Monday, November 28, 2016

Frederick Douglass -- Spirit of Rebellion Renewed
There I was immediately set to calking, and very soon learned the art of using my mallet and irons.  In the course of one year from the time I left Mr. Gardiner’s, I was able to command the highest wages given to the most experienced calkers.  I was now of some importance to my master.  I was bringing him from six to seven dollars per seek.  I sometimes brought him nine dollars per week: my wages were a dollar and a half a day.  After learning how to calk, I sought my own employment, made my own contracts, and collected the money which I earned.  … When I could get no calking to do, I did nothing.  During these leisure times, those old notions about freedom would steal over me again.  … I have observed this in my experience of slavery,--that whenever my condition was improved, instead of this increasing my contentment, it only increased my desire to be free, and set me to thinking of plans to gain my freedom. …
… I was now getting … one dollar and fifty 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 compelled to deliver every cent of that money to Master Hugh.  And why?  Not because he earned it,--not because he had any hand in earning it,--not because I owed it to him,--nor because he possessed the slightest shadow of a right to it; but solely because he had the power to compel me to give it up (Douglass 103, 104).
Freed from the daily stress of combating hostile white carpenters and apprentices, Frederick could now refocus his emotions.  No longer in danger of imminent harm, he could now reflect and plan.  His reawakened spirit of rebellion demanded that he find a way to circumvent the obligations forced upon him by his slave master.  It he could retain some of the money he gave to Hugh Auld each week, eventually, he decided, he would accumulate enough with which to make his final escape.
In the early spring of 1838, Thomas Auld was in Baltimore buying goods for his store, and Frederick appealed to him for the right to not only hire himself out but keep some of his pay, in return for providing his own room and board.  This system was widely practiced in Baltimore.  … By hiring themselves out and taking responsibility for their own keep, slaves obtained release from a master’s daily discipline.  The arrangement was advantageous to masters because they continued to receive some income, but no longer had to provide shelter and food to slaves who were of little use to a changing rural economy (McFeely 64).
He unhesitatingly refused my request, and told me this was another stratagem by which to escape.  He told me I could go nowhere but that he could get me; and that, in the event of my running away, he should spare no pains in his efforts to catch me.  He exhorted me to content myself, and be obedient.  He told me, if I would be happy, I must lay out no plans for the future.  He said, if I behaved myself properly, he would take care of me.  Indeed, he advised me to complete thoughtlessness of the future, and taught me to depend soley upon him for happiness.  He seemed to see fully the pressing necessity of setting aside my intellectual nature. …
About two months after this, I applied to Master Hugh for the privilege of hiring my time.  … He, too, at first, seemed disposed to refuse; but, after some reflection, he granted me the privilege, and proposed the following terms: I was to be allowed all my time, make all contracts with those for whom I worked, and find my own employment; and, in return for this liberty, I was to pay him three dollars at the end of each week; find myself in calking tools, and in board and clothing.  My board [which Hugh Auld had been paying Frederick’s landlord] was two dollars and a half per week.  This, with the wear and tear of clothing and calking tools, made my regular expenses about six dollars per week.  This amount I was compelled to make up, or relinquish the privilege of hiring my time.  Rain or shine, work or no work, at the end of each week the money must be forthcoming, or I must give up my privilege.  This arrangement … was decidedly in my master’s favor.  It relieved him of all need of looking after me.  His money was sure.  He received all the benefits of slaveholding without its evils; while I endured all the evils of a slave, and suffered all the care and anxiety of a freeman.  I found it a hard bargain.  … I bent myself to the work of making money.  I was ready to work at night as well as day, and by the most untiring perseverance and industry, I made enough to meet my expenses, and lay up a little money every week (Douglass 107-108).
Douglass never reported what his night work or non-shipyard work may have been.  Only the snippets of rumor … survive to suggest that he tried being a domestic servant.  Later gossip had it that recalling Wye House and how things in a fine house were done, the articulate, handsome, light-skinned young man hired himself out as a butler in the home of John Merryman, a stockbroker, at 48 Calvert Street.  One of his tasks was said to have been to conduct a Merryman child to a school described as the E. M. P. Wells School; Mrs. Elizabeth Wells, on Caroline Street, conducted such a school.
Accompany his charge, Frederick Bailey—the story is that he was using the name “Edward” at the time, as if he did not want to accept this way of life as really his—may have gotten to know the teachers at the school.  It was possibly from one of them that he learned to play the violin.  One person whom we know encouraged him as he became a competent amateur violinist was Anna Murray, a free black woman who was working on Caroline Street. …
Frederick Douglass wrote tantalizingly little about his bride—how they met, what she was like. …
