My Bondage and My Freedom

4403764743_d7e44f960c_b
By
FREDERICK DOUGLASS

By a principle essential to Christianity, a PERSON is eternally
differenced from a THING; so that the idea of a HUMAN BEING,
necessarily excludes the idea of PROPERTY IN THAT BEING_.
COLERIDGE

Entered according to Act of Congress in 1855 by Frederick
Douglass in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the
Northern District of New York

TO
HONORABLE GERRIT SMITH,
AS A SLIGHT TOKEN OF
ESTEEM FOR HIS CHARACTER,
ADMIRATION FOR HIS GENIUS AND BENEVOLENCE,
AFFECTION FOR HIS PERSON, AND
GRATITUDE FOR HIS FRIENDSHIP,
AND AS
A Small but most Sincere Acknowledgement of
HIS PRE-EMINENT SERVICES IN BEHALF OF THE RIGHTS AND LIBERTIES
OF AN
AFFLICTED, DESPISED AND DEEPLY OUTRAGED PEOPLE,
BY RANKING SLAVERY WITH PIRACY AND MURDER,
AND BY
DENYING IT EITHER A LEGAL OR CONSTITUTIONAL EXISTENCE,
This Volume is Respectfully Dedicated,
BY HIS FAITHFUL AND FIRMLY ATTACHED FRIEND,
FREDERICK DOUGLAS.
ROCHESTER, N.Y.

CONTENTS

EDITORS PREFACE. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1
INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4

LIFE AS A SLAVE?

I–CHILDHOOD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
II–REMOVED FROM MY FIRST HOME . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
III–PARENTAGE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
IV–A GENERAL SURVEY OF THE SLAVE PLANTATION . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
V–GRADUAL INITIATION INTO THE MYSTERIES OF SLAVERY. . . . . . . . . 61
VI–TREATMENT OF SLAVES ON LLOYDS PLANTATION . . . . . . . . . . . . 69
VII–LIFE IN THE GREAT HOUSE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83
VIII–A CHAPTER OF HORRORS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93
IX–PERSONAL TREATMENT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .101
X–LIFE IN BALTIMORE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .111
XI–“A CHANGE CAME O’ER THE SPIRIT OF MY DREAM”. . . . . . . . . . .118
XII–RELIGIOUS NATURE AWAKENED . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .127
XIII–THE VICISSITUDES OF SLAVE LIFE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .135
XIV–EXPERIENCE IN ST. MICHAEL’S . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .144
XV–COVEY, THE NEGRO BREAKER . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .159
XVI–ANOTHER PRESSURE OF THE TYRANTS VICE. . . . . . . . . . . . . .172

CONTENTS

XVII–THE LAST FLOCCING. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .180
XVIII–NEW RELATIONS AND DUTIES. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .194
XIX–THE RUN-AWAY PLOT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .209
XX–APPRENTICESHIP LIFE. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .235
XXI–MY ESCAPE FROM SLAVERY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .248

LIFE AS A FREEMAN
XXII–LIBERTY ATTAINED . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .261
XXIII–INTRODUCED TO THE ABOLITIONISTS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .278
XXIV–TWENTY-ONE MONTHS IN GREAT BRITAIN . . . . . . . . . . . . . .284
XXV–VARIOUS INCIDENTS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .304

APPENDIX
RECEPTION SPEECH . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .318
LETTER TO HIS OLD MASTER . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .330
THE NATURE OF SLAVERY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .337
INHUMANITY OF SLAVERY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .343
WHAT TO THE SLAVE IS THE FOURTH OF JULY? . . . . . . . . . . . . . .349
THE INTERNAL SLAVE TRADE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .354
THE SLAVERY PARTY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .358
THE ANTI-SLAVERY MOVEMENT. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .363

 

EDITOR’S PREFACE

If the volume now presented to the public were a mere work of
ART, the history of its misfortune might be written in two very
simple words–TOO LATE. The nature and character of slavery have
been subjects of an almost endless variety of artistic
representation; and after the brilliant achievements in that
field, and while those achievements are yet fresh in the memory
of the million, he who would add another to the legion, must
possess the charm of transcendent excellence, or apologize for
something worse than rashness. The reader is, therefore,
assured, with all due promptitude, that his attention is not
invited to a work of ART, but to a work of FACTS–Facts, terrible
and almost incredible, it may be yet FACTS, nevertheless.

