My Bondage and My Freedom by Frederick Douglass
When a man raises himself from the lowest condition in society to
the highest, mankind pay him the tribute of their admiration;
when he accomplishes this elevation by native energy, guided by
prudence and wisdom, their admiration is increased; but when his
course, onward and upward, excellent in itself, furthermore
proves a possible, what had hitherto been regarded as an
impossible, reform, then he becomes a burning and a shining
light, on which the aged may look with gladness, the young with
hope, and the down-trodden, as a representative of what they may
themselves become. To such a man, dear reader, it is my
privilege to introduce you.

The life of Frederick Douglass, recorded in the pages which
follow, is not merely an example of self-elevation under the most
adverse circumstances; it is, moreover, a noble vindication of
the highest aims of the American anti-slavery movement. The real
object of that movement is not only to disenthrall, it is, also,
to bestow upon the Negro the exercise of all those rights, from
the possession of which he has been so long debarred.

But this full recognition of the colored man to the right, and
the entire admission of the same to the full privileges,
political, religious and social, of manhood, requires powerful
effort on the part of the enthralled, as well as on the part of
those who would disenthrall them. The people at large must feel
the conviction, as well as admit the abstract logic, of human
equality; the Negro, for the first time in the world's
history, brought in full contact with high civilization, must
prove his title first to all that is demanded for him; in the
teeth of unequal chances, he must prove himself equal to the mass
of those who oppress him--therefore, absolutely superior to his
apparent fate, and to their relative ability. And it is most
cheering to the friends of freedom, today, that evidence of this
equality is rapidly accumulating, not from the ranks of the half-
freed colored people of the free states, but from the very depths
of slavery itself; the indestructible equality of man to man is
demonstrated by the ease with which black men, scarce one remove
from barbarism--if slavery can be honored with such a
distinction--vault into the high places of the most advanced and
painfully acquired civilization. Ward and Garnett, Wells Brown
and Pennington, Loguen and Douglass, are banners on the outer
wall, under which abolition is fighting its most successful
battles, because they are living exemplars of the practicability
of the most radical abolitionism; for, they were all of them born
to the doom of slavery, some of them remained slaves until adult
age, yet they all have not only won equality to their white
fellow citizens, in civil, religious, political and social rank,
but they have also illustrated and adorned our common country by
their genius, learning and eloquence.

The characteristics whereby Mr. Douglass has won first rank among
these remarkable men, and is still rising toward highest rank
among living Americans, are abundantly laid bare in the book
before us. Like the autobiography of Hugh Miller, it carries us
so far back into early childhood, as to throw light upon the
question, "when positive and persistent memory begins in the
human being." And, like Hugh Miller, he must have been a shy
old-fashioned child, occasionally oppressed by what he could not
well account for, peering and poking about among the layers of
right and wrong, of tyrant and thrall, and the wonderfulness of
that hopeless tide of things which brought power to one race, and
unrequited toil to another, until, finally, he stumbled upon
his "first-found Ammonite," hidden away down in the depths of
his own nature, and which revealed to him the fact that liberty
and right, for all men, were anterior to slavery and wrong. When
his knowledge of the world was bounded by the visible horizon on
Col. Lloyd's plantation, and while every thing around him bore a
fixed, iron stamp, as if it had always been so, this was, for one
so young, a notable discovery.

To his uncommon memory, then, we must add a keen and accurate
insight into men and things; an original breadth of common sense
which enabled him to see, and weigh, and compare whatever passed
before him, and which kindled a desire to search out and define
their relations to other things not so patent, but which never
succumbed to the marvelous nor the supernatural; a sacred thirst
for liberty and for learning, first as a means of attaining
liberty, then as an end in itself most desirable; a will; an
unfaltering energy and determination to obtain what his soul
pronounced desirable; a majestic self-hood; determined courage; a
deep and agonizing sympathy with his embruted, crushed and
bleeding fellow slaves, and an extraordinary depth of passion,
together with that rare alliance between passion and intellect,
which enables the former, when deeply roused, to excite, develop
and sustain the latter.

