168 LIFE AND TIMES OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS
hearts at once, and by the simple majesty of his all-controlling thought, con-
verting his hearers into the express image of his own soul. That night there
were at least a thousand Garrisonians in Nantucket!
At the close of this great meeting I was duly waited on by Mr. John A.
Collins, then the general agent of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society,
and urgently solicited by him to become an agent of that society, and pub-
licly advocate its principles. I was reluctant to take the proffered position. I
had not been quite three years from slavery and was honestly distrustful of
my ability, and I wished to be excused. Besides, publicity might discover me
to my master, and many other objections presented themselves. But Mr.
Collins was not to be refused, and I finally consented to go out for three
months, supposing I should in that length of time come to the end of my
story and my consequent usefulness.
Here opened for me a new life—a life for which I had had no preparation.
Mr. Collins used to say when introducing me to an audience, I was a "graduate
from the peculiar institution, with my diploma written on my back." The three
years of my freedom had been spent in the hard school of adversity. My hands
seemed to be furnished with something like a leather coating, and I had
marked out for myself a life of rough labor, suited to the hardness of my
hands, as a means of supporting my family and rearing my children.
Young, ardent, and hopeful, I entered upon this new life in the full gush
of unsuspecting enthusiasm. The cause was good, the men engaged in it
were good, the means to attain its triumph, good. Heaven's blessing must
attend all, and freedom must soon be given to the millions pining under a
ruthless bondage. My whole heart went with the holy cause, and my most
fervent prayer to the Almighty Disposer of the hearts of men, was continu-
ally offered for its early triumph. In this enthusiastic spirit I dropped into the
ranks of freedom's friends and went forth to the battle. For a time I was
made to forget that my skin was dark and my hair crisped. For a time I
regretted that I could not have shared the hardships and dangers endured by
the earlier workers for the slave's release. I found, however, full soon that
my enthusiasm had been extravagant, that hardships and dangers were not
all over, and that the life now before me had its shadows also, as well as its
Among the first duties assigned me on entering the ranks was to travel
in company with Mr. George Foster to secure subscribers to the Anti-Slavery
Standard and the Liberator. With him I traveled and lectured through the
eastern counties of Massachusetts. Much interest was awakened—large
meetings assembled. Many came, no doubt from curiosity to hear what a
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