the other
    members of the family. White, as well as I, perceived the
    difficulty, for yonder slept the old folks, there the sons, and a
    little farther along slept the daughters; and but one other bed
    remained. Who should have this bed, was the puzzling question.
    There was some whispering between the old folks, some confused
    looks among the young, as the time for going to bed approached.
    After witnessing the confusion as long as I liked, I relieved the
    kindly-disposed family by playfully saying, "Friend White, having
    got entirely rid of my prejudice against color, I think, as a
    proof of it, I must allow you to sleep with me to-night." White
    kept up the joke, by seeming to esteem himself the favored party,
    and thus the difficulty was removed. If we went to a hotel, and
    called for dinner, the landlord was sure to set one table for
    White and another for me, always taking him to be master, and me
    the servant. Large eyes were generally made when the order was
    given to remove the dishes from my table to that of White's. In
    those days, it was thought strange that a white man and a colored
    man could dine peaceably at the same table, and in some parts the
    strangeness of such a sight has not entirely subsided.

    Some people will have it that there is a natural, an inherent,
    and an invincible repugnance in the breast of the white race
    toward dark-colored people; and some very intelligent colored men
    think that their proscription is owing solely to the color which
    nature has given them. They hold that they are rated according
    to their color, and that it is impossible for white people ever
    to look upon dark races of men, or men belonging to the African
    race, with other than feelings of aversion. My experience, both
    serious and mirthful, combats this conclusion. Leaving out of
    sight, for a moment, grave facts, to this point, I will state one
    or two, which illustrate a very interesting feature of American
    character as well as American prejudice. Riding from Boston to
    Albany, a few years ago, I found myself in a large car, well
    filled with passengers. The seat next to me was about the only
    vacant one. At every stopping place we took in new passengers,
    all of whom, on reaching the seat next to me, cast a disdainful
    glance upon it, and passed to another car, leaving me in the full
    enjoyment of a hole form. For a time, I did not know but that my
    riding there was prejudicial to the interest of the railroad
    company. A circumstance occurred, however, which gave me an
    elevated position at once. Among the passengers on this train
    was Gov. George N. Briggs. I was not acquainted with him, and
    had no idea that I was known to him, however, I was, for upon
    observing me, the governor left his place, and making his way
    toward me, respectfully asked the privilege of a seat by my side;
    and upon introducing himself, we entered into a conversation very
    pleasant and instructive to me. The despised seat now became
    honored. His excellency had removed all the prejudice against
    sitting by the side of a Negro; and upon his leaving it, as he
    did, on reaching Pittsfield, there were at least one dozen
    applicants for the place. The governor had, without changing my
    skin a single shade, made the place respectable which before was
    despicable.

    A similar incident happened to me once on the Boston and New
    Bedford railroad, and the leading party to it has since been
    governor of the state of Massachusetts. I allude to Col. John
    Henry Clifford. Lest the reader may fancy I am
    aiming to elevate myself, by claiming too much intimacy with
    great men, I must state that my only acquaintance with Col.
    Clifford was formed while I was _his hired servant_, during the
    first winter of my escape from slavery. I owe it him to say,
    that in that relation I found him always kind and gentlemanly.
    But to the incident. I entered a car at Boston, for New Bedford,
    which, with the exception of a single seat was full, and found I
    must occupy this, or stand up, during the journey. Having no
    mind to do this, I stepped up to the man having the next seat,
    and who had a few parcels on the seat, and gently asked leave to
    take a seat by his side. My fellow-passenger gave me a look made
    up of reproach and indignation, and asked me why I should come to
    that particular seat. I assured him, in the gentlest manner,
    that of all others this was the seat for me. Finding that I was
    actually about to sit down, he sang out, "O! stop, stop! and let
    me get out!" Suiting the action to the word, up the agitated man
    got, and sauntered to the other end of the car, and was compelled
    to stand for most of the way thereafter. Halfway to New Bedford,
    or more, Col. Clifford, recognizing me, left his seat, and not
    having seen me before since I had ceased to wait on him (in
    everything except hard arguments against his pro-slavery
    position), apparently forgetful of his rank, manifested, in
    greeting me, something of the feeling of an old friend. This
    demonstration was not lost on the gentleman whose dignity I had,
    an hour before, most seriously offended. Col. Clifford was known
    to be about the most aristocratic gentleman in Bristol county;
    and it was evidently thought that I must be somebody, else I
    should not have been thus noticed, by a person so distinguished.
    Sure enough, after Col. Clifford left me, I found myself
    surrounded with friends; and among the number, my offended friend
    stood nearest, and with an apology for his rudeness, which I
    could not resist, although it was one of the lamest ever offered.
    With such facts as these before me--and I have many of them--I am
    inclined to think that pride and fashion have much to do with
    the treatment commonly extended to colored people in the
    United States. I once heard a very plain man say (and he was
    cross-eyed, and awkwardly flung together in other respects) that
    he should be a handsome man when public opinion shall be changed.

    Since I have been editing and publishing a journal devoted to the
    cause of liberty and progress, I have had my mind more directed
    to the condition and circumstances of the free colored people
    than when I was the agent of an abolition society. The result
    has been a corresponding change in the disposition of my time and
    labors. I have felt it to be a part of my mission--under a
    gracious Providence to impress my sable brothers in this country
    with the conviction that, notwithstanding the ten thousand
    discouragements and the powerful hinderances, which beset their
    existence in this country--notwithstanding the blood-written
    history of Africa, and her children, from whom we have descended,
    or the clouds and darkness (whose stillness and gloom are made
    only more awful by wrathful thunder and lightning) now
    overshadowing them--progress is yet possible, and bright skies
    shall yet shine upon their pathway; and that "Ethiopia shall yet
    reach forth her hand unto God."

    Believing that one of the best means of emancipating the slaves
    of the south is to improve and elevate the character of the free
    colored people of the north I shall labor in the future, as I
    have labored in the past, to promote the moral, social,
    religious, and intellectual elevation of the free colored people;
    never forgetting my own humble orgin{sic}, nor refusing, while
    Heaven lends me ability, to use my voice, my pen, or my vote, to
    advocate the great and primary work of the universal and
    unconditional emancipation of my entire race.
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    Chapter 26
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