With these original gifts in view, let us look at his schooling;
the fearful discipline through which it pleased God to prepare
him for the high calling on which he has since entered--the
advocacy of emancipation by the people who are not slaves. And
for this special mission, his plantation education was better
than any he could have acquired in any lettered school. What he
needed, was facts and experiences, welded to acutely wrought up
sympathies, and these he could not elsewhere have obtained, in a
manner so peculiarly adapted to his nature. His physical being
was well trained, also, running wild until advanced into boyhood;
hard work and light diet, thereafter, and a skill in handicraft
in youth.

For his special mission, then, this was, considered in connection
with his natural gifts, a good schooling; and, for his special
mission, he doubtless "left school" just at the proper moment.
Had he remained longer in slavery--had he fretted under bonds
until the ripening of manhood and its passions, until the drear
agony of slave-wife and slave-children had been piled upon his
already bitter experiences--then, not only would his own history
have had another termination, but the drama of American slavery
would have been essentially varied; for I cannot resist the
belief, that the boy who learned to read and write as he did, who
taught his fellow slaves these precious acquirements as he did,
who plotted for their mutual escape as he did, would, when a man
at bay, strike a blow which would make slavery reel and stagger.
Furthermore, blows and insults he bore, at the moment, without
resentment; deep but suppressed emotion rendered him insensible
to their sting; but it was afterward, when the memory of them
went seething through his brain, breeding a fiery indignation at
his injured self-hood, that the resolve came to resist, and the
time fixed when to resist, and the plot laid, how to resist; and
he always kept his self-pledged word. In what he undertook, in
this line, he looked fate in the face, and had a cool, keen look
at the relation of means to ends. Henry Bibb, to avoid
chastisement, strewed his master's bed with charmed leaves and
_was whipped_. Frederick Douglass quietly pocketed a like
_fetiche_, compared his muscles with those of Covey--and _whipped
him_.

In the history of his life in bondage, we find, well developed,
that inherent and continuous energy of character which will ever
render him distinguished. What his hand found to do, he did with
his might; even while conscious that he was wronged out of his
daily earnings, he worked, and worked hard. At his daily labor
he went with a will; with keen, well set eye, brawny chest, lithe
figure, and fair sweep of arm, he would have been king among
calkers, had that been his mission.

It must not be overlooked, in this glance at his education, that
Mr. Douglass lacked one aid to which so many men of mark have
been deeply indebted--he had neither a mother's care, nor a
mother's culture, save that which slavery grudgingly meted out to
him. Bitter nurse! may not even her features relax with human
feeling, when she gazes at such offspring! How susceptible he
was to the kindly influences of mother-culture, may be gathered
from his own words, on page 57: "It has been a life-long
standing grief to me, that I know so little of my mother, and
that I was so early separated from her. The counsels of her love
must have been beneficial to me. The side view of her face is
imaged on my memory, and I take few steps in life, without
feeling her presence; but the image is mute, and I have no
striking words of hers treasured up."

From the depths of chattel slavery in Maryland, our author
escaped into the caste-slavery of the north, in New Bedford,
Massachusetts. Here he found oppression assuming another, and
hardly less bitter, form; of that very handicraft which the greed
of slavery had taught him, his half-freedom denied him the
exercise for an honest living; he found himself one of a class--
free colored men--whose position he has described in the
following words:

"Aliens are we in our native land. The fundamental principles of
the republic, to which the humblest white man, whether born here
or elsewhere, may appeal with confidence, in the hope of
awakening a favorable response, are held to be inapplicable to
us. The glorious doctrines of your revolutionary fathers, and
the more glorious teachings of the Son of God, are construed and
applied against us. We are literally scourged beyond the
beneficent range of both authorities, human and divine. * * * *
American humanity hates us, scorns us, disowns and denies, in a
thousand ways, our very personality. The outspread wing of
American christianity, apparently broad enough to give shelter to
a perishing world, refuses to cover us. To us, its bones are
brass, and its features iron. In running thither for shelter and
succor, we have only fled from the hungry blood-hound to the
devouring wolf--from a corrupt and selfish world, to a hollow and
hypocritical church."--_Speech before American and Foreign Anti-
Slavery Society, May_, 1854.

Four years or more, from 1837 to 1841, he struggled on, in New
Bedford, sawing wood, rolling casks, or doing what labor he
might, to support himself and young family; four years he brooded
over the scars which slavery and semi-slavery had inflicted upon
his body and soul; and then, with his wounds yet unhealed, he
fell among the Garrisonians--a glorious waif to those most ardent
reformers. It happened one day, at Nantucket, that he,
diffidently and reluctantly, was led to address an anti-slavery
meeting. He was about the age when the younger Pitt entered the
House of Commons; like Pitt, too, he stood up a born orator.

