In a few moments, they succeeded in tying John.They then turned to Henry, who had by this timereturned, and commanded him to cross his hands."I won't!" said Henry, in a firm tone, indicating hisreadiness to meet the consequences of his refusal."Won't you?" said Tom Graham, the constable. "No,I won't!" said Henry, in a still stronger tone. Withthis, two of the constables pulled out their shiningpistols, and swore, by their Creator, that they wouldmake him cross his hands or kill him. Each cockedhis pistol, and, with fingers on the trigger, walkedup to Henry, saying, at the same time, if he did notcross his hands, they would blow his damned heartout. "Shoot me, shoot me!" said Henry; "you can'tkill me but once. Shoot, shoot,--and be damned! ~Iwon't be tied!~" This he said in a tone of loud defiance; and at the same time, with a motion as quickas lightning, he with one single stroke dashed thepistols from the hand of each constable. As he didthis, all hands fell upon him, and, after beatinghim some time, they finally overpowered him, andgot him tied.
During the scuffle, I managed, I know not how,to get my pass out, and, without being discovered,put it into the fire. We were all now tied; and justas we were to leave for Easton jail, Betsy Freeland,mother of William Freeland, came to the door withher hands full of biscuits, and divided them betweenHenry and John. She then delivered herself of aspeech, to the following effect:--addressing herselfto me, she said, "~You devil! You yellow devil!~ it wasyou that put it into the heads of Henry and Johnto run away. But for you, you long-legged mulattodevil! Henry nor John would never have thoughtof such a thing." I made no reply, and was immediately hurried off towards St. Michael's. Just a moment previous to the scuffle with Henry, Mr. Hamilton suggested the propriety of making a search forthe protections which he had understood Frederickhad written for himself and the rest. But, just atthe moment he was about carrying his proposal intoeffect, his aid was needed in helping to tie Henry;and the excitement attending the scuffle causedthem either to forget, or to deem it unsafe, underthe circumstances, to search. So we were not yetconvicted of the intention to run away.
When we got about half way to St. Michael's,while the constables having us in charge were looking ahead, Henry inquired of me what he shoulddo with his pass. I told him to eat it with his biscuit,and own nothing; and we passed the word around,"~Own nothing;~" and "~Own nothing!~" said we all.Our confidence in each other was unshaken. Wewere resolved to succeed or fail together, after thecalamity had befallen us as much as before. Wewere now prepared for any thing. We were to bedragged that morning fifteen miles behind horses,and then to be placed in the Easton jail. When wereached St. Michael's, we underwent a sort of examination. We all denied that we ever intended to runaway. We did this more to bring out the evidenceagainst us, than from any hope of getting clear ofbeing sold; for, as I have said, we were ready forthat. The fact was, we cared but little where wewent, so we went together. Our greatest concern wasabout separation. We dreaded that more than anything this side of death. We found the evidenceagainst us to be the testimony of one person; ourmaster would not tell who it was; but we came toa unanimous decision among ourselves as to whotheir informant was. We were sent off to the jail atEaston. When we got there, we were delivered upto the sheriff, Mr. Joseph Graham, and by himplaced in jail. Henry, John, and myself, were placedin one room together--Charles, and Henry Bailey,in another. Their object in separating us was tohinder concert.
We had been in jail scarcely twenty minutes,when a swarm of slave traders, and agents for slavetraders, flocked into jail to look at us, and to ascertain if we were for sale. Such a set of beings Inever saw before! I felt myself surrounded by somany fiends from perdition. A band of pirates neverlooked more like their father, the devil. Theylaughed and grinned over us, saying, "Ah, my boys!we have got you, haven't we?" And after tauntingus in various ways, they one by one went into anexamination of us, with intent to ascertain our value.They would impudently ask us if we would not liketo have them for our masters. We would make themno answer, and leave them to find out as best theycould. Then they would curse and swear at us, tellingus that they could take the devil out of us in a verylittle while, if we were only in their hands.
While in jail, we found ourselves in much morecomfortable quarters than we expected when wewent there. We did not get much to eat, nor thatwhich was very good; but we had a good clean room,from the windows of which we could see what was going on in the street, which was very much betterthan though we had been placed in one of the dark,damp cells. Upon the whole, we got along very well,so far as the jail and its keeper were concerned.Immediately after the holidays were over, contraryto all our expectations, Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Freeland came up to Easton, and took Charles, the twoHenrys, and John, out of jail, and carried themhome, leaving me alone. I regarded this separationas a final one. It caused me more pain than anything else in the whole transaction. I was ready forany thing rather than separation. I supposed thatthey had consulted together, and had decided that,as I was the whole cause of the intention of theothers to run away, it was hard to make the innocentsuffer with the guilty; and that they had, therefore,concluded to take the others home, and sell me, asa warning to the others that remained. It is dueto the noble Henry to say, he seemed almost asreluctant at leaving the prison as at leaving hometo come to the prison. But we knew we should, inall probability, be separated, if we were sold; andsince he was in their hands, he concluded to gopeaceably home.
