Freedom By Trickery Essay, Research Paper
In the Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass written by Fredrick Douglass, he and the rest of the slaves in 1840 had to be tricky to survive. Douglass used trickery to his advantage and made it into a positive action, freedom.
Douglass went through many hardships and disturbing ordeals. He witnessed his younger brother get his head bashed in, that in it self is horrific enough. He overheard Mr. Auld, one of his masters, telling Mrs. Auld that it was unsafe to teach a slave to read (Douglass 42). Douglass took this as motivation and strove to learn to read and write.
Douglass?s next master was Edward Covey, a well-known slave breaker, for a year. Covey was very tricky. He would pretend to ride into town, then walk back and sneak up on the slaves as to scare and deceive them. One day, after a severe beating by Covey, (Douglass 86) Douglass ran for refuge for one night from a slave named Sandy Jenkins. Jenkins believed that a certain root had magical powers and told Douglass that if he wore it on his right side no white man could beat him (Douglass 90). He returned the next day wearing the root, and to his surprise, Covey did not beat him for a time. A few days later, Covey tried to tie him up for a beating. Douglass fought back and after a two-hour struggle, Covey gave up. Since Covey did not want to ruin his reputation as a slave breaker, he never sent Douglass to the authorities to be punished for hitting a white man. Douglass used Covey?s own reputation against him and tricked him into never crossing and punishing him again.
When Douglass?s year was over with Covey, he went to live with Mr. Freeland. Freeland became his new master and had two slaves. A little while after Douglass came to live there, he sparked interest in the others and began to teach them to read and write in Sabbath school. ?It was understood among all who came, that there must be as little display about it as possible.? (Douglass 103) Douglass managed to teach many, whom might suffer up to nine lashes for leaving their plantation (Douglass 104). The religious masters thought the slaves were spending the Sabbath in wrestling, boxing or drinking whisky, when all along they were learning to read and write. ?I taught them because it was a delight in my soul to be doing something that looked like bettering the conditions of my race.? (Douglass 104) Against all odds, he was successful in spreading knowledge to others.
Douglass continued to live with Freeland. ?I will give Mr. Freeland the credit of being the best master I ever had, till I became my own master.? (Douglass 105) However, he yearned for freedom on his own free land but had since trusted and grown close to his other fellow slaves. In 1835, he made a plan for the attempt at liberty, but not alone. Henry and John Harris, Henry Bailey, Charles Roberts and Douglass all attempted to escape. They had planned to get a large canoe that belonged to Mr. Hamilton and the Saturday night before Easter holidays paddle directly up the Chesapeake Bay. Upon the arrival at the head of the bay, they would go until they got beyond the limits of Maryland. They were less liable to be suspected as runaways this way. Finally the day arrived where they would execute the plan. ?The horn was blown as usual, and we went up from the field to the house for breakfast?just as I got to the house? I saw four white men?? (Douglass 112) All was lost. Someone had ratted out Douglass and his friends, they were all sent to the Easton jail. Soon after Freeland came to get them out of jail, all but Douglass. His plot at trickery to escape had failed this time.
When Douglass was finally taken out of jail by his master, he was sent to a gentlemen in Alabama but, from there was sent back to Baltimore to live again with Hugh, to learn to trade. Here is where Douglass learned about caulking and about money?s value and how money really worked. He was making one dollar and fifty cents per day, yet had to give every cent of that money to Master Hugh. (Douglass 125) Douglass realized it was unfair, that he deserved all of the money he made and he began to plot his final escape towards freedom. Little by little he saved up more and more money. Finally, Douglass did escape. He does not say in detail how he did it because at the time, it would have been destructive for him to do so.
Whether it be to keep from whippings, to teach others the simple things like reading and writing or to reach freedom, Fredrick Douglass often used trickery to reach the destination of his plans. Douglass did indeed reach his goal of freedom. As Patrick Henry stated, ??Give me liberty or give me death!? Fredrick Douglass chose liberty. Through all his planning and careful skill, that is exactly what he deserved, to be a free man no longer under bondage.