William Lloyd Garrison, who was happily present, writes thus of
Mr. Douglass' maiden effort; "I shall never forget his first
speech at the convention--the extraordinary emotion it excited in
my own mind--the powerful impression it created upon a crowded
auditory, completely taken by surprise. * * * I think I never
hated slavery so intensely as at that moment; certainly, my
perception of the enormous outrage which is inflicted by it on
the godlike nature of its victims, was rendered far more clear
than ever. There stood one in physical proportions and stature
commanding and exact--in intellect richly endowed--in natural
eloquence a prodigy."[1]

It is of interest to compare Mr. Douglass's account of this
meeting with Mr. Garrison's. Of the two, I think the latter the
most correct. It must have been a grand burst of eloquence! The
pent up agony, indignation and pathos of an abused and harrowed
boyhood and youth, bursting out in all their freshness and
overwhelming earnestness!

This unique introduction to its great leader, led immediately

[1] Letter, Introduction to _Life of Frederick Douglass_, Boston,
1841.

to the employment of Mr. Douglass as an agent by the American
Anti-Slavery Society. So far as his self-relying and independent
character would permit, he became, after the strictest sect, a
Garrisonian. It is not too much to say, that he formed a
complement which they needed, and they were a complement equally
necessary to his "make-up." With his deep and keen sensitiveness
to wrong, and his wonderful memory, he came from the land of
bondage full of its woes and its evils, and painting them in
characters of living light; and, on his part, he found, told out
in sound Saxon phrase, all those principles of justice and right
and liberty, which had dimly brooded over the dreams of his
youth, seeking definite forms and verbal expression. It must
have been an electric flashing of thought, and a knitting of
soul, granted to but few in this life, and will be a life-long
memory to those who participated in it. In the society,
moreover, of Wendell Phillips, Edmund Quincy, William Lloyd
Garrison, and other men of earnest faith and refined culture, Mr.
Douglass enjoyed the high advantage of their assistance and
counsel in the labor of self-culture, to which he now addressed
himself with wonted energy. Yet, these gentlemen, although proud
of Frederick Douglass, failed to fathom, and bring out to the
light of day, the highest qualities of his mind; the force of
their own education stood in their own way: they did not delve
into the mind of a colored man for capacities which the pride of
race led them to believe to be restricted to their own Saxon
blood. Bitter and vindictive sarcasm, irresistible mimicry, and
a pathetic narrative of his own experiences of slavery, were the
intellectual manifestations which they encouraged him to exhibit
on the platform or in the lecture desk.

A visit to England, in 1845, threw Mr. Douglass among men and
women of earnest souls and high culture, and who, moreover, had
never drank of the bitter waters of American caste. For the
first time in his life, he breathed an atmosphere congenial to
the longings of his spirit, and felt his manhood free and
unrestricted. The cordial and manly greetings of the British
and Irish audiences in public, and the refinement and elegance of
the social circles in which he mingled, not only as an equal, but
as a recognized man of genius, were, doubtless, genial and
pleasant resting places in his hitherto thorny and troubled
journey through life. There are joys on the earth, and, to the
wayfaring fugitive from American slavery or American caste, this
is one of them.

But his sojourn in England was more than a joy to Mr. Douglass.
Like the platform at Nantucket, it awakened him to the
consciousness of new powers that lay in him. From the pupilage
of Garrisonism he rose to the dignity of a teacher and a thinker;
his opinions on the broader aspects of the great American
question were earnestly and incessantly sought, from various
points of view, and he must, perforce, bestir himself to give
suitable answer. With that prompt and truthful perception which
has led their sisters in all ages of the world to gather at the
feet and support the hands of reformers, the gentlewomen of
England[2] were foremost to encourage and strengthen him to carve
out for himself a path fitted to his powers and energies, in the
life-battle against slavery and caste to which he was pledged.
And one stirring thought, inseparable from the British idea of
the evangel of freedom, must have smote his ear from every side--

_ Hereditary bondmen! know ye not
Who would be free, themselves mast strike the blow?_

