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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library-Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass


destitute of every element of character commanding
respect. My master was one of this rare sort. I do
not know of one single noble act ever performed by
him. The leading trait in his character was mean-
ness; and if there were any other element in his
nature, it was made subject to this. He was mean;
and, like most other mean men, he lacked the ability
to conceal his meanness. Captain Auld was not born
a slaveholder. He had been a poor man, master only
of a Bay craft. He came into possession of all his
slaves by marriage; and of all men, adopted slave-
holders are the worst. He was cruel, but cowardly.
He commanded without firmness. In the enforce-
ment of his rules, he was at times rigid, and at times
lax. At times, he spoke to his slaves with the firmness
of Napoleon and the fury of a demon; at other times,
he might well be mistaken for an inquirer who had
lost his way. He did nothing of himself. He might
have passed for a lion, but for his ears. In all things
noble which he attempted, his own meanness shone
most conspicuous. His airs, words, and actions,
were the airs, words, and actions of born slave-
holders, and, being assumed, were awkward enough.
He was not even a good imitator. He possessed all
the disposition to deceive, but wanted the power.
Having no resources within himself, he was com-
pelled to be the copyist of many, and being such, he
was forever the victim of inconsistency; and of con-
sequence he was an object of contempt, and was held
as such even by his slaves. The luxury of having
slaves of his own to wait upon him was something
new and unprepared for. He was a slaveholder with-
out the ability to hold slaves. He found himself in-
capable of managing his slaves either by force, fear,
or fraud. We seldom called him "master;" we gen-
erally called him "Captain Auld," and were hardly
disposed to title him at all. I doubt not that our
conduct had much to do with making him appear
awkward, and of consequence fretful. Our want of
reverence for him must have perplexed him greatly.
He wished to have us call him master, but lacked
the firmness necessary to command us to do so. His
wife used to insist upon our calling him so, but to
no purpose. In August, 1832, my master attended a
Methodist camp-meeting held in the Bay-side, Tal-
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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library-Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass



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