Selections: Learning To Read
Frederick Douglas was formerly a slavo in Maryland, and since his escape, he has lec'.ured extensively in the Eest, in connection wjth tho Ganison Abolitionists. A narrative of his life has bt-en pnblished, in wliich tho cfiects of a partial knowledge of letters on an ardenl and Biitceptible mimi ia set forth with grcut tmtl) and beauty. We make the following extracte: "Very Boon after I went tÃ¼ live with Mr. and Mts. Au!d, ehe very kindly commencud to teach me the A, B, C. After 1 hud learned ihis, ehe assisled me in leurning to spel] word3 ofthree or four letters. Just at this poiiu of my progress, Mr. Auld fouud ou. what was goi.'ig on, end nt onco forbade Mrs. Au!d to nstriict me fnrtber, telling her, among ollier things, thot it was unluwful, 83 well os uneafe, lo teach a elave to ej'!. To se hia own word?, furthcr, he ariid, 'Ifyou give a niggor an inch, Ã¼e wil take au ell. A nigger ehould khÃW notbinp bnt to obey his master - todo .is he is told lo do. Lrnrning wculd spoil ilie best nigger ir the world. Now,' said he, 'if you teach t hu njrger (spenking ef mytelf) how to read there would be no kecping him. It would 'orever unfit him to be a slave. He would a once become unmanageble, atid of no vajue lo his master. As to himself, it cou'd do hin no good, bet a great deal of harm. It wouli muke him discontented nnd nnhappy.' Theee wordsi rank derp inU my heart, stirred up sentimentfe withio that lay slutnbering, anc called into existence an entirely new train of tliouglit. It was a new ana special revelation explajning dark and niysleriona thingp, witl which my yonlhful understanding had struggled, hut strnggled in vain. I now undcrstood what had been to me a most perplexing difficulty - to wit, the white man's power to enslave the black man. It wes a grand ochievemenf, nnd Ã¯ prized it highly. From that moment, I understood the pathway from slavery lo freedom. It was just what I wnnted, and I got it at a time wbeo I the least oxpecfed it. Whilst I was saddenrd by tlie thougbt of losing the aid of my kind mistress I was gÃuddened by the invaluable instruction which, by the merest accident, I had gainet fironVmy tnastef. From this timo Ã was most narrowly watch od. If I was n a separate room nny considerab!e length of tÃflttj I was sure to be suspectrd of' having a buok, and was at once cali ed to give an account of myself. All lhi liowcver, was too lale. The first step ha( been taken. Mistress, in teaching me th a]imbfct, had given me thc?Wt, and no pre cnution could prevent tne frora taking th ell. The pÃan which Ã¯ adopted, and the one b which 1 was mosf sucecssful, was that of ma kirig rienda of all the Ã¼tlle white boy, tv hom I met in tho street. As many of tlieee ns conld, I converted infoteaciiers. Wirh ihei : kiudly aid, obtained at difTerent limes and i ! dilTerenl placfs, I finully .'ucceeded in learning to read. Vhen I was sent of ei rands, I nl ways look irty book wiih me, nnd by going one part of my Ã¨rrand quickly. I fonnd time t get a lessen before my return. I u.sed r.lts ;o carry bread with me, rnougr. of Vhich wa always in the hoiiFO, and lo which f wna nlwsiys welcomc; for I was muc! beller off i ih'Js regard thnn iiinny of the poor white cliil dren in our neighborhood. Th!s bread Ã use lo beslotv upon the hunry linie urchins win in reiiirn, would give me ihnt r.ioie vn!u;ibi bread of linowlcdee. l am stronly lempted lo give the iftmes of two or Uiree of tl.osc little bovs, ns n testimonial Ã³f the graUÃÃºde fiiid affectioÃ± I brar hem- but prudence forb'iils; - nol lliat it would iijnrc me, biH i mighc cniharmes ihem; for it i? almost an tiupurdonable oflence to teach tiavee to reod in tuis Chribtian cotmlry. It is enoitgh to say ufthedear little feUoJan thet thny live on streel, noar Durgin and Dailoy's sinpyavd. I iedto ty!k this n.atter of bluvery over w;h llicni. I" would foniefimes say lo ihcm, I wish I oould be ;-s f ree as ihey would Up wi.oii iliey got lo be men. 