Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass eBook

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ever to have given a negative answer; nor did I, in pursuing this course, consider myself as uttering what was absolutely false; for I always measured the kindness of my master by the standard of kindness set up among slaveholders around us.  Moreover, slaves are like other people, and imbibe prejudices quite common to others.  They think their own better than that of others.  Many, under the influence of this prejudice, think their own masters are better than the masters of other slaves; and this, too, in some cases, when the very reverse is true.  Indeed, it is not uncommon for slaves even to fall out and quarrel among themselves about the relative goodness of their masters, each contending for the superior goodness of his own over that of the others.  At the very same time, they mutually execrate their masters when viewed separately.  It was so on our plantation.  When Colonel Lloyd’s slaves met the slaves of Jacob Jepson, they seldom parted without a quarrel about their masters; Colonel Lloyd’s slaves contending that he was the richest, and Mr. Jepson’s slaves that he was the smartest, and most of a man.  Colonel Lloyd’s slaves would boast his ability to buy and sell Jacob Jepson.  Mr. Jepson’s slaves would boast his ability to whip Colonel Lloyd.  These quarrels would almost always end in a fight between the parties, and those that whipped were supposed to have gained the point at issue.  They seemed to think that the greatness of their masters was transferable to themselves.  It was considered as being bad enough to be a slave; but to be a poor man’s slave was deemed a disgrace indeed!

CHAPTER IV

Mr. Hopkins remained but a short time in the office of overseer.  Why his career was so short, I do not know, but suppose he lacked the necessary severity to suit Colonel Lloyd.  Mr. Hopkins was succeeded by Mr. Austin Gore, a man possessing, in an eminent degree, all those traits of character indispensable to what is called a first-rate overseer.  Mr. Gore had served Colonel Lloyd, in the capacity of overseer, upon one of the out-farms, and had shown himself worthy of the high station of overseer upon the home or Great House Farm.

Mr. Gore was proud, ambitious, and persevering.  He was artful, cruel, and obdurate.  He was just the man for such a place, and it was just the place for such a man.  It afforded scope for the full exercise of all his powers, and he seemed to be perfectly at home in it.  He was one of those who could torture the slightest look, word, or gesture, on the part of the slave, into impudence, and would treat it accordingly.  There must be no answering back to him; no explanation was allowed a slave, showing himself to have been wrongfully accused.  Mr. Gore acted fully up to the maxim laid down by slaveholders,—­“It is better that a dozen slaves should suffer under the lash, than that the overseer should be convicted, in the presence of the slaves, of having been at fault.” 

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