Anna Murray, five years Frederick’s senior, was also a child of the Eastern Shore.  She was born, probably in 1813, on the far side of Betsy Bailey’s Tuckahoe Creek, near the town of Denton, in Caroline County.  … Reportedly, Anna’s parents were Mary and Bambarra Murray, who were manumitted just a month before her birth.  Anna was the eighth of twelve children.  At seventeen, she was in domestic service in Baltimore with a family named Montell; later she worked for the Wellses for several years.  It was in service that she became the adept housekeeper which, proudly, she was to be for the rest of her life (McFeely 65, 66-67).
Despite his heavy work schedule, Frederick found enough time to court Anna and to enjoy the friendship of a group of free black caulkers at Fells Point.  He and they banded together and were members of the East Baltimore Improvement Society.
In this organization, typical of many formed in black urban communities—North and South—in the effort to achieve both the respectability and the true intellectual challenge deprived them by white society, the ambitious young men engaged in formal debates.  Frederick found his intellect stretched, and talking with the free caulkers—he was the club’s only slave—he could learn what it was like to live as they did or, more cautiously, he could explore the matter of escaping.  “I owe much to the society of these young men,” he wrote (McFeely 68).
There was, of course, an alternative to escape, a manner of living that would have been an improvement upon how he presently lived.
With Anna securely placed as a domestic servant and putting some money aside out of meager wages, and with Frederick pocketing as much as six dollars a week after paying Hugh Auld, the two should have been able to set up a modest but satisfactory household.  Frederick would, for a time at least, have remained a slave, but his children, as the offspring of a free woman, would have been free.  … Articulate and, as was important now that he was an adult, economically independent, Frederick Bailey, with his bride, could look forward to fitting into respectable black Baltimore very well indeed (McFeely 68-69).
Whether or not Frederick seriously considered adopting this way of living we do not know.  An oversight on his part in his relationship with Hugh Auld, however, with sudden unexpectedness, destroyed its possibility and made absolutely essential his need to escape bondage.
Works cited:
Douglass, Frederick.  Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.  New York, Penguin Books USA inc., 1968.  Print.
McFeely, William S.  Frederick Douglass.  New York, W. W. Norton & Company, 1991.  Print.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Writing "Alsoomse and Wanchese" -- Clothes and Weapons
Of his initial encounter with Roanoke Algonquians, Captain Arthur Barlowe wrote the following:
We remained by the side of this Island two whole dayes before we saw any people of the Countrey: the third day we espied one small boate rowing towardes us having in it three persons: this boat came to the Island side, foure harquebuzshot from our shippes, and there two of the people remaining, the third came along the shoreside towards us, and wee being then all within boord, he walked up and downe upon the point of the land next unto us: then the Master and the Pilot of the Admirall, Simon Ferdinando, and the Captaine Philip Amadas, my selfe, and others rowed to the land, whose comming this fellow attended, never making any shewe of feare or doubt. And after he had spoken of many things not understood by us, we brought him with his owne good liking, aboord the ships, and gave him a shirt, a hat & some other things, and made him taste of our wine, and our meat, which he liked very wel: and after having viewed both barks, he departed, and went to his owne boat againe, which hee had left in a little Cove or Creeke adjoyning: assoone as hee was two bow shoot into the water, hee fell to fishing, and in lesse then halfe an houre, he had laden his boate as deepe as it could swimme, with which hee came againe to the point of the lande, and there he divided his fish into two parts, pointing one part to the ship, and the other to the pinnesse: which, after he had, as much as he might, requited the former benefites received, departed out of our sight.
I have just finished my chapter that recounts this event, narrated from English scientist Thomas Harriot’s and Algonquian warrior Wanchese’s viewpoints.  It was necessary for me to research the clothing these exploring Englishmen could have worn and the weapons they probably possessed.  The internet article “Arms and Armor of the Roanoke Colonists” ( and follow-up internet articles about these weapons and articles about sailors’ clothing in the late 16th Century provided me the information I wanted.
Let me first describe the clothes.
The typical male dress at that time comprised a hat, linen shirt, jerkin, breeches, hose, and shoes. The most prevalent foot coverings were either slip-on shoes or ankle boots. Some jerkins/doublets had buttons for closures; others had holes for lacing.  Common seamen wore very baggy breeches with woollen stockings, a thigh-length blouse or coat, and a tall, hairy hat.  Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Drake, Thomas Cavendish, Jacques Sores, Fran├žois Le Clerc, and other gentlemen dressed in costumes appropriate to their rank.  They wore either hose or a combination of hose and breeches (close-fitting or baggy trousers tied with ribbons or garters near the knee).  Over these came padded doublets (like a stiff, form-fitting shirt), jackets, and cloaks.  Colors were bright, and clothes were ornamented with embroidery and jewels.  A wide ruff surrounded the neck, and almost everyone wore a beard and mustache.

