LIFE AND TIMES OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 273
cult to apply; one which if once begun, there was no telling where it would
end; that if he could get hold of the confederate soldiers who had been guilty
of treating colored soldiers as felons, he could easily retaliate, but the
thought of hanging men for a crime perpetrated by others, was revolting to
his feelings. He thought that the rebels themselves would stop such barbarous
warfare, and less evil would be done if retaliation were not resorted to;
that he had already received information that colored soldiers were being
treated as prisoners of war. In all this I saw the tender heart of the man rather
than the stern warrior and commander-in-chief of the American army and
navy, and while I could not agree with him. I could not but respect his
On the third point he appeared to have less difficulty, though he did not
absolutely commit himself. He simply said that he would sign any commision
to colored soldiers whom his secretary of war should commend to him.
Though I was not entirely satisfied with his views, I was so well satisfied
with the man and with the educating tendency of the conflict, I determined
to go on with the recruiting.
From the president, I went to see Secretary Stanton. The manner of no
two men could he more widely different. I was introduced by Assistant
Secretary Dana, whom I had known many years before at "Brook Farm,"
Mass., and afterwards as managing editor of the New York Tribune. Every
line in Mr. Stanton's face told me that my communication with him must be
brief, clear, and to the point; that he might turn his back upon me as a bore
at any moment; that politeness was not one of his weaknesses. His first
glance was that of a man who says. "Well, what do you want? I have no time
to waste upon you or anybody else, and I shall waste none. Speak quick, or
I shall leave you." The man and the place seemed alike busy. Seeing I had
no time to lose. I hastily went over the ground I had gone over to President
Lincoln. As I ended, I was surprised by seeing a changed man before me.
Contempt and suspicion, and brusqueness, had all disappeared from his face
and manner, and for a few minutes he made the best defense that I had then
heard from anybody of the treatment of colored soldiers by the government.
I was not satisfied, yet I left in the full belief that the true course to the black
man's freedom and citizenship was over the battle-field, and that my business
was to get every black man I could into the Union armies. Both the
President and Secretary of War assured me that justice would ultimately be
done my race, and I gave full faith and credit to their promise. On assuring
Mr. Stanton of my willingness to take a commission, he said he would make
me assistant adjutant to General Thomas, who was then recruiting and orga-
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