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´╗┐Title: Collected Articles of Frederick Douglass
Author: Douglass, Frederick, 1818-1895
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Collected Articles of Frederick Douglass" ***

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Here are several articles by Frederick Douglass, whose larger work was
commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day last year.  We hope people will
continue to contribute works such as this to commemorate this and other
holidays.



  MY ESCAPE FROM SLAVERY
  RECONSTRUCTION



Douglass, Frederick.  "My Escape from Slavery."

The Century Illustrated Magazine 23, n.s. 1 (Nov. 1881): 125-131.



MY ESCAPE FROM SLAVERY


In the first narrative of my experience in slavery, written nearly forty
years ago, and in various writings since, I have given the public what I
considered very good reasons for withholding the manner of my escape.  In
substance these reasons were, first, that such publication at any time
during the existence of slavery might be used by the master against the
slave, and prevent the future escape of any who might adopt the same
means that I did.  The second reason was, if possible, still more binding
to silence: the publication of details would certainly have put in peril
the persons and property of those who assisted.  Murder itself was not
more sternly and certainly punished in the State of Maryland than that of
aiding and abetting the escape of a slave.  Many colored men, for no
other crime than that of giving aid to a fugitive slave, have, like
Charles T. Torrey, perished in prison.  The abolition of slavery in my
native State and throughout the country, and the lapse of time, render
the caution hitherto observed no longer necessary.  But even since the
abolition of slavery, I have sometimes thought it well enough to baffle
curiosity by saying that while slavery existed there were good reasons
for not telling the manner of my escape, and since slavery had ceased to
exist, there was no reason for telling it.  I shall now, however, cease
to avail myself of this formula, and, as far as I can, endeavor to
satisfy this very natural curiosity.  I should, perhaps, have yielded to
that feeling sooner, had there been anything very heroic or thrilling in
the incidents connected with my escape, for I am sorry to say I have
nothing of that sort to tell; and yet the courage that could risk
betrayal and the bravery which was ready to encounter death, if need be,
in pursuit of freedom, were essential features in the undertaking.  My
success was due to address rather than courage, to good luck rather than
bravery.  My means of escape were provided for me by the very men who
were making laws to hold and bind me more securely in slavery.

It was the custom in the State of Maryland to require the free colored
people to have what were called free papers.  These instruments they were
required to renew very often, and by charging a fee for this writing,
considerable sums from time to time were collected by the State.  In
these papers the name, age, color, height, and form of the freeman were
described, together with any scars or other marks upon his person which
could assist in his identification.  This device in some measure defeated
itself--since more than one man could be found to answer the same general
description.  Hence many slaves could escape by personating the owner of
one set of papers; and this was often done as follows:  A slave, nearly
or sufficiently answering the description set forth in the papers, would
borrow or hire them till by means of them he could escape to a free
State, and then, by mail or otherwise, would return them to the owner.
The operation was a hazardous one for the lender as well as for the
borrower.  A failure on the part of the fugitive to send back the papers
would imperil his benefactor, and the discovery of the papers in
possession of the wrong man would imperil both the fugitive and his
friend.  It was, therefore, an act of supreme trust on the part of a
freeman of color thus to put in jeopardy his own liberty that another
might be free.  It was, however, not unfrequently bravely done, and was
seldom discovered.  I was not so fortunate as to resemble any of my free
acquaintances sufficiently to answer the description of their papers.
But I had a friend--a sailor--who owned a sailor's protection, which
answered somewhat the purpose of free papers--describing his person, and
certifying to the fact that he was a free American sailor.  The
instrument had at its head the American eagle, which gave it the
appearance at once of an authorized document.  This protection, when in
my hands, did not describe its bearer very accurately.  Indeed, it called
for a man much darker than myself, and close examination of it would have
caused my arrest at the start.

In order to avoid this fatal scrutiny on the part of railroad officials,
I arranged with Isaac Rolls, a Baltimore hackman, to bring my baggage to
the Philadelphia train just on the moment of starting, and jumped upon
the car myself when the train was in motion.  Had I gone into the station
and offered to purchase a ticket, I should have been instantly and
carefully examined, and undoubtedly arrested.  In choosing this plan I
considered the jostle of the train, and the natural haste of the
conductor, in a train crowded with passengers, and relied upon my skill
and address in playing the sailor, as described in my protection, to do
the rest.  One element in my favor was the kind feeling which prevailed
in Baltimore and other sea-ports at the time, toward "those who go down
to the sea in ships."  "Free trade and sailors' rights" just then
expressed the sentiment of the country.  In my clothing I was rigged out
in sailor style.  I had on a red shirt and a tarpaulin hat, and a black
cravat tied in sailor fashion carelessly and loosely about my neck.  My
knowledge of ships and sailor's talk came much to my assistance, for I
knew a ship from stem to stern, and from keelson to cross-trees, and
could talk sailor like an "old salt." I was well on the way to Havre de
Grace before the conductor came into the negro car to collect tickets and
examine the papers of his black passengers.  This was a critical moment
in the drama.  My whole future depended upon the decision of this
conductor.  Agitated though I was while this ceremony was proceeding,
still, externally, at least, I was apparently calm and self-possessed.
He went on with his duty--examining several colored passengers before
reaching me. He was somewhat harsh in tome and peremptory in manner until
he reached me, when, strange enough, and to my surprise and relief, his
whole manner changed.  Seeing that I did not readily produce my free
papers, as the other colored persons in the car had done, he said to me,
in friendly contrast with his bearing toward the others:

