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Title: Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation - 1838-1839
Author: Kemble, Fanny, 1809-1893
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation - 1838-1839" ***

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St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.



_In the press, by the same Author, complete in One Volume_,

AN ENGLISH TRAGEDY:

A PLAY,

IN FIVE ACTS.


MARY STUART.

TRANSLATED FROM SCHILLER.

A PLAY,

IN FIVE ACTS.


MLLE. DE BELLISLE.

TRANSLATED FROM DUMAS.

A PLAY,

IN FIVE ACTS.



JOURNAL

OF

A RESIDENCE ON A

GEORGIAN PLANTATION

1838-1839.


By FRANCES ANNE KEMBLE.

       *       *       *       *       *

SLAVERY THE CHIEF CORNER STONE.

'This stone (Slavery), which was rejected by the first builders, is become
the chief stone of the corner in our new edifice.'--_Speech of_ ALEXANDER
H. STEPHENS _Vice-president of the Confederate States; delivered
March 21, 1861._

       *       *       *       *       *


1863



TO

ELIZABETH DWIGHT SEDGWICK


THIS JOURNAL,

ORIGINALLY KEPT FOR HER,

IS

MOST AFFECTIONATELY

DEDICATED.



PREFACE.


The following diary was kept in the winter and spring of 1838-9, on an
estate consisting of rice and cotton plantations, in the islands at the
entrance of the Altamaha, on the coast of Georgia.

The slaves in whom I then had an unfortunate interest were sold some years
ago. The islands themselves are at present in the power of the Northern
troops. The record contained in the following pages is a picture of
conditions of human existence which I hope and believe have passed away.

LONDON:

_January 16, 1863._



JOURNAL.


Philadelphia: December 1838.

My Dear E----. I return you Mr. ----'s letter. I do not think it answers
any of the questions debated in our last conversation at all
satisfactorily: the _right_ one man has to enslave another, he has not the
hardihood to assert; but in the reasons he adduces to defend that act of
injustice, the contradictory statements he makes appear to me to refute
each other. He says, that to the continental European protesting against
the abstract iniquity of slavery, his answer would be, 'the slaves are
infinitely better off than half the continental peasantry.' To the
Englishman, 'they are happy compared with the miserable Irish.' But
supposing that this answered the question of original injustice, which it
does not, it is not a true reply. Though the negroes are fed, clothed, and
housed, and though the Irish peasant is starved, naked, and roofless, the
bare name of freeman--the lordship over his own person, the power to
choose and will--are blessings beyond food, raiment, or shelter;
possessing which, the want of every comfort of life is yet more tolerable
than their fullest enjoyment without them. Ask the thousands of ragged
destitutes who yearly land upon these shores to seek the means of
existence--ask the friendless, penniless foreign emigrant, if he will give
up his present misery, his future uncertainty, his doubtful and difficult
struggle for life, at once, for the secure, and as it is called, fortunate
dependance of the slave: the indignation with which he would spurn the
offer will prove that he possesses one good beyond all others, and that
his birthright as a man is more precious to him yet than the mess of
pottage for which he is told to exchange it because he is starving.

Of course the reverse alternative cannot be offered to the slaves, for
at the very word the riches of those who own them would make themselves
wings and flee away. But I do not admit the comparison between your
slaves and even the lowest class of European free labourers, for the
former are _allowed_ the exercise of no faculties but those which they
enjoy in common with the brutes that perish. The just comparison is
between the slaves and the useful animals to whose level your laws
reduce them; and I will acknowledge that the slaves of a kind owner may
be as well cared for, and as happy, as the dogs and horses of a merciful
master; but the latter condition--i.e. that of happiness--must again
depend upon the complete perfection of their moral and mental
degradation. Mr. ----, in his letter, maintains that they _are_ an
inferior race, and, compared with the whites, '_animals_, incapable of
mental culture and moral improvement:' to this I can only reply, that if
they are incapable of profiting by instruction, I do not see the
necessity for laws inflicting heavy penalties on those who offer it to
them. If they really are brutish, witless, dull, and devoid of capacity
for progress, where lies the _danger_ which is constantly insisted upon
of offering them that of which they are incapable. We have no laws
forbidding us to teach our dogs and horses as much as they can
comprehend; nobody is fined or imprisoned for reasoning upon knowledge,
and liberty, to the beasts of the field, for they are incapable of such
truths. But these themes are forbidden to slaves, not because they
cannot, but because they can and would seize on them with
avidity--receive them gladly, comprehend them quickly; and the masters'
power over them would be annihilated at once and for ever. But I have
more frequently heard, not that they were incapable of receiving
instruction, but something much nearer the truth--that knowledge only
makes them miserable: the moment they are in any degree enlightened,
they become unhappy. In the letter I return to you Mr. ---- says that
the very slightest amount of education, merely teaching them to read,
'impairs their value as slaves, for it instantly destroys their
contentedness, and since you do not contemplate changing their
condition, it is surely doing them an ill service to destroy their
acquiescence in it;' but this is a very different ground of argument
from the other. The discontent they evince upon the mere dawn of an
advance in intelligence proves not only that they can acquire but
combine ideas, a process to which it is very difficult to assign a
limit; and there indeed the whole question lies, and there and nowhere
else the shoe really pinches. A slave is ignorant; he eats, drinks,
sleeps, labours, and is happy. He learns to read; he feels, thinks,
reflects, and becomes miserable. He discovers himself to be one of a
debased and degraded race, deprived of the elementary rights which God
has granted to all men alike; every action is controlled, every word
noted; he may not stir beyond his appointed bounds, to the right hand or
to the left, at his own will, but at the will of another he may be sent
miles and miles of weary journeying--tethered, yoked, collared, and
fettered--away from whatever he may know as home, severed from all those
ties of blood and affection which he alone of all human, of all living
creatures on the face of the earth may neither enjoy in peace nor defend
when they are outraged. If he is well treated, if his master be
tolerably humane or even understand his own interest tolerably, this is
probably _all_ he may have to endure: it is only to the consciousness of
these evils that knowledge and reflection awaken him. But how is it if
his master be severe, harsh, cruel--or even only careless--leaving his
creatures to the delegated dominion of some overseer, or agent, whose
love of power, or other evil dispositions, are checked by no
considerations of personal interest? Imagination shrinks from the
possible result of such a state of things; nor must you, or Mr. ----,
tell me that the horrors thus suggested exist only in imagination. The
Southern newspapers, with their advertisements of negro sales and
personal descriptions of fugitive slaves, supply details of misery that
it would be difficult for imagination to exceed. Scorn, derision,
insult, menace--the handcuff, the lash--the tearing away of children
from parents, of husbands from wives--the weary trudging in droves along
the common highways, the labour of body, the despair of mind, the
sickness of heart--these are the realities which belong to the system,
and form the rule, rather than the exception, in the slave's experience.
And this system exists here in this country of your's, which boasts
itself the asylum of the oppressed, the home of freedom, the one place
in all the world where all men may find enfranchisement from all
thraldoms of mind, soul, or body--the land elect of liberty.

Mr. ---- lays great stress, as a proof of the natural inferiority of the
blacks, on the little comparative progress they have made in those States
where they enjoy their freedom, and the fact that, whatever quickness of
parts they may exhibit while very young, on attaining maturity they
invariably sink again into inferiority, or at least mediocrity, and
indolence. But surely there are other causes to account for this besides
natural deficiency, which must, I think, be obvious to any unprejudiced
person observing the condition of the free blacks in your Northern
communities. If, in the early portion of their life, they escape the
contempt and derision of their white associates--if the blessed
unconsciousness and ignorance of childhood keeps them for a few years
unaware of the conventional proscription under which their whole race is
placed (and it is difficult to walk your streets, and mark the tone of
insolent superiority assumed by even the gutter-urchins over their dusky
cotemporaries, and imagine this possible)--as soon as they acquire the
first rudiments of knowledge, as soon as they begin to grow up and pass
from infancy to youth, as soon as they cast the first observing glance
upon the world by which they are surrounded, and the society of which,
they are members, they must become conscious that they are marked as the
Hebrew lepers of old, and are condemned to sit, like those unfortunates,
without the gates of every human and social sympathy. From their own sable
colour, a pall falls over the whole of God's universe to them, and they
find themselves stamped with a badge of infamy of Nature's own devising,
at sight of which all natural kindliness of man to man seems to recoil
from them. They are not slaves indeed, but they are pariahs; debarred from
all fellowship save with their own despised race--scorned by the lowest
white ruffian in your streets, not tolerated as companions even by the
foreign menials in your kitchen. They are free certainly, but they are
also degraded, rejected, the offscum and the offscouring of the very dregs
of your society; they are free from the chain, the whip, the enforced task
and unpaid toil of slavery; but they are not the less under a ban. Their
kinship with slaves for ever bars them from a full share of the freeman's
inheritance of equal rights, and equal consideration and respect. All
hands are extended to thrust them out, all fingers point at their dusky
skin, all tongues--the most vulgar, as well as the self-styled most
refined--have learnt to turn the very name of their race into an insult
and a reproach. How, in the name of all that is natural, probable,
possible, should the spirit and energy of any human creature support
itself under such an accumulation of injustice and obloquy? Where shall
any mass of men be found with power of character and mind sufficient to
bear up against such a weight of prejudice? Why, if one individual rarely
gifted by heaven were to raise himself out of such a slough of despond, he
would be a miracle; and what would be his reward? Would he be admitted to
an equal share in your political rights?--would he ever be allowed to
cross the threshold of your doors?--would any of you give your daughter to
his son, or your son to his daughter?--would you, in any one particular,
admit him to the footing of equality which any man with a white skin would
claim, whose ability and worth had so raised him from the lower degrees of
the social scale. You would turn from such propositions with abhorrence,
and the servants in your kitchen and stable--the ignorant and boorish
refuse of foreign populations, in whose countries no such prejudice
exists, imbibing it with the very air they breathe here--would shrink from
eating at the same table with such a man, or holding out the hand of
common fellowship to him. Under the species of social proscription in
which the blacks in your Northern cities exist, if they preserved energy
of mind, enterprise of spirit, or any of the best attributes and powers of
free men, they would prove themselves, instead of the lowest and least of
human races, the highest and first, not only of all that do exist, but of
all that ever have existed; for they alone would seek and cultivate
knowledge, goodness, truth, science, art, refinement, and all improvement,
purely for the sake of their own excellence, and without one of those
incentives of honour, power, and fortune, which are found to be the chief,
too often the only, inducements which lead white men to the pursuit of the
same objects.

You know very well dear E----, that in speaking of the free blacks of the
North I here state nothing but what is true and of daily experience. Only
last week I heard, in this very town of Philadelphia, of a family of
strict probity and honour, highly principled, intelligent, well-educated,
and accomplished, and (to speak the world's language) respectable in every
way--i.e. _rich_. Upon an English lady's stating it to be her intention to
visit these persons when she came to Philadelphia, she was told that if
she did nobody else would visit _her_; and she probably would excite a
malevolent feeling, which might find vent in some violent demonstration
against this family. All that I have now said of course bears only upon
the condition of the free coloured population of the North, with which I
am familiar enough to speak confidently of it. As for the slaves, and
their capacity for progress, I can say nothing, for I have never been
among them to judge what faculties their unhappy social position leaves to
them unimpaired. But it seems to me, that no experiment on a sufficiently
large scale can have been tried for a sufficient length of time to
determine the question of their incurable inferiority. Physiologists say
that three successive generations appear to be necessary to produce an
effectual change of constitution (bodily and mental), be it for health or
disease. There are positive physical defects which produce positive mental
ones; the diseases of the muscular and nervous systems descend from father
to son. Upon the agency of one corporal power how much that is not
corporal depends; from generation to generation internal disease and
external deformity, vices, virtues, talents, and deficiencies are
transmitted, and by the action of the same law it must be long indeed
before the offspring of slaves--creatures begotten of a race debased and
degraded to the lowest degree, themselves born in slavery, and whose
progenitors have eaten the bread and drawn the breath of slavery for
years--can be measured, with any show of justice, by even the least
favoured descendants of European nations, whose qualities have been for
centuries developing themselves under the beneficent influence of freedom,
and the progress it inspires.

I am rather surprised at the outbreak of violent disgust which Mr. ----
indulges in on the subject of amalgamation; as that formed no part of
our discussion, and seems to me a curious subject for abstract argument. I
should think the intermarrying between blacks and whites a matter to be as
little insisted upon if repugnant, as prevented if agreeable to the
majority of the two races. At the same time, I cannot help being
astonished at the furious and ungoverned execration which all reference to
the possibility of a fusion of the races draws down upon those who suggest
it; because nobody pretends to deny that, throughout the South, a large
proportion of the population is the offspring of white men and coloured
women. In New Orleans, a class of unhappy females exists whose mingled
blood does not prevent their being remarkable for their beauty, and with
whom no man, no _gentleman_, in that city shrinks from associating; and
while the slaveowners of the Southern States insist vehemently upon the
mental and physical inferiority of the blacks, they are benevolently doing
their best, in one way at least, to raise and improve the degraded race,
and the bastard population which forms so ominous an element in the social
safety of their cities certainly exhibit in their forms and features the
benefit they derive from their white progenitors. It is hard to conceive
that some mental improvement does not accompany this physical change.
Already the finer forms of the European races are cast in these dusky
moulds: the outward configuration can hardly thus improve without
corresponding progress in the inward capacities. The white man's blood and
bones have begotten this bronze race, and bequeathed to it in some degree
qualities, tendencies, capabilities, such as are the inheritance of the
highest order of human animals. Mr. ---- (and many others) speaks as if
there were a natural repugnance in all whites to any alliance with the
black race; and yet it is notorious, that almost every Southern planter
has a family more or less numerous of illegitimate coloured children. Most
certainly, few people would like to assert that such connections are
formed because it is the _interest_ of these planters to increase the
number of their human property, and that they add to their revenue by the
closest intimacy with creatures that they loathe, in order to reckon
among their wealth the children of their body. Surely that is a monstrous
and unnatural supposition, and utterly unworthy of belief. That such
connections exist commonly, is a sufficient proof that they are not
abhorrent to nature; but it seems, indeed, as if marriage (and not
concubinage) was the horrible enormity which cannot be tolerated, and
against which, moreover, it has been deemed expedient to enact laws. Now
it appears very evident that there is no law in the white man's nature
which prevents him from making a coloured woman the mother of his
children, but there _is_ a law on his statute books forbidding him to make
her his wife; and if we are to admit the theory that the mixing of the
races is a monstrosity, it seems almost as curious that laws should be
enacted to prevent men marrying women towards whom they have an invincible
natural repugnance, as that education should by law be prohibited to
creatures incapable of receiving it. As for the exhortation with which
Mr. ---- closes his letter, that I will not 'go down to my husband's
plantation prejudiced against what I am to find there,' I know not well
how to answer it. Assuredly I _am_ going prejudiced against slavery, for I
am an Englishwoman, in whom the absence of such a prejudice would be
disgraceful. Nevertheless, I go prepared to find many mitigations in the
practice to the general injustice and cruelty of the system--much kindness
on the part of the masters, much content on that of the slaves; and I feel
very sure that you may rely upon the carefulness of my observation, and
the accuracy of my report, of every detail of the working of the thing
that comes under my notice; and certainly, on the plantation to which I am
going, it will be more likely that I should some things extenuate, than
set down aught in malice.

Yours ever faithfully.

       *       *       *       *       *


Darien, Georgia.

Dear E----. Minuteness of detail, and fidelity in the account of my daily
doings, will hardly, I fear, render my letters very interesting to you
now; but cut off as I am here from all the usual resources and amusements
of civilised existence, I shall find but little to communicate to you that
is not furnished by my observations on the novel appearance of external
nature, and the moral and physical condition of Mr. ----'s people. The
latter subject is, I know, one sufficiently interesting in itself to you,
and I shall not scruple to impart all the reflections which may occur to
me relative to their state during my stay here, where enquiry into their
mode of existence will form my chief occupation, and, necessarily also,
the staple commodity of my letters. I purpose, while I reside here,
keeping a sort of journal, such as Monk Lewis wrote during his visit to
his West India plantations. I wish I had any prospect of rendering my
diary as interesting and amusing to you as his was to me.

In taking my first walk on the island, I directed my steps towards the
rice mill, a large building on the banks of the river, within a few yards
of the house we occupy. Is it not rather curious that Miss Martineau
should have mentioned the erection of a steam mill for threshing rice
somewhere in the vicinity of Charleston as a singular novelty, likely to
form an era in Southern agriculture, and to produce the most desirable
changes in the system of labour by which it is carried on? Now, on this
estate alone, there are three threshing mills--one worked by steam, one by
the tide, and one by horses; there are two private steam mills on
plantations adjacent to ours, and a public one at Savannah, where the
planters who have none on their own estates are in the habit of sending
their rice to be threshed at a certain percentage; these have all been in
operation for some years, and I therefore am at a loss to understand what
made her hail the erection of the one at Charleston as likely to produce
such immediate and happy results. By the bye--of the misstatements, or
rather mistakes, for they are such, in her books, with regard to certain
facts--her only disadvantage in acquiring information was not by any means
that natural infirmity on which the periodical press, both here and in
England, has commented with so much brutality. She had the misfortune to
possess, too, that unsuspecting reliance upon the truth of others which
they are apt to feel who themselves hold truth most sacred: and this was
a sore disadvantage to her in a country where I have heard it myself
repeatedly asserted--and, what is more, much gloried in--that she was
purposely misled by the persons to whom she addressed her enquiries, who
did not scruple to disgrace themselves by imposing in the grossest manner
upon her credulity and anxiety to obtain information. It is a knowledge of
this very shameful proceeding, which has made me most especially anxious
to avoid _fact hunting_. I might fill my letters to you with accounts
received from others, but as I am aware of the risk which I run in so
doing, I shall furnish you with no details but those which come under my
own immediate observation. To return to the rice mill: it is worked by a
steam-engine of thirty horse power, and besides threshing great part of
our own rice, is kept constantly employed by the neighbouring planters,
who send their grain to it in preference to the more distant mill at
Savannah, paying, of course, the same percentage, which makes it a very
profitable addition to the estate. Immediately opposite to this building
is a small shed, which they call the cook's shop, and where the daily
allowance of rice and corn grits of the people is boiled and distributed
to them by an old woman, whose special business this is. There are four
settlements or villages (or, as the negroes call them, camps) on the
island, consisting of from ten to twenty houses, and to each settlement is
annexed a cook's shop with capacious cauldrons, and the oldest wife of
the settlement for officiating priestess. Pursuing my walk along the
river's bank, upon an artificial dyke, sufficiently high and broad to
protect the fields from inundation by the ordinary rising of the tide--for
the whole island is below high water mark--I passed the blacksmith's and
cooper's shops. At the first all the common iron implements of husbandry
or household use for the estate are made, and at the latter all the rice
barrels necessary for the crop, besides tubs and buckets large and small
for the use of the people, and cedar tubs of noble dimensions and
exceedingly neat workmanship, for our own household purposes. The
fragrance of these when they are first made, as well as their ample size,
renders them preferable as dressing-room furniture, in my opinion, to all
the china foot-tubs that ever came out of Staffordshire. After this I got
out of the vicinity of the settlement, and pursued my way along a narrow
dyke--the river on one hand, and on the other a slimy, poisonous-looking
swamp, all rattling with sedges of enormous height, in which one might
lose one's way as effectually as in a forest of oaks. Beyond this, the low
rice-fields, all clothed in their rugged stubble, divided by dykes into
monotonous squares, a species of prospect by no means beautiful to the
mere lover of the picturesque. The only thing that I met with to attract
my attention was a most beautiful species of ivy, the leaf longer and more
graceful than that of the common English creeper, glittering with the
highest varnish, delicately veined, and of a rich brown green, growing in
profuse garlands from branch to branch of some stunted evergreen bushes
which border the dyke, and which the people call salt-water bush. My walks
are rather circumscribed, inasmuch as the dykes are the only promenades.
On all sides of these lie either the marshy rice-fields, the brimming
river, or the swampy patches of yet unreclaimed forest, where the huge
cypress trees and exquisite evergreen undergrowth spring up from a
stagnant sweltering pool, that effectually forbids the foot of the
explorer.