The result of this visit was, that on his return to the United
States, he established a newspaper. This proceeding was sorely
against the wishes and the advice of the leaders of the American
Anti-Slavery Society, but our author had fully grown up to the
conviction of a truth which they had once promulged, but now

[2] One of these ladies, impelled by the same noble spirit which
carried Miss Nightingale to Scutari, has devoted her time, her
untiring energies, to a great extent her means, and her high
literary abilities, to the advancement and support of Frederick
Douglass' Paper, the only organ of the downtrodden, edited and
published by one of themselves, in the United States.

forgotten, to wit: that in their own elevation--self-
elevation--colored men have a blow to strike "on their own hook,"
against slavery and caste. Differing from his Boston friends in
this matter, diffident in his own abilities, reluctant at their
dissuadings, how beautiful is the loyalty with which he still
clung to their principles in all things else, and even in this.

Now came the trial hour. Without cordial support from any large
body of men or party on this side the Atlantic, and too far
distant in space and immediate interest to expect much more,
after the much already done, on the other side, he stood up,
almost alone, to the arduous labor and heavy expenditure of
editor and lecturer. The Garrison party, to which he still
adhered, did not want a _colored_ newspaper--there was an odor of
_caste_ about it; the Liberty party could hardly be expected to
give warm support to a man who smote their principles as with a
hammer; and the wide gulf which separated the free colored people
from the Garrisonians, also separated them from their brother,
Frederick Douglass.

The arduous nature of his labors, from the date of the
establishment of his paper, may be estimated by the fact, that
anti-slavery papers in the United States, even while organs of,
and when supported by, anti-slavery parties, have, with a single
exception, failed to pay expenses. Mr. Douglass has maintained,
and does maintain, his paper without the support of any party,
and even in the teeth of the opposition of those from whom he had
reason to expect counsel and encouragement. He has been
compelled, at one and the same time, and almost constantly,
during the past seven years, to contribute matter to its columns
as editor, and to raise funds for its support as lecturer. It is
within bounds to say, that he has expended twelve thousand
dollars of his own hard earned money, in publishing this paper, a
larger sum than has been contributed by any one individual for
the general advancement of the colored people. There had been
many other papers published and edited by colored men, beginning
as far back as 1827, when the Rev. Samuel E. Cornish and John
B. Russworm (a graduate of Bowdoin college, and afterward
Governor of Cape Palmas) published the _Freedom's Journal_, in
New York City; probably not less than one hundred newspaper
enterprises have been started in the United States, by free
colored men, born free, and some of them of liberal education and
fair talents for this work; but, one after another, they have
fallen through, although, in several instances, anti-slavery
friends contributed to their support.[3] It had almost been
given up, as an impracticable thing, to maintain a colored
newspaper, when Mr. Douglass, with fewest early advantages of all
his competitors, essayed, and has proved the thing perfectly
practicable, and, moreover, of great public benefit. This paper,
in addition to its power in holding up the hands of those to whom
it is especially devoted, also affords irrefutable evidence of
the justice, safety and practicability of Immediate Emancipation;
it further proves the immense loss which slavery inflicts on the
land while it dooms such energies as his to the hereditary
degradation of slavery.

It has been said in this Introduction, that Mr. Douglass had
raised himself by his own efforts to the highest position in
society. As a successful editor, in our land, he occupies this
position. Our editors rule the land, and he is one of them. As
an orator and thinker, his position is equally high, in the
opinion of his countrymen. If a stranger in the United States
would seek its most distinguished men--the movers of public
opinion--he will find their names mentioned, and their movements
chronicled, under the head of "BY MAGNETIC TELEGRAPH, in the
daily papers. The keen caterers for the public attention, set
down, in this column, such men only as have won high mark in the
public esteem. During the past winter--1854-5--very frequent
mention of Frederick Douglass was made under this head in the
daily papers; his name glided as often--this week from Chicago,
next

[3] Mr. Stephen Myers, of Albany, deserves mention as one of the
most persevering among the colored editorial fraternity.

week from Boston--over the lightning wires, as the name of
any other man, of whatever note. To no man did the people more
widely nor more earnestly say, _"Tell me thy thought!"_ And,
somehow or other, revolution seemed to follow in his wake. His
were not the mere words of eloquence which Kossuth speaks of,
that delight the ear and then pass away. No! They were _work_-
able, _do_-able words, that brought forth fruits in the
revolution in Illinois, and in the passage of the franchise
resolutions by the Assembly of New York.