"I suppose you have your free papers?"

To which I answered:

"No sir; I never carry my free papers to sea with me."

"But you have something to show that you are a freeman, haven't you?"

"Yes, sir," I answered; "I have a paper with the American Eagle on it,
and that will carry me around the world."

With this I drew from my deep sailor's pocket my seaman's protection, as
before described.  The merest glance at the paper satisfied him, and he
took my fare and went on about his business.  This moment of time was one
of the most anxious I ever experienced.  Had the conductor looked closely
at the paper, he could not have failed to discover that it called for a
very different-looking person from myself, and in that case it would have
been his duty to arrest me on the instant, and send me back to Baltimore
from the first station.  When he left me with the assurance that I was
all right, though much relieved, I realized that I was still in great
danger: I was still in Maryland, and subject to arrest at any moment.  I
saw on the train several persons who would have known me in any other
clothes, and I feared they might recognize me, even in my sailor "rig,"
and report me to the conductor, who would then subject me to a closer
examination, which I knew well would be fatal to me.

Though I was not a murderer fleeing from justice, I felt perhaps quite as
miserable as such a criminal.  The train was moving at a very high rate
of speed for that epoch of railroad travel, but to my anxious mind it was
moving far too slowly.  Minutes were hours, and hours were days during
this part of my flight.  After Maryland, I was to pass through
Delaware--another slave State, where slave-catchers generally awaited
their prey, for it was not in the interior of the State, but on its
borders, that these human hounds were most vigilant and active.  The
border lines between slavery and freedom were the dangerous ones for the
fugitives.  The heart of no fox or deer, with hungry hounds on his trail
in full chase, could have beaten more anxiously or noisily than did mine
from the time I left Baltimore till I reached Philadelphia.  The passage
of the Susquehanna River at Havre de Grace was at that time made by
ferry-boat, on board of which I met a young colored man by the name of
Nichols, who came very near betraying me.  He was a "hand" on the boat,
but, instead of minding his business, he insisted upon knowing me, and
asking me dangerous questions as to where I was going, when I was coming
back, etc.  I got away from my old and inconvenient acquaintance as soon
as I could decently do so, and went to another part of the boat.  Once
across the river, I encountered a new danger.  Only a few days before, I
had been at work on a revenue cutter, in Mr. Price's ship-yard in
Baltimore, under the care of Captain McGowan.  On the meeting at this
point of the two trains, the one going south stopped on the track just
opposite to the one going north, and it so happened that this Captain
McGowan sat at a window where he could see me very distinctly, and would
certainly have recognized me had he looked at me but for a second.
Fortunately, in the hurry of the moment, he did not see me; and the
trains soon passed each other on their respective ways.  But this was not
my only hair-breadth escape.  A German blacksmith whom I knew well was on
the train with me, and looked at me very intently, as if he thought he
had seen me somewhere before in his travels.  I really believe he knew
me, but had no heart to betray me.  At any rate, he saw me escaping and
held his peace.

The last point of imminent danger, and the one I dreaded most, was
Wilmington.  Here we left the train and took the steam-boat for
Philadelphia.  In making the change here I again apprehended arrest, but
no one disturbed me, and I was soon on the broad and beautiful Delaware,
speeding away to the Quaker City.  On reaching Philadelphia in the
afternoon, I inquired of a colored man how I could get on to New York.
He directed me to the William-street depot, and thither I went, taking
the train that night.  I reached New York Tuesday morning, having
completed the journey in less than twenty-four hours.