As I skirted one of these thickets to-day, I stood still to admire the
beauty of the shrubbery. Every shade of green, every variety of form,
every degree of varnish, and all in full leaf and beauty in the very depth
of winter. The stunted dark-coloured oak; the magnolia bay (like our own
culinary and fragrant bay), which grows to a very great size; the wild
myrtle, a beautiful and profuse shrub, rising to a height of six, eight,
and ten feet, and branching on all sides in luxuriant tufted fullness;
most beautiful of all, that pride of the South, the magnolia grandiflora,
whose lustrous dark green perfect foliage would alone render it an object
of admiration, without the queenly blossom whose colour, size, and perfume
are unrivalled in the whole vegetable kingdom. This last magnificent
creature grows to the size of a forest tree in these swamps, but seldom
adorns a high or dry soil, or suffers itself to be successfully
transplanted. Under all these the spiked palmetto forms an impenetrable
covert, and from glittering graceful branch to branch hang garlands of
evergreen creepers, on which the mocking-birds are swinging and singing
even now; while I, bethinking me of the pinching cold that is at this hour
tyrannising over your region, look round on this strange scene--on these
green woods, this unfettered river, and sunny sky--and feel very much like
one in another planet from yourself.

The profusion of birds here is one thing that strikes me as curious,
coming from the vicinity of Philadelphia, where even the robin redbreast,
held sacred by the humanity of all other Christian people, is not safe
from the _gunning_ prowess of the unlicensed sportsmen of your free
country. The negroes (of course) are not allowed the use of firearms, and
their very simply constructed traps do not do much havoc among the
feathered hordes that haunt their rice-fields. Their case is rather a hard
one, as partridges, snipes, and the most delicious wild ducks abound here,
and their allowance of rice and Indian meal would not be the worse for
such additions. No day passes that I do not, in the course of my walk, put
up a number of the land birds, and startle from among the gigantic sedges
the long-necked water-fowl by dozens. It arouses the killing propensity in
me most dreadfully, and I really entertain serious thoughts of learning to
use a gun, for the mere pleasure of destroying these pretty birds as they
whirr from their secret coverts close beside my path. How strong an
instinct of animal _humanity_ this is, and how strange if one be more
strange than another. Reflection rebukes it almost instantaneously, and
yet for the life of me I cannot help wishing I had a fowling-piece
whenever I put up a covey of these creatures; though I suppose, if one
were brought bleeding and maimed to me, I should begin to cry, and be very
pathetic, after the fashion of Jacques. However, one must live, you know;
and here our living consists very mainly of wild ducks, wild geese, wild
turkeys, and venison. Nor, perhaps, can one imagine the universal doom
overtaking a creature with less misery than in the case of the bird who,
in the very moment of his triumphant soaring, is brought dead to the
ground. I should like to bargain for such a finis myself, amazingly, I
know; and have always thought that the death I should prefer would be to
break my neck off the back of my horse at a full gallop on a fine day. Of
course a bad shot should be hung--a man who shatters his birds' wings and
legs; if I undertook the trade, I would learn of some Southern duellist,
and always shoot my bird through the head or heart--as an expert murderer
knows how. Besides these birds of which we make our prey, there are others
that prey upon their own fraternity. Hawks of every sort and size wheel
their steady rounds above the rice-fields; and the great turkey
buzzards--those most unsightly carrion birds--spread their broad black
wings, and soar over the river like so many mock eagles. I do not know
that I ever saw any winged creature of so forbidding an aspect as these
same turkey buzzards; their heavy flight, their awkward gait, their
bald-looking head and neck, and their devotion to every species of foul
and detestable food, render them almost abhorrent to me. They abound in
the South, and in Charleston are held in especial veneration for their
scavenger-like propensities, killing one of them being, I believe, a
fineable offence by the city police regulations. Among the Brobdignagian
sedges that in some parts of the island fringe the Altamaha, the
nightshade (apparently the same as the European creeper) weaves a perfect
matting of its poisonous garlands, and my remembrance of its prevalence in
the woods and hedges of England did not reconcile me to its appearance
here. How much of this is mere association I cannot tell; but whether the
wild duck makes its nest under its green arches, or the alligators and
snakes of the Altamaha have their secret bowers there, it is an
evil-looking weed, and I shall have every leaf of it cleared away.

I must inform you of a curious conversation which took place between my
little girl and the woman who performs for us the offices of chambermaid
here--of course one of Mr. ----'s slaves. What suggested it to the child,
or whence indeed she gathered her information, I know not; but children
are made of eyes and ears, and nothing, however minute, escapes their
microscopic observation. She suddenly began addressing this woman. 'Mary,
some persons are free and some are not (the woman made no reply). I am a
free person (of a little more than three years old). I say, I am a free
person, Mary--do you know that?' 'Yes, missis.' 'Some persons are free and
some are not--do you know that, Mary?' 'Yes, missis, _here_,' was the
reply; 'I know it is so here, in this world.' Here my child's white nurse,
my dear Margery, who had hitherto been silent, interfered, saying, 'Oh,
then you think it will not always be so?' 'Me hope not, missis.' I am
afraid, E----, this woman actually imagines that there will be no slaves
in Heaven; isn't that preposterous now? when by the account of most of the
Southerners slavery itself must be Heaven, or something uncommonly like
it. Oh, if you could imagine how this title 'Missis,' addressed to me and
to my children, shocks all my feelings! Several times I have exclaimed,
'For God's sake do not call me that!' and only been awakened, by the
stupid amazement of the poor creatures I was addressing, to the perfect
uselessness of my thus expostulating with them; once or twice indeed I
have done more--I have explained to them, and they appeared to comprehend
me well, that I had no ownership over them, for that I held such ownership
sinful, and that, though I was the wife of the man who pretends to own
them, I was in truth no more their mistress than they were mine. Some of
them I know understood me, more of them did not.

Our servants--those who have been selected to wait upon us in the
house--consist of a man, who is quite a tolerable cook (I believe this is
a natural gift with them, as with Frenchmen); a dairywoman, who churns for
us; a laundrywoman; her daughter, our housemaid, the aforesaid Mary; and
two young lads of from fifteen to twenty, who wait upon us in the capacity
of footmen. As, however, the latter are perfectly filthy in their persons
and clothes--their faces, hands, and naked feet being literally encrusted
with dirt--their attendance at our meals is not, as you may suppose,
particularly agreeable to me, and I dispense with it as often as possible.
Mary, too, is so intolerably offensive in her person that it is impossible
to endure her proximity, and the consequence is that, amongst Mr. ----'s
slaves, I wait upon myself more than I have ever done in my life before.
About this same personal offensiveness, the Southerners you know insist
that it is inherent with the race, and it is one of their most cogent
reasons for keeping them as slaves. But as this very disagreeable
peculiarity does not prevent Southern women from hanging their infants at
the breasts of negresses, nor almost every planter's wife and daughter
from having one or more little pet blacks sleeping like puppy dogs in
their very bedchamber, nor almost every planter from admitting one or
several of his female slaves to the still closer intimacy of his bed--it
seems to me that this objection to doing them right is not very valid. I
cannot imagine that they would smell much worse if they were free, or come
in much closer contact with the delicate organs of their white, fellow
countrymen; indeed, inasmuch as good deeds are spoken of as having a sweet
savour before God, it might be supposed that the freeing of the blacks
might prove rather an odoriferous process than the contrary. However this
may be, I must tell you that this potent reason for enslaving a whole race
of people is no more potent with me than most of the others adduced to
support the system, inasmuch as, from observation and some experience, I
am strongly inclined to believe that peculiar ignorance of the laws of
health and the habits of decent cleanliness are the real and only causes
of this disagreeable characteristic of the race--thorough ablutions and
change of linen, when tried, having been perfectly successful in removing
all such objections; and if ever you have come into anything like
neighbourly proximity with a low Irishman or woman, I think you will allow
that the same causes produce very nearly the same effects. The stench in
an Irish, Scotch, Italian, or French hovel are quite as intolerable as any
I ever found in our negro houses, and the filth and vermin which abound
about the clothes and persons of the lower peasantry of any of those
countries as abominable as the same conditions in the black population of
the United States. A total absence of self-respect begets these hateful
physical results, and in proportion as moral influences are remote,
physical evils will abound. Well-being, freedom, and industry induce
self-respect, self-respect induces cleanliness and personal attention, so
that slavery is answerable for all the evils that exhibit themselves where
it exists--from lying, thieving, and adultery, to dirty houses, ragged
clothes, and foul smells.

But to return to our Ganymedes. One of them--the eldest son of our
laundrywoman, and Mary's brother, a boy of the name of Aleck
(Alexander)--is uncommonly bright and intelligent; he performs all the
offices of a well-instructed waiter with great efficiency, and anywhere
out of slave land would be able to earn fourteen or fifteen dollars a
month for himself; he is remarkably good tempered and well disposed. The
other poor boy is so stupid that he appears sullen from absolute darkness
of intellect; instead of being a little lower than the angels, he is
scarcely a little higher than the brutes, and to this condition are
reduced the majority of his kind by the institutions under which they
live. I should tell you that Aleck's parents and kindred have always been
about the house of the overseer, and in daily habits of intercourse with
him and his wife; and wherever this is the case the effect of involuntary
education is evident in the improved intelligence of the degraded race.
In a conversation which Mr. ---- had this evening with Mr. O----, the
overseer, the latter mentioned that two of our carpenters had in their
leisure time made a boat, which they had disposed of to some neighbouring
planter for sixty dollars.

Now, E----, I have no intention of telling you a one-sided story, or
concealing from you what are cited as the advantages which these poor
people possess; you, who know that no indulgence is worth simple justice,
either to him who gives or him who receives, will not thence conclude that
their situation thus mitigated is, therefore, what it should be. On this
matter of the sixty dollars earned by Mr. ----'s two men much stress was
laid by him and his overseer. I look at it thus: if these men were
industrious enough out of their scanty leisure to earn sixty dollars, how
much more of remuneration, of comfort, of improvement might they not have
achieved were the price of their daily labour duly paid them, instead of
being unjustly withheld to support an idle young man and his idle
family--i.e. myself and my children.

And here it may be well to inform you that the slaves on this plantation
are divided into field hands and mechanics or artisans. The former, the
great majority, are the more stupid and brutish of the tribe; the others,
who are regularly taught their trades, are not only exceedingly expert at
them, but exhibit a greater general activity of intellect, which must
necessarily result from even a partial degree of cultivation. There are
here a gang (for that is the honourable term) of coopers, of blacksmiths,
of bricklayers, of carpenters--all well acquainted with their peculiar
trades. The latter constructed the wash-hand stands, clothes presses,
sofas, tables, &c, with which our house is furnished, and they are very
neat pieces of workmanship--neither veneered or polished indeed, nor of
very costly materials, but of the white pine wood planed as smooth as
marble--a species of furniture not very luxurious perhaps, but all the
better adapted therefore to the house itself, which is certainly rather
more devoid of the conveniences and adornments of modern existence than
anything I ever took up my abode in before. It consists of three small
rooms, and three still smaller, which would be more appropriately
designated as closets, a wooden recess by way of pantry, and a kitchen
detached from the dwelling--a mere wooden outhouse, with no floor but the
bare earth, and for furniture a congregation of filthy negroes, who lounge
in and out of it like hungry hounds at all hours of the day and night,
picking up such scraps of food as they can find about, which they discuss
squatting down upon their hams, in which interesting position and
occupation I generally find a number of them whenever I have sufficient
hardihood to venture within those precincts, the sight of which and its
tenants is enough to slacken the appetite of the hungriest hunter that
ever lost all nice regards in the mere animal desire for food. Of our
three apartments, one is our sitting, eating, and _living_ room, and is
sixteen feet by fifteen. The walls are plastered indeed, but neither
painted nor papered; it is divided from our bed-room (a similarly elegant
and comfortable chamber) by a dingy wooden partition covered all over with
hooks, pegs, and nails, to which hats, caps, keys, &c. &c., are suspended
in graceful irregularity. The doors open by wooden latches, raised by
means of small bits of packthread--I imagine, the same primitive order of
fastening celebrated in the touching chronicle of Red Riding Hood; how
they shut I will not pretend to describe, as the shutting of a door is a
process of extremely rare occurrence throughout the whole Southern
country. The third room, a chamber with sloping ceiling, immediately over
our sitting-room and under the roof, is appropriated to the nurse and my
two babies. Of the closets, one is Mr. ---- the overseer's bed-room, the
other his office or place of business; and the third, adjoining our
bed-room, and opening immediately out of doors, is Mr. ----'s dressing
room and cabinet d'affaires, where he gives audiences to the negroes,
redresses grievances, distributes red woollen caps (a singular
gratification to a slave), shaves himself, and performs the other offices
of his toilet. Such being our abode, I think you will allow there is
little danger of my being dazzled by the luxurious splendours of a
Southern slave residence. Our sole mode of summoning our attendants is by
a packthread bell-rope suspended in the sitting-room. From the bed-rooms
we have to raise the windows and our voices, and bring them by power of
lungs, or help ourselves--which, I thank God, was never yet a hardship to
me.

I mentioned to you just now that two of the carpenters had made a boat in
their leisure time. I must explain this to you, and this will involve the
mention of another of Miss Martineau's mistakes with regard to slave
labour, at least in many parts of the Southern States. She mentions that
on one estate of which she knew, the proprietor had made the experiment,
and very successfully, of appointing to each of his slaves a certain task
to be performed in the day, which once accomplished, no matter how early,
the rest of the four and twenty hours were allowed to the labourer to
employ as he pleased. She mentions this as a single experiment, and
rejoices over it as a decided amelioration in the condition of the slave,
and one deserving of general adoption. But in the part of Georgia where
this estate is situated, the custom of task labour is universal, and it
prevails, I believe, throughout Georgia, South Carolina, and parts of
North Carolina; in other parts of the latter State, however--as I was
informed by our overseer, who is a native of that State--the estates are
small, rather deserving the name of farms, and the labourers are much
upon the same footing as the labouring men at the North, working from
sunrise to sunset in the fields with the farmer and his sons, and coming
in with them to their meals, which they take immediately after the rest of
the family. In Louisiana and the new South-western Slave States, I
believe, task labour does not prevail; but it is in those that the
condition of the poor human cattle is most deplorable, as you know it was
there that the humane calculation was not only made, but openly and
unhesitatingly avowed, that the planters found it upon the whole their
most profitable plan to work off (kill with labour) their whole number of
slaves about once in seven years, and renew the whole stock. By the bye,
the Jewish institution of slavery is much insisted upon by the Southern
upholders of the system; perhaps this is their notion of the Jewish
jubilee, when the slaves were by Moses' strict enactment to be all set
free. Well, this task system is pursued on this estate; and thus it is
that the two carpenters were enabled to make the boat they sold for sixty
dollars. These tasks, of course, profess to be graduated according to the
sex, age, and strength of the labourer; but in many instances this is not
the case, as I think you will agree when I tell you that on Mr. ----'s
first visit to his estates he found that the men and the women who
laboured in the fields had the same task to perform. This was a noble
admission of female equality, was it not?--and thus it had been on the
estate for many years past. Mr. ----, of course, altered the distribution
of the work, diminishing the quantity done by the women.

I had a most ludicrous visit this morning from the midwife of the
estate--rather an important personage both to master and slave, as to her
unassisted skill and science the ushering of all the young negroes into
their existence of bondage is entrusted. I heard a great deal of
conversation in the dressing-room adjoining mine, while performing my own
toilet, and presently Mr. ---- opened my room-door, ushering in a dirty
fat good-humoured looking old negress, saying, 'The midwife, Rose, wants
to make your acquaintance.' 'Oh massa!' shrieked out the old creature in a
paroxysm of admiration, 'where you get this lilly alablaster baby!' For a
moment I looked round to see if she was speaking of my baby; but no, my
dear, this superlative apostrophe was elicited by the fairness of _my
skin_--so much for degrees of comparison. Now, I suppose that if I chose
to walk arm in arm with the dingiest mulatto through the streets of
Philadelphia, nobody could possibly tell by my complexion that I was not
his sister, so that the mere quality of mistress must have had a most
miraculous effect upon my skin in the eyes of poor Rose. But this species
of outrageous flattery is as usual with these people as with the low
Irish, and arises from the ignorant desire, common to both the races, of
propitiating at all costs the fellow-creature who is to them as a
Providence--or rather, I should say, a fate--for 't is a heathen and no
Christian relationship. Soon after this visit, I was summoned into the
wooden porch or piazza of the house, to see a poor woman who desired to
speak to me. This was none other than the tall emaciated-looking negress
who, on the day of our arrival, had embraced me and my nurse with such
irresistible zeal. She appeared very ill to-day, and presently unfolded to
me a most distressing history of bodily afflictions. She was the mother of
a very large family, and complained to me that, what with child-bearing
and hard field labour, her back was almost broken in two. With an almost
savage vehemence of gesticulation she suddenly tore up her scanty
clothing, and exhibited a spectacle with which I was inconceivably shocked
and sickened. The facts, without any of her corroborating statements, bore
tolerable witness to the hardships of her existence. I promised to attend
to her ailments and give her proper remedies; but these are natural
results, inevitable and irremediable ones, of improper treatment of the
female frame--and though there may be alleviation, there cannot be any
cure when once the beautiful and wonderful structure has been thus made
the victim of ignorance, folly, and wickedness.

After the departure of this poor woman, I walked down the settlement
towards the infirmary or hospital, calling in at one or two of the houses
along the row. These cabins consist of one room about twelve feet by
fifteen, with a couple of closets smaller and closer than the state-rooms
of a ship, divided off from the main room and each other by rough wooden
partitions in which the inhabitants sleep. They have almost all of them a
rude bedstead, with the grey moss of the forests for mattress, and filthy,
pestilential-looking blankets, for covering. Two families (sometimes eight
and ten in number) reside in one of these huts, which are mere wooden
frames pinned, as it were, to the earth by a brick chimney outside, whose
enormous aperture within pours down a flood of air, but little
counteracted by the miserable spark of fire, which hardly sends an
attenuated thread of lingering smoke up its huge throat. A wide ditch runs
immediately at the back of these dwellings, which is filled and emptied
daily by the tide. Attached to each hovel is a small scrap of ground for a
garden, which, however, is for the most part untended and uncultivated.
Such of these dwellings as I visited to-day were filthy and wretched in
the extreme, and exhibited that most deplorable consequence of ignorance
and an abject condition, the inability of the inhabitants to secure and
improve even such pitiful comfort as might yet be achieved by them.
Instead of the order, neatness, and ingenuity which might convert even
these miserable hovels into tolerable residences, there was the careless,
reckless, filthy indolence which even the brutes do not exhibit in their
lairs and nests, and which seemed incapable of applying to the uses of
existence the few miserable means of comfort yet within their reach.
Firewood and shavings lay littered about the floors, while the half-naked
children were cowering round two or three smouldering cinders. The moss
with which the chinks and crannies of their ill-protecting dwellings might
have been stuffed, was trailing in dirt and dust about the ground, while
the back-door of the huts, opening upon a most unsightly ditch, was left
wide open for the fowls and ducks, which they are allowed to raise, to
travel in and out, increasing the filth of the cabin, by what they brought
and left in every direction. In the midst of the floor, or squatting round
the cold hearth, would be four or five little children from four to ten
years old, the latter all with babies in their arms, the care of the
infants being taken from the mothers (who are driven a-field as soon as
they recover from child labour), and devolved upon these poor little
nurses, as they are called, whose business it is to watch the infant, and
carry it to its mother whenever it may require nourishment. To these
hardly human little beings, I addressed my remonstrances about the filth,
cold, and unnecessary wretchedness of their room, bidding the elder boys
and girls kindle up the fire, sweep the floor, and expel the poultry. For
a long time my very words seemed unintelligible to them, till when I began
to sweep and make up the fire, &c., they first fell to laughing, and then
imitating me. The encrustations of dirt on their hands, feet, and faces,
were my next object of attack, and the stupid negro practice (by the bye,
but a short time since nearly universal in enlightened Europe), of keeping
the babies with their feet bare, and their heads, already well capped by
nature with their woolly hair, wrapped in half-a-dozen hot filthy
coverings. Thus I travelled down the 'street,' in every dwelling
endeavouring to awaken a new perception, that of cleanliness, sighing, as
I went, over the futility of my own exertions, for how can slaves be
improved? Nathless, thought I, let what can be done; for it may be, that,
the two being incompatible, improvement may yet expel slavery--and so it
might, and surely would, if, instead of beginning at the end, I could but
begin at the beginning of my task. If the mind and soul were awakened,
instead of mere physical good attempted, the physical good would result,
and the great curse vanish away; but my hands are tied fast, and this
corner of the work is all that I may do. Yet it cannot be but, from my
words and actions, some revelations should reach these poor people; and
going in and out amongst them perpetually, I shall teach, and they learn
involuntarily a thousand things of deepest import. They must learn, and
who can tell the fruit of that knowledge alone, that there are beings in
the world, even with skins of a different colour from their own, who have
sympathy for their misfortunes, love for their virtues, and respect for
their common nature--but oh! my heart is full almost to bursting, as I
walk among these most poor creatures.

