Reasons for not having revealed the manner of escape--Nothing of romance in the method--Danger--Free papers--Unjust tax--Protection papers--"Free trade and sailors' rights"--American eagle--Railroad train--Unobserving conductor--Capt. Danger to be averted--A refuge sought abroad--Voyage on the steamship Cambria--Refusal of first-class passage--Attractions of the fore-castle deck--Hutchinson family--Invited to make a speech--Southerners feel insulted--Captain threatens to put them in irons--Experiences abroad--Attentions received--Impressions of different members of Parliament, and of other public men--Contrast with life in America--Kindness of friends--Their purchase of my person, and the gift of the same to myself--My return.
My First Meeting with Capt. Satisfaction and anxiety, new fields of labor opening--Lyceums and colleges soliciting addresses--Literary attractions--Pecuniary gain--Still pleading for human rights--President Andy Johnson--Colored delegation--Their reply to him--National Loyalist Convention, , and its procession--Not wanted--Meeting with an old friend--Joy and surprise--The old master's welcome, and Miss Amanda's friendship--Enfranchisement debated and accomplished--The negro a citizen.
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Henry Wilson. Auld's admission "had I been in your place, I should have done as you did"--Speech at Easton--The old jail there--Invited to a sail on the revenue cutter Guthrie--Hon. John L. Thomas--Visit to the old plantation--Home of Col. Gerrit Smith and Mr. Delevan--Experiences at Hotels and on Steamboats and other modes of travel--Hon. Edward Marshall--Grace Greenwood--Hon.
Moses Norris--Robert J. Ingersoll--Reflections and conclusions--Compensations. Meeting of colored citizens in Washington to express their sympathy at the great national bereavement, the death of President Garfield--Concluding reflections and conviction. Again summoned to the defense of his people--The difficulties of the task--The race problem--His life work--The antislavery movement.
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Garfield not a stalwart--Encounter of Garfield with Tucker--Hope in promises of a new departure--The sorrow-stricken nation. Activity in behalf of his people--Income of the Recorder of Deeds--False impressions as to his wealth--Appeals for assistance--Persistent beggars. Cleveland--Decline for strength in the Republican party--Time of gloom for the colored people--Reason for the defeat of Blaine. Causes of the Republican defeat--Tariff and free trade--No confidence in the Democratic party.
Browning--The mountains of the Tyrol. Appointed minister at Haiti--Unfriendly criticism--Admiral Gherardi. Nicolas--Close of the interview. JUST what this country has in store to benefit or to startle the world in the future, no tongue can tell. We know full well the wonderful things which have occurred or have been accomplished here in the past, but the still more wonderful things which we may well say will happen in the centuries of development which lie before us, is vain conjecture; it lies in the domain of speculation.
America will be the field for the demonstration of truths not now accepted and the establishment of a new and higher civilization. Up to this time the most remarkable contribution this country has given to the world is the Author and subject of this book, now being introduced to the public--Frederick Douglass. The contribution comes naturally and legitimately and to some not unexpectedly, nevertheless it is altogether unique and must be regarded as truly remarkable.
Our Pantheon contains many that are illustrious and worthy, but Douglass is unlike all others, he is sui generis. For every other great character we can bring forward, Europe can produce another equally as great; when we bring forward Douglass, he cannot be matched. Douglass was born a slave, he won his liberty; he is of negro extraction, and consequently was despised and outraged; he has by his own energy and force of character commanded the respect of the Nation; he was ignorant, he has, against law and by stealth and entirely unaided, educated himself; he was poor, he has by honest toil and industry become rich and independent, so to speak; he, a chattel slave of a hated and cruelly wronged race, in the teeth of American prejudice and in face of nearly every kind of hindrance and draw-back, has come to be one of the foremost orators of the age, with a reputation established on both sides of the Atlantic; a writer of power and elegance of expression; a thinker whose views Page 18 are potent in controlling and shaping public opinion; a high officer in the National Government; a cultivated gentleman whose virtues as a husband, father, and citizen are the highest honor a man can have.
Frederick Douglass stands upon a pedestal; he has reached this lofty height through years of toil and strife, but it has been the strife of moral ideas; strife in the battle for human rights. No bitter memories come from this strife; no feelings of remorse can rise to cast their gloomy shadows over his soul; Douglass has now reached and passed the meridian of life, his co-laborers in the strife have now nearly all passed away. Garrison has gone, Gerritt Smith has gone, Giddings and Sumner have gone,--nearly all the abolitionists are gone to their reward.
The culmination of his life work has been reached; the object dear to his heart--the Emancipation of the slaves--had been accomplished, through the blessings of God; he stands facing the goal, already reached by his co-laborers, with a halo of peace about him, and nothing but serenity and gratitude must fill his breast. To those, who in the past--in ante-bellum days--in any degree shared with Douglass his hopes and feelings on the slavery question, this serenity of mind, this gratitude, can be understood and felt.
All Americans, no matter what may have been their views on slavery, now that freedom has come and slavery is ended, must have a restful feeling and be glad that the source of bitterness and trouble is removed. The man who is sorry because of the abolition of slavery, has outlived his day and generation; he should have insisted upon being buried with the "lost cause" at Appomatox.
We rejoice that Douglass has attained unto this exalted position--this pedestal. It has been honorably reached; it is a just recognition of talent and effort; it is another proof that success attends high and noble aim. With this example, the black boy as well as the white boy can take hope and courage in the race of life.