My free life began on the third of September, 1838.  On the morning of
the fourth of that month, after an anxious and most perilous but safe
journey, I found myself in the big city of New York, a FREE MAN--one more
added to the mighty throng which, like the confused waves of the troubled
sea, surged to and fro between the lofty walls of Broadway.  Though
dazzled with the wonders which met me on every hand, my thoughts could
not be much withdrawn from my strange situation.  For the moment, the
dreams of my youth and the hopes of my manhood were completely fulfilled.
The bonds that had held me to "old master" were broken.  No man now had a
right to call me his slave or assert mastery over me.  I was in the rough
and tumble of an outdoor world, to take my chance with the rest of its
busy number.  I have often been asked how I felt when first I found
myself on free soil.  There is scarcely anything in my experience about
which I could not give a more satisfactory answer.  A new world had
opened upon me.  If life is more than breath and the "quick round of
blood," I lived more in that one day than in a year of my slave life.  It
was a time of joyous excitement which words can but tamely describe.  In
a letter written to a friend soon after reaching New York, I said: "I
felt as one might feel upon escape from a den of hungry lions."  Anguish
and grief, like darkness and rain, may be depicted; but gladness and joy,
like the rainbow, defy the skill of pen or pencil.  During ten or fifteen
years I had been, as it were, dragging a heavy chain which no strength of
mine could break; I was not only a slave, but a slave for life.  I might
become a husband, a father, an aged man, but through all, from birth to
death, from the cradle to the grave, I had felt myself doomed.  All
efforts I had previously made to secure my freedom had not only failed,
but had seemed only to rivet my fetters the more firmly, and to render my
escape more difficult.  Baffled, entangled, and discouraged, I had at
times asked myself the question, May not my condition after all be God's
work, and ordered for a wise purpose, and if so, Is not submission my
duty?  A contest had in fact been going on in my mind for a long time,
between the clear consciousness of right and the plausible make-shifts of
theology and superstition.  The one held me an abject slave--a prisoner
for life, punished for some transgression in which I had no lot nor part;
and the other counseled me to manly endeavor to secure my freedom.  This
contest was now ended; my chains were broken, and the victory brought me
unspeakable joy.

But my gladness was short-lived, for I was not yet out of the reach and
power of the slave-holders.  I soon found that New York was not quite so
free or so safe a refuge as I had supposed, and a sense of loneliness and
insecurity again oppressed me most sadly. I chanced to meet on the
street, a few hours after my landing, a fugitive slave whom I had once
known well in slavery.  The information received from him alarmed me.
The fugitive in question was known in Baltimore as "Allender's Jake," but
in New York he wore the more respectable name of "William Dixon."  Jake,
in law, was the property of Doctor Allender, and Tolly Allender, the son
of the doctor, had once made an effort to recapture MR. DIXON, but had
failed for want of evidence to support his claim.  Jake told me the
circumstances of this attempt, and how narrowly he escaped being sent
back to slavery and torture.  He told me that New York was then full of
Southerners returning from the Northern watering-places; that the colored
people of New York were not to be trusted; that there were hired men of
my own color who would betray me for a few dollars; that there were hired
men ever on the lookout for fugitives; that I must trust no man with my
secret; that I must not think of going either upon the wharves or into
any colored boarding-house, for all such places were closely watched;
that he was himself unable to help me; and, in fact, he seemed while
speaking to me to fear lest I myself might be a spy and a betrayer.
Under this apprehension, as I suppose, he showed signs of wishing to be
rid of me, and with whitewash brush in hand, in search of work, he soon
disappeared.

This picture, given by poor "Jake," of New York, was a damper to my
enthusiasm.  My little store of money would soon be exhausted, and since
it would be unsafe for me to go on the wharves for work, and I had no
introductions elsewhere, the prospect for me was far from cheerful.  I
saw the wisdom of keeping away from the ship-yards, for, if pursued, as I
felt certain I should be, Mr. Auld, my "master," would naturally seek me
there among the calkers.  Every door seemed closed against me.  I was in
the midst of an ocean of my fellow-men, and yet a perfect stranger to
every one.  I was without home, without acquaintance, without money,
without credit, without work, and without any definite knowledge as to
what course to take, or where to look for succor.  In such an extremity,
a man had something besides his new-born freedom to think of.  While
wandering about the streets of New York, and lodging at least one night
among the barrels on one of the wharves, I was indeed free--from slavery,
but free from food and shelter as well.  I kept my secret to myself as
long as I could, but I was compelled at last to seek some one who would
befriend me without taking advantage of my destitution to betray me.
Such a person I found in a sailor named Stuart, a warm-hearted and
generous fellow, who, from his humble home on Centre street, saw me
standing on the opposite sidewalk, near the Tombs prison.  As he
approached me, I ventured a remark to him which at once enlisted his
interest in me.  He took me to his home to spend the night, and in the
morning went with me to Mr. David Ruggles, the secretary of the New York
Vigilance Committee, a co-worker with Isaac T. Hopper, Lewis and Arthur
Tappan, Theodore S. Wright, Samuel Cornish, Thomas Downing, Philip A.
Bell, and other true men of their time.  All these (save Mr. Bell, who
still lives, and is editor and publisher of a paper called the
"Elevator," in San Francisco) have finished their work on earth.  Once in
the hands of these brave and wise men, I felt comparatively safe.  With
Mr. Ruggles, on the corner of Lispenard and Church streets, I was hidden
several days, during which time my intended wife came on from Baltimore
at my call, to share the burdens of life with me.  She was a free woman,
and came at once on getting the good news of my safety.  We were married
by Rev. J. W. C.  Pennington, then a well-known and respected
Presbyterian minister.  I had no money with which to pay the marriage
fee, but he seemed well pleased with our thanks.

