Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

19. What were the plans for escape and their outcome? How do you think he was discovered?

Frederick Douglass

Narratives of a Slave

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The escape party consists of Douglass, Henry and John Harris, Henry Bailey, and Charles Roberts. Sandy Jenkins initially intends to accompany them, but eventually decides to remain. They plan to canoe up the Chesapeake Bay on the Saturday before Easter. Douglass writes travel passes, signed by their master, for each of them.

On the morning of their planned escape, Douglass works in the fields as usual. He soon feels overcome by a sense that their plan has been betrayed. Douglass tells Sandy Jenkins of his fear, and Sandy feels the same way. During breakfast, William Hamilton and several other men arrive at the house. They seize and tie Douglass and the rest of the escape party. The men transport their prisoners to Thomas Auld’s house. On the way, Douglass and the others speak together, agreeing to destroy their written passes and admit nothing.

At Thomas Auld’s, Douglass and the others learn that someone has betrayed them. Douglass writes that they immediately knew who the betrayer was, but he does not reveal who they suspected. The men are placed in jail. Slave traders arrive to taunt them and size them up as though to sell them. At the end of the Easter holidays, all the slaves but Douglass are taken home. Douglass remains in jail because he is identified as the leader and instigator. He begins to despair. At first, Thomas Auld announces his intent to send Douglass to Alabama. Then Auld suddenly changes his mind and sends Douglass back to Baltimore with Hugh Auld.