Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House

Front Cover
G.W. Carleton & Company, 1868 - History - 371 pages
I HAVE often been asked to write my life, as those who know me know that it has been an eventful one. At last I have acceded to the importunities of my friends, and have hastily sketched some of the striking incidents that go to make up my history. My life, so full of romance, may sound like a dream to the matter-of-fact reader, nevertheless everything I have written is strictly true; much has been omitted, but nothing has been exaggerated. In writing as I have done, I am well aware that I have invited criticism; but before the critic judges harshly, let my explanation be carefully read and weighed. If I have portrayed the dark side of slavery, I also have painted the bright side. The good that I have said of human servitude should be thrown into the scales with the evil that I have said of it. I have kind, true-hearted friends in the South as well as in the North, and I would not wound those Southern friends by sweeping condemnation, simply because I was once a slave. They were not so much responsible for the curse under which I was born, as the God of nature and the fathers who framed the Constitution for the United States. The law descended to them, and it was but natural that they should recognize it, since it manifestly was their interest to do so. And yet a wrong was inflicted upon me; a cruel custom deprived me of my liberty, and since I was robbed of my dearest right, I would not have been human had I not rebelled against the robbery. God rules the Universe. I was a feeble instrument in His hands, and through me and the enslaved millions of my race, one of the problems was solved that belongs to the great problem of human destiny; and the solution was developed so gradually that there was no great convulsion of the harmonies of natural laws. A solemn truth was thrown to the surface, and what is better still, it was recognized as a truth by those who give force to moral laws. An act may be wrong, but unless the ruling power recognizes the wrong, it is useless to hope for a correction of it. Principles may be right, but they are not established within an hour. The masses are slow to reason, and each principle, to acquire moral force, must come to us from the fire of the crucible; the fire may inflict unjust punishment, but then it purifies and renders stronger the principle, not in itself, but in the eyes of those who arrogate judgment to themselves. When the war of the Revolution established the independence of the American colonies, an evil was perpetuated, slavery was more firmly established; and since the evil had been planted, it must pass through certain stages before it could be eradicated. In fact, we give but little thought to the plant of evil until it grows to such monstrous proportions that it overshadows important interests; then the efforts to destroy it become earnest. As one of the victims of slavery I drank of the bitter water; but then, since destiny willed it so, and since I aided in bringing a solemn truth to the surface as a truth, perhaps I have no right to complain. Here, as in all things pertaining to life, I can afford to be charitable.
 

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User Review  - Jcambridge - LibraryThing

Having recently attended a performance of The Widow Lincoln at Ford's Theater in Washington, DC, I wanted to learn more about the relationship between Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckley. I opted for this ... Read full review

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User Review  - bfgar - LibraryThing

The lasts few years have held some horrible surprises for me. One of the worst was the day I discovered, to my terrible surprise, that, no matter how much I want to think of myself as an enlightened ... Read full review

Contents

I
xi
II
17
III
31
V
43
VI
63
VII
76
VIII
91
IX
111
X
127
XI
139
XII
152
XIII
174
XIV
201
XV
228
XVI
238
XVII
267

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Page 61 - In testimony whereof, I hereto set my hand and affix the seal of said Court, at office in the city of St. Louis, this 25th day of April, eighteen hundred and fifty-four. "WM. J. HAMMOND, Clerk.
Page 223 - Mrs. Lincoln's former dressmaker, were you not?" "Yes, I worked for Mrs. Lincoln." "Are you very busy now?" "Very, indeed." "Can you do anything for me?" "That depends upon what is to be done, and when it is to be done.
Page 139 - His face was more cheerful than I had seen it for a long while, and he seemed to be in a generous, forgiving mood. CHAPTER IX. BEHIND THE SCENES. OME of the freedmen and freedwomen had exaggerated ideas of liberty. To them it was a beautiful vision, a land of sunshine, rest, and glorious promise. They flocked to Washington, and since their extravagant hopes were not realized, it was but natural that many of them should bitterly feel their disappointment. The colored people are wedded to associations,...
Page 62 - State of Missouri, County of St. Louis ]> I {as, is.) " I, the nndersigned Recorder of said county, certify that the foregoing instrument of writing was filed for record in my office on the 14th day of November, 1855 ; it is truly recorded in Book No. 169, page 288. " Witness my hand and official seal, date last aforesaid. [Ls] " C. KEEMLE, Recorder
Page 99 - BAKER. THERE was no patriot like Baker, So noble and so true; He fell as a soldier on the field, His face to the sky of blue. His voice is silent in the hall Which oft, his presence graced; No more he'll hear the loud acclaim Which rang from place to place. No squeamish notions filled his breast, The Union was his theme ; No surrender and no compromise," His day-thought and night's dream.
Page 188 - I come from Mrs. Lincoln. If you are Mrs. Keckley, come with me immediately to the White House." I hastily put on my shawl and bonnet, and was driven at a rapid rate to the White House. Everything about the building was sad and solemn. I was quickly shown to Mrs. Lincoln's room, and on entering, saw Mrs. L. tossing uneasily about upon a bed. The room was darkened, and the only person in it besides the widow of the President was Mrs. Secretary Welles, who had spent the night with her. Bowing to Mrs....
Page 106 - THIS LITTLE FELLOW had his acquaintances among his father's friends, and I chanced to be one of them. He never failed to seek me out in the crowd, shake hands, and make some pleasant remark; and this, in a boy often years of age, was, to say the least, endearing to a stranger.
Page 137 - He is a brave, honest Presbyterian soldier," were his words ; " what a pity that we should have to fight such a gallant fellow ! If we only had such a man to lead the armies of the North, the country would not be appalled with so many disasters.
Page 330 - This closed up the business, and with it I close the imperfect story of my somewhat romantic life. I have experienced many ops and downs, but still am stont of heart. The labor of a lifetime has brought me nothing in a pecuniary way. I have worked hard, but fortune, fickle dame, has not smiled upon me. If poverty did not weigh me down as it does, I would not now be toiling by day with my needle, and writing by night, in the plain little room on the fourth floor of No. 14 Carroll Place. And yet I...

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