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hearts at once, and by the simple majesty of his all-controlling thought, converting 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 publicly 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 continually 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 sunbeams.
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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negro could say in his own cause. I was generally introduced as a "chattel,"— a "thing"—a piece of southern property—the chairman assuring the audience that it could speak. Fugitive slaves were rare then, and as a fugitive slave lecturer, I had the advantage of being a "brand new fact"-the first one out. Up to that time, a colored man was deemed a fool who confessed himself a runaway slave, not only because of the danger to which he exposed himself of being retaken, but because it was a confession of a very low origin. Some of my colored friends in New Bedford thought very badly of my wisdom in thus exposing and degrading myself. The only precaution I took at the beginning, to prevent Master Thomas from knowing where I was and what I was about, was the withholding of my former name, my master's name, and the name of the State and county from which I came. During the first three or four months my speeches were almost exclusively made up of narrations of my own personal experience as a slave. "Let us have the facts," said the people. So also said Friend George Foster, who always wished to pin me down to a simple narrative. "Give us the facts," said Collins, "we will take care of the philosophy." Just here arose some embarrassment. It was impossible for me to repeat the same old story, month after month, and to keep up my interest in it. It was new to the people, it is true, but it was an old story to me; and to go through with it night after night, was a task altogether too mechanical for my nature. "Tell your story, Frederick," would whisper my revered friend, Mr. Garrison, as I stepped upon the platform. I could not always follow the injunction, for I was now reading and thinking. New views of the subject were being presented to my mind. It did not entirely satisfy me to narrate wrongs; I felt like denouncing them. I could not always curb my moral indignation for the perpetrators of slaveholding villainy, long enough for a circumstantial statement of the facts which I felt almost sure everybody must know. Besides, I was growing, and needed room. "People won't believe you ever were a slave, Frederick, if you keep on this way," said Friend Foster. "Be yourself," said Collins, "and tell your story." "Better have a little of the plantation speech than not," it was said to me; "it is not best that you seem too learned." These excellent friends were actuated by the best of motives, and were not altogether wrong in their advice; and still I must speak just the word that seemed to me the word to be spoken by me.
At last the apprehended trouble came. People doubted if I had ever been a slave. They said I did not talk like a slave, look like a slave, nor act like a slave, and that they believed I had never been south of Mason and Dixon's line. "He don't tell us where he came from—what his master's name was,
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nor how he got away; besides he is educated, and is, in this, a contradiction of all the facts we have concerning the ignorance of the slaves." Thus I was in a pretty fair way to be denounced as an impostor. The committee of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society knew all the facts in my case, and agreed with me thus far in the prudence of keeping them private; but going down the aisles of the churches in which my meetings were held, and hearing the out-spoken Yankees repeatedly saying, "He's never been a slave, I'II warrant you," I resolved to dispel all doubt at no distant day, by such a revelation of facts as could not be made by any other than a genuine fugitive. In a little less than four years, therefore, after becoming a public lecturer, I was induced to write out the leading facts connected with my experience in slavery, giving names of persons, places, and dates—thus putting it in the power of any who doubted to ascertain the truth or falsehood of my story. This statement soon became known in Maryland, and I had reason to believe that an effort would be made to recapture me.
It is not probable that any open attempt to secure me as a slave could have succeeded, further than the obtainment, by my master, of the money value of my bones and sinews. Fortunately for me, in the four years of my labors in the abolition cause, I had gained many friends who would have suffered themselves to be taxed to almost any extent to save me from slavery. It was felt that I had committed the double offense of running away and exposing the secrets and crimes of slavery and slaveholders. There was a double motive for seeking my re-enslavement—avarice and vengeance; and while, as I have said, there was little probability of successful recapture, if attempted openly, I was constantly in danger of being spirited away at a moment when my friends could render me no assistance. In traveling about from place to place, often alone, I was much exposed to this sort of attack. Any one cherishing the design to betray me, could easily do so by simply tracing my whereabouts through the anti-slavery journals, for my movements and meetings were made known through these in advance. My friends, Mr. Garrison and Mr. Phillips, had no faith in the power of Massachusetts to protect me in my right to liberty. Public sentiment and the law, in their opinion, would hand me over to the tormentors. Mr. Phillips especially considered me in danger, and said when I showed him the manuscript of my story, if in my place, he would "throw it into the fire." Thus the reader will observe that the overcoming of one difficulty only opened the way for another; and that though I had reached a free State, and had attained a position for public usefulness, I was still under the liability of losing all I had gained.
