Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Chapter 3 Summary
Douglass tries to lighten up the narrative by describing the lengths that Colonel Lloyd had to go to keep hungry slaves from stealing his fruit. All of his tactics failed until he hit upon the strategy of covering the fence around the orchard with tar. Any slave found with tar on his body was whipped for stealing.
As always, though, Douglass is also making a more serious point here. When he describes "the impossibility of touching tar without being defiled," he is also alluding to the abolitionist argument that one could not be involved with slavery without being defiled by it.
Colonel Lloyd was especially proud of his stables, horses, and coaches for riding, and Douglass describes the splendid style in which he kept them. He made sure his slaves took care of the horses in every possible detail, and Douglass describes how viciously he would whip them when he was unsatisfied with their work.
Colonel Lloyd was incredibly rich, and he owned so many slaves that many of them had never seen him. One day the Colonel met one of his slaves on the road and asked him whom he belonged to and how he was treated. The slave told him how hard he was worked and how little he got to eat.
Being a reasonable sort of person, the Colonel thanked the slave for being so honest and rewarded him. Just kidding – this isn't that kind of story at all. Colonel Lloyd was so angry that he sold the unlucky slave to a Georgia trader, and he never saw his family or friends again.
This sort of thing was quite common, Douglass says. And if you've ever heard of slaves being happy with their situation, he tells us, it's because of the danger of telling the truth. Afraid of getting into trouble more than anything else, slaves learned to pretend to be happy and well-treated.
On the other hand, some slaves really were proud of being owned by rich and powerful people. Sometimes they would even argue amongst themselves about whose master was the richest. Douglass doesn't think much of these slaves, but he points out that this kind of prejudice is just how people are: everybody wants to feel superior to someone else.