Seafarers since the 1570s favored the Monmouth cap, a "skull cap" which was knitted from brown wool.

A seaman's shirt was typical of the peasant worker, loose fitting and flowing so as to not constrict movement. The shirt may or may not have a collar depending on when and where it was fabricated. Collars became more typical in the mid-sixteenth century onwards as a fashion statement, known as a ruff.  A common sailor generally favored the gathered neck, and a loose flowing shirt. It became common to place a knotted kerchief around the neck as an enclosure. The black neckerchief or bandana first appeared in the 16th century and was utilized as a sweat band and a collar enclosure. Black was the predominant color as it was practical and did not readily show dirt.

"Venetian breeches" or simply "venetians" were common with sailors from the 16-18th centuries.  Originally they were "gartered" at the knees with ties or belting, and later  variations were buttoned and became common in Admiralty lists and eventually became referred to as "knee breeches."

Here is a ship captain or bosun wearing "Venetian Breeches" or "knee-breeches."

Another type of lower garment that was worn by sailors from at least the 16th Century, was a long trouser-like garment with wide, loose fitted legs open at the bottom. In the 16th Century, this generally set the sailor apart from the landsman fashions at the time, and are generally referred to as "slops". In the Elizabethan era, these lower garments ran full length.

A non-sailor passenger of high regard probably wore a doublet, the chief upper garment worn by men from the 15th to the 17th century. It was a close-fitting, waisted, padded jacket worn over a shirt.  It had no collar until 1540, allowing the shirt to be seen at the neck.  The shirt was also visible through slashes or pinking in the material.  The sleeves, which at first were sometimes plain and close-fitting, became wide, padded, and slashed with complex designs. Detachable sleeves were worn after 1540. The doublet fastened down the front with buttons, hooks, or laces in the 16th Century.  Thomas Harriot and John White probably wore doublets.

Captains of ships -- Arthur Barlowe, for instance -- anticipating combat, might have chosen to wear a coat of plates, commonly referred to as a "jack."  The jack was made of small iron plates – often from recycled pieces of older plate armor -- sewed between layers of felt and canvas.  Here is one c1590.,_English_or_Scottish,_c1590,_Royal_Armoury,_Leeds.JPG

I have the hot-tempered, aggressive Philip Amadas wear chest armor, part of what was called a corselet.  The corselet consisted of two plates connected on the sides via hinges and bronze pins.  It was made up of a gorget, breast covering, back and tassets, full arms and gauntlets.

If Amadas wore a corselet chest protector, he also probably wore a morion, a type of open helmet used from the middle 16th to early 17th centuries, having usually a flat brim and a crest from front to back.  The crest or comb on the top of the helmet was designed to strengthen it. Later versions also had cheek guards and even removable faceplates to protect the soldier from sword cuts.

Now for the weapons.

Barlowe’s account tells us that the exploratory party fired an arquebus during their first day’s investigation of the land next to where they had anchored their ships.

Under the banke or hill whereon we stoode, we behelde the vallyes replenished with goodly Cedar trees, and having discharged our harquebuz-shot, such a flocke of Cranes (the most part white), arose under us, with such a cry redoubled by many ecchoes, as if an armie of men had showted all together.

The arquebus was an early muzzle-loaded firearm used in the 15th to 17th centuries.  Like its successor the musket, it was a smoothbore firearm.  The arquebus was a shoulder-fired firearm which used the matchlock mechanism, the first mechanism to facilitate the firing of a handheld firearm. The trigger on early arquebuses was similar to those of medieval crossbows. When the trigger was squeezed, a curved arm known as the serpentine was lowered, plunging a slow-burning match into the flashpan to fire the weapon.  (More on the matchlock mechanism below)  As a low-velocity firearm, the arquebus was used against enemies who were often partially or fully protected by steel-plate armor. Plate armor worn upon the torso was standard in European combat from about 1400 until the middle of the 17th century. Good suits of plate would usually stop an arquebus ball at long range.  However, at close range, it was possible to pierce even heavy cavalry armor, although penetration was heavily dependent on the power of the arquebus and the quality of the armor.  The arquebus needed a pole that extended to the ground to stabilize it when aimed and fired.