Mr. Ruggles was the first officer on the "Underground Railroad" whom I
met after coming North, and was, indeed, the only one with whom I had
anything to do till I became such an officer myself.  Learning that my
trade was that of a calker, he promptly decided that the best place for
me was in New Bedford, Mass.  He told me that many ships for whaling
voyages were fitted out there, and that I might there find work at my
trade and make a good living.  So, on the day of the marriage ceremony,
we took our little luggage to the steamer John W. Richmond, which, at
that time, was one of the line running between New York and Newport, R.
I.  Forty-three years ago colored travelers were not permitted in the
cabin, nor allowed abaft the paddle-wheels of a steam vessel.  They were
compelled, whatever the weather might be,--whether cold or hot, wet or
dry,--to spend the night on deck.  Unjust as this regulation was, it did
not trouble us much; we had fared much harder before.  We arrived at
Newport the next morning, and soon after an old fashioned stage-coach,
with "New Bedford" in large yellow letters on its sides, came down to the
wharf.  I had not money enough to pay our fare, and stood hesitating what
to do.  Fortunately for us, there were two Quaker gentlemen who were
about to take passage on the stage,--Friends William C. Taber and Joseph
Ricketson,--who at once discerned our true situation, and, in a
peculiarly quiet way, addressing me, Mr. Taber said: "Thee get in." I
never obeyed an order with more alacrity, and we were soon on our way to
our new home.  When we reached "Stone Bridge" the passengers alighted for
breakfast, and paid their fares to the driver.  We took no breakfast,
and, when asked for our fares, I told the driver I would make it right
with him when we reached New Bedford.  I expected some objection to this
on his part, but he made none.  When, however, we reached New Bedford, he
took our baggage, including three music-books,--two of them collections
by Dyer, and one by Shaw,--and held them until I was able to redeem them
by paying to him the amount due for our rides.  This was soon done, for
Mr. Nathan Johnson not only received me kindly and hospitably, but, on
being informed about our baggage, at once loaned me the two dollars with
which to square accounts with the stage-driver.  Mr. and Mrs. Nathan
Johnson reached a good old age, and now rest from their labors.  I am
under many grateful obligations to them.  They not only "took me in when
a stranger" and "fed me when hungry," but taught me how to make an honest
living.  Thus, in a fortnight after my flight from Maryland, I was safe
in New Bedford, a citizen of the grand old commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Once initiated into my new life of freedom and assured by Mr. Johnson
that I need not fear recapture in that city, a comparatively unimportant
question arose as to the name by which I should be known thereafter in my
new relation as a free man.  The name given me by my dear mother was no
less pretentious and long than Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey.  I
had, however, while living in Maryland, dispensed with the Augustus
Washington, and retained only Frederick Bailey.  Between Baltimore and
New Bedford, the better to conceal myself from the slave-hunters, I had
parted with Bailey and called myself Johnson; but in New Bedford I found
that the Johnson family was already so numerous as to cause some
confusion in distinguishing them, hence a change in this name seemed
desirable.  Nathan Johnson, mine host, placed great emphasis upon this
necessity, and wished me to allow him to select a name for me.  I
consented, and he called me by my present name--the one by which I have
been known for three and forty years--Frederick Douglass.  Mr. Johnson
had just been reading the "Lady of the Lake," and so pleased was he with
its great character that he wished me to bear his name.  Since reading
that charming poem myself, I have often thought that, considering the
noble hospitality and manly character of Nathan Johnson--black man though
he was--he, far more than I, illustrated the virtues of the Douglas of
Scotland.  Sure am I that, if any slave-catcher had entered his domicile
with a view to my recapture, Johnson would have shown himself like him of
the "stalwart hand."