And the secret of his power, what is it? He is a Representative
American man--a type of his countrymen. Naturalists tell us that
a full grown man is a resultant or representative of all animated
nature on this globe; beginning with the early embryo state, then
representing the lowest forms of organic life,[4] and passing
through every subordinate grade or type, until he reaches the
last and highest--manhood. In like manner, and to the fullest
extent, has Frederick Douglass passed through every gradation of
rank comprised in our national make-up, and bears upon his person
and upon his soul every thing that is American. And he has not
only full sympathy with every thing American; his proclivity or
bent, to active toil and visible progress, are in the strictly
national direction, delighting to outstrip "all creation."

Nor have the natural gifts, already named as his, lost anything
by his severe training. When unexcited, his mental processes are
probably slow, but singularly clear in perception, and wide in
vision, the unfailing memory bringing up all the facts in their
every aspect; incongruities he lays hold of incontinently, and
holds up on the edge of his keen and telling wit. But this wit
never descends to frivolity; it is rigidly in the keeping of his
truthful common sense, and always used in illustration or proof
of some point which could not so readily be reached any other
way. "Beware of a Yankee when he is feeding," is a shaft that
strikes home

[4] The German physiologists have even discovered vegetable
matter--starch--in the human body. See _Med. Chirurgical Rev_.,
Oct., 1854, p. 339.

in a matter never so laid bare by satire before. "The
Garrisonian views of disunion, if carried to a successful issue,
would only place the people of the north in the same relation to
American slavery which they now bear to the slavery of Cuba or
the Brazils," is a statement, in a few words, which contains the
result and the evidence of an argument which might cover pages,
but could not carry stronger conviction, nor be stated in less
pregnable form. In proof of this, I may say, that having been
submitted to the attention of the Garrisonians in print, in
March, it was repeated before them at their business meeting in
May--the platform, _par excellence_, on which they invite free
fight, _a l'outrance_, to all comers. It was given out in the
clear, ringing tones, wherewith the hall of shields was wont to
resound of old, yet neither Garrison, nor Phillips, nor May, nor
Remond, nor Foster, nor Burleigh, with his subtle steel of "the
ice brook's temper," ventured to break a lance upon it! The
doctrine of the dissolution of the Union, as a means for the
abolition of American slavery, was silenced upon the lips that
gave it birth, and in the presence of an array of defenders who
compose the keenest intellects in the land.

_"The man who is right is a majority"_ is an aphorism struck out
by Mr. Douglass in that great gathering of the friends of
freedom, at Pittsburgh, in 1852, where he towered among the
highest, because, with abilities inferior to none, and moved more
deeply than any, there was neither policy nor party to trammel
the outpourings of his soul. Thus we find, opposed to all
disadvantages which a black man in the United States labors and
struggles under, is this one vantage ground--when the chance
comes, and the audience where he may have a say, he stands forth
the freest, most deeply moved and most earnest of all men.

It has been said of Mr. Douglass, that his descriptive and
declamatory powers, admitted to be of the very highest order,
take precedence of his logical force. Whilst the schools might
have trained him to the exhibition of the formulas of deductive
logic, nature and circumstances forced him into the exercise
of the higher faculties required by induction. The first ninety
pages of this "Life in Bondage," afford specimens of observing,
comparing, and careful classifying, of such superior character,
that it is difficult to believe them the results of a child's
thinking; he questions the earth, and the children and the slaves
around him again and again, and finally looks to _"God in the
sky"_ for the why and the wherefore of the unnatural thing,
slavery. _"Yes, if indeed thou art, wherefore dost thou suffer
us to be slain?"_ is the only prayer and worship of the God-
forsaken Dodos in the heart of Africa. Almost the same was his
prayer. One of his earliest observations was that white children
should know their ages, while the colored children were ignorant
of theirs; and the songs of the slaves grated on his inmost soul,
because a something told him that harmony in sound, and music of
the spirit, could not consociate with miserable degradation.