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CHAPTER IV. RECOLLECTIONS OF OLD FRIENDS.
Work in Rhode lsland—Dorr War—Recollections of old friends—Further labors in Rhode Island and elsewhere in New England.
In the State of Rhode Island, under the leadership of Thomas W. Dorr, an effort was made in 1841 to set aside the old colonial charter, under which that State had lived and flourished since the Revolution, and to replace it with a new constitution having such improvements as it was thought that time and experience had shown to be wise and necessary. This new constitution was especially framed to enlarge the bases of representation so far as the white people of the State were concerned—to abolish an odious property qualification, and to confine the right of suffrage to white male citizens only. Mr. Dorr was himself a well-meaning man, and, after his fashion, a man of broad and progressive views, quite in advance of the party with which he acted. To gain their support, he consented to this restriction to a class, a right which ought to be enjoyed by all citizens. In this he consulted policy rather than right, and at last shared the fate of all compromisers and trimmers, for he was disastrously defeated. The proscriptive features of his constitution shocked the sense of right and roused the moral indignation of the abolitionists of the State, a class which would otherwise have gladly co-operated with him, at the same time that it did nothing to win support from the conservative class which clung to the old charter. Anti-slavery men wanted a new constitution, but they did not want a defective instrument which required reform at the start. The result was that such men as William M. Chace, Thomas Davis, George L. Clarke, Asa Fairbanks, Alphonso Janes, and others of Providence the Perry brothers of Westerly, John Brown and C. C. Eldridge of East Greenwich, Daniel Mitchell, William Adams, and Robert Shrove of Pawtucket, Peleg Clarke, Caleb Kelton, G. J. Adams, and the Anthonys and Goulds of Coventry and vicinity, Edward Harris ofWoonsocket, and other abolitionists of the State, decided that the time had come when the people of Rhode Island might be taught a more comprehensive gospel of human rights than had gotten itself into this Dorr constitution. The public mind was awake, and one class of its people at least was ready to work with us to the extent of seeking to defeat the proposed constitution, though their reasons for such work were far different from ours. Stephen S. Foster, Parker Pillsbury, Abby Kelley, James Monroe, and myself, were called into the State to advocate equal rights as against this narrow and proscriptive constitution. The work to which we were invited was not free from difficulty. The
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majority of the people were evidently with the new constitution; even the word white in it chimed well with the popular prejudice against the colored race, and at the first helped to make the movement popular. On the other hand, all the arguments which the Dorr men could urge against a property qualification for suffrage were equally cogent against a color qualification, and this was our advantage. But the contest was intensely bitter and exciting. We were as usual denounced as intermeddlers (carpet-bagger had not come into use at that time) and were told to mind our own business, and the like, a mode of defense common to men when called to account for mean and discreditable conduct. Stephen S. Foster, Parker Pillsbury, and the rest of us were not the kind of men to be ordered off by that sort of opposition. We cared nothing for the Dorr party on the one hand, nor the "law and order party" on the other. What we wanted, and what we labored to obtain, was a constitution free from the narrow, selfish, and senseless limitation of the word white. Naturally enough when we said a strong and striking word against the Dorr Constitution the conservatives were pleased and applauded, while the Dorr men were disgusted and indignant. Foster and Pillsbury were like the rest of us, young, strong, and at their best in this contest. The splendid vehemence of the one, and the weird and terrible denunciations of the other, never failed to stir up mobocratic wrath wherever they spoke. Foster especially, was effective in this line. His theory was that he must make converts or mobs. If neither came he charged it either to his want of skill or his unfaithfulness. I was much with Mr. Foster during the tour in Rhode Island, and though at times he seemed to me extravagant and needlessly offensive in his manner of presenting his ideas, yet take him for all in all, he was one of the most impressive advocates the cause of the American slave ever had. No white man ever made the black man's cause more completely his own. Abby Kelley, since Abby Kelley Foster, was perhaps the most successful of any of us. Her youth and simple Quaker beauty combined with her wonderful earnestness, her large knowledge and great logical power, bore down all opposition to the end, wherever she spoke, though she was before pelted with foul eggs, and no less foul words from the noisy mobs which attended us.
Monroe and I were less aggressive than either of our co-workers, and of course did not provoke the same resistance. He at least, had the eloquence that charms, and the skill that disarms. I think that our labors in Rhode Island during this Dorr excitement did more to abolitionize the State, than any previous, or subsequent work. It was the "tide," "taken at the flood." One effect of those labors was to induce the old "Law and Order" party, when it set