The infirmary is a large two-story building, terminating the broad
orange-planted space between the two rows of houses which form the first
settlement; it is built of white washed wood, and contains four
large-sized rooms. But how shall I describe to you the spectacle which was
presented to me, on my entering the first of these? But half the
casements, of which there were six, were glazed, and these were obscured
with dirt, almost as much as the other windowless ones were darkened by
the dingy shutters, which the shivering inmates had fastened to, in order
to protect themselves from the cold. In the enormous chimney glimmered the
powerless embers of a few sticks of wood, round which, however, as many of
the sick women as could approach, were cowering; some on wooden settles,
most of them on the ground, excluding those who were too ill to rise; and
these last poor wretches lay prostrate on the floor, without bed,
mattress, or pillow, buried in tattered and filthy blankets, which,
huddled round them as they lay strewed about, left hardly space to move
upon the floor. And here, in their hour of sickness and suffering, lay
those whose health and strength are spent in unrequited labour for
us--those who, perhaps even yesterday, were being urged onto their unpaid
task--those whose husbands, fathers, brothers and sons, were even at that
hour sweating over the earth, whose produce was to buy for us all the
luxuries which health can revel in, all the comforts which can alleviate
sickness. I stood in the midst of them, perfectly unable to speak, the
tears pouring from my eyes at this sad spectacle of their misery, myself
and my emotion alike strange and incomprehensible to them. Here lay women
expecting every hour the terrors and agonies of child-birth, others who
had just brought their doomed offspring into the world, others who were
groaning over the anguish and bitter disappointment of miscarriages--here
lay some burning with fever, others chilled with cold and aching with
rheumatism, upon the hard cold ground, the draughts and dampness of the
atmosphere increasing their sufferings, and dirt, noise, and stench, and
every aggravation of which sickness is capable, combined in their
condition--here they lay like brute beasts, absorbed in physical
suffering; unvisited by any of those Divine influences which may ennoble
the dispensations of pain and illness, forsaken, as it seemed to me, of
all good; and yet, O God, Thou surely hadst not forsaken them! Now, pray
take notice, that this is the hospital of an estate, where the owners are
supposed to be humane, the overseer efficient and kind, and the negroes,
remarkably well cared for and comfortable. As soon as I recovered from my
dismay, I addressed old Rose, the midwife, who had charge of this room,
bidding her open the shutters of such windows as were glazed, and let in
the light. I next proceeded to make up the fire, but upon my lifting a log
for that purpose, there was one universal outcry of horror, and old Rose,
attempting to snatch it from me, exclaimed, 'Let alone, missis--let
be--what for you lift wood--you have nigger enough, missis, to do it!' I
hereupon had to explain to them my view of the purposes for which hands
and arms were appended to our bodies, and forthwith began making Rose tidy
up the miserable apartment, removing all the filth and rubbish from the
floor that could be removed, folding up in piles the blankets of the
patients who were not using them, and placing, in rather more sheltered
and comfortable positions, those who were unable to rise. It was all that
I could do, and having enforced upon them all my earnest desire that they
should keep their room swept, and as tidy as possible, I passed on to the
other room on the ground floor, and to the two above, one of which is
appropriated to the use of the men who are ill. They were all in the same
deplorable condition, the upper rooms being rather the more miserable,
inasmuch as none of the windows were glazed at all, and they had,
therefore, only the alternative of utter darkness, or killing draughts of
air, from the unsheltered casements. In all, filth, disorder and misery
abounded; the floor was the only bed, and scanty begrimed rags of blankets
the only covering. I left this refuge for Mr. ----'s sick dependants, with
my clothes covered with dust, and full of vermin, and with a heart heavy
enough, as you will well believe. My morning's work had fatigued me not a
little, and I was glad to return to the house, where I gave vent to my
indignation and regret at the scene I had just witnessed, to Mr. ---- and
his overseer, who, here, is a member of our family. The latter told me
that the condition of the hospital had appeared to him, from his first
entering upon his situation (only within the last year), to require a
reform, and that he had proposed it to the former manager, Mr. K----, and
Mr. ----'s brother, who is part proprietor of the estate, but receiving no
encouragement from them, had supposed that it was a matter of indifference
to the owners, and had left it in the condition in which he had found it,
in which condition it has been for the last nineteen years and upwards.

This new overseer of ours has lived fourteen years with an old Scotch
gentleman, who owns an estate adjoining Mr. ----'s, on the island of St.
Simons, upon which estate, from everything I can gather, and from what I
know of the proprietor's character, the slaves are probably treated with
as much humanity as is consistent with slavery at all, and where the
management and comfort of the hospital, in particular, had been most
carefully and judiciously attended to. With regard to the indifference of
our former manager upon the subject of the accommodation for the sick, he
was an excellent overseer, _videlicet_, the estate returned a full income
under his management, and such men have nothing to do with sick
slaves--they are tools, to be mended only if they can be made available
again,--if not, to be flung by as useless, without further expense of
money, time, or trouble.

I am learning to row here, for, circumscribed as my walks necessarily are,
impossible as it is to resort to my favourite exercise on horseback upon
these narrow dykes, I must do something to prevent my blood from
stagnating; and this broad brimming river, and the beautiful light canoes
which lie moored, at the steps, are very inviting persuaders to this
species of exercise. My first attempt was confined to pulling an oar
across the stream, for which I rejoiced in sundry aches and pains
altogether novel, letting alone a delightful row of blisters on each of my
hands.

I forgot to tell you that in the hospital were several sick babies, whose
mothers were permitted to suspend their field labour, in order to nurse
them. Upon addressing some remonstrances to one of these, who, besides
having a sick child, was ill herself, about the horribly dirty condition
of her baby, she assured me that it was impossible for them to keep their
children clean, that they went out to work at daybreak, and did not get
their tasks done till evening, and that then they were too tired and worn
out to do anything but throw themselves down and sleep. This statement of
hers I mentioned on my return from the hospital, and the overseer
appeared extremely annoyed by it, and assured me repeatedly that it was
not true.

In the evening Mr. ----, who had been over to Darien, mentioned that one
of the storekeepers there had told him that, in the course of a few years,
he had paid the negroes of this estate several thousand dollars for moss,
which is a very profitable article of traffic with them--they collect it
from the trees, dry and pick it, and then sell it to the people in Darien
for mattresses, sofas, and all sorts of stuffing purposes,--which, in my
opinion, it answers better than any other material whatever that I am
acquainted with, being as light as horse hair, as springy and elastic, and
a great deal less harsh and rigid. It is now bed-time, dear E----, and I
doubt not it has been sleepy time with you over this letter, long ere you
came thus far. There is a preliminary to my repose, however, in this
agreeable residence, which I rather dread, namely, the hunting for, or
discovering without hunting, in fine relief upon the white-washed walls of
my bed-room, a most hideous and detestable species of _reptile_, called
centipedes, which come out of the cracks and crevices of the walls, and
fill my very heart with dismay. They are from an inch to two inches long,
and appear to have not a hundred, but a thousand legs. I cannot ascertain
very certainly from the negroes whether they sting or not, but they look
exceedingly as if they might, and I visit my babies every night, in fear
and tremblings lest I should find one or more of these hateful creatures
mounting guard over them. Good night; you are well to be free from
centipedes--better to be free from slaves.

       *       *       *       *       *


Dear E----. This morning I paid my second visit to the infirmary, and
found there had been some faint attempt at sweeping and cleaning, in
compliance with my entreaties. The poor woman Harriet, however, whose
statement, with regard to the impossibility of their attending properly to
their children, had been so vehemently denied by the overseer, was crying
bitterly. I asked her what ailed her, when, more by signs and dumb show
than words, she and old Rose informed me that Mr. O---- had flogged her
that morning, for having told me that the women had not time to keep their
children clean. It is part of the regular duty of every overseer to visit
the infirmary at least once a day, which he generally does in the morning,
and Mr. O----'s visit had preceded mine but a short time only, or I might
have been edified by seeing a man horsewhip a woman. I again and again
made her repeat her story, and she again and again affirmed that she had
been flogged for what she told me, none of the whole company in the room
denying it, or contradicting her. I left the room, because I was so
disgusted and indignant, that I could hardly restrain my feelings, and to
express them could have produced no single good result. In the next ward,
stretched upon the ground, apparently either asleep or so overcome with
sickness as to be incapable of moving, lay an immense woman,--her stature,
as she cumbered the earth, must have been, I should think, five feet seven
or eight, and her bulk enormous. She was wrapped in filthy rags, and lay
with her face on the floor. As I approached, and stooped to see what ailed
her, she suddenly threw out her arms, and, seized with violent
convulsions, rolled over and over upon the floor, beating her head
violently upon the ground, and throwing her enormous limbs about in a
horrible manner. Immediately upon the occurrence of this fit, four or five
women threw themselves literally upon her, and held her down by main
force; they even proceeded to bind her legs and arms together, to prevent
her dashing herself about; but this violent coercion and tight bandaging
seemed to me, in my profound ignorance, more likely to increase her
illness, by impeding her breathing, and the circulation of her blood, and
I bade them desist, and unfasten all the strings and ligatures, not only
that they had put round her limbs, but which, by tightening her clothes
round her body, caused any obstruction. How much I wished that, instead of
music and dancing and such stuff, I had learned something of sickness and
health, of the conditions and liabilities of the human body, that I might
have known how to assist this poor creature, and to direct her ignorant
and helpless nurses! The fit presently subsided, and was succeeded by the
most deplorable prostration and weakness of nerves, the tears streaming
down the poor woman's cheeks in showers, without, however, her uttering a
single word, though she moaned incessantly. After bathing her forehead,
hands, and chest with vinegar, we raised her up, and I sent to the house
for a chair with a back (there was no such thing in the hospital,) and we
contrived to place her in it. I have seldom seen finer women than this
poor creature and her younger sister, an immense strapping lass, called
Chloe--tall, straight, and extremely well made--who was assisting her
sister, and whom I had remarked, for the extreme delight and merriment
which my cleansing propensities seemed to give her, on my last visit to
the hospital. She was here taking care of a sick baby, and helping to
nurse her sister Molly, who, it seems, is subject to those fits, about
which I spoke to our physician here--an intelligent man, residing in
Darien, who visits the estate whenever medical assistance is required. He
seemed to attribute them to nervous disorder, brought on by frequent child
bearing. This woman is young, I suppose at the outside not thirty, and her
sister informed me that she had had ten children--ten children, E----!
Fits and hard labour in the fields, unpaid labour, labour exacted with
stripes--how do you fancy that? I wonder if my mere narration can make
your blood boil, as the facts did mine? Among the patients in this room
was a young girl, apparently from fourteen to fifteen, whose hands and
feet were literally rotting away piecemeal, from the effect of a horrible
disease, to which the negroes are subject here, and I believe in the West
Indies, and when it attacks the joints of the toes and fingers, the pieces
absolutely decay and come off, leaving the limb a maimed and horrible
stump! I believe no cure is known for this disgusting malady, which seems
confined to these poor creatures. Another disease, of which they
complained much, and which, of course, I was utterly incapable of
accounting for, was a species of lock-jaw, to which their babies very
frequently fall victims, in the first or second week after their birth,
refusing the breast, and the mouth gradually losing the power of opening
itself. The horrible diseased state of head, common among their babies, is
a mere result of filth and confinement, and therefore, though I never
anywhere saw such distressing and disgusting objects as some of these poor
little woolly skulls presented, the cause was sufficiently obvious.
Pleurisy, or a tendency to it, seems very common among them; also
peri-pneumonia, or inflammation of the lungs, which is terribly prevalent,
and generally fatal. Rheumatism is almost universal; and as it proceeds
from exposure, and want of knowledge and care, attacks indiscriminately
the young and old. A great number of the women are victims to falling of
the womb and weakness in the spine; but these are necessary results of
their laborious existence, and do not belong either to climate or
constitution.

I have ingeniously contrived to introduce bribery, corruption, and
pauperism, all in a breath, upon this island, which, until my advent, was
as innocent of these pollutions, I suppose, as Prospero's isle of refuge.
Wishing, however, to appeal to some perception, perhaps a little less dim
in their minds than the abstract loveliness of cleanliness, I have
proclaimed to all the little baby nurses, that I will give a cent to every
little boy or girl whose baby's face shall be clean, and one to every
individual with clean face and hands of their own. My appeal was fully
comprehended by the majority, it seems, for this morning I was surrounded,
as soon as I came out, by a swarm of children carrying their little
charges on their backs and in their arms, the shining, and, in many
instances, wet faces and hands of the latter, bearing ample testimony to
the ablutions which had been inflicted upon them. How they will curse me
and the copper cause of all their woes, in their baby bosoms! Do you know
that little as grown negroes are admirable for their personal beauty (in
my opinion, at least), the black babies of a year or two old are very
pretty; they have for the most part beautiful eyes and eyelashes, the
pearly perfect teeth, which they retain after their other juvenile graces
have left them; their skins are all (I mean of blacks generally)
infinitely finer and softer than the skins of white people. Perhaps you
are not aware that among the white race the _finest grained_ skins
generally belong to persons of dark complexion. This, as a characteristic
of the black race, I think might be accepted as some compensation for the
coarse woolly hair. The nose and mouth, which are so peculiarly
displeasing in their conformation in the face of a negro man or woman,
being the features least developed in a baby's countenance, do not at
first present the ugliness which they assume as they become more marked;
and when the very unusual operation of washing has been performed, the
blood shines through the fine texture of the skin, giving life and
richness to the dingy colour, and displaying a species of beauty which I
think scarcely any body who observed it would fail to acknowledge. I have
seen many babies on this plantation, who were quite as pretty as white
children, and this very day stooped to kiss a little sleeping creature,
that lay on its mother's knees in the infirmary--as beautiful a specimen
of a sleeping infant as I ever saw. The caress excited the irrepressible
delight of all the women present--poor creatures! who seemed to forget
that I was a woman, and had children myself, and bore a woman's and a
mother's heart towards them and theirs; but, indeed, the Honourable Mr.
Slumkey could not have achieved more popularity by his performances in
that line than I, by this exhibition of feeling; and had the question been
my election, I am very sure nobody else would have had a chance of a vote
through the island. But wisely is it said, that use is second nature; and
the contempt and neglect to which these poor people are used, make the
commonest expression of human sympathy appear a boon and gracious
condescension. While I am speaking of the negro countenance, there is
another beauty which is not at all unfrequent among those I see here--a
finely shaped oval face--and those who know (as all painters and
sculptors, all who understand beauty do) how much expression there is in
the outline of the head, and how very rare it is to see a well-formed
face, will be apt to consider this a higher matter than any colouring of
which, indeed, the red and white one so often admired is by no means the
most rich, picturesque, or expressive. At first the dark colour confounded
all features to my eye, and I could hardly tell one face from another.
Becoming, however, accustomed to the complexion, I now perceive all the
variety among these black countenances that there is among our own race,
and as much difference in features and in expression as among the same
number of whites. There is another peculiarity which I have remarked among
the women here--very considerable beauty in the make of the hands; their
feet are very generally ill made, which must be a natural, and not an
acquired defect, as they seldom injure their feet by wearing shoes. The
figures of some of the women are handsome, and their carriage, from the
absence of any confining or tightening clothing, and the habit they have
of balancing great weights on their heads, erect and good.

At the upper end of the row of houses, and nearest to our overseer's
residence, is the hut of the head driver. Let me explain, by the way, his
office. The negroes, as I before told you, are divided into troops or
gangs, as they are called; at the head of each gang is a driver, who
stands over them, whip in hand, while they perform their daily task, who
renders an account of each individual slave and his work every evening to
the overseer, and receives from him directions for their next day's tasks.
Each driver is allowed to inflict a dozen lashes upon any refractory slave
in the field, and at the time of the offence; they may not, however,
extend the chastisement, and if it is found ineffectual, their remedy lies
in reporting the unmanageable individual either to the head driver or the
overseer; the former of whom has power to inflict three dozen lashes at
his own discretion, and the latter as many as he himself sees fit, within
the number of fifty; which limit, however, I must tell you, is an
arbitrary one on this plantation, appointed by the founder of the estate,
Major ----, Mr. ----'s grandfather, many of whose regulations, indeed I
believe most of them, are still observed in the government of the
plantation. Limits of this sort, however, to the power of either driver,
head driver, or overseer, may or may not exist elsewhere; they are, to a
certain degree, a check upon the power of these individuals; but in the
absence of the master, the overseer may confine himself within the limit
or not, as he chooses--and as for the master himself, where is his limit?
He may, if he likes, flog a slave to death, for the laws which pretend
that he may not are a mere pretence--inasmuch as the testimony of a black
is never taken against a white; and upon this plantation of ours, and a
thousand more, the overseer is the _only_ white man, so whence should come
the testimony to any crime of his? With regard to the oft-repeated
statement, that it is not the owner's interest to destroy his human
property, it answers nothing--the instances in which men, to gratify the
immediate impulse of passion, sacrifice not only their eternal, but their
evident, palpable, positive worldly interest, are infinite. Nothing is
commoner than for a man under the transient influence of anger to
disregard his worldly advantage; and the black slave, whose preservation
is indeed supposed to be his owner's interest, may be, will be, and is
occasionally sacrificed to the blind impulse of passion.

To return to our head driver, or, as he is familiarly called, head man,
Frank--he is second in authority only to the overseer, and exercises rule
alike over the drivers and the gangs, in the absence of the sovereign
white man from the estate, which happens whenever Mr. O---- visits the
other two plantations at Woodville and St. Simons. He is sole master and
governor of the island, appoints the work, pronounces punishments, gives
permission to the men to leave the island (without it they never may do
so), and exercises all functions of undisputed mastery over his fellow
slaves, for you will observe that all this while he is just as much a
slave as any of the rest. Trustworthy, upright, intelligent, he may be
flogged to-morrow if Mr. O---- or Mr. ---- so please it, and sold the next
day like a cart horse, at the will of the latter. Besides his various
other responsibilities, he has the key of all the stores, and gives out
the people's rations weekly; nor is it only the people's provisions that
are put under his charge--meat, which is only given out to them
occasionally, and provisions for the use of the family are also entrusted
to his care. Thus you see, among these _inferior_ creatures, their own
masters yet look to find, surviving all their best efforts to destroy
them--good sense, honesty, self-denial, and all the qualities, mental and
moral, that make one man worthy to be trusted by another. From the
imperceptible, but inevitable effect of the sympathies and influences of
human creatures towards and over each other, Frank's intelligence has
become uncommonly developed by intimate communion in the discharge of his
duty with the former overseer, a very intelligent man, who has only just
left the estate, after managing it for nineteen years; the effect of this
intercourse, and of the trust and responsibility laid upon the man, are
that he is clear-headed, well judging, active, intelligent, extremely well
mannered, and, being respected, he respects himself. He is as ignorant as
the rest of the slaves; but he is always clean and tidy in his person,
with a courteousness of demeanour far removed from servility, and exhibits
a strong instance of the intolerable and wicked injustice of the system
under which he lives, having advanced thus far towards improvement, in
spite of all the bars it puts to progress; and here being arrested, not by
want of energy, want of sense, or any want of his own, but by being held
as another man's property, who can only thus hold him by forbidding him
further improvement. When I see that man, who keeps himself a good deal
aloof from the rest, in his leisure hours looking, with a countenance of
deep thought, as I did to-day, over the broad river, which is to him as a
prison wall, to the fields and forest beyond, not one inch or branch of
which his utmost industry can conquer as his own, or acquire and leave an
independent heritage to his children, I marvel what the thoughts of such a
man may be. I was in his house to-day, and the same superiority in
cleanliness, comfort, and propriety exhibited itself in his dwelling, as
in his own personal appearance, and that of his wife--a most active,
trustworthy, excellent woman, daughter of the oldest, and probably most
highly respected of all Mr. ----'s slaves. To the excellent conduct of
this woman, and indeed every member of her family, both the present and
the last overseer bear unqualified testimony.

