Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
by Frederick Douglass
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Slavery Quotes
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I have found that, to make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one. It is necessary to darken his moral and mental vision, and, as far as possible, to annihilate the power of reason. He must be able to detect no inconsistencies in slavery; he must be made to feel that slavery is right; and he can be brought to that only when he ceases to be a man. (10.45)
Douglass puts a lot of emphasis on the fact that slaves have to be tricked into accepting their enslavement. Since no person in his right mind would ever accept such a condition, there is only one thing for the masters to do: destroy the slaves' minds.
This battle with Mr. Covey was the turning-point in my career as a slave. It rekindled the few expiring embers of freedom, and revived within me a sense of my own manhood. It recalled the departed self-confidence, and inspired me again with a determination to be free. The gratification afforded by the triumph was a full compensation for whatever else might follow, even death itself. He only can understand the deep satisfaction which I experienced, who has himself repelled by force the bloody arm of slavery. I felt as I never felt before. It was a glorious resurrection, from the tomb of slavery, to the heaven of freedom. My long-crushed spirit rose, cowardice departed, bold defiance took its place; and I now resolved that, however long I might remain a slave in form, the day had passed forever when I could be a slave in fact. I did not hesitate to let it be known of me, that the white man who expected to succeed in whipping, must also succeed in killing me. (10.12)
There are several turning points on Douglass's road from slavery to freedom, but this is probably the most important. When he stands up to Covey, he feels as if he's been raised from the dead. This is the moment when he resolves that even though he's still a slave in the legal sense, he'll never again be a slave in his mind.
I was now getting, as I have said, one dollar and fifty cents per day. I contracted for it; I earned it; it was paid to me; it was rightfully my own; yet, upon each returning Saturday night, I was compelled to deliver every cent of that money to Master Hugh. And why? Not because he earned it,--not because he had any hand in earning it,--not because I owed it to him,--nor because he possessed the slightest shadow of a right to it; but solely because he had the power to compel me to give it up. The right of the grim-visaged pirate upon the high seas is exactly the same. (10.46)
Douglass wants to show us that slavery is no different than theft. There usually isn't money involved, so it isn't obvious that the master is taking something by force. But in this case, when one master pays Douglass wages and another takes them away, we can see much more visibly the fact that property is involved. When the money that Douglass has earned by his own hard work is taken from him, he can compare it to a pirate ship stealing by force on the high seas.