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French, a wealthy and enterprising citizen, distinguished as an anti-slavery
man, was fitting out a vessel for a whaling voyage, upon which there was a
heavy job of calking and coppering to be done. I had some skill in both
branches, and applied to Mr. French for work. He, generous man that he was,
told me he would employ me, and I might go at once to the vessel. I obeyed
him, but upon reaching the float-stage, where other calkers were at work, I
was told that every white man would leave the ship in her unfinished condit-
ion, if I struck a blow at my trade upon her. This uncivil, inhuman, and self-
ish treatment was not so shocking and scandalous in my eyes at the time as
it now appears to me. Slavery had inured me to hardships that made ordinary
trouble sit lightly upon me. Could I have worked at my trade I could have
earned two dollars a day, but as a common laborer I received but one dollar.
The difference was of great importance to me, but if I could not get two dol-
lars, I was glad to get one; and so I went to work for Mr. French as a common
laborer. The consciousness that I was free—no longer a slave kept me
cheerful under this, and many similar proscriptions, which I was destined to
meet in New Bedford, and elsewhere on the free soil of Massachusetts. For
instance, though white and colored children attended the same schools, and
were treated kindly by their teachers, the New Bedford Lyceum refused till
several years after my residence in that city to allow any colored person to
attend the lectures delivered in its hall. Not until such men as Hon. Chas.
Sumner, Theodore Parker, Ralph W. Emerson, and Horace Mann refused to
lecture in their course while there was such a restriction, was it abandoned.

Becoming satisfied that I could not rely on my trade in New Bedford to
give me a living, I prepared myself to do any kind of work that came to hand.
I sawed wood, shoveled coal, dug cellars, moved rubbish from back-yards.
worked on the wharves, loaded and unloaded vessels, and scoured their

This was an uncertain and unsatisfactory mode of life, for it kept me too
much of the time in search of work. Fortunately it was not to last long. One
of the gentlemen of whom I have spoken as being in company with Mr.
Taber on the Newport wharf, when he said to me "Thee get in," was Mr.
Joseph Ricketson; and he was the proprietor of a large candle works in the
south part of the city. In this "candle works" as it was called, though no
candles were manufactured there, by the kindness of Mr. Ricketson, I found
what is of the utmost importance to a young man just starting in life—con-
stant employment and regular wages. My work in this oil refinery required
good wind and muscle. Large casks of oil were to be moved from place to
place, and much heavy lifting to be done. Happily I was not deficient in the

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