'You wÃ¼l l? free as soon ns you ure twtnty one, hu 1 urn a fluvfjor lift! Have nol I as nood n right lo ba f reu nsyoahaw?" Thee words used to tronbie ihcm; they wonM expres (or me ihe liveliest eympathy, and console me wiili the hopÃ¶tfiat someihing would occur by whicli I might be frec. was no' nhnut fxehe years old, and the tlionght of being n rlavc jor Uc began tobcnr l.eavÃ¼y iipui) inv liciirt. Just ubout tbi-lino, I gut huid ui ti book entitle 'The Col'iinbiui) Orator.' Every -ppoilunii y I gol, I t used to rcad this book. Amnr.g iniich of f olher intoresliug matier, I fouud in it a logue between n musteraud bis slave. T!io ' slrtve Ãs representad as liavn g run woy froin ' liie master three times. The ilinlngup , sented convtTatiÃ¶n wliicli look place betweon i thein, whon ihe s-hve was rotukpn tlie tliird ( time. In this dialogue t!w whole argument in behalf of slnvery was bronpht firvvard by i ihe master, hll of which was disponed of by tjiesjnve. Theslove was made U sny soaie i very ernart ns uellas impresÃive tliinos in ' p!v io his mnster - tliings wfjicfi liad the de sirjd ll.ough vinexpected cff;ct; for the I ve sa t ion re3ulied in the volunUry ! don of the slave on the part of the . lo the en me bocdt I met with one of : den's mighty ppceches on and in behalf of , Calholic einancipation. 'f beat were choc:e I documente lo me. I rond thein ever iind over ' again with nnabntcd interest. Tiiey gave , tohgÃ¼e to lliÃ¶nehte of my r""'''. soul, which had frcquonlly flat=hed through ! my own mintl, and died nwny for want of , terance. Tlie moral whieh 1 jraincd from tiie i ' dislogue was llift power oÃ" truth over the con cience of even a slaveiiolder. What I got t rom Sheridan was 0 bold enunciation of J lavery, and a povverful virdication of liutnan iglils. The reading of tiiot-e dociiments en â bied me to utter my Ihqughte, and to r.icet ' he r,n]inrntR brought forward '.o siistaih ( lavery; but while they reiicVÃ©d :ne of one ' fficulty, tiiey brought on another even more painful than the one of which I was relieved. The more ] read, the morel was led to detest and abhor enslavers. I cou!d regard Ibero n no olher light iban a bond of sncceÃ¡sful robberr, who bad left iheir liomes. and gone to Ãfrica, nnd stolen ua from our homes, end in a F.trnnge a;;d reduced us to s'avery. I loavhcd them as being the mebiiest as well as the most wtcked of me1!. As I read and conteraplated tlie subject, behokl! that very discontentment wliicl) Master Hugh had predicted would follow my learning to read had already come, to torment and sting my soul to anutterableanguish. As I writhed undor it, Ã would at times feel that learning to read lind been a curse niiher than a blesi-ing. Ii h id given me a view of my uretched comlitiop wiUiout the remed}'. Ã¯l openen1 my oye? to the horrible pit, but to no ladJer upon which to get out. tb moments of ogony, f envied irÃy fellow slaves for their sÃupidity. I haveoften wiÃhed myself a beast. Ipreferred the condition of the meanest reptile to my own. Anv thinjr, no matter what, to get rid of thinking! tras ttris everlasting thinking of my condition Ihal tonnmled me. There was no getling rid of it. it wns pressed uprn me by every object wilhin sight or heiring, animate ur inunimate. The fiilver tmmp of freedom hnÃ± roued my onl to eternal W8kefulness. Freodom now appeared, to disappear no more forever. It was heard in eve ry sound, and seen in every thing. It was ever present to torment me with a sense of my wretchrd condition. I saw nothing without f-eeing it, I heard uolhing without hearing it, and feit nothing without feeling it. Itlooked Oom every' star, it smiled in every cahn, breathed in every wind, and moved in every torm."
Signal of Liberty