The matchlock was the first mechanism, or "lock," invented to facilitate the firing of a hand-held firearm. This design removed the need to lower by hand a lit match into the weapon's flash pan and made it possible to have both hands free to keep a firm grip on the weapon at the moment of firing, and, more importantly, to keep both eyes on the target.  The classic European matchlock gun held a burning slow match in a clamp at the end of a small curved lever known as the serpentine. Upon the pulling of a lever (or in later models a trigger) protruding from the bottom of the gun and connected to the serpentine, the clamp dropped down, lowering the smoldering match into the flash pan to ignite the priming powder. The flash from the primer traveled through the touch hole igniting the main charge of propellant in the gun barrel. On release of the lever or trigger, the spring-loaded serpentine would move in reverse to clear the pan. For obvious safety reasons the match would be removed before the reloading of the gun. Both ends of the match were usually kept alight in case one end should be accidentally extinguished.  An inherent weakness of the matchlock was the necessity of keeping the match constantly lit. The match was steeped in potassium nitrate to keep the match lit for extended periods of time. Being the sole source of ignition for the powder, if the match was not lit when the gun needed to be fired, the mechanism was useless, and the weapon became little more than an expensive club.

A petronel was a 16th or 17th century firearm, defined as a horseman’s piece. It was the fire-arm which developed on the one hand into the pistol and on the other into the carbine. The name (French petrinel or poitrinal) was given to the weapon either because it was fired with the butt resting against the chest (French poitrine, Latin pectus) or it was carried slung from a belt across the chest. Petronels are found with either matchlock or wheellock mechanisms.

By the early 16th Century, as armor use declined due to increasingly effective firearms while the need for individual close-combat skills decreased on the battlefield for similar reasons, there was an increased amount of civilian combat and dueling. Large crowded urban centers saw an increase in private armed fighting among all classes and a thrusting method of unarmed fencing suited to these encounters quickly developed. Under these conditions new lighter, longer, quick thrusting single-hand swords, called rapiers, specifically intended for unarmored combat, gained advantage over more traditional military cut-and-thrust swords. They were soon adopted by the aristocracy as the dueling weapon of choice. During the 16th Century, the use of these long, narrow blades for unarmored civilian fighting took hold.  Designs for this optimal thrusting sword evolved.

A dagger is a double-edged blade used for stabbing or thrusting. Daggers often fulfilled the role of a secondary defense weapon in close combat.  Daggers may be differentiated from knives in that daggers are intended primarily for stabbing whereas knives are usually single-edged and intended mostly for cutting.  Most cultures fought mainly with pole weapons, swords, and axes at arm's length after having utilized bows, spears, slings, or other long-range weapons.  With the advent of protective plate armor during the Middle Ages, the dagger was used effectively to stab through the gaps in armor.

A halberd was a two-handed pole weapon use prominently during the 14th and 15th centuries.  The halberd consisted of an axe blade topped with a spike mounted on a long shaft. It always had a hook or thorn on the back side of the axe blade for grappling mounted combatants.

The bill was a polearm weapon used by infantry in medieval Europe. The bill was similar in size, function and appearance to the halberd, differing mainly in the hooked blade form.  Derived originally from the agricultural billhook, the bill consisted of a hooked chopping blade with several pointed projections mounted on a staff. The end of the cutting blade curves forward to form a hook, which is the bill's distinguishing characteristic. In addition, the blade almost universally had one pronounced spike straight off the top like a spear head, and also a hook or spike mounted on the reverse side of the blade.   The black bill was5 or 6 feet long, while the forest bill was 8 or 9 feet long.  One advantage that it had over other polearms was that while it had the stopping power of a spear and the power of an axe, it also had the addition of a pronounced hook. If the sheer power of a swing did not fell the horse or its rider, the bill's hook was excellent at finding a chink in the plate armor of cavalrymen, dragging the unlucky horseman off his mount to be finished off with either a sword, spear or the bill itself. These characteristics also made it effective against heavily armored infantry, dragging them into the melee or exploiting the weak points in their armor.  The small point found on the trailing edge of some bills was also useful for puncturing armor -- concentrating the force of the blow onto the point.  During the 16th Century when most European states were adopting the pike and arquebus, the English preferred to stick with the combination of bill and English longbow. Even in the Tudor period, bills were still common with levies sent to fight the Scots.  Although obsolete as a military weapon by the 17th Century, bills were sent (along with other obsolete arms and armor) to the New World with English colonists to provide defense against Native Americans and Spanish military expeditions.

Here are three excerpts from my chapter.