I was now left to my fate. I was all alone, andwithin the walls of a stone prison. But a few daysbefore, and I was full of hope. I expected to havebeen safe in a land of freedom; but now I was covered with gloom, sunk down to the utmost despair.I thought the possibility of freedom was gone. Iwas kept in this way about one week, at the endof which, Captain Auld, my master, to my surpriseand utter astonishment, came up, and took me out,with the intention of sending me, with a gentlemanof his acquaintance, into Alabama. But, from somecause or other, he did not send me to Alabama,but concluded to send me back to Baltimore, tolive again with his brother Hugh, and to learn atrade.
Thus, after an absence of three years and onemonth, I was once more permitted to return to myold home at Baltimore. My master sent me away,because there existed against me a very great prejudice in the community, and he feared I might bekilled.
In a few weeks after I went to Baltimore, MasterHugh hired me to Mr. William Gardner, an extensive ship-builder, on Fell's Point. I was put thereto learn how to calk. It, however, proved a veryunfavorable place for the accomplishment of thisobject. Mr. Gardner was engaged that spring inbuilding two large man-of-war brigs, professedly forthe Mexican government. The vessels were to belaunched in the July of that year, and in failurethereof, Mr. Gardner was to lose a considerable sum;so that when I entered, all was hurry. There wasno time to learn any thing. Every man had to dothat which he knew how to do. In entering the shipyard, my orders from Mr. Gardner were, to do whatever the carpenters commanded me to do. This wasplacing me at the beck and call of about seventy-fivemen. I was to regard all these as masters. Theirword was to be my law. My situation was a mosttrying one. At times I needed a dozen pair of hands.I was called a dozen ways in the space of a singleminute. Three or four voices would strike my earat the same moment. It was--"Fred., come help meto cant this timber here."--"Fred., come carry thistimber yonder."--"Fred., bring that roller here."-"Fred., go get a fresh can of water."--"Fred., comehelp saw off the end of this timber."--"Fred., goquick, and get the crowbar."--"Fred., hold on theend of this fall."--"Fred., go to the blacksmith'sshop, and get a new punch."--"Hurra, Fred.! runand bring me a cold chisel."--"I say, Fred., bear ahand, and get up a fire as quick as lightning underthat steam-box."--"Halloo, nigger! come, turn thisgrindstone."--"Come, come! move, move! and BOWSEthis timber forward."--"I say, darky, blast your eyes,why don't you heat up some pitch?"--"Halloo!halloo! halloo!" (Three voices at the same time.)"Come here!--Go there!--Hold on where you are!Damn you, if you move, I'll knock your brains out!"
This was my school for eight months; and I mighthave remained there longer, but for a most horridfight I had with four of the white apprentices, inwhich my left eye was nearly knocked out, and Iwas horribly mangled in other respects. The factsin the case were these: Until a very little whileafter I went there, white and black ship-carpentersworked side by side, and no one seemed to see anyimpropriety in it. All hands seemed to be very wellsatisfied. Many of the black carpenters were freemen.Things seemed to be going on very well. All at once,the white carpenters knocked off, and said theywould not work with free colored workmen. Theirreason for this, as alleged, was, that if free coloredcarpenters were encouraged, they would soon takethe trade into their own hands, and poor white menwould be thrown out of employment. They thereforefelt called upon at once to put a stop to it. And,taking advantage of Mr. Gardner's necessities, theybroke off, swearing they would work no longer, unlesshe would discharge his black carpenters. Now,though this did not extend to me in form, it didreach me in fact. My fellow-apprentices very soonbegan to feel it degrading to them to work withme. They began to put on airs, and talk about the"niggers" taking the country, saying we all ought tobe killed; and, being encouraged by the journeymen, they commenced making my condition ashard as they could, by hectoring me around, andsometimes striking me. I, of course, kept the vowI made after the fight with Mr. Covey, and struckback again, regardless of consequences; and whileI kept them from combining, I succeeded very well;for I could whip the whole of them, taking themseparately. They, however, at length combined, andcame upon me, armed with sticks, stones, and heavyhandspikes. One came in front with a half brick.There was one at each side of me, and one behindme. While I was attending to those in front, and oneither side, the one behind ran up with the handspike, and struck me a heavy blow upon the head.It stunned me. I fell, and with this they all ranupon me, and fell to beating me with their fists. Ilet them lay on for a while, gathering strength. Inan instant, I gave a sudden surge, and rose to myhands and knees. Just as I did that, one of theirnumber gave me, with his heavy boot, a powerfulkick in the left eye. My eyeball seemed to haveburst. When they saw my eye closed, and badlyswollen, they left me. With this I seized the handspike, and for a time pursued them. But here thecarpenters interfered, and I thought I might as wellgive it up. It was impossible to stand my handagainst so many. All this took place in sight of notless than fifty white ship-carpenters, and not oneinterposed a friendly word; but some cried, "Killthe damned nigger! Kill him! kill him! He strucka white person." I found my only chance for lifewas in flight. I succeeded in getting away withoutan additional blow, and barely so; for to strike awhite man is death by Lynch law,--and that was thelaw in Mr. Gardner's ship-yard; nor is there muchof any other out of Mr. Gardner's ship-yard.
