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Fred Douglass As An Orator

Fred Douglass As An Orator image
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('oneclnn' nriiiiiiiscencps in tlie Tribune It was my good fortune to listen to the earliest rhetnrical efForts of a man who has sinco won wide i'ame as a public speaker; and I question whethcr any of his later speeches have surpassed in natural vigor and a certain indiscribable force those which Frederick ])ouglass made while he wasstill a day laborer upon the piers, or was engaged in the stil! humbler occupation of white washing in New Bedford, Mass. He became the most notable of all the fugitive slaves who sought that well-known asylum of the oppressed. We had hundreds of these self'-euiancipated people in the town, and a thrifty and wellbehaved class they wpre, but none of tliem won the celebrity of Mr. Donglass. If lie could read aüd write at all, when he came to us, it was very little of either; but he worked hard to make up his lack of early culture, and he soon won the confidencc and respect not only of his neighhors, but of the anti-slavery men and women throughout the state. It was with some difficulty that he was persuaded to address a meeting called to coosider thejcase of the fugitive, George Latimer, wh'ich was then excitiDg the whole eotnmonwealth ; but he had not spoken 20 words before I saw that he was an uncoinmoii man. As he went on, warming with his topic, he not only exhibited no hesitation, but poured forth choice and unique words with a skill and copiousness which eft hardly anything to be desired; and when lic dosoribed the poor runaway clingng to the base of Bunker Hill mooument, hrieking in vain for succor to the God of jiberty upon the free soil of Massachusetts, te evoked f'roui the audience a response which wasa perfect storm of applause, Hig was puro natural oratory, requiring no illowances, and as free from turgidity and ad taste u f be had been trained in the evere school of Webster, or had studied to ood purpose the classical orations of Edvard Kverett. I cou!d alraost f'ancy that I icard foine wellbooted Grecian arguing of he lenguer ofTroy. Mr. Douglass had a ative qüiokoeu whioh even then he freuuntly exlitüitod, and which, if he had een called to the duties ot legislation, mu9t ave won for Lim a high reputation as a ebstef. His preseDM ofmind was perect. Anti-slavery ppeeches were then freuenty interrupted, but the sharpest of such iutruders never meddled with Mr. Douglass williout being sorry for such temerify. I reeall an instaoce ofhisquickness. He bsd li 'm eaking with more nWuiMi thaB urbanity of northern dough-faces and dirteaterí, and had quoted agaiost them the t'xt : "And the Lord God said unto (he BBrpeOt, because thou hast done this, tliou art cursed above all cattle, and above evcry beast of the field ; upon thy belly shalt ilmu go, and dust lialt thou eat all the days of thy life." Pretty soon Mr. Douglass nid Bométhing which provoked the inevitable liiss. Jrawinghiniselfup to his tull height, and pointing to the place from which the i-ibilant sound had proceeded, be ezclaimed, "I told yousol Upoa thy belly shalt thou jio, dost shalt thou eat, and his-i all tho dys ot' t hy lite." The interpolated words gave tho text an additional point, and the gentleman vuo had hissed liissril tío inore that night.