The reader may be surprised at the impressions I had in some way
conceived of the social and material condition of the people at the
North.  I had no proper idea of the wealth, refinement, enterprise, and
high civilization of this section of the country.  My "Columbian Orator,"
almost my only book, had done nothing to enlighten me concerning Northern
society.  I had been taught that slavery was the bottom fact of all
wealth.  With this foundation idea, I came naturally to the conclusion
that poverty must be the general condition of the people of the free
States.  In the country from which I came, a white man holding no slaves
was usually an ignorant and poverty-stricken man, and men of this class
were contemptuously called "poor white trash." Hence I supposed that,
since the non-slave-holders at the South were ignorant, poor, and
degraded as a class, the non-slave-holders at the North must be in a
similar condition.  I could have landed in no part of the United States
where I should have found a more striking and gratifying contrast, not
only to life generally in the South, but in the condition of the colored
people there, than in New Bedford. I was amazed when Mr. Johnson told me
that there was nothing in the laws or constitution of Massachusetts that
would prevent a colored man from being governor of the State, if the
people should see fit to elect him.  There, too, the black man's children
attended the public schools with the white man's children, and apparently
without objection from any quarter.  To impress me with my security from
recapture and return to slavery, Mr. Johnson assured me that no
slave-holder could take a slave out of New Bedford; that there were men
there who would lay down their lives to save me from such a fate.

The fifth day after my arrival, I put on the clothes of a common laborer,
and went upon the wharves in search of work.  On my way down Union street
I saw a large pile of coal in front of the house of Rev.  Ephraim
Peabody, the Unitarian minister.  I went to the kitchen door and asked
the privilege of bringing in and putting away this coal.  "What will you
charge?" said the lady.  "I will leave that to you, madam."  "You may put
it away," she said.  I was not long in accomplishing the job, when the
dear lady put into my hand TWO SILVER HALF-DOLLARS.  To understand the
emotion which swelled my heart as I clasped this money, realizing that I
had no master who could take it from me,--THAT IT WAS MINE--THAT MY HANDS
WERE MY OWN, and could earn more of the precious coin,--one must have
been in some sense himself a slave.  My next job was stowing a sloop at
Uncle Gid. Howland's wharf with a cargo of oil for New York.  I was not
only a freeman, but a free working-man, and no "master" stood ready at
the end of the week to seize my hard earnings.

The season was growing late and work was plenty.  Ships were being fitted
out for whaling, and much wood was used in storing them.  The sawing this
wood was considered a good job.  With the help of old Friend Johnson
(blessings on his memory) I got a saw and "buck," and went at it.  When I
went into a store to buy a cord with which to brace up my saw in the
frame, I asked for a "fip's" worth of cord.  The man behind the counter
looked rather sharply at me, and said with equal sharpness, "You don't
belong about here." I was alarmed, and thought I had betrayed myself.  A
fip in Maryland was six and a quarter cents, called fourpence in
Massachusetts.  But no harm came from the "fi'penny-bit" blunder, and I
confidently and cheerfully went to work with my saw and buck.  It was new
business to me, but I never did better work, or more of it, in the same
space of time on the plantation for Covey, the negro-breaker, than I did
for myself in these earliest years of my freedom.

Notwithstanding the just and humane sentiment of New Bedford three and
forty years ago, the place was not entirely free from race and color
prejudice.  The good influence of the Roaches, Rodmans, Arnolds,
Grinnells, and Robesons did not pervade all classes of its people.  The
test of the real civilization of the community came when I applied for
work at my trade, and then my repulse was emphatic and decisive.  It so
happened that Mr. Rodney French, a wealthy and enterprising citizen,
distinguished as an anti-slavery man, was fitting out a vessel for a
whaling voyage, upon which there was a heavy job of calking and coppering
to be done.  I had some skill in both branches, and applied to Mr. French
for work.  He, generous man that he was, told me he would employ me, and
I might go at once to the vessel.  I obeyed him, but upon reaching the
float-stage, where others [sic] calkers were at work, I was told that
every white man would leave the ship, in her unfinished condition, if I
struck a blow at my trade upon her.  This uncivil, inhuman, and selfish
treatment was not so shocking and scandalous in my eyes at the time as it
now appears to me.  Slavery had inured me to hardships that made ordinary
trouble sit lightly upon me.  Could I have worked at my trade I could
have earned two dollars a day, but as a common laborer I received but one
dollar.  The difference was of great importance to me, but if I could not
get two dollars, I was glad to get one; and so I went to work for Mr.
French as a common laborer.  The consciousness that I was free--no longer
a slave--kept me cheerful under this, and many similar proscriptions,
which I was destined to meet in New Bedford and elsewhere on the free
soil of Massachusetts.  For instance, though colored children attended
the schools, and were treated kindly by their teachers, the New Bedford
Lyceum refused, till several years after my residence in that city, to
allow any colored person to attend the lectures delivered in its hall.
Not until such men as Charles Sumner, Theodore Parker, Ralph Waldo
Emerson, and Horace Mann refused to lecture in their course while there
was such a restriction, was it abandoned.

Becoming satisfied that I could not rely on my trade in New Bedford to
give me a living, I prepared myself to do any kind of work that came to
hand.  I sawed wood, shoveled coal, dug cellars, moved rubbish from back
yards, worked on the wharves, loaded and unloaded vessels, and scoured
their cabins.

