“Slaves are better fed, clothed and treated, and more kindly cared for in old age, than the majority of Northern laborers.”
— Favorite Pro-Slavery Argument
If so, it is astonishing how little they appreciate the blessing of their condition.
To get out of it, one secretes himself in the hold of a vessel: another boxes himself in a case: a third threads woods and swamps in the dark, guided only by the North star: a fourth swims rivers and risks bloodhounds and rifle bullets sooner than be taken: a fifth disguises himself and sets out for a land of strangers without a penny in his pocket: a sixth plunges in the river at Wilkes-Barre, preferring drowning to capture.
One day it is a boy that has run away, the next day a girl, then a man and his wife: then a mother and her children: then a superannuated old man. Last week we heard of six from Virginia, yesterday of eleven from Arkansas, today of a dozen form Kentucky. One is half naked, another has a scarred cheek, a third a branded arm, a fourth a mangled back, a fifth a bullet in his leg.
Yet all these were “better fed, clothed and treated, and more kindly cared for in old age,” we are expected to believe, “than the majority of Northern laborers!”
And even when they have been away long enough to learn the difference between their past and present condition, they are perpetually hoarding up hard-earned sixpencees and shillings, and begging form door to door, in order to buy some husband, or wife, or child, out of the blessed state of slavery, and into the “privations and hardships” of freedom!
Southern friends! You judge of slavery from your own sleek and well-conditioned households, where it exists in its mildest and kindest form. We judge of it form the samples sent us from your slave pens, and your rice and cotton fields. Both perhaps exaggerate. But when our “Northern laborers” come to you, begging you for shelter, for food, for clothes, for money to buy their own wives and children when they show you the scars made by our bloodhounds, cat-o’-nine-tails and branding irons when they pray you for the love of God, not to send them home, but to help them forward, anywhere, out of the country, as your slaves do to us then, and not till then, we will believe that humanity is not better guaranteed by Constitutional Liberty than by Chattel Slavery.
Albany Evening Journal
Collection: African American Newspapers
Publication: Frederick Douglass’ Paper
Date: December 7, 1855
Title: Slaves are better fed…
Location: Rochester, New York
- The Political Power of Slave Masters (1848)
- Lucy Brand: The First Woman Voter of New York
- Northern Opposition to the Underground Railroad
- The Relation of Education and the Gospel
- New Treatment of Criminals (1868)