To such a mind, the ordinary processes of logical deduction are
like proving that two and two make four. Mastering the
intermediate steps by an intuitive glance, or recurring to them
as Ferguson resorted to geometry, it goes down to the deeper
relation of things, and brings out what may seem, to some, mere
statements, but which are new and brilliant generalizations, each
resting on a broad and stable basis. Thus, Chief Justice
Marshall gave his decisions, and then told Brother Story to look
up the authorities--and they never differed from him. Thus,
also, in his "Lecture on the Anti-Slavery Movement," delivered
before the Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society, Mr. Douglass
presents a mass of thought, which, without any showy display of
logic on his part, requires an exercise of the reasoning
faculties of the reader to keep pace with him. And his "Claims
of the Negro Ethnologically Considered," is full of new and fresh
thoughts on the dawning science of race-history.

If, as has been stated, his intellection is slow, when unexcited,
it is most prompt and rapid when he is thoroughly aroused.
Memory, logic, wit, sarcasm, invective pathos and bold
imagery of rare structural beauty, well up as from a copious
fountain, yet each in its proper place, and contributing to form
a whole, grand in itself, yet complete in the minutest
proportions. It is most difficult to hedge him in a corner, for
his positions are taken so deliberately, that it is rare to find
a point in them undefended aforethought. Professor Reason tells
me the following: "On a recent visit of a public nature, to
Philadelphia, and in a meeting composed mostly of his colored
brethren, Mr. Douglass proposed a comparison of views in the
matters of the relations and duties of 'our people;' he holding
that prejudice was the result of condition, and could be
conquered by the efforts of the degraded themselves. A gentleman
present, distinguished for logical acumen and subtlety, and who
had devoted no small portion of the last twenty-five years to the
study and elucidation of this very question, held the opposite
view, that prejudice is innate and unconquerable. He terminated
a series of well dove-tailed, Socratic questions to Mr. Douglass,
with the following: 'If the legislature at Harrisburgh should
awaken, to-morrow morning, and find each man's skin turned black
and his hair woolly, what could they do to remove prejudice?'
'Immediately pass laws entitling black men to all civil,
political and social privileges,' was the instant reply--and the
questioning ceased."

The most remarkable mental phenomenon in Mr. Douglass, is his
style in writing and speaking. In March, 1855, he delivered an
address in the assembly chamber before the members of the
legislature of the state of New York. An eye witness[5]
describes the crowded and most intelligent audience, and their
rapt attention to the speaker, as the grandest scene he ever
witnessed in the capitol. Among those whose eyes were riveted on
the speaker full two hours and a half, were Thurlow Weed and
Lieutenant Governor Raymond; the latter, at the conclusion of the
address, exclaimed to a friend, "I would give twenty thousand
dollars,

[5] Mr. Wm. H. Topp, of Albany.

if I could deliver that address in that manner." Mr. Raymond
is a first class graduate of Dartmouth, a rising politician,
ranking foremost in the legislature; of course, his ideal of
oratory must be of the most polished and finished description.

The style of Mr. Douglass in writing, is to me an intellectual
puzzle. The strength, affluence and terseness may easily be
accounted for, because the style of a man is the man; but how are
we to account for that rare polish in his style of writing,
which, most critically examined, seems the result of careful
early culture among the best classics of our language; it equals
if it does not surpass the style of Hugh Miller, which was the
wonder of the British literary public, until he unraveled the
mystery in the most interesting of autobiographies. But
Frederick Douglass was still calking the seams of Baltimore
clippers, and had only written a "pass," at the age when Miller's
style was already formed.

I asked William Whipper, of Pennsylvania, the gentleman alluded
to above, whether he thought Mr. Douglass's power inherited from
the Negroid, or from what is called the Caucasian side of his
make up? After some reflection, he frankly answered, "I must
admit, although sorry to do so, that the Caucasian predominates."
At that time, I almost agreed with him; but, facts narrated in
the first part of this work, throw a different light on this
interesting question.

We are left in the dark as to who was the paternal ancestor of
our author; a fact which generally holds good of the Romuluses
and Remuses who are to inaugurate the new birth of our republic.
In the absence of testimony from the Caucasian side, we must see
what evidence is given on the other side of the house.

"My grandmother, though advanced in years, * * * was yet a woman
of power and spirit. She was marvelously straight in figure,
elastic and muscular." (p. 46.)