I afterward got steady work at the brass-foundry owned by Mr. Richmond.
My duty here was to blow the bellows, swing the crane, and empty the
flasks in which castings were made; and at times this was hot and heavy
work.  The articles produced here were mostly for ship work, and in the
busy season the foundry was in operation night and day.  I have often
worked two nights and every working day of the week.  My foreman, Mr.
Cobb, was a good man, and more than once protected me from abuse that one
or more of the hands was disposed to throw upon me.  While in this
situation I had little time for mental improvement.  Hard work, night and
day, over a furnace hot enough to keep the metal running like water, was
more favorable to action than thought; yet here I often nailed a
newspaper to the post near my bellows, and read while I was performing
the up and down motion of the heavy beam by which the bellows was
inflated and discharged.  It was the pursuit of knowledge under
difficulties, and I look back to it now, after so many years, with some
complacency and a little wonder that I could have been so earnest and
persevering in any pursuit other than for my daily bread.  I certainly
saw nothing in the conduct of those around to inspire me with such
interest: they were all devoted exclusively to what their hands found to
do.  I am glad to be able to say that, during my engagement in this
foundry, no complaint was ever made against me that I did not do my work,
and do it well.  The bellows which I worked by main strength was, after I
left, moved by a steam-engine.



Douglass, Frederick.  "Reconstruction."

Atlantic Monthly 18 (1866): 761-765.



RECONSTRUCTION


The assembling of the Second Session of the Thirty-ninth Congress may
very properly be made the occasion of a few earnest words on the already
much-worn topic of reconstruction.

Seldom has any legislative body been the subject of a solicitude more
intense, or of aspirations more sincere and ardent.  There are the best
of reasons for this profound interest.  Questions of vast moment, left
undecided by the last session of Congress, must be manfully grappled with
by this.  No political skirmishing will avail.  The occasion demands
statesmanship.

Whether the tremendous war so heroically fought and so victoriously ended
shall pass into history a miserable failure, barren of permanent
results,--a scandalous and shocking waste of blood and treasure,--a
strife for empire, as Earl Russell characterized it, of no value to
liberty or civilization,--an attempt to re-establish a Union by force,
which must be the merest mockery of a Union,--an effort to bring under
Federal authority States into which no loyal man from the North may
safely enter, and to bring men into the national councils who deliberate
with daggers and vote with revolvers, and who do not even conceal their
deadly hate of the country that conquered them; or whether, on the other
hand, we shall, as the rightful reward of victory over treason, have a
solid nation, entirely delivered from all contradictions and social
antagonisms, based upon loyalty, liberty, and equality, must be
determined one way or the other by the present session of Congress.  The
last session really did nothing which can be considered final as to these
questions.  The Civil Rights Bill and the Freedmen's Bureau Bill and the
proposed constitutional amendments, with the amendment already adopted
and recognized as the law of the land, do not reach the difficulty, and
cannot, unless the whole structure of the government is changed from a
government by States to something like a despotic central government,
with power to control even the municipal regulations of States, and to
make them conform to its own despotic will.  While there remains such an
idea as the right of each State to control its own local affairs,--an
idea, by the way, more deeply rooted in the minds of men of all sections
of the country than perhaps any one other political idea,--no general
assertion of human rights can be of any practical value.  To change the
character of the government at this point is neither possible nor
desirable.  All that is necessary to be done is to make the government
consistent with itself, and render the rights of the States compatible
with the sacred rights of human nature.

The arm of the Federal government is long, but it is far too short to
protect the rights of individuals in the interior of distant States.
They must have the power to protect themselves, or they will go
unprotected, spite of all the laws the Federal government can put upon
the national statute-book.

Slavery, like all other great systems of wrong, founded in the depths of
human selfishness, and existing for ages, has not neglected its own
conservation.  It has steadily exerted an influence upon all around it
favorable to its own continuance.  And to-day it is so strong that it
could exist, not only without law, but even against law.  Custom,
manners, morals, religion, are all on its side everywhere in the South;
and when you add the ignorance and servility of the ex-slave to the
intelligence and accustomed authority of the master, you have the
conditions, not out of which slavery will again grow, but under which it
is impossible for the Federal government to wholly destroy it, unless the
Federal government be armed with despotic power, to blot out State
authority, and to station a Federal officer at every cross-road.  This,
of course, cannot be done, and ought not even if it could.  The true way
and the easiest way is to make our government entirely consistent with
itself, and give to every loyal citizen the elective franchise,--a right
and power which will be ever present, and will form a wall of fire for
his protection.