As I was returning towards the house, after my long morning's lounge, a
man rushed out of the blacksmith's shop, and catching me by the skirt of
my gown, poured forth a torrent of self-gratulations on having at length
found the 'right missis.' They have no idea, of course, of a white person
performing any of the offices of a servant, and as throughout the whole
Southern country the owner's children are nursed and tended, and sometimes
_suckled_ by their slaves (I wonder how this inferior milk agrees with the
lordly _white_ babies?) the appearance of M---- with my two children had
immediately suggested the idea that she must be the missis. Many of the
poor negroes flocked to her, paying their profound homage under this
impression; and when she explained to them that she was not their owner's
wife, the confusion in their minds seemed very great--Heaven only knows
whether they did not conclude that they had two mistresses, and Mr. ----
two wives; for the privileged race must seem, in their eyes, to have such
absolute masterdom on earth, that perhaps they thought polygamy might be
one of the sovereign white men's numerous indulgences. The ecstacy of the
blacksmith on discovering the 'right missis' at last was very funny, and
was expressed with such extraordinary grimaces, contortions, and
gesticulations, that I thought I should have died of laughing at this
rapturous identification of my most melancholy relation to the poor
fellow.

Having at length extricated myself from the group which forms round me
whenever I stop but for a few minutes, I pursued my voyage of discovery by
peeping into the kitchen garden. I dared do no more; the aspect of the
place would have rejoiced the very soul of Solomon's sluggard of old--a
few cabbages and weeds innumerable filled the neglected looking enclosure,
and I ventured no further than the entrance into its most uninviting
precincts. You are to understand that upon this swamp island of ours we
have quite a large stock of cattle, cows, sheep, pigs, and poultry in the
most enormous and inconvenient abundance. The cows are pretty miserably
off for pasture, the banks and pathways of the dykes being their only
grazing ground, which the sheep perambulate also, in earnest search of a
nibble of fresh herbage; both the cows and sheep are fed with rice flour
in great abundance, and are pretty often carried down for change of air
and more sufficient grazing to Hampton, Mr. ----'s estate, on the island
of St. Simons, fifteen miles from this place, further down the river--or
rather, indeed, I should say in the sea, for 'tis salt water all round,
and one end of the island has a noble beach open to the vast Atlantic. The
pigs thrive admirably here, and attain very great perfection of size and
flavour; the rice flour, upon which they are chiefly fed, tending to make
them very delicate. As for the poultry, it being one of the few privileges
of the poor blacks to raise as many as they can, their abundance is
literally a nuisance--ducks, fowls, pigeons, turkeys (the two latter
species, by the bye, are exclusively the master's property), cluck,
scream, gabble, gobble, crow, cackle, fight, fly, and flutter in all
directions, and to their immense concourse, and the perfect freedom with
which they intrude themselves even into the piazza of the house, the
pantry, and kitchen, I partly attribute the swarms of fleas, and other
still less agreeable vermin, with which we are most horribly pestered.

My walk lay to-day along the bank of a canal, which has been dug through
nearly the whole length of the island, to render more direct and easy the
transportation of the rice from one end of the estate to another, or from
the various distant fields to the principal mill at Settlement No. 1. It
is of considerable width and depth, and opens by various locks into the
river. It has, unfortunately, no trees on its banks, but a good footpath
renders it, in spite of that deficiency, about the best walk on the
island. I passed again to-day one of those beautiful evergreen thickets,
which I described to you in my last letter; it is called a reserve, and is
kept uncleared and uncultivated in its natural swampy condition, to allow
of the people's procuring their firewood from it. I cannot get accustomed,
so as to be indifferent to this exquisite natural ornamental growth, and
think, as I contemplate the various and beautiful foliage of these watery
woods, how many of our finest English parks and gardens owe their chiefest
adornments to plantations of these shrubs, procured at immense cost,
reared with infinite pains and care, which are here basking in the
winter's sunshine, waiting to be cut down for firewood! These little
groves are peopled with wild pigeons and birds, which they designate here
as blackbirds. These sometimes rise from the rice fields with a whirr of
multitudinous wings, that is almost startling, and positively overshadow
the ground beneath like a cloud.

I had a conversation that interested me a good deal, during my walk
to-day, with my peculiar slave Jack. This lad, whom Mr. ---- has appointed
to attend me in my roamings about the island, and rowing expeditions on
the river, is the son of the last head driver, a man of very extraordinary
intelligence and faithfulness--such, at least, is the account given of him
by his employers (in the burial-ground of the negroes is a stone dedicated
to his memory, a mark of distinction accorded by his masters, which his
son never failed to point out to me, when we passed that way). Jack
appears to inherit his quickness of apprehension; his questions, like
those of an intelligent child, are absolutely inexhaustible; his curiosity
about all things beyond this island, the prison-house of his existence,
is perfectly intense; his countenance is very pleasing, mild, and not
otherwise than thoughtful; he is, in common with the rest of them, a
stupendous flatterer, and, like the rest of them, also seems devoid of
physical and moral courage. To-day, in the midst of his torrent of
enquiries about places and things, I suddenly asked him if he would like
to be free. A gleam of light absolutely shot over his whole countenance,
like the vivid and instantaneous lightning--he stammered, hesitated,
became excessively confused, and at length replied--'Free, missis? what
for me wish to be free? Oh! no, missis, me no wish to be free, if massa
only let we keep pig.' The fear of offending, by uttering that forbidden
wish--the dread of admitting, by its expression, the slightest discontent
with his present situation--the desire to conciliate my favour, even at
the expense of strangling the intense natural longing that absolutely
glowed in his every feature--it was a sad spectacle, and I repented my
question. As for the pitiful request which he reiterated several times
adding, 'No, missis, me no want to be free--me work till me die for missis
and massa,' with increased emphasis; it amounted only to this, that the
negroes once were, but no longer are, permitted to keep pigs. The increase
of filth and foul smells, consequent upon their being raised, is, of
course, very great; and, moreover, Mr. ---- told me, when I preferred poor
Jack's request to him, that their allowance was no more than would suffice
their own necessity, and that they had not the means of feeding the
animals. With a little good management they might very easily obtain them,
however; their little 'kail-yard' alone would suffice to it, and the pork
and bacon would prove a most welcome addition to their farinaceous diet.
You perceive at once (or if you could have seen the boy's face, you would
have perceived at once), that his situation was no mystery to him, that
his value to Mr. ----, and, as he supposed, to me, was perfectly well
known to him, and that he comprehended immediately that his expressing
even the desire to be free, might be construed by me into an offence, and
sought by eager protestations of his delighted acquiescence in slavery, to
conceal his soul's natural yearning, lest I should resent it. 'T was a sad
passage between us, and sent me home full of the most painful thoughts. I
told Mr. ----, with much indignation, of poor Harriet's flogging, and
represented that if the people were to be chastised for anything they said
to me, I must leave the place, as I could not but hear their complaints,
and endeavour, by all my miserable limited means, to better their
condition while I was here. He said he would ask Mr. O---- about it,
assuring me, at the same time, that it was impossible to believe a single
word any of these people said. At dinner, accordingly, the enquiry was
made as to the cause of her punishment, and Mr. O---- then said it was not
at all for what she had told me, that he had flogged her, but for having
answered him impertinently, that he had ordered her into the field,
whereupon she had said she was ill and could not work, that he retorted he
knew better, and bade her get up and go to work; she replied, 'Very well,
I'll go, but I shall just come back again!' meaning, that when in the
field, she would be unable to work, and obliged, to return to the
hospital. 'For this reply,' Mr. O---- said, 'I gave her a good lashing; it
was her business to have gone into the field without answering me, and
then we should have soon seen whether she could work or not; I gave it to
Chloe too, for some such impudence.' I give you the words of the
conversation, which was prolonged to a great length, the overseer
complaining of sham sicknesses of the slaves, and detailing the most
disgusting struggle which is going on the whole time, on the one hand to
inflict, and on the other, to evade oppression and injustice. With this
sauce I ate my dinner, and truly it tasted bitter.

Towards sunset I went on the river to take my rowing lesson. A darling
little canoe which carries two oars and a steersman, and rejoices in the
appropriate title of the 'Dolphin,' is my especial vessel; and with Jack's
help and instructions, I contrived this evening to row upwards of half a
mile, coasting the reed-crowned edge of the island to another very large
rice mill, the enormous wheel of which is turned by the tide. A small bank
of mud and sand covered with reedy coarse grass divides the river into two
arms on this side of the island; the deep channel is on the outside of
this bank, and as we rowed home this evening, the tide having fallen, we
scraped sand almost the whole way. Mr. ----'s domain, it seems to me, will
presently fill up this shallow stream, and join itself to the
above-mentioned mud-bank. The whole course of this most noble river is
full of shoals, banks, mud, and sand-bars, and the navigation, which is
difficult to those who know it well, is utterly baffling to the
inexperienced. The fact is, that the two elements are so fused hereabouts,
that there are hardly such things as earth or water proper; that which
styles itself the former, is a fat, muddy, slimy sponge, that, floating
half under the turbid river, looks yet saturated with the thick waves
which every now and then reclaim their late dominion, and cover it almost
entirely; the water, again, cloudy and yellow, like pea-soup, seems but a
solution of such islands, rolling turbid and thick with alluvium, which it
both gathers and deposits as it sweeps along with a swollen, smooth
rapidity, that almost deceives the eye. Amphibious creatures, alligators,
serpents, and wild fowl, haunt these yet but half-formed regions, where
land and water are of the consistency of hasty-pudding--the one seeming
too unstable to walk on, the other almost too thick to float in. But then,
the sky, if no human chisel ever yet cut breath, neither did any human pen
ever write light; if it did, mine should spread out before you the
unspeakable glories of these southern heavens, the saffron brightness of
morning, the blue intense brilliancy of noon, the golden splendour and the
rosy softness of sunset. Italy and Claude Lorraine may go hang themselves
together! Heaven itself does not seem brighter or more beautiful to the
imagination, than these surpassing pageants of fiery rays, and piled-up
beds of orange, golden clouds, with edges too bright to look on, scattered
wreaths of faintest rosy bloom, amber streaks and pale green lakes
between, and amid sky all mingled blue and rose tints, a spectacle to make
one fall over the boat's side, with one's head broken off, with looking
adoringly upwards, but which, on paper, means nothing.

At six o'clock our little canoe grazed the steps at the landing. These
were covered with young women, and boys, and girls, drawing water for
their various household purposes. A very small cedar pail--a piggin, as
they termed it--serves to scoop up the river water, and having, by this
means, filled a large bucket, they transfer this to their heads, and thus
laden, march home with the purifying element--what to do with it, I cannot
imagine, for evidence of its ever having been introduced into their
dwellings, I saw none. As I ascended the stairs, they surrounded me with
shrieks and yells of joy, uttering exclamations of delight and amazement
at my rowing. Considering that they dig, delve, carry burthens, and
perform many more athletic exercises than pulling a light oar, I was
rather amused at this; but it was the singular fact of seeing a white
woman stretch her sinews in any toilsome exercise which astounded them,
accustomed as they are to see both men and women of the privileged skin
eschew the slightest shadow of labour, as a thing not only painful but
degrading. They will learn another lesson from me, however, whose idea of
Heaven was pronounced by a friend of mine, to whom I once communicated it,
to be 'devilish hard work'! It was only just six o'clock, and these women
had all done their tasks. I exhorted them to go home and wash their
children, and clean their houses and themselves, which they professed
themselves ready to do, but said they had no soap. Then began a chorus of
mingled requests for soap, for summer clothing, and a variety of things,
which, if 'Missis only give we, we be so clean for ever!'

This request for summer clothing, by the by, I think a very reasonable
one. The allowance of clothes made yearly to each slave by the present
regulations of the estate, is a certain number of yards of flannel, and as
much more of what they call plains--an extremely stout, thick, heavy
woollen cloth, of a dark grey or blue colour, which resembles the species
of carpet we call drugget. This, and two pair of shoes, is the regular
ration of clothing; but these plains would be intolerable to any but
negroes, even in winter, in this climate, and are intolerable to them in
the summer. A far better arrangement, in my opinion, would be to increase
their allowance of flannel and under clothing, and give them dark chintzes
instead of these thick carpets, which are very often the only covering
they wear at all. I did not impart all this to my petitioners, but
disengaging myself from them, for they held my hands and clothes, I
conjured them to offer us some encouragement to better their condition, by
bettering it as much as they could themselves,--enforced the virtue of
washing themselves and all belonging to them, and at length made good my
retreat. As there is no particular reason why such a letter as this should
ever come to an end, I had better spare you for the present. You shall
have a faithful journal, I promise you, henceforward, as hitherto, from
your's ever.

       *       *       *       *       *


Dear E----. We had a species of fish this morning for our breakfast, which
deserves more glory than I can bestow upon it. Had I been the ingenious
man who wrote a poem upon fish, the white mullet of the Altamaha should
have been at least my heroine's cousin. 'Tis the heavenliest creature that
goes upon fins. I took a long walk this morning to Settlement No. 3, the
third village on the island. My way lay along the side of the canal,
beyond which, and only divided from it by a raised narrow causeway, rolled
the brimming river with its girdle of glittering evergreens, while on my
other hand a deep trench marked the line of the rice fields. It really
seemed as if the increase of merely a shower of rain might join all these
waters together, and lay the island under its original covering again. I
visited the people and houses here. I found nothing in any respect
different from what I have described to you at Settlement No. 1. During
the course of my walk, I startled from its repose in one of the
rice-fields, a huge blue heron. You must have seen, as I often have, these
creatures stuffed in museums; but 't is another matter, and far more
curious, to meet them stalking on their stilts of legs over a rice-field,
and then on your near approach, see them spread their wide heavy wings,
and throw themselves upon the air, with their long shanks flying after
them in a most grotesque and laughable manner. They fly as if they did not
know how to do it very well; but standing still, their height (between
four and five feet) and peculiar colour, a dusky, greyish blue, with black
about the head, render their appearance very beautiful and striking.

In the afternoon, I and Jack rowed ourselves over to Darien. It is
Saturday--the day of the week on which the slaves from the island are
permitted to come over to the town, to purchase such things as they may
require and can afford, and to dispose, to the best advantage, of their
poultry, moss, and eggs. I met many of them paddling themselves singly
in their slight canoes, scooped out of the trunk of a tree, and parties
of three and four rowing boats of their own building, laden with their
purchases, singing, laughing, talking, and apparently enjoying their
holiday to the utmost. They all hailed me with shouts of delight, as I
pulled past them, and many were the injunctions bawled after Jack, to
'mind and take good care of Missis!' We returned home through the glory
of a sunset all amber-coloured and rosy, and found that one of the
slaves, a young lad for whom Mr. ---- has a particular regard, was
dangerously ill. Dr. H---- was sent for; and there is every probability
that he, Mr. ----and Mr. O---- will be up all night with the poor
fellow. I shall write more to-morrow. To-day being Sunday, dear E----, a
large boat full of Mr. ----'s people from Hampton came up, to go to
church at Darien, and to pay their respects to their master, and see
their new 'Missis.' The same scene was acted over again that occurred on
our first arrival. A crowd clustered round the house door, to whom I and
my babies were produced, and with every individual of whom we had to
shake hands some half-a-dozen times. They brought us up presents of eggs
(their only wealth), beseeching us to take them, and one young lad, the
son of head-man Frank, had a beautiful pair of chickens, which he
offered most earnestly to S----. We took one of them, not to mortify the
poor fellow, and a green ribbon being tied round its leg, it became a
sacred fowl, 'little missis's chicken.' By the by, this young man had so
light a complexion, and such regular straight features, that, had I seen
him anywhere else, I should have taken him for a southern European, or,
perhaps, in favour of his tatters, a gipsy; but certainly it never would
have occurred to me that he was the son of negro parents. I observed
this to Mr. ----, who merely replied, 'He is the son of head-man Frank
and his wife Betty, and they are both black enough, as you see.' The
expressions of devotion and delight of these poor people are the most
fervent you can imagine. One of them, speaking to me of Mr. ----, and
saying that they had heard that he had not been well, added, 'Oh! we
hear so, missis, and we not know what to do. Oh! missis, massa sick, all
him people _broken_!'

Dr. H---- came again to-day to see the poor sick boy, who is doing much
better, and bidding fair to recover. He entertained me with an account of
the Darien society, its aristocracies and democracies, its little
grandeurs and smaller pettinesses, its circles higher and lower, its
social jealousies, fine invisible lines of demarcation, imperceptible
shades of different respectability, and delicate divisions of genteel,
genteeler, genteelest. 'For me,' added the worthy doctor, 'I cannot well
enter into the spirit of these nice distinctions; it suits neither my
taste nor my interest, and my house is, perhaps, the only one in Darien,
where you would find all these opposite and contending elements
combined.' The doctor is connected with the aristocracy of the place, and,
like a wise man, remembers, notwithstanding, that those who are not, are
quite as liable to be ill, and call in medical assistance, as those who
are. He is a shrewd, intelligent man, with an excellent knowledge of his
profession, much kindness of heart, and apparent cheerful good temper. I
have already severely tried the latter, by the unequivocal expression of
my opinions on the subject of slavery, and, though I perceived that it
required all his self-command to listen with anything like patience to my
highly incendiary and inflammatory doctrines, he yet did so, and though he
was, I have no doubt, perfectly horror-stricken at the discovery, lost
nothing of his courtesy or good-humour. By the by, I must tell you, that
at an early period of the conversation, upon my saying, 'I put all other
considerations out of the question, and first propose to you the injustice
of the system alone,' 'Oh!' replied my friend, the Doctor, 'if you put it
upon that ground, you _stump_ the question at once; I have nothing to say
to that whatever, but,' and then followed the usual train of
pleadings--happiness, tenderness, care, indulgence, &c., &c., &c.--all the
substitutes that may or may not be put in the place of _justice_, and
which these slaveholders attempt to persuade others, and perhaps
themselves, effectually supply its want. After church hours the people
came back from Darien. They are only permitted to go to Darien to church
once a month. On the intermediate Sundays they assemble in the house of
London, Mr. ----'s head cooper, an excellent and pious man, who, Heaven
alone knows how, has obtained some little knowledge of reading, and who
reads prayers and the Bible to his fellow slaves, and addresses them with
extemporaneous exhortations. I have the greatest desire to attend one of
these religious meetings, but fear to put the people under any, the
slightest restraint. However, I shall see, by and by, how they feel about
it themselves.

You have heard, of course, many and contradictory statements as to the
degree of religious instruction afforded to the negroes of the South, and
their opportunities of worship, &c. Until the late abolition movement, the
spiritual interests of the slaves were about as little regarded as their
physical necessities. The outcry which has been raised with threefold
force within the last few years against the whole system, has induced its
upholders and defenders to adopt, as measures of personal extenuation,
some appearance of religious instruction (such as it is), and some
pretence at physical indulgences (such as they are), bestowed apparently
voluntarily upon their dependants. At Darien, a church is appropriated to
the especial use of the slaves, who are almost all of them Baptists here;
and a gentleman officiates in it (of course white), who, I understand, is
very zealous in the cause of their spiritual well-being. He, like most
Southern men, clergy or others, jump the present life in their charities
to the slaves, and go on to furnish them with all requisite conveniences
for the next. There were a short time ago two free black preachers in this
neighbourhood, but they have lately been ejected from the place. I could
not clearly learn, but one may possibly imagine, upon what grounds.

I do not think that a residence on a slave plantation is likely to be
peculiarly advantageous to a child like my eldest. I was observing her
to-day among her swarthy worshippers, for they follow her as such, and
saw, with dismay, the universal eagerness with which they sprang to obey
her little gestures of command. She said something about a swing, and in
less than five minutes head-man Frank had erected it for her, and a
dozen young slaves were ready to swing little 'missis.' ----, think of
learning to rule despotically your fellow creatures before the first
lesson of self-government has been well spelt over! It makes me tremble;
but I shall find a remedy, or remove myself and the child from this
misery and ruin.

You cannot conceive anything more grotesque than the Sunday trim of the
poor people; their ideality, as Mr. Combe would say, being, I should
think, twice as big as any rational bump in their head. Their Sabbath
toilet really presents the most ludicrous combination of incongruities
that you can conceive--frills, flounces, ribbands, combs stuck in their
woolly heads, as if they held up any portion of the stiff and ungovernable
hair, filthy finery, every colour in the rainbow, and the deepest possible
shades blended in fierce companionship round one dusky visage, head
handkerchiefs, that put one's very eyes out from a mile off, chintzes with
sprawling patterns, that might be seen if the clouds were printed with
them--beads, bugles, flaring sashes, and above all, little fanciful
aprons, which finish these incongruous toilets with a sort of airy grace,
which I assure you is perfectly indescribable. One young man, the eldest
son and heir of our washerwoman Hannah, came to pay his respects to me in
a magnificent black satin waistcoat, shirt gills which absolutely
engulphed his black visage, and neither shoes nor stockings on his feet.