They were armed. They had swords, inside something covering them, hung from something about their waists. They were long swords, not the length or shape of the wooden swords he and his village’s warriors sometimes used in battle. They also had something [petronels] nearly the length of their forearms, something narrow that pointed. These they also had tucked under the something about their waists. One of them had a long spear, longer than what he and his friends used to fish. It [the bill] was not made of wood but of something he had not ever seen. At the end of it was a point but also two curved cutting pieces and something else that chopped. To defeat a man with this killing spear, a warrior would have to get himself past the cutting and piercing things, grab the center of the spear, and wrenched it away, a very difficult task.
These Tassantassuk carried these weapons not for self-protection – he, one against six, was no threat – but for display, a warning to him of their superior montaoc. 

The one in the center of the group, the shortest one – too young to be their leader, Wanchese thought – spoke. His eyes flashed. He was not content. Wanchese saw emotion close to anger. Anger because I do not understood his words. The Tassantassuk had a strange protection [a corselet] over his arms, chest, and stomach. It was gray in color. Its surface looked hard. Wanchese imagined the point of an arrow bouncing off it. On his head he wore a strange object [a morion], tall and ugly and hard-looking like what protected his chest.
The others were not so protected. They covered their bodies not with animal skins but other things, things very strange. Even their arms, legs, and feet were covered. One of them, the oldest of them, wore something [a jack] over his chest that did not have the hard surface that the shorter man wore.  The surface looked soft. He could see that sewing had been done. Not like the shorter man, all the others wore something tight and soft [Monmouth cap] over their hair. Coarse hair extended from cheek bones and chins. They and what they wore stank!
“I’ll have the bugger know something first!” Amadas stepped over to the savage, who, cat-like, turned to face him. Amadas pointed at the hilt of his sword. “I saw you looking at it. You may see it.” His eyebrows, an invitation, lifted.
The savage stared at the hilt, looked briefly at Amadas, nodded.
“He needs to know how the land lies!” Amadas said aggressively.  He drew his blade.
Head lowered, the savage stared. His right fingers touched the steel. He felt its edges with his thumb and forefinger. He then straightened, looked at Amadas again, nodded.
“He takes your meaning,” Barlowe said.
The savage pointed at Amadas’s petronel, slung from the belt that crossed the little man’s chest.
“Rot me!” Amadas exclaimed. “Inquisitive bugger!”
“Give him a demonstration!” Fernandez grinned.
“I wonder at this,” Barlowe said.
“God’s breath, old man! I don’t give a fart in hell! I command here! White! Get a hand to bring up spare fardage! I’ll put a hole in it!”
They waited.
Amadas produced a petronel ball. He held it two feet in front of the savage’s face. He pantomimed inserting the ball in the petronel’s barrel. He took aim at a distant sailor, made an explosive sound, walked with the ball the length of the quarterdeck, and thumped the ball against the sailor’s chest.
White reappeared holding the slat of wood.
“Have that man prop it against the capstan! Tell him to stand afar!”
The petronel already primed, the match lit, Amadas aimed, its butt against his chest close to his right shoulder. “Not very accurate but meant to kill charging cavalry,” he excused. Harriot was amused that Amadas felt the need to explain, especially using words the recipient could not understand.
The savage leaned toward the petronel. The explosion and profuse smoke sent him staggering backward. Nearly squatting, he arrested his fall. Instantly, he sprung upright, muscles strained, eyes enlarged, face taut.
“Come with me!” Amadas ordered. He motioned toward the section of fardage. They walked to it, examined the hole made by the ball.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Frederick Douglass -- Shipyard Racism
Much to his surprise, instead of being sold to a plantation owner in the Deep South, Frederick was sent back to Baltimore by his master, Thomas Auld, to live under the supervision of Thomas’s brother, Hugh Auld.
The flat streets behind the Fells Point docks, wedged tightly with three-story brick houses, had changed less than the young man who walked them ….
As he wandered through the streets of Baltimore with his master’s vague promise of manumission in mind, Frederick Bailey asked himself what being a free black man in that city would mean.  … To black Marylanders the city was a haven; being there gave Frederick courage. 
Free Baltimore could give him his chance; it was “the very place, of all others, short of a free state, where I most desired to live.”  Thousands of former slaves and descendants of slaves lived in the city; so did people still owned but permitted to hire themselves out, and therefore able to determine where they would do their own day’s work.  By following their example, Frederick would make a free man of himself.  He would show Thomas Auld; he would allow Hugh Auld to arrange for an apprenticeship, but once he had learned his trade he would elbow past the Auld brothers and set himself up as a mechanic—an artisan—in the energetic port city.  … He would, with dignity, become one of the achingly respectable “free people of color” of Baltimore.