One of the invaluable compensations of the late Rebellion is the highly
instructive disclosure it made of the true source of danger to republican
government.  Whatever may be tolerated in monarchical and despotic
governments, no republic is safe that tolerates a privileged class, or
denies to any of its citizens equal rights and equal means to maintain
them.  What was theory before the war has been made fact by the war.

There is cause to be thankful even for rebellion.  It is an impressive
teacher, though a stern and terrible one.  In both characters it has come
to us, and it was perhaps needed in both.  It is an instructor never a
day before its time, for it comes only when all other means of progress
and enlightenment have failed.  Whether the oppressed and despairing
bondman, no longer able to repress his deep yearnings for manhood, or the
tyrant, in his pride and impatience, takes the initiative, and strikes
the blow for a firmer hold and a longer lease of oppression, the result
is the same,--society is instructed, or may be.

Such are the limitations of the common mind, and so thoroughly engrossing
are the cares of common life, that only the few among men can discern
through the glitter and dazzle of present prosperity the dark outlines of
approaching disasters, even though they may have come up to our very
gates, and are already within striking distance.  The yawning seam and
corroded bolt conceal their defects from the mariner until the storm
calls all hands to the pumps.  Prophets, indeed, were abundant before the
war; but who cares for prophets while their predictions remain
unfulfilled, and the calamities of which they tell are masked behind a
blinding blaze of national prosperity?

It is asked, said Henry Clay, on a memorable occasion, Will slavery never
come to an end?  That question, said he, was asked fifty years ago, and
it has been answered by fifty years of unprecedented prosperity.  Spite
of the eloquence of the earnest Abolitionists,--poured out against
slavery during thirty years,--even they must confess, that, in all the
probabilities of the case, that system of barbarism would have continued
its horrors far beyond the limits of the nineteenth century but for the
Rebellion, and perhaps only have disappeared at last in a fiery conflict,
even more fierce and bloody than that which has now been suppressed.

It is no disparagement to truth, that it can only prevail where reason
prevails.  War begins where reason ends.  The thing worse than rebellion
is the thing that causes rebellion.  What that thing is, we have been
taught to our cost.  It remains now to be seen whether we have the needed
courage to have that cause entirely removed from the Republic.  At any
rate, to this grand work of national regeneration and entire purification
Congress must now address Itself, with full purpose that the work shall
this time be thoroughly done.  The deadly upas, root and branch, leaf and
fibre, body and sap, must be utterly destroyed.  The country is evidently
not in a condition to listen patiently to pleas for postponement, however
plausible, nor will it permit the responsibility to be shifted to other
shoulders.  Authority and power are here commensurate with the duty
imposed.  There are no cloud-flung shadows to obscure the way.  Truth
shines with brighter light and intenser heat at every moment, and a
country torn and rent and bleeding implores relief from its distress and
agony.

If time was at first needed, Congress has now had time.  All the
requisite materials from which to form an intelligent judgment are now
before it.  Whether its members look at the origin, the progress, the
termination of the war, or at the mockery of a peace now existing, they
will find only one unbroken chain of argument in favor of a radical
policy of reconstruction.  For the omissions of the last session, some
excuses may be allowed.  A treacherous President stood in the way; and it
can be easily seen how reluctant good men might be to admit an apostasy
which involved so much of baseness and ingratitude.  It was natural that
they should seek to save him by bending to him even when he leaned to the
side of error.  But all is changed now.  Congress knows now that it must
go on without his aid, and even against his machinations.  The advantage
of the present session over the last is immense.  Where that
investigated, this has the facts.  Where that walked by faith, this may
walk by sight.  Where that halted, this must go forward, and where that
failed, this must succeed, giving the country whole measures where that
gave us half-measures, merely as a means of saving the elections in a few
doubtful districts.  That Congress saw what was right, but distrusted the
enlightenment of the loyal masses; but what was forborne in distrust of
the people must now be done with a full knowledge that the people expect
and require it.  The members go to Washington fresh from the inspiring
presence of the people.  In every considerable public meeting, and in
almost every conceivable way, whether at court-house, school-house, or
cross-roads, in doors and out, the subject has been discussed, and the
people have emphatically pronounced in favor of a radical policy.
Listening to the doctrines of expediency and compromise with pity,
impatience, and disgust, they have everywhere broken into demonstrations
of the wildest enthusiasm when a brave word has been spoken in favor of
equal rights and impartial suffrage.  Radicalism, so far from being
odious, is not the popular passport to power.  The men most bitterly
charged with it go to Congress with the largest majorities, while the
timid and doubtful are sent by lean majorities, or else left at home.
The strange controversy between the President and the Congress, at one
time so threatening, is disposed of by the people.  The high
reconstructive powers which he so confidently, ostentatiously, and
haughtily claimed, have been disallowed, denounced, and utterly
repudiated; while those claimed by Congress have been confirmed.