Among our visitors from St. Simons to-day was Hannah's mother (it seems to
me that there is not a girl of sixteen on the plantations but has
children, nor a woman of thirty but has grandchildren). Old House Molly,
as she is called, from the circumstance of her having been one of the
slaves employed in domestic offices during Major ----'s residence on the
island, is one of the oldest and most respected slaves on the estate, and
was introduced to me by Mr. ---- with especial marks of attention and
regard; she absolutely embraced him, and seemed unable sufficiently to
express her ecstacy at seeing him again. Her dress, like that of her
daughter, and all the servants who have at any time been employed about
the family, bore witness to a far more improved taste than the half savage
adornment of the other poor blacks, and upon my observing to her how
agreeable her neat and cleanly appearance was to me, she replied, that her
old master (Major ----) was extremely particular in this respect, and that
in his time all the house servants were obliged to be very nice and
careful about their persons.

She named to me all her children, an immense tribe; and, by the by, E----,
it has occurred to me that whereas the increase of this ill-fated race is
frequently adduced as a proof of their good treatment and well being, it
really and truly is no such thing, and springs from quite other causes
than the peace and plenty which a rapidly increasing population are
supposed to indicate. If you will reflect for a moment upon the overgrown
families of the half-starved Irish peasantry and English manufacturers,
you will agree with me that these prolific shoots by no means necessarily
spring from a rich or healthy soil. Peace and plenty are certainly causes
of human increase, and so is recklessness; and this, I take it, is the
impulse in the instance of the English manufacturer, the Irish peasant,
and the negro slave. Indeed here it is more than recklessness, for there
are certain indirect premiums held out to obey the early commandment of
replenishing the earth, which do not fail to have their full effect. In
the first place, none of the cares, those noble cares, that holy
thoughtfulness which lifts the human above the brute parent, are ever
incurred here by either father or mother. The relation indeed resembles,
as far as circumstances can possibly make it do so, the short-lived
connection between the animal and its young. The father, having neither
authority, power, responsibility, or charge in his children, is of course,
as among brutes, the least attached to his offspring; the mother, by the
natural law which renders the infant dependent on her for its first year's
nourishment, is more so; but as neither of them is bound to educate or to
support their children, all the unspeakable tenderness and solemnity, all
the rational, and all the spiritual grace and glory of the connection is
lost, and it becomes mere breeding, bearing, suckling, and there an end.
But it is not only the absence of the conditions which God has affixed to
the relation, which tends to encourage the reckless increase of the race;
they enjoy, by means of numerous children, certain positive advantages. In
the first place, every woman who is pregnant, as soon as she chooses to
make the fact known to the overseer, is relieved of a certain portion of
her work in the field, which lightening of labour continues, of course, as
long as she is so burthened. On the birth of a child certain additions of
clothing and an additional weekly ration are bestowed on the family; and
these matters, small as they may seem, act as powerful inducements to
creatures who have none of the restraining influences actuating them
which belong to the parental relation among all other people, whether
civilised or savage. Moreover, they have all of them a most distinct and
perfect knowledge of their value to their owners as property; and a woman
thinks, and not much amiss, that the more frequently she adds to the
number of her master's live stock by bringing new slaves into the world,
the more claims she will have upon his consideration and goodwill. This
was perfectly evident to me from the meritorious air with which the women
always made haste to inform me of the number of children they had borne,
and the frequent occasions on which the older slaves would direct my
attention to their children, exclaiming, 'Look, missis! little niggers for
you and massa, plenty little niggers for you and little missis!' A very
agreeable apostrophe to me indeed, as you will believe.

I have let this letter lie for a day or two, dear, E---- from press of
more immediate avocations. I have nothing very particular to add to it. On
Monday evening I rowed over to Darien with Mr. ---- to fetch over the
doctor, who was coming to visit some of our people. As I sat waiting in
the boat for the return of the gentlemen, the sun went down, or rather
seemed to dissolve bodily into the glowing clouds, which appeared but a
fusion of the great orb of light; the stars twinkled out in the
rose-coloured sky, and the evening air, as it fanned the earth to sleep,
was as soft as a summer's evening breeze in the north. A sort of dreamy
stillness seemed creeping over the world and into my spirit, as the canoe
just tilted against the steps that led to the wharf, raised by the scarce
perceptible heaving of the water. A melancholy, monotonous boat-horn
sounded from a distance up the stream, and presently, floating slowly down
with the current, huge, shapeless, black relieved against the sky, came
one of those rough barges piled with cotton, called, hereabouts, Ocone
boxes. The vessel itself is really nothing but a monstrous square box,
made of rough planks, put together in the roughest manner possible to
attain the necessary object of keeping the cotton dry. Upon this great
tray are piled the swollen apoplectic looking cotton bags, to the height
of ten, twelve, and fourteen feet. This huge water-waggon floats lazily
down the river, from the upper country to Darien. They are flat bottomed,
and, of course, draw little water. The stream from whence they are named
is an up country river, which, by its junction with the Ocmulgee, forms
the Altamaha. Here at least, you perceive the Indian names remain, and
long may they do so, for they seem to me to become the very character of
the streams and mountains they indicate, and are indeed significant to the
learned in savage tongues, which is more than can be said of such titles
as Jones's Creek, Onion Creek, &c. These Ocone boxes are broken up at
Darien, where the cotton is shipped either for the Savannah, Charleston
or Liverpool markets, and the timber, of which they are constructed,
sold.

We rowed the doctor over to see some of his patients on the island, and
before his departure a most animated discussion took place upon the
subject of the President of the United States, his talents,
qualifications, opinions, above all, his views with regard to the slave
system. Mr. ----, who you know is no abolitionist, and is a very devoted
Van Buren man, maintained with great warmth the President's
straight-forwardness, and his evident and expressed intention of
protecting the rights of the South. The doctor, on the other hand, quoted
a certain speech of the President's, upon the question of abolishing
slavery in the district of Columbia, which his fears interpreted into a
mere evasion of the matter, and an indication that, at some future period,
he (Mr. Van Buren), might take a different view of the subject. I confess,
for my own part, that if the doctor quoted the speech right, and if the
President is not an honest man, and if I were a Southern slave holder, I
should not feel altogether secure of Mr. Van Buren's present opinions or
future conduct upon this subject. These three _ifs_, however, are material
points of consideration. Our friend the doctor inclined vehemently to Mr.
Clay, as one on whom the slave holders could depend. Georgia, however, as
a state, is perhaps the most democratic in the Union; though here, as well
as in other places, that you and I know of, a certain class, calling
themselves the first, and honestly believing themselves the best, set
their faces against the modern fashioned republicanism, professing, and, I
have no doubt, with great sincerity, that their ideas of democracy are
altogether of a different kind.

I went again to-day to the Infirmary, and was happy to perceive that there
really was an evident desire to conform to my instructions, and keep the
place in a better condition than formerly. Among the sick I found a poor
woman suffering dreadfully from the ear-ache. She had done nothing to
alleviate her pain but apply some leaves, of what tree or plant I could
not ascertain, and tie up her head in a variety of dirty cloths, till it
was as large as her whole body. I removed all these, and found one side of
her face and neck very much swollen, but so begrimed with filth that it
was really no very agreeable task to examine it. The first process, of
course, was washing, which, however, appeared to her so very unusual an
operation, that I had to perform it for her myself. Sweet oil and
laudanum, and raw cotton, being then applied to her ear and neck, she
professed herself much relieved, but I believe in my heart that the warm
water sponging had done her more good than anything else. I was sorry not
to ascertain what leaves she had applied to her ear. These simple remedies
resorted to by savages, and people as ignorant, are generally approved by
experience, and sometimes condescendingly adopted by science. I remember
once, when Mr. ---- was suffering from a severe attack of inflammatory
rheumatism, Doctor C---- desired him to bind round his knee the leaves of
the tulip-tree--poplar, I believe you call it--saying that he had learnt
that remedy from the negroes in Virginia, and found it a most effectual
one. My next agreeable office in the Infirmary this morning was
superintending the washing of two little babies, whose mothers were
nursing them with quite as much ignorance as zeal. Having ordered a large
tub of water, I desired Rose to undress the little creatures and give them
a warm bath; the mothers looked on in unutterable dismay, and one of them,
just as her child was going to be put into the tub, threw into it all the
clothes she had just taken off it, as she said, to break the unusual shock
of the warm water. I immediately rescued them, not but what they were
quite as much in want of washing as the baby, but it appeared, upon
enquiry, that the woman had none others to dress the child in, when it
should have taken its bath; they were immediately wrung and hung by the
fire to dry, and the poor little patients having undergone this novel
operation were taken out and given to their mothers. Anything, however,
much more helpless and inefficient than these poor ignorant creatures you
cannot conceive; they actually seemed incapable of drying or dressing
their own babies, and I had to finish their toilet myself. As it is only a
very few years since the most absurd and disgusting customs have become
exploded among ourselves, you will not, of course, wonder that these poor
people pin up the lower part of their infants, bodies, legs and all, in
red flannel as soon as they are born, and keep them in the selfsame
envelope till it literally falls off.

In the next room I found a woman lying on the floor in a fit of epilepsy,
barking most violently. She seemed to excite no particular attention or
compassion; the women said she was subject to these fits, and took little
or no notice of her, as she lay barking like some enraged animal on the
ground. Again I stood in profound ignorance, sickening with the sight of
suffering, which I knew not how to alleviate, and which seemed to excite
no commiseration, merely from the sad fact of its frequent occurrence.
Returning to the house, I passed up the 'street.' It was between eleven
o'clock and noon, and the people were taking their first meal in the day.
By the by, E----, how do you think Berkshire county farmers would relish
labouring hard all day upon _two meals_ of Indian corn or hominy? Such is
the regulation on this plantation, however, and I beg you to bear in mind
that the negroes on Mr. ----'s estate, are generally considered well off.
They go to the fields at daybreak, carrying with them their allowance of
food for the day, which towards noon, _and not till then_, they eat,
cooking it over a fire, which they kindle as best they can, where they are
working. Their second meal in the day is at night, after their labour is
over, having worked, at the _very least_, six hours without intermission
of rest or refreshment since their noon-day meal (properly so called, for
'tis meal, and nothing else). Those that I passed to-day, sitting on their
doorsteps, or on the ground round them eating, were the people employed at
the mill and threshing-floor. As these are near to the settlement, they
had time to get their food from the cook-shop. Chairs, tables, plates,
knives, forks, they had none; they sat, as I before said, on the earth or
doorsteps, and ate either out of their little cedar tubs, or an iron pot,
some few with broken iron spoons, more with pieces of wood, and all the
children with their fingers. A more complete sample of savage feeding, I
never beheld. At one of the doors I saw three young girls standing, who
might be between sixteen and seventeen years old; they had evidently done
eatings and were rudely playing and romping with each other, laughing and
shouting like wild things. I went into the house, and such another
spectacle of filthy disorder I never beheld. I then addressed the girls
most solemnly, showing them that they were wasting in idle riot the time
in which they might be rendering their abode decent, and told them that it
was a shame for any woman to live in so dirty a place, and so beastly a
condition. They said they had seen buckree (white) women's houses just as
dirty, and they could not be expected to be cleaner than white women. I
then told them that the only difference between themselves and buckree
women was, that the latter were generally better informed, and, for that
reason alone, it was more disgraceful to them to be disorderly and dirty.
They seemed to listen to me attentively, and one of them exclaimed, with
great satisfaction, that they saw I made no difference between them and
white girls, and that they never had been so treated before. I do not know
anything which strikes me as a more melancholy illustration of the
degradation of these people, than the animal nature of their recreations
in their short seasons of respite from labour. You see them, boys and
girls, from the youngest age to seventeen and eighteen, rolling, tumbling,
kicking, and wallowing in the dust, regardless alike of decency, and
incapable of any more rational amusement; or, lolling, with half-closed
eyes, like so many cats and dogs, against a wall, or upon a bank in the
sun, dozing away their short leisure hour, until called to resume their
labours in the field or the mill. After this description of the meals of
our labourers, you will, perhaps, be curious to know how it fares with our
house servants in this respect. Precisely in the same manner, as far as
regards allowance, with the exception of what is left from our table, but,
if possible, with even less comfort, in one respect, inasmuch as no time
whatever is set apart for their meals, which they snatch at any hour, and
in any way that they can--generally, however, standing, or squatting on
their hams round the kitchen fire. They have no sleeping-rooms in the
house, but when their work is over, retire, like the rest, to their
hovels, the discomfort of which has to them all the addition of comparison
with our mode of living. Now, in all establishments whatever, of course
some disparity exists between the comforts of the drawing-room and best
bed-rooms, and the servant's hall and attics, but here it is no longer a
matter of degree. The young woman who performs the office of lady's-maid,
and the lads who wait upon us at table, have neither table to feed at nor
chair to sit down upon themselves. The boys sleep at night on the hearth
by the kitchen fire, and the women upon a rough board bedstead, strewed
with a little tree moss. All this shows how very torpid the sense of
justice is apt to lie in the breasts of those who have it not awakened by
the peremptory demands of others.

In the north we could not hope to keep the worst and poorest servant for
a single day in the wretched discomfort in which our negro servants are
forced habitually to live. I received a visit this morning from some of
the Darien people. Among them was a most interesting young person, from
whose acquaintance, if I have any opportunity of cultivating it, I
promise myself much pleasure. The ladies that I have seen since I
crossed the southern line, have all seemed to me extremely sickly in
their appearance--delicate in the refined term, but unfortunately sickly
in the truer one. They are languid in their deportment and speech, and
seem to give themselves up, without an effort to counteract it, to the
enervating effect of their warm climate. It is undoubtedly a most
relaxing and unhealthy one, and therefore requires the more imperatively
to be met by energetic and invigorating habits both of body and mind. Of
these, however, the southern ladies appear to have, at present, no very
positive idea. Doctor ---- told us to-day of a comical application which
his negro man had made to him for the coat he was then wearing. I forget
whether the fellow wanted the loan, or the absolute gift of it, but his
argument was (it might have been an Irishman's) that he knew his master
intended to give it to him by and by, and that he thought he might as
well let him have it at once, as keep him waiting any longer for it.
This story the Doctor related with great glee, and it furnishes a very
good sample of what the Southerners are fond of exhibiting, the degree
of licence to which they capriciously permit their favourite slaves
occasionally to carry their familiarity. They seem to consider it as an
undeniable proof of the general kindness with which their dependents are
treated. It is as good a proof of it as the maudlin tenderness of a fine
lady to her lap-dog is of her humane treatment of animals in general.
Servants whose claims to respect are properly understood by themselves
and their employers, are not made pets, playthings, jesters, or
companions of, and it is only the degradation of the many that admits of
this favouritism to the few--a system of favouritism which, as it is
perfectly consistent with the profoundest contempt and injustice,
degrades the object of it quite as much, though it oppresses him less,
than the cruelty practised upon his fellows. I had several of these
favourite slaves presented to me, and one or two little negro children,
who their owners assured me were quite pets. The only real service which
this arbitrary goodwill did to the objects of it was quite involuntary
and unconscious on the part of their kind masters--I mean the inevitable
improvement in intelligence, which resulted to them from being more
constantly admitted to the intercourse of the favoured white race.

I must not forget to tell you of a magnificent bald-headed eagle which
Mr. ---- called me to look at early this morning. I had never before seen
alive one of these national types of yours, and stood entranced as the
noble creature swept, like a black cloud, over the river, his bald white
head bent forward and shining in the sun, and his fierce eyes and beak
directed towards one of the beautiful wild ducks on the water, which he
had evidently marked for his prey. The poor little duck, who was not
ambitious of such a glorification, dived, and the eagle hovered above the
spot. After a short interval, its victim rose to the surface several
yards nearer shore. The great king of birds stooped nearer, and again the
watery shield was interposed. This went on until the poor water-fowl,
driven by excess of fear into unwonted boldness, rose, after repeatedly
diving, within a short distance of where we stood. The eagle, who, I
presume, had read how we were to have dominion over the fowls of the air
(bald-headed eagles included), hovered sulkily awhile over the river, and
then sailing slowly towards the woods on the opposite shore, alighted and
furled his great wings on a huge cypress limb, that stretched itself out
against the blue sky, like the arm of a giant, for the giant bird to
perch upon.

I am amusing myself by attempting to beautify, in some sort, this
residence of ours. Immediately at the back of it runs a ditch, about three
feet wide, which empties and fills twice a day with the tide. This lies
like a moat on two sides of the house. The opposite bank is a steep dyke,
with a footpath along the top. One or two willows droop over this very
interesting ditch, and I thought I would add to their company some
magnolias and myrtles, and so make a little evergreen plantation round the
house. I went to the swamp reserves I have before mentioned to you, and
chose some beautiful bushes--among others, a very fine young pine, at
which our overseer and all the negroes expressed much contemptuous
surprise; for though the tree is beautiful, it is also common, and with
them, as with wiser folk 'tis 'nothing pleases but rare accidents.' In
spite of their disparaging remarks, however, I persisted in having my pine
tree planted; and I assure you it formed a very pleasing variety among the
broad smooth leaved evergreens about it. While forming my plantation I had
a brand thrown into a bed of tall yellow sedges which screen the brimming
waters of the noble river from our parlour window, and which I therefore
wished removed. The small sample of a southern conflagration which ensued
was very picturesque, the flames devouring the light growth, absolutely
licking it off the ground, while the curling smoke drew off in misty
wreaths across the river. The heat was intense, and I thought how
exceedingly and unpleasantly warm one must feel in the midst of such a
forest burning, as Cooper describes. Having worked my appointed task in
the garden, I rowed over to Darien and back, the rosy sunset changing
meantime to starry evening, as beautiful as the first the sky ever was
arrayed in.

I saw an advertisement this morning in the paper, which occasioned me much
thought. Mr. J---- C---- and a Mr. N----, two planters of this
neighbourhood, have contracted to dig a canal, called the Brunswick canal,
and not having hands enough for the work, advertise at the same time for
negroes on hires and for Irish labourers. Now the Irishmen are to have
twenty dollars a month wages, and to be 'found' (to use the technical
phrase,) which finding means abundant food, and the best accommodations
which can be procured for them. The negroes are hired from their masters,
who will be paid of course as high a price as they can obtain for
them--probably a very high one, as the demand for them is urgent--they, in
the meantime, receiving no wages, and nothing more than the miserable
negro fare of rice and corn grits. Of course the Irishmen and these slaves
are not allowed to work together, but are kept at separate stations on the
canal. This is every way politic, for the low Irish seem to have the same
sort of hatred of negroes which sects, differing but little in their
tenets, have for each other. The fact is, that a condition in their own
country nearly similar, has made the poor Irish almost as degraded a class
of beings as the negroes are here, and their insolence towards them, and
hatred of them, are precisely in proportion to the resemblance between
them. This hiring out of negroes is a horrid aggravation of the miseries
of their condition, for, if on the plantations, and under the masters to
whom they belong, their labour is severe, and their food inadequate, think
what it must be when they are hired out for a stipulated sum to a
temporary employer, who has not even the interest which it is pretended an
owner may feel in the welfare of his slaves, but whose chief aim it must
necessarily be to get as much out of them, and expend as little on them,
as possible. Ponder this new form of iniquity, and believe me ever your
most sincerely attached.

