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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
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Chapter 4

Mr. Hopkins remained but a short time in the
office of overseer. Why his career was so short, I
do not know, but suppose he lacked the necessary
severity to suit Colonel Lloyd. Mr. Hopkins was suc-
ceeded by Mr. Austin Gore, a man possessing, in
an eminent degree, all those traits of character in-
dispensable to what is called a first-rate overseer. Mr.
Gore had served Colonel Lloyd, in the capacity of
overseer, upon one of the out-farms, and had shown
himself worthy of the high station of overseer upon
the home or Great House Farm.
Mr. Gore was proud, ambitious, and persevering.
He was artful, cruel, and obdurate. He was just the
man for such a place, and it was just the place for
such a man. It afforded scope for the full exercise
of all his powers, and he seemed to be perfectly
at home in it. He was one of those who could torture
the slightest look, word, or gesture, on the part of
the slave, into impudence, and would treat it ac-
cordingly. There must be no answering back to him;
no explanation was allowed a slave, showing himself
to have been wrongfully accused. Mr. Gore acted
fully up to the maxim laid down by slaveholders,—
"It is better that a dozen slaves should suffer under the
lash, than that the overseer should be convicted, in
the presence of the slaves, of having been at fault."
No matter how innocent a slave might be—it availed
him nothing, when accused by Mr. Gore of any
misdemeanor. To be accused was to be convicted,
and to be convicted was to be punished; the one
always following the other with immutable certainty.
To escape punishment was to escape accusation; and
few slaves had the fortune to do either, under the
overseership of Mr. Gore. He was just proud enough
to demand the most debasing homage of the slave,
and quite servile enough to crouch, himself, at the
feet of the master. He was ambitious enough to be
contented with nothing short of the highest rank
of overseers, and persevering enough to reach the
height of his ambition. He was cruel enough to in-
flict the severest punishment, artful enough to de-
scend to the lowest trickery, and obdurate enough to
be insensible to the voice of a reproving conscience.
He was, of all the overseers, the most dreaded by
the slaves. His presence was painful; his eye flashed
confusion; and seldom was his sharp, shrill voice
heard, without producing horror and trembling in
their ranks.
Mr. Gore was a grave man, and, though a young
man, he indulged in no jokes, said no funny words,
seldom smiled. His words were in perfect keeping
with his looks, and his looks were in perfect keeping
with his words. Overseers will sometimes indulge in
a witty word, even with the slaves; not so with Mr.
Gore. He spoke but to command, and commanded
but to be obeyed; he dealt sparingly with his words,
and bountifully with his whip, never using the
former where the latter would answer as well. When
he whipped, he seemed to do so from a sense of
duty, and feared no consequences. He did nothing
reluctantly, no matter how disagreeable; always at his
post, never inconsistent. He never promised but to
fulfil. He was, in a word, a man of the most in-
flexible firmness and stone-like coolness.
His savage barbarity was equalled only by the con-
summate coolness with which he committed the
grossest and most savage deeds upon the slaves under
his charge. Mr. Gore once undertook to whip one of
Colonel Lloyd's slaves, by the name of Demby. He
had given Demby but few stripes, when, to get rid
of the scourging, he ran and plunged himself into a
creek, and stood there at the depth of his shoulders,
refusing to come out. Mr. Gore told him that he
would give him three calls, and that, if he did not
come out at the third call, he would shoot him.
The first call was given. Demby made no response,
but stood his ground. The second and third calls
were given with the same result. Mr. Gore then,
without consultation or deliberation with any one,
not even giving Demby an additional call, raised
his musket to his face, taking deadly aim at his
standing victim, and in an instant poor Demby was
no more. His mangled body sank out of sight, and
blood and brains marked the water where he had
A thrill of horror flashed through every soul upon
the plantation, excepting Mr. Gore. He alone
seemed cool and collected. He was asked by Colonel
Lloyd and my old master, why he resorted to this
extraordinary expedient. His reply was, (as well as
I can remember,) that Demby had become unman-
ageable. He was setting a dangerous example to the
other slaves,—one which, if suffered to pass without
some such demonstration on his part, would finally
lead to the total subversion of all rule and order
upon the plantation. He argued that if one slave re-
fused to be corrected, and escaped with his life, the
other slaves would soon copy the example; the re-
sult of which would be, the freedom of the slaves,
and the enslavement of the whites. Mr. Gore's de-
fence was satisfactory. He was continued in his sta-
tion as overseer upon the home plantation. His
fame as an overseer went abroad. His horrid crime
was not even submitted to judicial investigation. It
was committed in the presence of slaves, and they of
course could neither institute a suit, nor testify
against him; and thus the guilty perpetrator of one of
the bloodiest and most foul murders goes unwhipped
of justice, and uncensured by the community in
which he lives. Mr. Gore lived in St. Michael's, Tal-
bot county, Maryland, when I left there; and if he
is still alive, he very probably lives there now; and if
so, he is now, as he was then, as highly esteemed
and as much respected as though his guilty soul
had not been stained with his brother's blood.
I speak advisedly when I say this,—that killing
a slave, or any colored person, in Talbot county,
Maryland, is not treated as a crime, either by the
courts or the community. Mr. Thomas Lanman, of
St. Michael's, killed two slaves, one of whom he
killed with a hatchet, by knocking his brains out. He
used to boast of the commission of the awful and
bloody deed. I have heard him do so laughingly,
saying, among other things, that he was the only
benefactor of his country in the company, and that
when others would do as much as he had done, we
should be relieved of "the d——d niggers."
The wife of Mr. Giles Hicks, living but a short
distance from where I used to live, murdered my
wife's cousin, a young girl between fifteen and six-
teen years of age, mangling her person in the most
horrible manner, breaking her nose and breastbone
with a stick, so that the poor girl expired in a few
hours afterward. She was immediately buried, but
had not been in her untimely grave but a few hours
before she was taken up and examined by the cor-
oner, who decided that she had come to her death
by severe beating. The offence for which this girl
was thus murdered was this:—She had been set
that night to mind Mrs. Hicks's baby, and during the
night she fell asleep, and the baby cried. She, having
lost her rest for several nights previous, did not hear
the crying. They were both in the room with Mrs.
Hicks. Mrs. Hicks, finding the girl slow to move,
jumped from her bed, seized an oak stick of wood
by the fireplace, and with it broke the girl's nose
and breastbone, and thus ended her life. I will not
say that this most horrid murder produced no sen-
sation in the community. It did produce sensation,
but not enough to bring the murderess to punish-
ment. There was a warrant issued for her arrest,
but it was never served. Thus she escaped not only
punishment, but even the pain of being arraigned
before a court for her horrid crime.
Whilst I am detailing bloody deeds which took
place during my stay on Colonel Lloyd's plantation,
I will briefly narrate another, which occurred about
the same time as the murder of Demby by Mr.
Colonel Lloyd's slaves were in the habit of spend-
ing a part of their nights and Sundays in fishing for
oysters, and in this way made up the deficiency of
their scanty allowance. An old man belonging to
Colonel Lloyd, while thus engaged, happened to get
beyond the limits of Colonel Lloyd's, and on the
premises of Mr. Beal Bondly. At this trespass, Mr.
Bondly took offence, and with his musket came
down to the shore, and blew its deadly contents
into the poor old man.
Mr. Bondly came over to see Colonel Lloyd the
next day, whether to pay him for his property, or
to justify himself in what he had done, I know not.
At any rate, this whole fiendish transaction was soon
hushed up. There was very little said about it at all,
and nothing done. It was a common saying, even
among little white boys, that it was worth a half-
cent to kill a "nigger," and a half-cent to bury one.
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