Of the spirit and magnitude of the canvass nothing need be said.  The
appeal was to the people, and the verdict was worthy of the tribunal.
Upon an occasion of his own selection, with the advice and approval of
his astute Secretary, soon after the members of the Congress had returned
to their constituents, the President quitted the executive mansion,
sandwiched himself between two recognized heroes,--men whom the whole
country delighted to honor,--and, with all the advantage which such
company could give him, stumped the country from the Atlantic to the
Mississippi, advocating everywhere his policy as against that of
Congress.  It was a strange sight, and perhaps the most disgraceful
exhibition ever made by any President; but, as no evil is entirely
unmixed, good has come of this, as from many others.  Ambitious,
unscrupulous, energetic, indefatigable, voluble, and plausible,--a
political gladiator, ready for a "set-to" in any crowd,--he is beaten in
his own chosen field, and stands to-day before the country as a convicted
usurper, a political criminal, guilty of a bold and persistent attempt to
possess himself of the legislative powers solemnly secured to Congress by
the Constitution.  No vindication could be more complete, no condemnation
could be more absolute and humiliating.  Unless reopened by the sword, as
recklessly threatened in some circles, this question is now closed for
all time.

Without attempting to settle here the metaphysical and somewhat
theological question (about which so much has already been said and
written), whether once in the Union means always in the Union,--agreeably
to the formula, Once in grace always in grace,--it is obvious to common
sense that the rebellious States stand to-day, in point of law, precisely
where they stood when, exhausted, beaten, conquered, they fell powerless
at the feet of Federal authority.  Their State governments were
overthrown, and the lives and property of the leaders of the Rebellion
were forfeited.  In reconstructing the institutions of these shattered
and overthrown States, Congress should begin with a clean slate, and make
clean work of it.  Let there be no hesitation.  It would be a cowardly
deference to a defeated and treacherous President, if any account were
made of the illegitimate, one-sided, sham governments hurried into
existence for a malign purpose in the absence of Congress.  These
pretended governments, which were never submitted to the people, and from
participation in which four millions of the loyal people were excluded by
Presidential order, should now be treated according to their true
character, as shams and impositions, and supplanted by true and
legitimate governments, in the formation of which loyal men, black and
white, shall participate.

It is not, however, within the scope of this paper to point out the
precise steps to be taken, and the means to be employed.  The people are
less concerned about these than the grand end to be attained.  They
demand such a reconstruction as shall put an end to the present
anarchical state of things in the late rebellious States,--where
frightful murders and wholesale massacres are perpetrated in the very
presence of Federal soldiers.  This horrible business they require shall
cease.  They want a reconstruction such as will protect loyal men, black
and white, in their persons and property; such a one as will cause
Northern industry, Northern capital, and Northern civilization to flow
into the South, and make a man from New England as much at home in
Carolina as elsewhere in the Republic.  No Chinese wall can now be
tolerated.  The South must be opened to the light of law and liberty, and
this session of Congress is relied upon to accomplish this important work.

The plain, common-sense way of doing this work, as intimated at the
beginning, is simply to establish in the South one law, one government,
one administration of justice, one condition to the exercise of the
elective franchise, for men of all races and colors alike.  This great
measure is sought as earnestly by loyal white men as by loyal blacks, and
is needed alike by both.  Let sound political prescience but take the
place of an unreasoning prejudice, and this will be done.

Men denounce the negro for his prominence in this discussion; but it is
no fault of his that in peace as in war, that in conquering Rebel armies
as in reconstructing the rebellious States, the right of the negro is the
true solution of our national troubles.  The stern logic of events, which
goes directly to the point, disdaining all concern for the color or
features of men, has determined the interests of the country as identical
with and inseparable from those of the negro.

The policy that emancipated and armed the negro--now seen to have been
wise and proper by the dullest--was not certainly more sternly demanded
than is now the policy of enfranchisement.  If with the negro was success
in war, and without him failure, so in peace it will be found that the
nation must fall or flourish with the negro.

Fortunately, the Constitution of the United States knows no distinction
between citizens on account of color.  Neither does it know any
difference between a citizen of a State and a citizen of the United
States.  Citizenship evidently includes all the rights of citizens,
whether State or national.  If the Constitution knows none, it is clearly
no part of the duty of a Republican Congress now to institute one.  The
mistake of the last session was the attempt to do this very thing, by a
renunciation of its power to secure political rights to any class of
citizens, with the obvious purpose to allow the rebellious States to
disfranchise, if they should see fit, their colored citizens.  This
unfortunate blunder must now be retrieved, and the emasculated
citizenship given to the negro supplanted by that contemplated in the
Constitution of the United States, which declares that the citizens of
each State shall enjoy all the rights and immunities of citizens of the
several States,--so that a legal voter in any State shall be a legal
voter in all the States.





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