       *       *       *       *       *


Dearest E----. After finishing my last letter to you, I went out into the
clear starlight to breathe the delicious mildness of the air, and was
surprised to hear rising from one of the houses of the settlement a hymn
sung apparently by a number of voices. The next morning I enquired the
meaning of this, and was informed that those negroes on the plantation who
were members of the Church, were holding a prayer-meeting. There is an
immensely strong devotional feeling among these poor people. The worst of
it is, that it is zeal without understanding, and profits them but
little; yet light is light, even that poor portion that may stream
through a key-hole, and I welcome this most ignorant profession of
religion in Mr. ----'s dependents, as the herald of better and brighter
things for them. Some of the planters are entirely inimical to any such
proceedings, and neither allow their negroes to attend worship, or to
congregate together for religious purposes, and truly I think they are
wise in their own generation. On other plantations, again, the same rigid
discipline is not observed; and some planters and overseers go even
farther than toleration; and encourage these devotional exercises and
professions of religion, having actually discovered that a man may become
more faithful and trustworthy even as a slave, who acknowledges the
higher influences of Christianity, no matter in how small a degree.
Slave-holding clergymen, and certain piously inclined planters, undertake,
accordingly, to enlighten these poor creatures upon these matters, with a
safe understanding, however, of what truth is to be given to them, and
what is not; how much they may learn to become better slaves, and how
much they may not learn, lest they cease to be slaves at all. The process
is a very ticklish one, and but for the northern public opinion, which is
now pressing the slaveholders close, I dare say would not be attempted at
all. As it is, they are putting their own throats and their own souls in
jeopardy by this very endeavour to serve God and Mammon. The light that
they are letting in between their fingers will presently strike them
blind, and the mighty flood of truth which they are straining through a
sieve to the thirsty lips of their slaves, sweep them away like straws
from their cautious moorings, and overwhelm them in its great deeps, to
the waters of which man may in nowise say, thus far shall ye come and no
farther. The community I now speak of, the white population of Darien,
should be a religious one, to judge by the number of Churches it
maintains. However, we know the old proverb, and, at that rate, it may
not be so godly after all. Mr. ---- and his brother have been called upon
at various times to subscribe to them all; and I saw this morning a most
fervent appeal, extremely ill-spelled, from a gentleman living in the
neighbourhood of the town, and whose slaves are notoriously ill-treated;
reminding Mr. ---- of the precious souls of his human cattle, and
requesting a further donation for the Baptist Church, of which most of
the people here are members. Now this man is known to be a hard master;
his negro houses are sheds, not fit to stable beasts in, his slaves are
ragged, half-naked and miserable--yet he is urgent for their religious
comforts, and writes to Mr. ---- about 'their souls, their precious
souls.' He was over here a few days ago, and pressed me very much to
attend his church. I told him I would not go to a church where the people
who worked for us were parted off from us, as if they had the pest, and
we should catch it of them. I asked him, for I was curious to know, how
they managed to administer the Sacrament to a mixed congregation? He
replied, Oh! very easily; that the white portion of the assembly received
it first, and the blacks afterwards. 'A new commandment I give unto you,
that ye love one another, even as I have loved you.' Oh, what a shocking
mockery! However, they show their faith at all events, in the declaration
that God is no respecter of persons, since they do not pretend to exclude
from His table those whom they most certainly would not admit to their
own.

I have as usual allowed this letter to lie by, dear E----, not in the hope
of the occurrence of any event--for that is hopeless--but until my daily
avocations allowed me leisure to resume it, and afforded me, at the same
time, matter wherewith to do so. I really never was so busy in all my
life, as I am here. I sit at the receipt of custom (involuntarily enough)
from morning till night--no time, no place, affords me a respite from my
innumerable petitioners, and whether I be asleep or awake, reading,
eating, or walking; in the kitchen, my bed-room, or the parlour, they
flock in with urgent entreaties, and pitiful stories, and my conscience
forbids my ever postponing their business for any other matter; for, with
shame and grief of heart I say it, by their unpaid labour I live--their
nakedness clothes me, and their heavy toil maintains me in luxurious
idleness. Surely the least I can do is to hear these, my most injured
benefactors; and, indeed, so intense in me is the sense of the injury they
receive from me and mine, that I should scarce dare refuse them the very
clothes from my back, or food from my plate, if they asked me for it. In
taking my daily walk round the banks yesterday, I found that I was walking
over violet roots. The season is too little advanced for them to be in
bloom, and I could not find out whether they were the fragrant violet or
not.

Mr. ---- has been much gratified to-day by the arrival of Mr. K----, who,
with his father, for nineteen years was the sole manager of these
estates, and discharged his laborious task with great ability and
fidelity towards his employers. How far he understood his duties to the
slaves, or whether indeed an overseer can, in the nature of things,
acknowledge any duty to them, is another question. He is a remarkable man
and is much respected for his integrity and honourable dealing by
everybody here. His activity and energy are wonderful, and the mere fact
of his having charge of for nineteen years, and personally governing,
without any assistance whatever, seven hundred people scattered over
three large tracts of land, at a considerable distance from each other,
certainly bespeaks efficiency and energy of a very uncommon order. The
character I had heard of him from Mr. ---- had excited a great deal of
interest in me, and I was very glad of this opportunity of seeing a man
who, for so many years, had been sovereign over the poor people here. I
met him walking on the banks with Mr. ----, as I returned from my own
ramble, during which nothing occurred or appeared to interest me--except,
by the by, my unexpectedly coming quite close to one of those magnificent
scarlet birds which abound here, and which dart across your path, like a
winged flame. Nothing can surpass the beauty of their plumage, and their
voice is excellently melodious--they are lovely.

My companions, when I do not request the attendance of my friend Jack, are
a couple of little terriers, who are endowed to perfection with the
ugliness and the intelligence of their race--they are of infinite service
on the plantation, as, owing to the immense quantity of grain, and chaff,
and such matters, rats and mice abound in the mills and storehouses. I
crossed the threshing floor to-day--a very large square, perfectly level,
raised by artificial means, about half a foot from the ground, and covered
equally all over, so as to lie quite smooth, with some preparation of tar.
It lies immediately between the house and the steam mill, and on it much
of the negroes' work is done--the first threshing is given to the rice,
and other labours are carried on. As I walked across it to-day, passing
through the busy groups, chiefly of women, that covered it, I came
opposite to one of the drivers, who held in his hand his whip, the odious
insignia of his office. I took it from him; it was a short stick of
moderate size, with a thick square leather thong attached to it. As I held
it in my hand, I did not utter a word; but I conclude, as is often the
case, my face spoke what my tongue did not, for the driver said, 'Oh!
Missis, me use it for measure--me seldom strike nigger with it.' For one
moment I thought I must carry the hateful implement into the house with
me. An instant's reflection, however, served to show me how useless such a
proceeding would be. The people are not mine, nor their drivers, nor their
whips. I should but have impeded, for a few hours, the man's customary
office, and a new scourge would have been easily provided, and I should
have done nothing, perhaps worse than nothing.

After dinner I had a most interesting conversation with Mr. K----. Among
other subjects, he gave me a lively and curious description of the
Yeomanry of Georgia--more properly termed pine-landers. Have you visions
now of well-to-do farmers with comfortable homesteads, decent habits,
industrious, intelligent, cheerful, and thrifty? Such, however, is not the
Yeomanry of Georgia. Labour being here the especial portion of slaves, it
is thenceforth degraded, and considered unworthy of all but slaves. No
white man, therefore, of any class puts hand to work of any kind soever.
This is an exceedingly dignified way of proving their gentility, for the
lazy planters who prefer an idle life of semi-starvation and barbarism to
the degradation of doing anything themselves; but the effect on the poorer
whites of the country is terrible. I speak now of the scattered white
population, who, too poor to possess land or slaves, and having no means
of living in the towns, squat (most appropriately is it so termed) either
on other men's land or government districts--always here swamp or pine
barren--and claim masterdom over the place they invade, till ejected by
the rightful proprietors. These wretched creatures will not, for they are
whites (and labour belongs to blacks and slaves alone here), labour for
their own subsistence. They are hardly protected from the weather by the
rude shelters they frame for themselves in the midst of these dreary
woods. Their food is chiefly supplied by shooting the wild fowl and
venison, and stealing from the cultivated patches of the plantations
nearest at hand. Their clothes hang about them in filthy tatters, and the
combined squalor and fierceness of their appearance is really frightful.

This population is the direct growth of slavery. The planters are loud in
their execrations of these miserable vagabonds; yet they do not see that,
so long as labour is considered the disgraceful portion of slaves, these
free men will hold it nobler to starve or steal than till the earth with
none but the despised blacks for fellow-labourers. The blacks
themselves--such is the infinite power of custom--acquiesce in this
notion, and, as I have told you, consider it the lowest degradation in a
white to use any exertion. I wonder, considering the burthens they have
seen me lift, the digging, the planting, the rowing, and the walking I do,
that they do not utterly contemn me, and indeed they seem lost in
amazement at it.

Talking of these pine-landers--gypsies, without any of the romantic
associations that belong to the latter people--led us to the origin of
such a population, slavery; and you may be sure I listened with infinite
interest to the opinions of a man of uncommon shrewdness and sagacity, who
was born in the very bosom of it, and has passed his whole life among
slaves. If any one is competent to judge of its effects, such a man is
the one; and this was his verdict, 'I hate slavery with all my heart; I
consider it an absolute curse wherever it exists. It will keep those
states where it does exist fifty years behind the others in improvement
and prosperity.' Further on in the conversation, he made this most
remarkable observation, 'As for its being an irremediable evil--a thing
not to be helped or got rid of--that's all nonsense; for as soon as people
become convinced that it is their interest to get rid of it, they will
soon find the means to do so, depend upon it.' And undoubtedly this is
true. This is not an age, nor yours a country, where a large mass of
people will long endure what they perceive to be injurious to their
fortunes and advancement. Blind as people often are to their highest and
truest interests, your country folk have generally shown remarkable
acuteness in finding out where their worldly progress suffered let or
hindrance, and have removed it with laudable alacrity. Now, the fact is
not at all as we at the north are sometimes told, that the southern
slaveholders deprecate the evils of slavery quite as much as we do; that
they see all its miseries; that, moreover, they are most anxious to get
rid of the whole thing, but want the means to do so, and submit most
unwillingly to a necessity from which they cannot extricate themselves.
All this I thought might be true, before I went to the south, and often
has the charitable supposition checked the condemnation which was
indignantly rising to my lips against these murderers of their brethren's
peace. A little reflection, however, even without personal observation,
might have convinced me that this could not be the case. If the majority
of Southerners were satisfied that slavery was contrary to their worldly
fortunes, slavery would be at an end from that very moment; but the fact
is--and I have it not only from observation of my own, but from the
distinct statement of some of the most intelligent southern men that I
have conversed with--the only obstacle to immediate abolition throughout
the south is the immense value of the human property, and, to use the
words of a very distinguished Carolinian, who thus ended a long discussion
we had on the subject, 'I'll tell you why abolition is impossible: because
every healthy negro can fetch a thousand dollars in the Charleston market
at this moment.' And this opinion, you see, tallies perfectly with the
testimony of Mr. K----.

He went on to speak of several of the slaves on this estate, as persons
quite remarkable for their fidelity and intelligence, instancing old
Molly, Ned the engineer, who has the superintendence of the steam-engine
in the rice-mill, and head-man Frank, of whom indeed, he wound up the
eulogium by saying, he had quite the principles of a white man--which I
thought most equivocal praise, but he did not intend it as such. As I was
complaining to Mr. ---- of the terribly neglected condition of the dykes,
which are in some parts so overgrown with gigantic briars that 'tis
really impossible to walk over them, and the trench on one hand, and river
on the other, afford one extremely disagreeable alternatives. Mr. K----
cautioned me to be particularly on my guard not to step on the thorns of
the orange tree. These, indeed, are formidable spikes, and he assured me,
were peculiarly poisonous to the flesh. Some of the most painful and
tedious wounds he had ever seen, he said, were incurred by the negroes
running these large green thorns into their feet.

This led him to speak of the glory and beauty of the orange trees on the
island, before a certain uncommonly severe winter, a few years ago,
destroyed them all. For five miles round the banks grew a double row of
noble orange trees, as large as our orchard apple trees, covered with
golden fruit, and silver flowers. It must have been a most magnificent
spectacle, and Captain F----, too, told me, in speaking of it, that he had
brought Basil Hall here in the season of the trees blossoming, and he had
said it was as well worth crossing the Atlantic to see that, as to see the
Niagara. Of all these noble trees nothing now remains but the roots, which
bear witness to their size, and some young sprouts shooting up, affording
some hope that, in the course of years, the island may wear its bridal
garland again. One huge stump close to the door is all that remains of an
enormous tree that overtopped the house, from the upper windows of which
oranges have been gathered from off its branches, and which, one year,
bore the incredible number of 8,542 oranges. Mr. K---- assured me of this
as a positive fact, of which he had at the time made the entry in his
journal, considering such a crop from a single tree well worthy of record.
Mr. ---- was called out this evening to listen to a complaint of over
work, from a gang of pregnant women. I did not stay to listen to the
details of their petition, for I am unable to command myself on such
occasions, and Mr. ---- seemed positively degraded in my eyes, as he stood
enforcing upon these women the necessity of their fulfilling their
appointed tasks. How honorable he would have appeared to me begrimed with
the sweat and soil of the coarsest manual labour, to what he then seemed,
setting forth to these wretched, ignorant women, as a duty, their unpaid
exacted labour! I turned away in bitter disgust. I hope this sojourn among
Mr. ----'s slaves may not lessen my respect for him, but I fear it; for
the details of slave holding are so unmanly, letting alone every other
consideration, that I know not how anyone, with the spirit of a man, can
condescend to them.

I have been out again on the river, rowing. I find nothing new. Swamps
crowned with perfect evergreens are the only land (that's Irish!) about
here, and, of course, turn which way I will, the natural features of river
and shore are the same. I do not weary of these most exquisite watery
woods, but you will of my mention of them, I fear. Adieu.

       *       *       *       *       *


Dearest E----. Since I last wrote to you I have been actually engaged in
receiving and returning visits; for even to this _ultima thule_ of all
civilisation do these polite usages extend. I have been called upon by
several families residing in and about Darien, and rowed over in due form
to acknowledge the honour. How shall I describe Darien to you? The
abomination of desolation is but a poor type of its forlorn appearance,
as, half buried in sand, its straggling, tumble-down wooden houses peer
over the muddy bank of the thick slimy river. The whole town lies in a bed
of sand--side walks, or mid walks, there be none distinct from each other;
at every step I took my feet were ankle deep in the soil, and I had cause
to rejoice that I was booted for the occasion. Our worthy doctor, whose
lady I was going to visit, did nothing but regret that I had not allowed
him to provide me a carriage, though the distance between his house and
the landing is not a quarter of a mile. The magnitude of the exertion
seemed to fill him with amazement, and he over and over again repeated how
impossible it would be to prevail on any of the ladies there to take such
a walk. The houses seemed scattered about here and there, apparently
without any design, and looked, for the most part, either unfinished or
ruinous. One feature of the scene alone recalled the villages of New
England--the magnificent oaks, which seemed to add to the meanness and
insignificance of the human dwellings they overshadowed by their enormous
size and grotesque forms. They reminded me of the elms of Newhaven and
Stockbridge. They are quite as large, and more picturesque, from their
sombre foliage and the infinite variety of their forms--a beauty wanting
in the New England elm, which invariably rises and spreads in a way which,
though the most graceful in the world, at length palls on the capricious
human eye, which seeks, above all other beauties, variety. Our doctor's
wife is a New England woman; how can she live here? She had the fair eyes
and hair and fresh complexion of your part of the country, and its dearly
beloved snuffle, which seemed actually dearly beloved when I heard it down
here. She gave me some violets and narcissus, already blossoming
profusely--in January--and expressed, like her husband, a thousand regrets
at my having walked so far.

A transaction of the most amusing nature occurred to-day with regard to
the resources of the Darien Bank, and the mode of carrying on business in
that liberal and enlightened institution, the funds of which I should
think quite incalculable--impalpable, certainly, they appeared by our
experience this morning.

The river, as we came home, was covered with Ocone boxes. It is well for
them they are so shallow-bottomed, for we rasped sand all the way home
through the cut, and in the shallows of the river.

I have been over the rice-mill, under the guidance of the overseer and
head-man Frank, and have been made acquainted with the whole process of
threshing the rice, which is extremely curious; and here I may again
mention another statement of Miss Martineau's, which I am told is, and I
should suppose from what I see here must be, a mistake. She states that
the chaff of the husks of the rice is used as a manure for the fields;
whereas the people have to-day assured me that it is of so hard, stony,
and untractable a nature, as to be literally good for nothing. Here I know
it is thrown away by cart-loads into the river, where its only use appears
to be to act like ground bait, and attract a vast quantity of small fish
to its vicinity. The number of hands employed in this threshing-mill is
very considerable, and the whole establishment, comprising the fires and
boilers and machinery of a powerful steam engine, are all under negro
superintendence and direction. After this survey, I occupied myself with
my infant plantation of evergreens round the dyke, in the midst of which
interesting pursuit I was interrupted by a visit from Mr. B----, a
neighbouring planter, who came to transact some business with Mr. ----
about rice which he had sent to our mill to have threshed, and the price
to be paid for such threshing. The negroes have presented a petition
to-day that they may be allowed to have a ball in honour of our arrival,
which demand has been acceded to, and furious preparations are being set
on foot.

On visiting the Infirmary to-day, I was extremely pleased with the
increased cleanliness and order observable in all the rooms. Two little
filthy children, however, seemed to be still under the _ancien régime_ of
non-ablution; but upon my saying to the old nurse Molly, in whose ward
they were, 'Why, Molly, I don't believe you have bathed those children
to-day,' she answered, with infinite dignity, 'Missis no b'lieve me wash
um piccaninny! and yet she tress me wid all um niggar when 'em sick.' The
injured innocence and lofty conscious integrity of this speech silenced
and abashed me; and yet I can't help it, but I don't believe to this
present hour that those children had had any experience of water, at least
not washing water, since they first came into the world.

I rowed over to Darien again, to make some purchases, yesterday; and
enquiring the price of various articles, could not but wonder to find
them at least three times as dear as in your northern villages. The
profits of these southern shopkeepers (who, for the most part, are
thoroughbred Yankees, with the true Yankee propensity to trade, no matter
on how dirty a counter, or in what manner of wares) are enormous. The
prices they ask for everything, from coloured calicoes for negro dresses
to pianofortes (one of which, for curiosity sake, I enquired the value
of), are fabulous, and such as none but the laziest and most reckless
people in the world would consent to afford. On our return we found the
water in the cut so extremely low that we were obliged to push the boat
through it, and did not accomplish it without difficulty. The banks of
this canal, when they are thus laid bare, present a singular appearance
enough,--two walls of solid mud, through which matted, twisted, twined,
and tangled, like the natural veins of wood, runs an everlasting net of
indestructible roots, the thousand toes of huge cypress feet. The trees
have been cut down long ago from the soil, but these fangs remain in the
earth without decaying for an incredible space of time. This long
endurance of immersion is one of the valuable properties of these cypress
roots; but though excellent binding stuff for the sides of a canal, they
must be pernicious growth in any land used for cultivation that requires
deep tillage. On entering the Altamaha, we found the tide so low that we
were much obstructed by the sand banks, which, but for their constant
shifting, would presently take entire possession of this noble stream,
and render it utterly impassable from shore to shore, as it already is in
several parts of the channel at certain seasons of the tide. On landing,
I was seized hold of by a hideous old negress, named Sinda, who had come
to pay me a visit, and of whom Mr. ---- told me a strange anecdote. She
passed at one time for a prophetess among her fellow slaves on the
plantation, and had acquired such an ascendancy over them that, having
given out, after the fashion of Mr. Miller, that the world was to come to
an end at a certain time, and that not a very remote one, the belief in
her assertion took such possession of the people on the estate, that they
refused to work; and the rice and cotton fields were threatened with an
indefinite fallow, in consequence of this strike on the part of the
cultivators. Mr. K----, who was then overseer of the property, perceived
the impossibility of arguing, remonstrating, or even flogging this solemn
panic out of the minds of the slaves. The great final emancipation which
they believed at hand had stripped even the lash of its prevailing
authority, and the terrors of an overseer for once were as nothing, in
the terrible expectation of the advent of the universal Judge of men.
They were utterly impracticable--so, like a very shrewd man as he was, he
acquiesced in their determination not to work; but he expressed to them
his belief that Sinda was mistaken, and he warned her that if, at the
appointed time, it proved so, she would be severely punished. I do not
know whether he confided to the slaves what he thought likely to be the
result if she was in the right; but poor Sinda was in the wrong. Her day
of judgement came indeed, and a severe one it proved, for Mr. K---- had
her tremendously flogged, and her end of things ended much like Mr.
Miller's; but whereas he escaped unhanged, in spite of his atrocious
practices upon the fanaticism and credulity of his country people, the
spirit of false prophecy was mercilessly scourged out of her, and the
faith of her people of course reverted from her to the omnipotent lash
again. Think what a dream that must have been while it lasted, for those
infinitely oppressed people,--freedom without entering it by the grim
gate of death, brought down to them at once by the second coming of
Christ, whose first advent has left them yet so far from it! Farewell; it
makes me giddy to think of having been a slave while that delusion
lasted, and after it vanished.

