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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
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Chapter 2

My master's family consisted of two sons, Andrew
and Richard; one daughter, Lucretia, and her hus-
band, Captain Thomas Auld. They lived in one
house, upon the home plantation of Colonel Edward
Lloyd. My master was Colonel Lloyd's clerk and
superintendent. He was what might be called the
overseer of the overseers. I spent two years of child-
hood on this plantation in my old master's family.
It was here that I witnessed the bloody transaction
recorded in the first chapter; and as I received my
first impressions of slavery on this plantation,
I will give some description of it, and of slavery as
it there existed. The plantation is about twelve miles
north of Easton, in Talbot county, and is situated
on the border of Miles River. The principal products
raised upon it were tobacco, corn, and wheat. These
were raised in great abundance; so that, with the
products of this and the other farms belonging to
him, he was able to keep in almost constant em-
ployment a large sloop, in carrying them to market
at Baltimore. This sloop was named Sally Lloyd,
in honor of one of the colonel's daughters. My mas-
ter's son-in-law, Captain Auld, was master of the
vessel; she was otherwise manned by the colonel's
own slaves. Their names were Peter, Isaac, Rich, and
Jake. These were esteemed very highly by the other
slaves, and looked upon as the privileged ones of the
plantation; for it was no small affair, in the eyes of
the slaves, to be allowed to see Baltimore.
Colonel Lloyd kept from three to four hundred
slaves on his home plantation, and owned a large
number more on the neighboring farms belonging to
him. The names of the farms nearest to the home
plantation were Wye Town and New Design. "Wye
Town" was under the overseership of a man named
Noah Willis. New Design was under the overseer-
ship of a Mr. Townsend. The overseers of these,
and all the rest of the farms, numbering over twenty,
received advice and direction from the managers of
the home plantation. This was the great business
place. It was the seat of government for the whole
twenty farms. All disputes among the overseers were
settled here. If a slave was convicted of any high
misdemeanor, became unmanageable, or evinced a
determination to run away, he was brought immedi-
ately here, severely whipped, put on board the sloop,
carried to Baltimore, and sold to Austin Woolfolk,
or some other slave-trader, as a warning to the slaves
Here, too, the slaves of all the other farms received
their monthly allowance of food, and their yearly
clothing. The men and women slaves received, as
their monthly allowance of food, eight pounds of
pork, or its equivalent in fish, and one bushel of
corn meal. Their yearly clothing consisted of two
coarse linen shirts, one pair of linen trousers, like
the shirts, one jacket, one pair of trousers for winter,
made of coarse negro cloth, one pair of stockings,
and one pair of shoes; the whole of which could not
have cost more than seven dollars. The allowance
of the slave children was given to their mothers, or
the old women having the care of them. The chil-
dren unable to work in the field had neither shoes,
stockings, jackets, nor trousers, given to them; their
clothing consisted of two coarse linen shirts per year.
When these failed them, they went naked until the
next allowance-day. Children from seven to ten years
old, of both sexes, almost naked, might be seen
at all seasons of the year.
There were no beds given the slaves, unless one
coarse blanket be considered such, and none but
the men and women had these. This, however, is
not considered a very great privation. They find less
difficulty from the want of beds, than from the want
of time to sleep; for when their day's work in the
field is done, the most of them having their wash-
ing, mending, and cooking to do, and having few or
none of the ordinary facilities for doing either of
these, very many of their sleeping hours are con-
sumed in preparing for the field the coming day;
and when this is done, old and young, male and
female, married and single, drop down side by side,
on one common bed,—the cold, damp floor,—each
covering himself or herself with their miserable
blankets; and here they sleep till they are summoned
to the field by the driver's horn. At the sound of
this, all must rise, and be off to the field. There
must be no halting; every one must be at his or
her post; and woe betides them who hear not this
morning summons to the field; for if they are not
awakened by the sense of hearing, they are by the
sense of feeling: no age nor sex finds any favor.
Mr. Severe, the overseer, used to stand by the door
of the quarter, armed with a large hickory stick
and heavy cowskin, ready to whip any one who was
so unfortunate as not to hear, or, from any other
cause, was prevented from being ready to start for
the field at the sound of the horn.
Mr. Severe was rightly named: he was a cruel
man. I have seen him whip a woman, causing the
blood to run half an hour at the time; and this, too,
in the midst of her crying children, pleading for their
mother's release. He seemed to take pleasure in
manifesting his fiendish barbarity. Added to his
cruelty, he was a profane swearer. It was enough to
chill the blood and stiffen the hair of an ordinary
man to hear him talk. Scarce a sentence escaped him
but that was commenced or concluded by some hor-
rid oath. The field was the place to witness his
cruelty and profanity. His presence made it both
the field of blood and of blasphemy. From the rising
till the going down of the sun, he was cursing, raving,
cutting, and slashing among the slaves of the field,
in the most frightful manner. His career was short.
He died very soon after I went to Colonel Lloyd's;
and he died as he lived, uttering, with his dying
groans, bitter curses and horrid oaths. His death was
regarded by the slaves as the result of a merciful
Mr. Severe's place was filled by a Mr. Hopkins.
He was a very different man. He was less cruel, less
profane, and made less noise, than Mr. Severe. His
course was characterized by no extraordinary demon-
strations of cruelty. He whipped, but seemed to take
no pleasure in it. He was called by the slaves a good
The home plantation of Colonel Lloyd wore the
appearance of a country village. All the mechanical
operations for all the farms were performed here.
The shoemaking and mending, the blacksmithing,
cartwrighting, coopering, weaving, and grain-grind-
ing, were all performed by the slaves on the home
plantation. The whole place wore a business-like as-
pect very unlike the neighboring farms. The num-
ber of houses, too, conspired to give it advantage
over the neighboring farms. It was called by the
slaves the ~Great House Farm.~ Few privileges were
esteemed higher, by the slaves of the out-farms, than
that of being selected to do errands at the Great
House Farm. It was associated in their minds with
greatness. A representative could not be prouder of
his election to a seat in the American Congress,
than a slave on one of the out-farms would be of his
election to do errands at the Great House Farm.
They regarded it as evidence of great confidence re-
posed in them by their overseers; and it was on
this account, as well as a constant desire to be out of
the field from under the driver's lash, that they es-
teemed it a high privilege, one worth careful living
for. He was called the smartest and most trusty fel-
low, who had this honor conferred upon him the
most frequently. The competitors for this office
sought as diligently to please their overseers, as the
office-seekers in the political parties seek to please
and deceive the people. The same traits of character
might be seen in Colonel Lloyd's slaves, as are seen
in the slaves of the political parties.
The slaves selected to go to the Great House Farm,
for the monthly allowance for themselves and their
fellow-slaves, were peculiarly enthusiastic. While on
their way, they would make the dense old woods,
for miles around, reverberate with their wild songs,
revealing at once the highest joy and the deepest
sadness. They would compose and sing as they went
along, consulting neither time nor tune. The thought
that came up, came out—if not in the word, in the
sound;—and as frequently in the one as in the other.
They would sometimes sing the most pathetic senti-
ment in the most rapturous tone, and the most rap-
turous sentiment in the most pathetic tone. Into all
of their songs they would manage to weave some-
thing of the Great House Farm. Especially would
they do this, when leaving home. They would then
sing most exultingly the following words:—