At first, Frederick again lived with the Hugh Aulds on Philpot Street, but things were not as they had been.  He had left as a fifteen-year-old boy; when he came back, at eighteen, he had matured physically, had worked in the fields, had been to jail.  Tommy [the Aulds’ son] too had changed; he was entering adolescence, and more and more, the focus of his life was outside his home.  …. Tommy appears to have picked up enough street racism to know that he no longer wanted a nigger older brother.  … Sophia too kept her distance from the black man that Frederick now was; only Hugh seems to have been comfortable with the almost-adult who now shared his house.  He immediately arranged for Frederick to serve as an apprentice caulker in his own trade, shipbuilding, in William Gardiner’s shipyard.
However, Hugh was out of step with the times.  There had been little racism in evidence in the shipyards when he had first worked in them.  There did not need to be as long as free men and slave men worked together simply getting the job done.  The earlier social structure had been secure enough so that workers did not feel pitted against one another; now, with a greater clamor for jobs, the managers had learned that the workers could be kept in line with threats that if they did not work satisfactorily, someone else could easily be hired.  By 1836, with more and more black people coming into the city to seek jobs as hired-out slaves or, increasingly, as free men, and with a great many white immigrants from Europe and from rural Maryland competing for those same jobs, the use of racism as a managerial tool was on the rise.
Just before Frederick went to work in Gardiner’s yard, the white workers had struck, knowing that the shipbuilder had a large, lucrative contract to build, in a hurry, warships for the Mexican government.  Previously, black and white workers had labored side by side, but now Gardiner gave in and fired the free black carpenters.  … In 1836, the seventy-five or so triumphant white carpenters of the Gardiner yard, back at work, expressed their scorn and their guilt by tormenting the only people in their path, the score of young apprentices who were at their beck and call.
“Fred., bring that roller here.” – “Fred., go get a fresh can of water.” – “Fred., come help saw off the end of this timber.”  He was being summoned by more than one worker at a time in the time-honored practice of hazing apprentices, but for him the taunts had a special edge: “Halloo, nigger!  Come, turn this grindstone.”  … “darkey, … why don’t you heat up some pitch?”  … “D—n you, if you move, I’ll knock your brains out!”  The white apprentices were subjected to hazing too, but they had available a convenient target for their resentment.  … “They began to put on high looks, and to talk maliciously of ‘the niggers,’ saying, that ‘they would take the country,’ that ‘they ought to be killed.’”  They resented the fact that the carpenters, having driven out the blacks who were in their own line of work, had not forced Gardiner to fire the apprentice black caulker in their midst.  Frederick suspected that he had been kept on because, unlike the fired carpenters, he was a slave (McFeely 58, 59-60).
… being encouraged by the journeymen, they commenced making my condition as hard as they could, be hectoring me around, and sometimes striking me.  I, of course, kept the vow I made after the fight with Mr. Covey, and struck back again, regardless of consequences; and while I kept them from combining, I succeeded very well; for I could whip the whole of them, taking them separately (Douglass 101).
One day, Ned Hays … grew so angry with Frederick for bending a bolt that he went after him with an adze, a razor-sharp tool.  Frederick countered with a swing of his maul, a heavy wooden hammer, that drove the adze out of Hay’s wounded hand.  The fight stopped there, for the moment.  On another day, Edward North … ordered Frederick to do some fetching for him.  When he refused, North hit him, and instead of hitting back, Frederick simply picked up the big man—he was the largest of the other apprentices---and threw him from the staging onto the deck.
… Hays’s and North’s beating rankled, and some time later these two, along with Bill Stewart and Tom Humphreys, lay in wait.  As Fred came alongside the boat where they were working, he saw one of them, holding a brick, standing directly in his path.  Instantly, he felt the presence of two others, one on each side.  And just as he comprehended what was coming, the fourth attacked from behind, hitting him on the head with a handspike, a heavy metal bar used for easing timbers into place (McFeely 61).
… I fell, and with this they all ran upon me, and fell to beating me with their fists.  I let them lay on for a while, gathering strength.  In an instant, I gave a sudden surge, and rose to my hands and knees.  Just as I did that, one of their number gave me, with his heavy boot, a powerful kick in the left eye.  My eyeball seemed to have burst.  When they saw my eye closed, and badly swelling, they left me.  With this I seized the handspike, and for a time pursued them.  But this took place in sight of not less than fifty white ship-carpenters, and not one interposed a friendly word; but some cried, “Kill the damned nigger!  Kill him!  He struck a white person.”  I found my only chance for life was in flight.  I succeeded in getting away without an additional blow, and barely so; for to strike a white man is death by Lynch law,--and that was the law in Mr. Gardiner’s ship-yard. 