       *       *       *       *       *


Dearest E----. I received early this morning a visit from a young negro,
called Morris, who came to request permission to be baptised. The master's
leave is necessary for this ceremony of acceptance into the bosom of the
Christian Church; so all that can be said is, that it is to be hoped the
rite itself may _not_ be indispensable for salvation, as if Mr. ---- had
thought proper to refuse Morris' petition, he must infallibly have been
lost, in spite of his own best wishes to the contrary. I could not, in
discoursing with him, perceive that he had any very distinct ideas of the
advantages he expected to derive from the ceremony; but perhaps they
appeared all the greater for being a little vague. I have seldom seen a
more pleasing appearance than that of this young man; his figure was tall
and straight, and his face, which was of a perfect oval, rejoiced in the
grace, very unusual among his people, of a fine high forehead, and the
much more frequent one of a remarkably gentle and sweet expression. He
was, however, jet black, and certainly did not owe these personal
advantages to any mixture in his blood. There is a certain African tribe
from which the West Indian slave market is chiefly recruited, who have
these same characteristic features, and do not at all present the ignoble
and ugly negro type, so much more commonly seen here. They are a tall,
powerful people, with remarkably fine figures, regular features, and a
singularly warlike and fierce disposition, in which respect they also
differ from the race of negroes existing on the American plantations. I do
not think Morris, however, could have belonged to this tribe, though
perhaps Othello did, which would at once settle the difficulties of those
commentators who, abiding by Iago's very disagreeable suggestions as to
his purely African appearance, are painfully compelled to forego the
mitigation of supposing him a Moor and not a negro. Did I ever tell you of
my dining in Boston, at the H----'s, on my first visit to that city, and
sitting by Mr. John Quincy Adams, who, talking to me about Desdemona,
assured me, with a most serious expression of sincere disgust, that he
considered all her misfortunes as a very just judgement upon her for
having married a 'nigger?' I think if some ingenious American actor of
the present day, bent upon realising Shakespeare's finest conceptions,
with all the advantages of modern enlightenment, could contrive to slip in
that opprobrious title, with a true South-Carolinian anti-Abolitionist
expression, it might really be made quite a point for Iago, as, for
instance, in his first soliloquy--'I hate the nigger,' given in proper
Charleston or Savannah fashion, I am sure would tell far better than 'I
hate the Moor.' Only think, E----, what a very new order of interest the
whole tragedy might receive, acted throughout from this standpoint, as the
Germans call it in this country, and called 'Amalgamation, or the Black
Bridal.'

On their return from their walk this afternoon, the children brought home
some pieces of sugar-cane, of which a small quantity grows on the island.
When I am most inclined to deplore the condition of the poor slaves on
these cotton and rice plantations, the far more intolerable existence and
harder labour of those employed on the sugar estates occurs to me,
sometimes producing the effect of a lower circle in Dante's 'Hell of
Horrors,' opening beneath the one where he seems to have reached the
climax of infernal punishment. You may have seen this vegetable, and must,
at any rate, I should think, be familiar with it by description. It is a
long green reed, like the stalk of the maize, or Indian corn, only it
shoots up to a much more considerable height, and has a consistent pith,
which, together with the rind itself, is extremely sweet. The principal
peculiarity of this growth, as perhaps you know, is that they are laid
horizontally in the earth when they are planted for propagation, and from
each of the notches or joints of the recumbent cane a young shoot is
produced at the germinating season.

A very curious and interesting circumstance to me just now in the
neighbourhood is the projection of a canal, to be called the Brunswick
Canal, which, by cutting through the lower part of the mainland, towards
the southern extremity of Great St. Simon's Island, is contemplated as a
probable and powerful means of improving the prosperity of the town of
Brunswick, by bringing it into immediate communication with the Atlantic.
The scheme, which I think I have mentioned to you before, is, I believe,
chiefly patronised by your States' folk--Yankee enterprise and funds being
very essential elements, it appears to me, in all southern projects and
achievements. This speculation, however, from all I hear of the
difficulties of the undertaking, from the nature of the soil, and the
impossibility almost of obtaining efficient labour, is not very likely to
arrive at any very satisfactory result; and, indeed, I find it hard to
conceive how this part of Georgia can possibly produce a town which can be
worth the digging of a canal, even to Yankee speculators. There is one
feature of the undertaking, however, which more than all the others
excites my admiration, namely, that Irish labourers have been advertised
for to work upon the canal, and the terms offered them are twenty dollars
a month per man and their board. Now these men will have for fellow
labourers negroes who not only will receive nothing at all for their work,
but who will be hired by the contractors and directors of the works from
their masters, to whom they will hand over the price of their slaves'
labour; while it will be the interest of the person hiring them not only
to get as much work as possible out of them, but also to provide them as
economically with food, combining the two praiseworthy endeavours exactly
in such judicious proportions as not to let them neutralize each other.
You will observe that this case of a master hiring out his slaves to
another employer, from whom he receives their rightful wages, is a form of
slavery which, though extremely common, is very seldom adverted to in
those arguments for the system which are chiefly founded upon the master's
presumed regard for his human property. People who have ever let a
favourite house to the temporary occupation of strangers, can form a
tolerable idea of the difference between one's own regard and care of
one's goods and chattels and that of the most conscientious tenant; and
whereas I have not yet observed that ownership is a very effectual
protection to the slaves against ill usage and neglect, I am quite
prepared to admit that it is a vastly better one than the temporary
interest which a lessee can feel in the live stock he hires, out of whom
it is his manifest interest to get as much, and into whom to put as
little, as possible. Yet thousands of slaves throughout the southern
states are thus handed over by the masters who own them to masters who do
not; and it does not require much demonstration to prove that their estate
is not always the more gracious. Now you must not suppose that these same
Irish free labourers and negro slaves will be permitted to work together
at this Brunswick Canal. They say that this would be utterly impossible;
for why?--there would be tumults, and risings, and broken heads, and
bloody bones, and all the natural results of Irish intercommunion with
their fellow creatures, no doubt--perhaps even a little more riot and
violence than merely comports with their usual habits of Milesian good
fellowship; for, say the masters, the Irish hate the negroes more even
than the Americans do, and there would be no bound to their murderous
animosity if they were brought in contact with them on the same portion of
the works of the Brunswick Canal. Doubtless there is some truth in
this--the Irish labourers who might come hither, would be apt enough,
according to a universal moral law, to visit upon others the injuries they
had received from others. They have been oppressed enough themselves, to
be oppressive whenever they have a chance; and the despised and degraded
condition of the blacks, presenting to them a very ugly resemblance of
their own home, circumstances naturally excite in them the exercise of the
disgust and contempt of which they themselves are very habitually the
objects; and that such circular distribution of wrongs may not only be
pleasant, but have something like the air of retributive right to very
ignorant folks, is not much to be wondered at. Certain is the fact,
however, that the worst of all tyrants is the one who has been a slave;
and for that matter (and I wonder if the southern slaveholders hear it
with the same ear that I do, and ponder it with the same mind?) the
command of one slave to another is altogether the most uncompromising
utterance of insolent truculent despotism that it ever fell to my lot to
witness or listen to. 'You nigger--I say, you black nigger,--you no hear
me call you--what for you no run quick?' All this, dear E----, is
certainly reasonably in favour of division of labour on the Brunswick
Canal; but the Irish are not only quarrelers, and rioters, and fighters,
and drinkers, and despisers of niggers--they are a passionate, impulsive,
warm-hearted, generous people, much given to powerful indignations, which
break out suddenly when they are not compelled to smoulder
sullenly--pestilent sympathisers too, and with a sufficient dose of
American atmospheric air in their lungs, properly mixed with a right
proportion of ardent spirits, there is no saying but what they might
actually take to sympathy with the slaves, and I leave you to judge of
the possible consequences. You perceive, I am sure, that they can by no
means be allowed to work together on the Brunswick Canal.

I have been taking my daily walk round the island, and visited the sugar
mill and the threshing mill again.

Mr. ---- has received another letter from Parson S---- upon the subject of
more church building in Darien. It seems that there has been a very
general panic in this part of the slave states lately, occasioned by some
injudicious missionary preaching, which was pronounced to be of a
decidedly abolitionist tendency. The offensive preachers, after sowing,
God only knows what seed in this tremendous soil, where one grain of
knowledge may spring up a gigantic upas tree to the prosperity of its most
unfortunate possessors, were summarily and ignominiously expulsed; and now
some short sighted, uncomfortable Christians in these parts, among others
this said Parson S----, are possessed with the notion that something had
better be done to supply the want created by the cessation of these
dangerous exhortations, to which the negroes have listened, it seems, with
complacency. Parson S---- seems to think that, having driven out two
preachers, it might be well to build one church where, at any rate, the
negroes might be exhorted in a safe and salutary manner, 'qui ne leur
donnerait point d'idées,' as the French would say. Upon my word, E----, I
used to pity the slaves, and I do pity them with all my soul; but oh
dear! oh dear! their case is a bed of roses to that of their owners, and I
would go to the slave block in Charleston to-morrow cheerfully to be
purchased, if my only option was to go thither as a purchaser. I was
looking over this morning, with a most indescribable mixture of feelings,
a pamphlet published in the south upon the subject of the religious
instruction of the slaves; and the difficulty of the task undertaken by
these reconcilers of God and Mammon really seems to me nothing short of
piteous. 'We must give our involuntary servants,' (they seldom call them
slaves, for it is an ugly word in an American mouth, you know,) 'Christian
enlightenment,' say they; and where shall they begin? 'Whatsoever ye would
that men should do unto you, do ye also unto them?' No--but, 'Servants,
obey your masters;' and there, I think, they naturally come to a full
stop. This pamphlet forcibly suggested to me the necessity for a slave
church catechism, and also, indeed, if it were possible, a slave Bible. If
these heaven-blinded negro enlighteners persist in their pernicious plan
of making Christians of their cattle, something of the sort must be done,
or they will infallibly cut their own throats with this two-edged sword of
truth, to which they should in no wise have laid their hand, and would
not, doubtless, but that it is now thrust at them so threateningly that
they have no choice. Again and again, how much I do pity them!

I have been walking to another cluster of negro huts, known as Number
Two, and here we took a boat and rowed across the broad brimming Altamaha
to a place called Woodville, on a part of the estate named Hammersmith,
though why that very thriving suburb of the great city of London should
have been selected as the name of the lonely plank house in the midst of
the pine woods which here enjoys that title I cannot conceive, unless it
was suggested by the contrast. This settlement is on the mainland, and
consists apparently merely of this house, (to which the overseer retires
when the poisonous malaria of the rice plantations compels him to withdraw
from it,) and a few deplorably miserable hovels, which appeared to me to
be chiefly occupied by the most decrepid and infirm samples of humanity it
was ever my melancholy lot to behold.

The air of this pine barren is salubrious compared with that of the rice
islands, and here some of the oldest slaves who will not die yet, and
cannot work any more, are sent, to go, as it were, out of the way. Remote
recollections of former dealings with civilised human beings, in the shape
of masters and overseers, seemed to me to be the only idea not purely
idiotic in the minds of the poor old tottering creatures that gathered to
stare with dim and blear eyes at me and my children.

There were two very aged women, who had seen different, and to their faded
recollections better, times, who spoke to me of Mr. ----'s grandfather,
and of the early days of the plantation, when they were young and strong,
and worked as their children and grandchildren were now working, neither
for love nor yet for money. One of these old crones, a hideous, withered,
wrinkled piece of womanhood, said that she had worked as long as her
strength had lasted, and that then she had still been worth her keep, for,
said she, 'Missus, tho' we no able to work, we make little niggers for
massa.' Her joy at seeing her present owner was unbounded, and she kept
clapping her horny hands together and exclaiming, 'while there is life
there is hope; we seen massa before we die.' These demonstrations of
regard were followed up by piteous complaints of hunger and rheumatism,
and their usual requests for pittances of food and clothing, to which we
responded by promises of additions in both kinds; and I was extricating
myself as well as I could from my petitioners, with the assurance that I
would come by-and-bye and visit them again, when I felt my dress suddenly
feebly jerked, and a shrill cracked voice on the other side of me
exclaimed, 'Missus, no go yet--no go away yet; you no see me, missus, when
you come by-and-bye; but,' added the voice in a sort of wail, which seemed
to me as if the thought was full of misery, 'you see many, many of my
offspring.' These melancholy words, particularly the rather unusual one at
the end of the address, struck me very much. They were uttered by a
creature which _was_ a woman, but looked like a crooked ill-built figure
set up in a field to scare crows, with a face infinitely more like a mere
animal's than any human countenance I ever beheld, and with that peculiar
wild restless look of indefinite and, at the same time, intense sadness
that is so remarkable in the countenance of some monkeys. It was almost
with an effort that I commanded myself so as not to withdraw my dress from
the yellow crumpled filthy claws that griped it, and it was not at last
without the authoritative voice of the overseer that the poor creature
released her hold of me.

We returned home certainly in the very strangest vehicle that ever
civilised gentlewoman travelled in--a huge sort of cart, made only of some
loose boards, on which I lay supporting myself against one of the four
posts which indicated the sides of my carriage; six horned creatures, cows
or bulls, drew this singular equipage, and a yelping, howling, screaming,
leaping company of half-naked negroes ran all round them, goading them
with sharp sticks, frantically seizing hold of their tails, and inciting
them by every conceivable and inconceivable encouragement to quick motion:
thus, like one of the ancient Merovingian monarchs, I was dragged through
the deep sand from the settlement back to the river, where we reembarked
for the island.

As we crossed the broad flood, whose turbid waters always look swollen as
if by a series of freshets, a flight of birds sprang from the low swamp we
were approaching, and literally, as it rose in the air, cast a shadow
like that of a cloud, which might be said, with but little exaggeration,
to darken the sun for a few seconds. How well I remember my poor aunt
Whitelock describing such phenomena as of frequent occurrence in America,
and the scornful incredulity with which we heard without accepting these
legends of her Western experience! how little I then thought that I should
have to cry peccavi to her memory from the bottom of such ruts, and under
the shadow of such flights of winged creatures as she used to describe
from the muddy ways of Pennsylvania and the muddy waters of Georgia!

The vegetation is already in an active state of demonstration, sprouting
into lovely pale green and vivid red-brown buds and leaflets, though 'tis
yet early in January.

After our return home we had a visit from Mr. C----, one of our
neighbours, an intelligent and humane man, to whose account of the
qualities and characteristics of the slaves, as he had observed and
experienced them, I listened with great interest. The Brunswick Canal was
again the subject of conversation, and again the impossibility of allowing
the negroes and Irish to work in proximity was stated, and admitted as an
indisputable fact. It strikes me with amazement to hear the hopeless doom
of incapacity for progress pronounced upon these wretched slaves, when in
my own country the very same order of language is perpetually applied to
these very Irish, here spoken of as a sort of race of demigods, by negro
comparison. And it is most true that in Ireland nothing can be more
savage, brutish, filthy, idle, and incorrigibly and hopelessly helpless
and incapable, than the Irish appear; and yet, transplanted to your
northern states, freed from the evil influences which surround them at
home, they and their children become industrious, thrifty, willing to
learn, able to improve, and forming, in the course of two generations, a
most valuable accession to your labouring population. How is it that it
never occurs to these emphatical denouncers of the whole negro race that
the Irish at home are esteemed much as they esteem their slaves, and that
the sentence pronounced against their whole country by one of the greatest
men of our age, an Irishman, was precisely, that nothing could save,
redeem, or regenerate Ireland unless, as a preparatory measure, the island
were submerged and all its inhabitants drowned off?

I have had several women at the house to-day asking for advice and help
for their sick children: they all came from No. 2, as they call it, that
is, the settlement or cluster of negro huts nearest to the main one, where
we may be said to reside. In the afternoon I went thither, and found a
great many of the little children ailing; there had been an unusual
mortality among them at this particular settlement this winter. In one
miserable hut I heard that the baby was just dead; it was one of thirteen,
many of whom had been, like itself, mercifully removed from the life of
degradation and misery to which their birth appointed them: and whether
it was the frequent repetition of similar losses, or an instinctive
consciousness that death was indeed better than life for such children as
theirs, I know not, but the father and mother, and old Rose, the nurse,
who was their little baby's grandmother, all seemed apathetic, and
apparently indifferent to the event. The mother merely repeated over and
over again, 'I've lost a many, they all goes so;' and the father, without
word or comment, went out to his enforced labour.

As I left the cabin, rejoicing for them at the deliverance out of slavery
of their poor child, I found myself suddenly surrounded by a swarm of
young ragamuffins in every stage of partial nudity, clamouring from out of
their filthy remnants of rags for donations of scarlet ribbon for the
ball, which was to take place that evening. The melancholy scene I had
just witnessed, and the still sadder reflection it had given rise to, had
quite driven all thoughts of the approaching festivity from my mind; but
the sudden demand for these graceful luxuries by Mr. ----'s half-naked
dependants reminded me of the grotesque mask which life wears on one of
its mysterious faces; and with as much sympathy for rejoicing as my late
sympathy for sorrow had left me capable of, I procured the desired
ornaments. I have considerable fellow-feeling for the passion for all
shades of red, which prevails among these dusky fellow-creatures of
mine--a savage propensity for that same colour in all its modifications
being a tendency of my own.

At our own settlement (No. 1) I found everything in a high fever of
preparation for the ball. A huge boat had just arrived from the cotton
plantation at St. Simons, laden with the youth and beauty of that portion
of the estate who had been invited to join the party; and the greetings
among the arrivers and welcomers, and the heaven-defying combinations of
colour in the gala attire of both, surpass all my powers of description.
The ball, to which of course we went, took place in one of the rooms of
the Infirmary. As the room had, fortunately, but few occupants, they were
removed to another apartment, and, without any very tender consideration
for their not very remote, though invisible, sufferings, the dancing
commenced, and was continued. Oh, my dear E----! I have seen Jim Crow--the
veritable James: all the contortions, and springs, and flings, and kicks,
and capers you have been beguiled into accepting as indicative of him are
spurious, faint, feeble, impotent--in a word, pale northern reproductions
of that ineffable black conception. It is impossible for words to describe
the things these people did with their bodies, and, above all, with their
faces, the whites of their eyes, and the whites of their teeth, and
certain outlines which either naturally and by the grace of heaven, or by
the practice of some peculiar artistic dexterity, they bring into
prominent and most ludicrous display. The languishing elegance of some,
the painstaking laboriousness of others, above all, the feats of a certain
enthusiastic banjo-player, who seemed to me to thump his instrument with
every part of his body at once, at last so utterly overcame any attempt at
decorous gravity on my part that I was obliged to secede; and, considering
what the atmosphere was that we inhaled during the exhibition, it is only
wonderful to me that we were not made ill by the double effort not to
laugh, and, if possible, not to breathe.

       *       *       *       *       *


Monday, 20th.

My Dearest E----. A rather longer interval than usual has elapsed since I
last wrote to you, but I must beg you to excuse it. I have had more than a
usual amount of small daily occupations to fill my time; and, as a mere
enumeration of these would not be very interesting to you, I will tell you
a story which has just formed an admirable illustration for my observation
of all the miseries of which this accursed system of slavery is the cause,
even under the best and most humane administration of its laws and usages.
Pray note it, my dear friend, for you will find, in the absence of all
voluntary or even conscious cruelty on the part of the master, the best
possible comment on a state of things which, without the slightest desire
to injure and oppress, produces such intolerable results of injury and
oppression.

We have, as a sort of under nursemaid and assistant of my dear M----,
whose white complexion, as I wrote you, occasioned such indignation to my
southern fellow-travellers, and such extreme perplexity to the poor slaves
on our arrival here, a much more orthodox servant for these parts, a young
woman named Psyche, but commonly called Sack, not a very graceful
abbreviation of the divine heathen appellation: she cannot be much over
twenty, has a very pretty figure, a graceful gentle deportment, and a face
which, but for its colour (she is a dingy mulatto), would be pretty, and
is extremely pleasing, from the perfect sweetness of its expression; she
is always serious, not to say sad and silent, and has altogether an air of
melancholy and timidity, that has frequently struck me very much, and
would have made me think some special anxiety or sorrow must occasion it,
but that God knows the whole condition of these wretched people naturally
produces such a deportment, and there is no necessity to seek for special
or peculiar causes to account for it. Just in proportion as I have found
the slaves on this plantation intelligent and advanced beyond the general
brutish level of the majority, I have observed this pathetic expression of
countenance in them, a mixture of sadness and fear, the involuntary
exhibition of the two feelings, which I suppose must be the predominant
experience of their whole lives, regret and apprehension, not the less
heavy, either of them, for being, in some degree, vague and indefinite--a
sense of incalculable past loss and injury, and a dread of incalculable
future loss and injury.

