While a child on Colonel Lloyd’s plantation, Douglass wasn’t subjected to much hard labor, and only had to perform a few chores. He also managed to befriend the master’s young son, Daniel, whose affection for Douglass gave the slave some small benefits. However, Douglass still suffered greatly from hunger and cold. The slave children are fed cornmeal mush from a shared trough, and only the strongest manage to eat their fill; Douglass’s linen shirt does nothing to protect him from the cold. His saving grace is a small bag used for carrying cornmeal, which he steals from the mill. He sleeps on the floor with his head and upper body in the bag; the frost causes his exposed feet to develop large fissures.
Douglass’s friendship with the master’s son affirms that slaves and free whites can interact on an equal footing. That such interactions happen between children shows how slavery is not intrinsic, as white slave owners would suggest, but rather something learned and enforced by an unjust society. In addition, this glimpse of equality between children only exaggerates the outrageous inadequacy of the living conditions Douglass endures.
At age seven or eight, Douglass is sent away from the Lloyd plantation in order to live in Baltimore with Mr. Hugh Auld, the brother of Captain Thomas Auld. Douglass leaves joyfully, and eagerly cleans himself up in order to receive a pair of trousers. Douglass is immensely excited to see the big city, and for several reasons feels no sadness about leaving the plantation. He feels no attachment to the Great House Farm as a home, in the way that many children might feel towards their childhood homes. Moreover, Douglass is confident that everything he finds in Baltimore will be better than what he leaves behind at the Great House Farm; his cousin, Tom, has stoked his enthusiasm by telling him at length of the city’s majesty.
Douglass’s excitement to go to Baltimore shows just how miserable his life was on the Great House Farm. The fact that the place of his upbringing means nothing to him is a heartbreaking indictment against his childhood. On the other hand, Douglass’s eagerness to leave is evidence of the steadfast optimism that will help him through his years in bondage.
On the boat ride over to Baltimore, Douglass stops in Annapolis, the state capital. He is awed by the city’s size, though he adds that it was likely less impressive than some factory villages in New England.
Though Annapolis is unimpressive in comparison with New England, Douglass’s humble upbringing leaves him amazed by any town of even middling size.
Douglass arrives in Baltimore and is taken to his new home in Fells Point, near a shipyard. He meets Mr. and Mrs. Auld and their young son, Thomas, whom Douglass is to care for. Douglass is immediately taken aback by the kindness that radiates from the face of his new mistress, Sophia Auld, and cheerfully enters his new duties with a feeling of indescribable rapture.
Sophia’s pleasant appearance seems to be a good omen for Douglass’s time in Baltimore. This encounter is significant, as it is likely the first time that Douglass was treated kindly by a white person.
To Douglass, his move to Baltimore laid the foundations for his freedom. He believes it quite possible that he would still be languishing in slavery if he had not been moved to the city. Even though Douglass is aware of how ridiculous and arrogant it may sound, he confesses that he genuinely regards his move to Baltimore as a gift from divine providence. He admits this feeling because he prefers to be true to his feelings than to stay silent to avoid ridicule. Douglass goes on to confess that he had always entertained a deep confidence that he would one day free himself from slavery, and he views this constant hope as a gift from God.
Douglass clearly possessed a deep faith in a benevolent God. He writes directly about his belief in the divine origins of his good fortune because he values his ability to speak truthfully, and wants his Narrative to be as honest as possible a representation of his experience as a slave.