I went directly home, and told the story of my wrongs to Master Hugh; and I am happy to say of him, irreligious as he was, his conduct was heavenly, compared with that of his brother Thomas under similar circumstances.  He listened attentively to my narration of the circumstances leading to the savage outrage, and gave many proofs of his strong indignation at it.  The heart of my once overkind mistress was again melted into pity.  My puffed-out eye and blood-covered face moved her to tears.  She took a chair 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 fresh beef.  … Master Hugh was very much enraged.  … As soon as I got a little the better of my bruises, he took me with him to Esquire Watson’s [the nearby magistrate’s office], on Bond Street, to see what could be done about the matter.  Mr. Watson inquired who saw the assault committed.  Master Hugh told him it was done in Mr. Gardiner’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 there was no question as to who did it.”  His [the magistrate’s] answer was, he could do nothing in the case, unless some white man would come forward and testify.  He could issue no warrant on my word.  If I had been killed in the presence of a thousand colored people, their testimony combined would have been insufficient to have arrested one of the murderers.  … Of course, it was impossible to get any white man to volunteer his testimony in my behalf, and against the white young men.  Even those who may have sympathized with me were not prepared to do this.  It required a degree of courage unknown to them to do so; for just at that time, the slightest manifestation of humanity toward a colored person was denounced as abolitionism, and that name subjected its bearer to frightful liabilities.  … There was nothing done, and probably nothing would have been done if I had been killed (Douglass 101-103).
Hugh Auld took Frederick out of Gardiner’s yard after the beating, brought him back into his house—the young man had apparently been boarding out—and got him a different job.  Hugh had lost his own modest shipbuilding business while Frederick was on the Eastern Shore; now, working as a foreman at Asa Price’s yard, he arranged for Frederick to complete his apprenticeship there; he would then become a journeyman caulker (McFeely 63).
Works cited:
Douglass, Frederick.  Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.  New York, Penguin Books USA inc., 1968.  Print.
McFeely, William S.  Frederick Douglass.  New York, W. W. Norton & Company, 1991.  Print.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Frederick Douglass -- Thomas Auld's Gift
Frederick and his companions’ plan to escape to Pennsylvania on Easter Saturday had been divulged.  Constables had arrested the five slaves that morning and taken them to St. Michael's to be questioned.
.When they reached town, they were interrogated in Thomas Auld’s store.  Frederick was wryly amused (and pleased) that his master doubted the allegation that the men had engaged in a conspiracy.  He probably was also perplexed by the game his master was playing.  Auld knew that his hysterical neighbors could easily elevate the escape plot into a slave insurrection, led by his slave.  And if they did so, torture and death lay ahead for Frederick.  To quiet the rising excitement, Auld acknowledged only a partial belief in Frederick’s guilt and insisted that he and the others be given a hearing.  As owner of the chief conspirator, Auld had charge of the interrogation (McFeely 54).
We all denied that we ever intended to run away.  We did this more to bring out the evidence against us, than from any hope of getting clear of being sold; for, as I have said, we were ready for that.  … Our greatest concern was about separation.  We dreaded that more than any thing this side of death.  We found the evidence against us to be the testimony of one person; our master would not tell who it was; but we came to a unanimous decision amoung ourselves as to who their informant was (Douglass 97).  They believed him to be Sandy Jenkins.
The questioning over, Auld contended that only if the slaves had murdered someone would the evidence have justified instant hanging.  Instead, they should be sent to jail and tried.  The five were dragged behind horses, stumbling, for fifteen miles, to Easton.  There the sheriff put Frederick and the two Harrises in one jail cell and Roberts and Bailey in another.  At least for the moment, their owners had gotten their valuable property safely away from would-be lynchers.  But a new enemy appeared: “A swarm of imps, in human shape-the slave-traders, deputy slave-traders, and agents of slave-traders—that gather in every country town of the state, watching for chances to buy human flesh (as buzzards to eat carrion), flocked in upon us, to ascertain if our masters had put us in jail to be sold (McFeely 55).
They laughed and grinned over us, saying, “Ah, my boys!  We have got you, haven’t we?”  And after taunting us in various ways, they one by one went into an examination of us, with intent to ascertain our value.  They would impudently ask us it we would not like to have them for our masters.  We would make them no answer, and leave them to find out as best they could.  Then they would curse and swear at us, telling us that they could take the devil out of us in a very little while, if we were only in their hands (Douglass 98).
