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Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass: Introduction Page 1 of 1
by Frederick Douglass

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Boston
Published at the Anti-Slavery Office,
No. 25 Cornhill
1845

Entered, According to Act of Congress,
In The Year 1845
By Frederick Douglass,
In The Clerk's Office of the District Court
of Massachusetts.

Preface

In the month of August, 1841, I attended an antislavery convention in Nantucket, at which it was my happiness to become acquainted with FREDERICK DOUGLASS, the writer of the following Narrative. He was a stranger to nearly every member of that body; but, having recently made his escape from the southern prison-house of bondage, and feeling his curiosity excited to ascertain the principles and measures of the abolitionists,--of whom he had heard a somewhat vague description while he was a slave,--he was induced to give his attendance, on the occasion alluded to, though at that time a resident in New Bedford.

Fortunate, most fortunate occurrence!--fortunate for the millions of his manacled brethren, yet panting for deliverance from their awful thraldom!--fortunate for the cause of negro emancipation, and of universal liberty!--fortunate for the land of his birth, which he has already done so much to save and bless! --fortunate for a large circle of friends and acquaintances, whose sympathy and affection he has strongly secured by the many sufferings he has endured, by his virtuous traits of character, by his ever-abiding remembrance of those who are in bonds, as being bound with them!--fortunate for the multitudes, in various parts of our republic, whose minds he has enlightened on the subject of slavery, and who have been melted to tears by his pathos, or roused to virtuous indignation by his stirring eloquence against the enslavers of men!--fortunate for himself, as it at once brought him into the field of public usefulness, "gave the world assurance of a MAN," quickened the slumbering energies of his soul, and consecrated him to the great work of breaking the rod of the oppressor, and letting the oppressed go free!

I shall never forget his first speech at the convention--the extraordinary emotion it excited in my own mind--the powerful impression it created upon a crowded auditory, completely taken by surprise--the applause which followed from the beginning to the end of his felicitous remarks. I think I never hated slavery so intensely as at that moment; certainly, my perception of the enormous outrage which is inflicted by it, on the godlike nature of its victims, was rendered far more clear than ever. There stood one, in physical proportion and stature commanding and exact--in intellect richly endowed--in natural eloquence a prodigy--in soul manifestly "created but a little lower than the angels"--yet a slave, ay, a fugitive slave,--trembling for his safety, hardly daring to believe that on the American soil, a single white person could be found who would befriend him at all hazards, for the love of God and humanity! Capable of high attainments as an intellectual and moral being--needing nothing but a comparatively small amount of cultivation to make him an ornament to society and a blessing to his race--by the law of the land, by the voice of the people, by the terms of the slave code, he was only a piece of property, a beast of burden, a chattel personal, nevertheless!

A beloved friend from New Bedford prevailed on Mr. DOUGLASS to address the convention: He came forward to the platform with a hesitancy and embarrassment, necessarily the attendants of a sensitive mind in such a novel position. After apologizing for his ignorance, and reminding the audience that slavery was a poor school for the human intellect and heart, he proceeded to narrate some of the facts in his own history as a slave, and in the course of his speech gave utterance to many noble thoughts and thrilling reflections. As soon as he had taken his seat, filled with hope and admiration, I rose, and declared that PATRICK HENRY, of revolutionary fame, never made a speech more eloquent in the cause of liberty, than the one we had just listened to from the lips of that hunted fugitive. So I believed at that time--such is my belief now. I reminded the audience of the peril which surrounded this selfemancipated young man at the North,--even in Massachusetts, on the soil of the Pilgrim Fathers, among the descendants of revolutionary sires; and I appealed to them, whether they would ever allow him to be carried back into slavery,--law or no law, constitution or no constitution. The response was unanimous and in thunder-tones--"NO!" "Will you succor and protect him as a brother-man--a resident of the old Bay State?" "YES!" shouted the whole mass, with an energy so startling, that the ruthless tyrants south of Mason and Dixon's line might almost have heard the mighty burst of feeling, and recognized it as the pledge of an invincible determination, on the part of those who gave it, never to betray him that wanders, but to hide the outcast, and firmly to abide the consequences.

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