Douglass' life has been a romance--and a fragrance--to the age. There has been just enough mystery about his origin and escape from slavery to throw a charm about them. The odd proceedings in the purchase of his freedom after his escape from slavery; his movements in connection with the John Brown raid at Harper's Ferry and his subsequent flight across the ocean are romantic as anything which took place among the crags and the cliffs, the Roderick Dhus and Douglasses of the Lady of the Lake; while the pure life he has led and his spotless character are sweet by contrast Page 19 with the lives of mere politicians and time-serving statesmen.
It is well to contemplate one like him, who has had "hair-breadth escapes. To say that his life has been eventful, is hardly the word. From the time when he first saw the light on the Tuckahoe plantation up to the time he was called to fill a high official position, his life has been crowded with events which in some sense may be called miracles, and now since his autobiography has come to be written, we must understand the hour of retrospect has come--for casting up and balancing accounts as to work done or left undone.
It is more than forty years now that he has been before the world as a writer and speaker--busy, active, wonderful years to him--and we are called upon to pass judgment upon his labors.
What can we say? Can he claim the well done good and faithful? The record shows this, and we must state it, generally speaking, his life had been devoted to his race and the cause of his race. The freedom and elevation of his people has been his life work, and it has been done well and faithfully. That is the record, and that is sufficient.
No higher eulogium can be pronounced than that Long-fellow says of the Village Blacksmith He has given the best years of his life to the improvement of their condition, and, now that he looks back upon his labors, may he not say he has "attempted" and "done" something? The first twenty-three years of Douglass' life were twenty-three years of slavery, obscurity, and degradation, yet doubtless in time to come these years will be regarded by the student of history the most interesting portion of his life; to those who in the future would know the inside history of American slavery, this part of his life will be specially instructive.
Plantation life at Tuckahoe as related by him is not fiction, it is fact; it is not the historian's dissertation on slavery, it is slavery itself, the slave's life, acts, and thoughts, and the life, acts, and thoughts of those around him. It is Macauley I think who says that a copy of a daily newspaper [if there were such] published at Rome would give more information and be of more value than any history we have. So, too, this Page 20 photographic view of slave life as given to us in the autobiography of an ex-slave will give to the reader a clearer insight of the system of slavery than can be gained from the examination of general history.
Lloyd's plantation, where Douglass belonged, was very much like other plantations of the south.
Here was the great house and the cabins, the old Aunties, and patriarchal Uncles, little picanninies and picanninies not so little, of every shade of complexion, from ebony black to whiteness of the master race; mules, overseers, and broken down fences. Here was the negro Doctor learned in the science of roots and herbs; also the black conjurer with his divination.
Here was slave-breeding and slave-selling, whipping, torturing and beating to death. All this came under the observation of Douglass and is a part of the education he received while under the yoke of bondage.
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He was there in the midst of this confusion, ignorance, and brutality. Little did the overseer on this plantation think that he had in his gang a man of superior order and undaunted spirit, whose mind, far above the minds of the grovelling creatures about him, was at that very time plotting schemes for his liberty; nor did the thought ever enter the mind of Col. Lloyd, the rich slaveholder, that he had upon his estate one who was destined to assail the system of slavery with more power and effect than any other person. Douglass' fame will rest mainly, no doubt, upon his oratory.
His powers in this direction are very great, and, in some respects, unparalleled by our living speakers. His oratory is his own, and apparently formed after the model of no single person. It is not after the Edmund Burke style, which has been so closely followed by Everett, Sumner, and others, and which has resulted in giving us splendid and highly embellished essays rather than natural and not overwrought speeches.
If his oratory must be classified, it should be placed somewhere between the Fox and Henry Clay schools.
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Like Clay, Douglass' greatest effect is upon his immediate hearers, those who see him and feel his presence, and, like Clay, a good part of his oratorical fame will be tradition. The most striking feature of Douglass' oratory is his fire, not the quick and flashy kind, but the steady and intense kind. If oratory consists of the power to move men by spoken words, Douglass is a complete orator. He can make men laugh or cry, at Page 21 his will.
He has power of statement, logic, withering denunciation, pathos, humor, and inimitable wit. Daniel Webster, with his immense intellectuality, had no humor, not a particle. It does not appear that he could even see the point of a joke. Douglass is brim full of humor, at times, of the dryest kind.
It is of a quiet kind. You can see it coming a long way off in a peculiar twitch of his mouth. It increases and broadens gradually until it becomes irresistible and all-pervading with his audience. Douglass' rank as a writer is high, and justly so. His writings, if anything, are more meritorious than his speaking. For many years he was the editor of newspapers, doing all of the editorial work. He has contributed largely to magazines. He is a forcible and thoughtful writer. His style is pure and graceful, and he has great felicity of expression.
His written productions, in finish, compare favorably with the written productions of our most cultivated writers. His style comes partly, no doubt, from his long and constant practice, but the true source is his clear mind, which is well stored by a close acquaintance with the best authors. His range of reading has been wide and extensive. He has been a hard student. In every sense of the word, he is a self-made man.
By dint of hard study he has educated himself, and to-day it may be said he has a well-trained intellect. He has surmounted the disadvantage of not having a university education, by application and well-directed effort. He seems to have realized the fact, that to one who is anxious to become educated and is really in earnest, it is not positively necessary to go to college, and that information may be had outside of college walks; books may be obtained and read elsewhere.
They are not chained to desks in college libraries, as they were in early times at Oxford. Professors' lectures may be bought already printed, learned doctors may be listened to in the lyceum, and the printing-press has made it easy and cheap to get information on every subject and topic that is discussed and taught in the university.