At their cell window, Frederick and the Harrises tried, without luck, to get the attention of the black waiters “flitting about in their white jackets” in front of the hotel across the street.  The prisoners were hoping that these expert gleaners of gossip might have picked up word of their fate, but they got no help from that quarter.  Alone in their surprisingly well fitted out white man’s cell, Frederick, John, and Henry were in great suspense: “Every step on the stairway was listened to” with apprehension.  They knew a sale south was likely for slaves undisciplined enough to plot an escape (McFeely 55).
Immediately after the holidays were over, contrary to all our expectations, Mr. Hambleton and Mr. Freeland came up to Easton, and took Charles, the two Henrys, and John, out of jail, and carried them home, leaving me alone.  I regarded this separation as a final one.  … I was ready for any thing rather than separation.  I supposed that they had consulted together, and had decided that, as I was the whole cause of the intention of the others to run away, it was hard to make the innocent suffer with the guilty; and that they had, therefore, concluded to take the others home, and see me, as a warning to the others that remained.  It is due to the noble Henry [Harris] to say, he seemed almost as reluctant at leaving the prison as at leaving home to come to the prison (Douglass 98-99).
Henry was taken away by William Freeland.  “Not until this final separation,” Douglass wrote twenty years later, “had I touched those profounder depths of desolation, which it is the lot of slaves often to reach.  I was solitary in the world, and alone within the walls of a stone prison, left to a fate of life-long misery.”  He was anticipating the “ever dreaded slave life in Georgia, Louisiana and Alabama,” from which he could not escape.  He was also mourning the loss of friendship and even the loss, in some sense, of his humanity.  In his “loneliness,” he felt that the “possibility of ever becoming anything but an abject slave, a mere machine in the hands of an owner, had now fled.”
Thomas Auld had a problem.  His slave was known to be dangerous.  Mrs. Freeland regarded him as one who could stir to insurrection slaves she insisted on believing were loyal; Hambleton threatened to shoot the troublemaker if his son-in-law did not get him out of the county.  Rowena [Auld] knew that she and Thomas could get the price of a new house for a slave who had been nothing but trouble since his arrival in St. Michael’s.  If Frederick were to escape, as he had already tried to do, the money he was worth would go with him.  Auld was under severe pressure to sell his slave, but he could not bring himself to do so.  Frederick’s seaman cousin, Tom, who had an excellent ear for news, reported that Auld “walked the floor nearly all night” before going to the jail to release Frederick.
Whatever the tortured bond between the two, … Auld could not doom the boy, now grown to be a man-a person-about whom in his clumsy, tormented way he cared immensely.  Telling both his neighbors and Frederick that he was going to sell him to a friend in Alabama, Auld brought his slave home after he had been alone in the jail for a week.  Frederick knew that Auld had no friend in Alabama and uneasily sensed that he was wavering.  When the two were alone, in what must have been a moment of great intensity, Thomas told him he was sending him back to Baltimore, to Hugh, to learn to be a skilled laborer.  With a trade, Frederick could be hired out at a profit, or so Auld must have told his wife.  And-as he probably did not tell her-he promised Fredrick that if he worked diligently at a trade (and stayed out of trouble) he would set him free when he became twenty-five.  As he raised the young man’s hopes, Auld must have known that he would now lose Frederick-not into endless labor in a cotton field in the Deep South, but to the risks of Baltimore.
The escape attempt had taught Thomas Auld how likely it was that the resolute, stubborn, strong, and bright young men would either get into fatal trouble in the city or escape into freedom in the North.  Either way, he would be lost to him.  Quietly, Thomas put Frederick on a boat for Fells Point.
Freedom would come for Frederick Bailey.  Frederick knew he would not wait until the far-off age of twenty-five to test the reliability of Auld’s promise; he would free himself somehow.  But when that great goal was attained, he would be a debtor … For his freedom-for his life-he would for the rest of that life be beholden to a white man whom he had loved and whom he now had to remember to loathe (McFeely 55-57).
So it was in his first book, Narration of the Life of Frederick Douglass, that Frederick, about their separation, denied his master appreciative words.  As much an indictment of slavery as it is an account of his own escape from bondage, the book could not contain self-defeating words of praise.  Instead, Frederick concluded this chapter of his life with the following paragraph.
Thus, after an absence of three years and one month, I was once more permitted to return to my old home in Baltimore.  My master sent me away, because there existed against me a very great prejudice in the community, and he feared I might be killed (Douglass 99).
Works cited:
Douglass, Frederick.  Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.  New York, Penguin Books USA inc., 1968.  Print.
McFeely, William S.  Frederick Douglass.  New York, W. W. Norton & Company, 1991.  Print.