I went directly home, and told the story of mywrongs to Master Hugh; and I am happy to say ofhim, irreligious as he was, his conduct was heavenly,compared with that of his brother Thomas undersimilar circumstances. He listened attentively to mynarration of the circumstances leading to the savageoutrage, and gave many proofs of his strong indignation at it. The heart of my once overkind mistresswas again melted into pity. My puffed-out eye andblood-covered face moved her to tears. She took achair by me, washed the blood from my face, and,with a mother's tenderness, bound up my head,covering the wounded eye with a lean piece of freshbeef. It was almost compensation for my sufferingto witness, once more, a manifestation of kindnessfrom this, my once affectionate old mistress. MasterHugh was very much enraged. He gave expressionto his feelings by pouring out curses upon the headsof those who did the deed. As soon as I got a littlethe better of my bruises, he took me with him toEsquire Watson's, on Bond Street, to see what couldbe done about the matter. Mr. Watson inquired whosaw the assault committed. Master Hugh told himit was done in Mr. Gardner's ship-yard at midday,where there were a large company of men at work."As to that," he said, "the deed was done, and therewas no question as to who did it." His answer was,he could do nothing in the case, unless some whiteman would come forward and testify. He couldissue no warrant on my word. If I had been killedin the presence of a thousand colored people, theirtestimony combined would have been insufficientto have arrested one of the murderers. Master Hugh,for once, was compelled to say this state of thingswas too bad. Of course, it was impossible to get anywhite man to volunteer his testimony in my behalf,and against the white young men. Even those whomay have sympathized with me were not preparedto do this. It required a degree of courage unknownto them to do so; for just at that time, the slightestmanifestation of humanity toward a colored personwas denounced as abolitionism, and that name subjected its bearer to frightful liabilities. The watchwords of the bloody-minded in that region, and inthose days, were, "Damn the abolitionists!" and"Damn the niggers!" There was nothing done, andprobably nothing would have been done if I hadbeen killed. Such was, and such remains, the stateof things in the Christian city of Baltimore.
Master Hugh, finding he could get no redress, refused to let me go back again to Mr. Gardner. Hekept me himself, and his wife dressed my woundtill I was again restored to health. He then took meinto the ship-yard of which he was foreman, in theemployment of Mr. Walter Price. There I was immediately set to calking, and very soon learned theart of using my mallet and irons. In the course ofone year from the time I left Mr. Gardner's, I wasable to command the highest wages given to themost experienced calkers. I was now of some importance to my master. I was bringing him from sixto seven dollars per week. I sometimes brought himnine dollars per week: my wages were a dollar anda half a day. After learning how to calk, I soughtmy own employment, made my own contracts, andcollected the money which I earned. My pathwaybecame much more smooth than before; my condition was now much more comfortable. When I couldget no calking to do, I did nothing. During theseleisure times, those old notions about freedom wouldsteal over me again. When in Mr. Gardner's employment, I was kept in such a perpetual whirl of excitement, I could think of nothing, scarcely, butmy life; and in thinking of my life, I almost forgotmy liberty. I have observed this in my experienceof slavery,--that whenever my condition was improved, instead of its increasing my contentment,it only increased my desire to be free, and set me tothinking of plans to gain my freedom. I have foundthat, to make a contented slave, it is necessary tomake a thoughtless one. It is necessary to darken hismoral and mental vision, and, as far as possible, toannihilate the power of reason. He must be able todetect no inconsistencies in slavery; he must be madeto feel that slavery is right; and he can be broughtto that only when he ceases to be a man.
I was now getting, as I have said, one dollar andfifty cents per day. I contracted for it; I earned it;it was paid to me; it was rightfully my own; yet,upon each returning Saturday night, I was compelledto deliver every cent of that money to Master Hugh.And why? Not because he earned it,--not becausehe had any hand in earning it,--not because I owedit to him,--nor because he possessed the slightestshadow of a right to it; but solely because he hadthe power to compel me to give it up. The right ofthe grim-visaged pirate upon the high seas is exactlythe same.