I am authorized to say that there is not a fictitious name nor
place in the whole volume; but that names and places are
literally given, and that every transaction therein described
actually transpired.

Perhaps the best Preface to this volume is furnished in the
following letter of Mr. Douglass, written in answer to my urgent
solicitation for such a work:

ROCHESTER, N. Y. _July_ 2, 1855.

DEAR FRIEND: I have long entertained, as you very well know, a
somewhat positive repugnance to writing or speaking anything for
the public, which could, with any degree of plausibilty, make me
liable to the imputation of seeking personal notoriety, for its
own sake. Entertaining that feeling very sincerely, and
permitting its control, perhaps, quite unreasonably, I have often
refused to narrate my personal experience in public anti-
slavery meetings, and in sympathizing circles, when urged to do
so by friends, with whose views and wishes, ordinarily, it were a
pleasure to comply. In my letters and speeches, I have generally
aimed to discuss the question of Slavery in the light of
fundamental principles, and upon facts, notorious and open to
all; making, I trust, no more of the fact of my own former
enslavement, than circumstances seemed absolutely to require. I
have never placed my opposition to slavery on a basis so narrow
as my own enslavement, but rather upon the indestructible and
unchangeable laws of human nature, every one of which is
perpetually and flagrantly violated by the slave system. I have
also felt that it was best for those having histories worth the
writing–or supposed to be so–to commit such work to hands other
than their own. To write of one’s self, in such a manner as not
to incur the imputation of weakness, vanity, and egotism, is a
work within the ability of but few; and I have little reason to
believe that I belong to that fortunate few.

These considerations caused me to hesitate, when first you kindly
urged me to prepare for publication a full account of my life as
a slave, and my life as a freeman.

Nevertheless, I see, with you, many reasons for regarding my
autobiography as exceptional in its character, and as being, in
some sense, naturally beyond the reach of those reproaches which
honorable and sensitive minds dislike to incur. It is not to
illustrate any heroic achievements of a man, but to vindicate a
just and beneficent principle, in its application to the whole
human family, by letting in the light of truth upon a system,
esteemed by some as a blessing, and by others as a curse and a
crime. I agree with you, that this system is now at the bar of
public opinion–not only of this country, but of the whole
civilized world–for judgment. Its friends have made for it the
usual plea–“not guilty;” the case must, therefore, proceed. Any
facts, either from slaves, slaveholders, or by-standers,
calculated to enlighten the public mind, by revealing the true
nature, character, and tendency of the slave system, are in
order, and can scarcely be innocently withheld.

I see, too, that there are special reasons why I should write my
own biography, in preference to employing another to do it. Not
only is slavery on trial, but unfortunately, the enslaved people
are also on trial. It is alleged, that they are, naturally,
inferior; that they are _so low_ in the scale of humanity, and so
utterly stupid, that they are unconscious of their wrongs, and do
not apprehend their rights. Looking, then, at your request, from
this stand-point, and wishing everything of which you think me
capable to go to the benefit of my afflicted people, I part with
my doubts and hesitation, and proceed to furnish you the desired
manuscript; hoping that you may be able to make such arrangements
for its publication as shall be best adapted to accomplish that
good which you so enthusiastically anticipate.
FREDERICK DOUGLASS

 

There was little necessity for doubt and hesitation on the part
of Mr. Douglass, as to the propriety of his giving to the world a
full account of himself. A man who was born and brought up in
slavery, a living witness of its horrors; who often himself
experienced its cruelties; and who, despite the depressing
influences surrounding his birth, youth and manhood, has risen,
from a dark and almost absolute obscurity, to the distinguished
position which he now occupies, might very well assume the
existence of a commendable curiosity, on the part of the public,
to know the facts of his remarkable history.

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