"I am going away to the Great House Farm!

O, yea! O, yea! O!"
This they would sing, as a chorus, to words which to
many would seem unmeaning jargon, but which,
nevertheless, were full of meaning to themselves. I
have sometimes thought that the mere hearing of
those songs would do more to impress some minds
with the horrible character of slavery, than the read-
ing of whole volumes of philosophy on the subject
could do.
I did not, when a slave, understand the deep
meaning of those rude and apparently incoherent
songs. I was myself within the circle; so that I nei-
ther saw nor heard as those without might see and
hear. They told a tale of woe which was then al-
together beyond my feeble comprehension; they
were tones loud, long, and deep; they breathed the
prayer and complaint of souls boiling over with the
bitterest anguish. Every tone was a testimony against
slavery, and a prayer to God for deliverance from
chains. The hearing of those wild notes always de-
pressed my spirit, and filled me with ineffable sad-
ness. I have frequently found myself in tears while
hearing them. The mere recurrence to those songs,
even now, afflicts me; and while I am writing these
lines, an expression of feeling has already found its
way down my cheek. To those songs I trace my first
glimmering conception of the dehumanizing char-
acter of slavery. I can never get rid of that concep-
tion. Those songs still follow me, to deepen my
hatred of slavery, and quicken my sympathies for
my brethren in bonds. If any one wishes to be im-
pressed with the soul-killing effects of slavery, let
him go to Colonel Lloyd's plantation, and, on allow-
ance-day, place himself in the deep pine woods, and
there let him, in silence, analyze the sounds that
shall pass through the chambers of his soul,—and if
he is not thus impressed, it will only be because
"there is no flesh in his obdurate heart."
I have often been utterly astonished, since I came
to the north, to find persons who could speak of
the singing, among slaves, as evidence of their con-
tentment and happiness. It is impossible to conceive
of a greater mistake. Slaves sing most when they are
most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the
sorrows of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only
as an aching heart is relieved by its tears. At least,
such is my experience. I have often sung to drown
my sorrow, but seldom to express my happiness.
Crying for joy, and singing for joy, were alike un-
common to me while in the jaws of slavery. The
singing of a man cast away upon a desolate island
might be as appropriately considered as evidence of
contentment and happiness, as the singing of a
slave; the songs of the one and of the other are
prompted by the same emotion.
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