After describing her skill in constructing nets, her perseverance
in using them, and her wide-spread fame in the agricultural way
he adds, "It happened to her--as it will happen to any careful
and thrifty person residing in an ignorant and improvident
neighborhood--to enjoy the reputation of being born to good
luck." And his grandmother was a black woman.

"My mother was tall, and finely proportioned; of deep black,
glossy complexion; had regular features; and among other slaves
was remarkably sedate in her manners." "Being a field hand, she
was obliged to walk twelve miles and return, between nightfall
and daybreak, to see her children" (p. 54.) "I shall never
forget the indescribable expression of her countenance when I
told her that I had had no food since morning. * * * There was
pity in her glance at me, and a fiery indignation at Aunt Katy at
the same time; * * * * she read Aunt Katy a lecture which she
never forgot." (p. 56.) "I learned after my mother's death,
that she could read, and that she was the _only_ one of all the
slaves and colored people in Tuckahoe who enjoyed that advantage.
How she acquired this knowledge, I know not, for Tuckahoe is the
last place in the world where she would be apt to find facilities
for learning." (p. 57.) "There is, in _Prichard's Natural
History of Man_, the head of a figure--on page 157--the features
of which so resemble those of my mother, that I often recur to it
with something of the feeling which I suppose others experience
when looking upon the pictures of dear departed ones." (p. 52.)

The head alluded to is copied from the statue of Ramses the
Great, an Egyptian king of the nineteenth dynasty. The authors
of the _Types of Mankind_ give a side view of the same on page
148, remarking that the profile, "like Napoleon's, is superbly
European!" The nearness of its resemblance to Mr. Douglass'
mother rests upon the evidence of his memory, and judging from
his almost marvelous feats of recollection of forms and outlines
recorded in this book, this testimony may be admitted.

These facts show that for his energy, perseverance, eloquence,
invective, sagacity, and wide sympathy, he is indebted to his
Negro blood. The very marvel of his style would seem to be a
development of that other marvel--how his mother learned to read.
The versatility of talent which he wields, in common with
Dumas, Ira Aldridge, and Miss Greenfield, would seem to be the
result of the grafting of the Anglo-Saxon on good, original,
Negro stock. If the friends of "Caucasus" choose to claim, for
that region, what remains after this analysis--to wit:
combination--they are welcome to it. They will forgive me for
reminding them that the term "Caucasian" is dropped by recent
writers on Ethnology; for the people about Mount Caucasus, are,
and have ever been, Mongols. The great "white race" now seek
paternity, according to Dr. Pickering, in Arabia--"Arida Nutrix"
of the best breed of horses &c. Keep on, gentlemen; you will
find yourselves in Africa, by-and-by. The Egyptians, like the
Americans, were a _mixed race_, with some Negro blood circling
around the throne, as well as in the mud hovels.

This is the proper place to remark of our author, that the same
strong self-hood, which led him to measure strength with Mr.
Covey, and to wrench himself from the embrace of the
Garrisonians, and which has borne him through many resistances to
the personal indignities offered him as a colored man, sometimes
becomes a hyper-sensitiveness to such assaults as men of his mark
will meet with, on paper. Keen and unscrupulous opponents have
sought, and not unsuccessfully, to pierce him in this direction;
for well they know, that if assailed, he will smite back.

It is not without a feeling of pride, dear reader, that I present
you with this book. The son of a self-emancipated bond-woman, I
feel joy in introducing to you my brother, who has rent his own
bonds, and who, in his every relation--as a public man, as a
husband and as a father--is such as does honor to the land which
gave him birth. I shall place this book in the hands of the only
child spared me, bidding him to strive and emulate its noble
example. You may do likewise. It is an American book, for
Americans, in the fullest sense of the idea. It shows that the
worst of our institutions, in its worst aspect, cannot keep down
energy, truthfulness, and earnest struggle for the right. It
proves the justice and practicability of Immediate
Emancipation. It shows that any man in our land, "no matter in
what battle his liberty may have been cloven down, * * * * no
matter what complexion an Indian or an African sun may have
burned upon him," not only may "stand forth redeemed and
disenthralled," but may also stand up a candidate for the highest
suffrage of a great people--the tribute of their honest, hearty
admiration. Reader, _Vale!

New York_ JAMES MCCUNE SMITH
 
 
1 of