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I have been solicited by very many friends, to give my narrative to the public. Whatever my own judgment might be, I should yield to theirs. In compliance, therefore, with this general request, and in the hope that these pages may produce an impression favorable to my countrymen in bondage; also that I may realize something from the sale of my work towards the support of a numerous family, I have committed this publication to press. It might have been made two or three, or even six times larger, without diminishing from the interest of any one of its pagesindeed with an increased interestbut the want of the pecuniary means, and other considerations, have induced me to present it as here seen. Should another edition be called for, and should my friends advise, the work will then be extended to a greater length.
I have not, in this publication attempted or desired to argue anything. It is only a simple narration of such facts connected with my own case, as I thought would be most interesting and instructive to readers generally. The facts will, I think, cast some light upon the policy of a slaveholding community, and the effect on the minds of the more enlightened, the more humane, and the Christian portion of the southern people, of holding and trading in the bodies and souls of men.
I have said in the following pages, that my condition as a slave was comparatively a happy, indeed a highly favored one; and to this circumstance is it owing that I have been able to come up from bondage and relate the story to the public; and that my wife, my mother, and my seven children, are here with me this day. If for any thing this side the invisible world, I bless heaven, it is that I was not born a plantation slave, nor even a house servant under what is termed a hard and cruel master.
It has not been any part of my object to describe slavery generally, and in the narration of my own case I have dwelt as little as possible upon the dark sidehave spoken mostly of the bright. In whatever I have been obliged to say unfavorable to others, I have endeavored not to overstate, but have chosen rather to come short of giving the full pictureomitting much which it did not seem important to my object to relate. And yet I would not venture to say that this publication does not contain a single period which might be twisted to convey an idea more than should be expressed.
Those of whom I have had occasion to speak, are regarded, where they are known, as among the most kind men to their slaves. Mr. Smith, some of whose conduct will doubtless seem strange to the reader, is sometimes taunted with being an abolitionist, in consequence of the interest he manifests towards the colored people. If to any his character appear like a riddle, they should remember that, men, like other things, have “two sides,” and often a top and a bottom in addition.
While in the South I succeeded by stealth in learning to read and write a little, and since I have been in the North I have learned more. But I need not say that I have been obliged to employ the services of a friend, in bringing this Narrative into shape for the public eye. And it should perhaps be said on the part of the writer, that it has been hastily compiled, with little regard to style, only to express the ideas accurately and in a manner to be understood.
Boston, July 4, 1842.