Many colored men, for no other crime than that of giving aid to
a fugitive slave, have, like Charles T. Torrey, perished in prison.
The abolition of slavery in my native State and throughout the country,
and the lapse of time, render the caution hitherto observed
no longer necessary. But even since the abolition of slavery,
I have sometimes thought it well enough to baffle curiosity
by saying that while slavery existed there were good reasons
for not telling the manner of my escape, and since slavery
had ceased to exist, there was no reason for telling it.
I shall now, however, cease to avail myself of this formula, and,
as far as I can, endeavor to satisfy this very natural curiosity.
I should, perhaps, have yielded to that feeling sooner, had there been
anything very heroic or thrilling in the incidents connected with
my escape, for I am sorry to say I have nothing of that sort to
tell; and yet the courage that could risk betrayal and the bravery
which was ready to encounter death, if need be, in pursuit of
freedom, were essential features in the undertaking. My success
was due to address rather than courage, to good luck rather than
bravery. My means of escape were provided for me by the very men
who were making laws to hold and bind me more securely in slavery.
It was the custom in the State of Maryland to require the free
colored people to have what were called free papers.
These instruments they were required to renew very often,
and by charging a fee for this writing, considerable sums from
time to time were collected by the State. In these papers the name,
age, color, height, and form of the freeman were described,
together with any scars or other marks upon his person which