I have never questioned Psyche as to her sadness, because, in the first
place, as I tell you, it appears to me most natural, and is observable in
all the slaves, whose superior natural or acquired intelligence allows of
their filling situations of trust or service about the house and family;
and, though I cannot and will not refuse to hear any and every tale of
suffering which these unfortunates bring to me, I am anxious to spare both
myself and them the pain of vain appeals to me for redress and help,
which, alas! it is too often utterly out of my power to give them. It is
useless, and indeed worse than useless, that they should see my impotent
indignation and unavailing pity, and hear expressions of compassion for
them, and horror at their condition, which might only prove incentives to
a hopeless resistance on their part to a system, under the hideous weight
of whose oppression any individual or partial revolt must be annihilated
and ground into the dust. Therefore, as I tell you, I asked Psyche no
questions, but, to my great astonishment, the other day M---- asked me if
I knew to whom Psyche belonged, as the poor woman had enquired of her with
much hesitation and anguish if she could tell her who owned her and her
children. She has two nice little children under six years old, whom she
keeps as clean and tidy, and who are sad and as silent, as herself. My
astonishment at this question was, as you will readily believe, not small,
and I forthwith sought out Psyche for an explanation. She was thrown into
extreme perturbation at finding that her question had been referred to me,
and it was some time before I could sufficiently reassure her to be able
to comprehend, in the midst of her reiterated entreaties for pardon, and
hopes that she had not offended me, that she did not know herself who
owned her. She was, at one time, the property of Mr. K----, the former
overseer, of whom I have already spoken to you, and who has just been
paying Mr. ---- a visit. He, like several of his predecessors in the
management, has contrived to make a fortune upon it (though it yearly
decreases in value to the owners, but this is the inevitable course of
things in the southern states), and has purchased a plantation of his own
in Alabama, I believe, or one of the south-western states. Whether she
still belonged to Mr. K---- or not she did not know, and entreated me if
she did to endeavour to persuade Mr. ---- to buy her. Now, you must know
that this poor woman is the wife of one of Mr. B----'s slaves, a fine,
intelligent, active, excellent young man, whose whole family are among
some of the very best specimens of character and capacity on the estate. I
was so astonished at the (to me) extraordinary state of things revealed by
poor Sack's petition, that I could only tell her that I had supposed all
the negroes on the plantation were Mr. ----'s property, but that I would
certainly enquire, and find out for her if I could to whom she belonged,
and if I could, endeavour to get Mr. ---- to purchase her, if she really
was not his.

Now, E----, just conceive for one moment the state of mind of this woman,
believing herself to belong to a man who, in a few days, was going down
to one of those abhorred and dreaded south-western states, and who would
then compel her, with her poor little children, to leave her husband and
the only home she had ever known, and all the ties of affection,
relationship, and association of her former life, to follow him thither,
in all human probability never again to behold any living creature that
she had seen before; and this was so completely a matter of course that
it was not even thought necessary to apprise her positively of the fact,
and the only thing that interposed between her and this most miserable
fate was the faint hope that Mr. ---- _might have_ purchased her and her
children. But if he had, if this great deliverance had been vouchsafed to
her, the knowledge of it was not thought necessary; and with this deadly
dread at her heart she was living day after day, waiting upon me and
seeing me, with my husband beside me, and my children in my arms in
blessed security, safe from all separation but the one reserved in God's
great providence for all His creatures. Do you think I wondered any more
at the woe-begone expression of her countenance, or do you think it was
easy for me to restrain within prudent and proper limits the expression
of my feelings at such a state of things? And she had gone on from day to
day enduring this agony, till I suppose its own intolerable pressure and
M----'s sweet countenance and gentle sympathising voice and manner had
constrained her to lay down this great burden of sorrow at our feet. I
did not see Mr. ---- until the evening; but in the meantime, meeting Mr.
O----, the overseer, with whom, as I believe I have already told you, we
are living here, I asked him about Psyche, and who was her proprietor,
when to my infinite surprise he told me that _he_ had bought her and her
children from Mr. K----, who had offered them to him, saying that they
would be rather troublesome to him than otherwise down where he was
going; 'and so,' said Mr. O----, 'as I had no objection to investing a
little money that way, I bought them.' With a heart much lightened I flew
to tell poor Psyche the news, so that at any rate she might be relieved
from the dread of any immediate separation from her husband. You can
imagine better than I can tell you what her sensations were; but she
still renewed her prayer that I would, if possible, induce Mr. ---- to
purchase her, and I promised to do so.

Early the next morning, while I was still dressing, I was suddenly
startled by hearing voices in loud tones in Mr. ----'s dressing-room,
which adjoins my bed-room, and the noise increasing until there was an
absolute cry of despair uttered by some man. I could restrain myself no
longer, but opened the door of communication, and saw Joe, the young man,
poor Psyche's husband, raving almost in a state of frenzy, and in a voice
broken with sobs and almost inarticulate with passion, reiterating his
determination never to leave this plantation, never to go to Alabama,
never to leave his old father and mother, his poor wife and children, and
dashing his hat, which he was wringing like a cloth in his hands, upon the
ground, he declared he would kill himself if he was compelled to follow
Mr. K----. I glanced from the poor wretch to Mr. ----, who was standing,
leaning against a table with his arms folded, occasionally uttering a few
words of counsel to his slave to be quiet and not fret, and not make a
fuss about what there was no help for. I retreated immediately from the
horrid scene, breathless with surprise and dismay, and stood for some time
in my own room, with my heart and temples throbbing to such a degree that
I could hardly support myself. As soon as I recovered myself I again
sought Mr. O----, and enquired of him if he knew the cause of poor Joe's
distress. He then told me that Mr. ----, who is highly pleased with Mr.
K----'s past administration of his property, wished, on his departure for
his newly-acquired slave plantation, to give him some token of his
satisfaction, and _had made him a present_ of the man Joe, who had just
received the intelligence that he was to go down to Alabama with his new
owner the next day, leaving father, mother, wife, and children behind. You
will not wonder that the man required a little judicious soothing under
such circumstances, and you will also, I hope, admire the humanity of the
sale of his wife and children by the owner who was going to take him to
Alabama, because _they_ would be incumbrances rather than otherwise down
there. If Mr. K---- did not do this after he knew that the man was his,
then Mr. ---- gave him to be carried down to the South after his wife and
children were sold to remain in Georgia. I do not know which was the real
transaction, for I have not had the heart to ask; but you will easily
imagine which of the two cases I prefer believing.

When I saw Mr. ---- after this most wretched story became known to me in
all its details, I appealed to him for his own soul's sake not to commit
so great a cruelty. Poor Joe's agony while remonstrating with his master
was hardly greater than mine while arguing with him upon this bitter
piece of inhumanity--how I cried, and how I adjured, and how all my sense
of justice and of mercy and of pity for the poor wretch, and of
wretchedness at finding myself implicated in such a state of things,
broke in torrents of words from my lips and tears from my eyes! God knows
such a sorrow at seeing anyone I belonged to commit such an act was
indeed a new and terrible experience to me, and it seemed to me that I
was imploring Mr. ---- to save himself, more than to spare these
wretches. He gave me no answer whatever, and I have since thought that
the intemperate vehemence of my entreaties and expostulations perhaps
deserved that he should leave me as he did without one single word of
reply; and miserable enough I remained. Towards evening, as I was sitting
alone, my children having gone to bed, Mr. O---- came into the room. I
had but one subject in my mind; I had not been able to eat for it. I
could hardly sit still for the nervous distress which every thought of
these poor people filled me with. As he sat down looking over some
accounts, I said to him, 'Have you seen Joe this afternoon, Mr. O----?'
(I give you our conversation as it took place.) 'Yes, ma'am; he is a
great deal happier than he was this morning.' 'Why, how is that?' asked I
eagerly. 'Oh, he is not going to Alabama. Mr. K---- heard that he had
kicked up a fuss about it (being in despair at being torn from one's wife
and children is called _kicking up a fuss_; this is a sample of overseer
appreciation of human feelings), and said that if the fellow wasn't
willing to go with him, he did not wish to be bothered with any niggers
down there who were to be troublesome, so he might stay behind.' 'And
does Psyche know this?' 'Yes, ma'am, I suppose so.' I drew a long breath;
and whereas my needle had stumbled through the stuff I was sewing for an
hour before, as if my fingers could not guide it, the regularity and
rapidity of its evolutions were now quite edifying. The man was for the
present safe, and I remained silently pondering his deliverance and the
whole proceeding, and the conduct of everyone engaged in it, and above
all Mr. ----'s share in the transaction, and I think for the first time
almost a sense of horrible personal responsibility and implication took
hold of my mind, and I felt the weight of an unimagined guilt upon my
conscience; and yet God knows this feeling of self-condemnation is very
gratuitous on my part, since when I married Mr. ---- I knew nothing of
these dreadful possessions of his, and even if I had, I should have been
much puzzled to have formed any idea of the state of things in which I
now find myself plunged, together with those whose well-doing is as vital
to me almost as my own.

With these agreeable reflections I went to bed. Mr. ---- said not a word
to me upon the subject of these poor people all the next day, and in the
meantime I became very impatient of this reserve on his part, because I
was dying to prefer my request that he would purchase Psyche and her
children, and so prevent any future separation between her and her
husband, as I supposed he would not again attempt to make a present of
Joe, at least to anyone who did not wish to be _bothered_ with his wife
and children. In the evening I was again with Mr. O---- alone in the
strange bare wooden-walled sort of shanty which is our sitting-room, and
revolving in my mind the means of rescuing Psyche from her miserable
suspense, a long chain of all my possessions, in the shape of bracelets,
necklaces, brooches, ear-rings, &c., wound in glittering procession
through my brain, with many hypothetical calculations of the value of
each separate ornament, and the very doubtful probability of the amount
of the whole being equal to the price of this poor creature and her
children; and then the great power and privilege I had foregone of
earning money by my own labour occurred to me; and I think, for the first
time in my life, my past profession assumed an aspect that arrested my
thoughts most seriously. For the last four years of my life that preceded
my marriage, I literally coined money; and never until this moment, I
think, did I reflect on the great means of good, to myself and others,
that I so gladly agreed to give up for ever, for a maintenance by the
unpaid labour of slaves--people toiling not only unpaid, but under the
bitter conditions the bare contemplation of which was then wringing my
heart. You will not wonder that, when in the midst of such cogitations I
suddenly accosted Mr. O----, it was to this effect. 'Mr. O----, I have a
particular favour to beg of you. Promise me that you will never sell
Psyche and her children without first letting me know of your intention
to do so, and giving me the option of buying them.' Mr. O---- is a
remarkably deliberate man, and squints, so that, when he has taken a
little time in directing his eyes to you, you are still unpleasantly
unaware of any result in which you are concerned; he laid down a book he
was reading, and directed his head and one of his eyes towards me and
answered, 'Dear me, ma'am, I am very sorry--I have sold them.' My work
fell down on the ground, and my mouth opened wide, but I could utter no
sound, I was so dismayed and surprised; and he deliberately proceeded: 'I
didn't know, ma'am, you see, at all, that you entertained any idea of
making an investment of that nature; for I'm sure, if I had, I would
willingly have sold the woman to you; but I sold her and her children
this morning to Mr. ----.' My dear E----, though ---- had resented my
unmeasured upbraidings, you see they had not been without some good
effect, and though he had, perhaps justly, punished my violent outbreak
of indignation about the miserable scene I witnessed by not telling me of
his humane purpose, he had bought these poor creatures, and so, I trust,
secured them from any such misery in future. I jumped up and left Mr.
O---- still speaking, and ran to find Mr. ----, to thank him for what he
had done, and with that will now bid you good bye. Think, E----, how it
fares with slaves on plantations where there is no crazy Englishwoman to
weep and entreat and implore and upbraid for them, and no master willing
to listen to such appeals.


Dear E----. There is one privilege which I enjoy here which I think few
cockneyesses have ever had experience of, that of hearing my own
extemporaneous praises chaunted bard-fashion by our negroes, in rhymes as
rude and to measures as simple as ever any illustrious female of the days
of King Brian Boroihme listened to. Rowing yesterday evening through a
beautiful sunset into a more beautiful moonrise, my two sable boatmen
entertained themselves and me with alternate strophe and anti-strophe of
poetical description of my personal attractions, in which my 'wire waist'
recurred repeatedly, to my intense amusement. This is a charm for the
possession of which M---- (my white nursemaid) is also invariably
celebrated; and I suppose that the fine round natural proportions of the
uncompressed waists of the sable beauties of these regions appear less
symmetrical to eyes accustomed to them than our stay-cased figures, since
'nothing pleaseth but rare accidents.' Occasionally I am celebrated in
these rowing chants as 'Massa's darling,' and S---- comes in for endless
glorification on account of the brilliant beauty of her complexion; the
other day, however, our poets made a diversion from the personal to the
moral qualities of their small mistress, and after the usual tribute to
her roses and lilies came the following rather significant couplet:--

    Little Missis Sally,
    That's a ruling lady.

At which all the white teeth simultaneously lightened from the black
visages, while the subject of this equivocal commendation sat with
infantine solemnity (the profoundest, I think, that the human countenance
is capable of), surveying her sable dependants with imperturbable gravity.

Yesterday morning I amused myself with an exercise of a talent I once
possessed, but have so neglected that my performance might almost be
called an experiment. I cut out a dress for one of the women. My education
in France--where, in some important respects, I think girls are better
trained than with us--had sent me home to England, at sixteen, an adept in
the female mystery of needlework. Not only owing to the Saturday's
discipline of clothes mending by all the classes--while l'Abbé Millot's
history (of blessed, boring memory) was being read aloud, to prevent 'vain
babblings,' and ensure wholesome mental occupation the while--was I an
expert patcher and mender, darner and piecer (darning and marking were my
specialities), but the white cotton embroidery of which every French woman
has always a piece under her hand _pour les momens perdus_, which are thus
anything but _perdus_, was as familiar to us as to the Irish cottagers of
the present day, and cutting out and making my dresses was among the more
advanced branches of _the_ female accomplishment to which I attained.[1]
The luxury of a lady's maid of my own, indulged in ever since the days of
my 'coming out,' has naturally enough caused my right hand to forget its
cunning, and regret and shame at having lost any useful lore in my life
made me accede, for my own sake, to the request of one of our
multitudinous Dianas and innumerable Chloes to cut out dresses for each of
them, especially as they (wonderful to relate) declared themselves able to
stitch them if I would do the cutting. Since I have been on the plantation
I have already spent considerable time in what the French call
'confectioning' baby bundles, i.e. the rough and very simple tiny
habiliments of coarse cotton and scarlet flannel which form a baby's
layette here, and of which I have run up some scores; but my present task
was far more difficult. Chloe was an ordinary mortal negress enough, but
Diana might have been the Huntress of the Woods herself, done into the
African type. Tall, large, straight, well-made, profoundly serious, she
stood like a bronze statue, while I, mounted on a stool, (the only way in
which I could attain to the noble shoulders and bust of my lay figure),
pinned and measured, and cut and shaped, under the superintendence of
M----, and had the satisfaction of seeing the fine proportions of my black
goddess quite becomingly clothed in a high tight fitting body of the
gayest chintz, which she really contrived to put together quite
creditably.

[Footnote 1: Some of our great English ladies are, I know, exquisite
needlewomen; but I do not think, in spite of these exceptional examples,
that young English ladies of the higher classes are much skilled in this
respect at the present day; and as for the democratic daughters of
America, who for many reasons might be supposed likely to be well up in
such housewifely lore, they are for the most part so ignorant of it that I
have heard the most eloquent preacher of the city of New York advert to
their incapacity in this respect, as an impediment to their assistance of
the poor; and ascribe to the fact that the daughters of his own
parishioners did not know how to sew, the impossibility of their giving
the most valuable species of help to the women of the needier classes,
whose condition could hardly be more effectually improved than by
acquiring such useful knowledge. I have known young American school girls,
duly instructed in the nature of the parallaxes of the stars, but, as a
rule, they do not know how to darn their stockings. Les Dames du Sacré
Coeur do better for their high-born and well-bred pupils than this.]

I was so elated with my own part of this performance that I then and
there determined to put into execution a plan I had long formed of
endowing the little boat in which I take what the French call my walks on
the water, with cushions for the back and seat of the benches usually
occupied by myself and Mr. ----; so putting on my large straw hat, and
plucking up a paper of pins, scissors, and my brown holland, I walked to
the steps, and jumping into the little canoe, began piecing, and
measuring, and cutting the cushions, which were to be stuffed with the
tree moss by some of the people who understand making a rough kind of
mattress. My inanimate subject, however, proved far more troublesome to
fit than my living lay figure, for the little cockle-shell ducked, and
dived, and rocked, and tipped, and curtseyed, and tilted, as I knelt
first on one side and then on the other fitting her, till I was almost
in despair; however, I got a sort of pattern at last, and by dint of some
pertinacious efforts--which, in their incompleteness, did not escape some
sarcastic remarks from Mr. ---- on the capabilities of 'women of genius'
applied to common-place objects--the matter was accomplished, and the
little Dolphin rejoiced in very tidy back and seat cushions, covered with
brown holland, and bound with green serge. My ambition then began to
contemplate an awning, but the boat being of the nature of a
canoe--though not a real one, inasmuch as it is not made of a single
log--does not admit of supports for such an edifice.

I had rather a fright the other day in that same small craft, into which I
had taken S----, with the intention of paddling myself a little way down
the river and back. I used to row tolerably well, and was very fond of it,
and frequently here take an oar, when the men are rowing me in the long
boat, as some sort of equivalent for my riding, of which, of course, I am
entirely deprived on this little dykeland of ours; but paddling is a
perfectly different process, and one that I was very anxious to achieve.
My first strokes answered the purpose of sending the boat off from shore,
and for a few minutes I got on pretty well; but presently I got tired of
shifting the paddle from side to side, a manoeuvre which I accomplished
very clumsily and slowly, and yet, with all my precautions, not without
making the boat tip perilously. The immense breadth and volume of the
river suddenly seized my eyes and imagination as it were, and I began to
fancy that if I got into the middle of the stream I should not be able to
paddle myself back against it--which, indeed, might very well have proved
the case. Then I became nervous, and paddled all on one side, by which
means, of course, I only turned the boat round. S---- began to fidget
about, getting up from where I had placed her, and terrifying me with her
unsteady motions and the rocking of the canoe. I was now very much
frightened, and saw that I _must_ get back to shore before I became more
helpless than I was beginning to feel; so laying S---- down in the bottom
of the boat as a preliminary precaution, I said to her with infinite
emphasis, 'Now lie still there, and don't stir, or you'll be drowned,' to
which, with her clear grey eyes fixed on me, and no sign whatever of
emotion, she replied deliberately, 'I shall lie still here, and won't
stir, for I should not like to be drowned,' which, for an atom not four
years old, was rather philosophical. Then I looked about me, and of course
having drifted, set steadily to work and paddled home, with my heart in my
mouth almost till we grazed the steps, and I got my precious freight safe
on shore again, since which I have taken no more paddling lessons without
my slave and master, Jack.

We have had a death among the people since I last wrote to you. A very
valuable slave called Shadrach was seized with a disease which is
frequent, and very apt to be fatal here--peri-pneumonia; and in spite of
all that could be done to save him, sank rapidly, and died after an acute
illness of only three days. The doctor came repeatedly from Darien, and
the last night of the poor fellow's life ---- himself watched with him. I
suppose the general low diet of the negroes must produce some want of
stamina in them; certainly, either from natural constitution or the effect
of their habits of existence, or both, it is astonishing how much less
power of resistance to disease they seem to possess than we do. If they
are ill, the vital energy seems to sink immediately. This rice
cultivation, too, although it does not affect them as it would whites--to
whom, indeed, residence on the rice plantation after a certain season is
impossible--is still, to a certain degree, deleterious even to the
negroes. The proportion of sick is always greater here than on the cotton
plantation, and the invalids of this place are not unfrequently sent down
to St. Simon's to recover their strength, under the more favourable
influences of the sea air and dry sandy soil of Hampton Point.

Yesterday afternoon the tepid warmth of the air and glassy stillness of
the river seemed to me highly suggestive of fishing, and I determined, not
having yet discovered what I could catch with what in these unknown
waters, to try a little innocent paste bait--a mystery his initiation into
which caused Jack much wonderment. The only hooks I had with me, however,
had been bought in Darien--made, I should think, at the North expressly
for this market; and so villanously bad were they that, after trying them
and my patience a reasonable time, I gave up the attempt and took a lesson
in paddling instead. Amongst other items Jack told me of his own fishing
experience was, that he had more than once caught those most excellent
creatures Altamaha shad by the fish themselves leaping out of the water
and _landing_, as Jack expressed it, to escape from the porpoises, which
come in large schools up the river to a considerable distance,
occasioning, evidently, much emotion in the bosoms of the legitimate
inhabitants of these muddy waters. Coasting the island on our return home
we found a trap, which the last time we examined it was tenanted by a
creature called a mink, now occupied by an otter. The poor beast did not
seem pleased with his predicament; but the trap had been set by one of the
drivers, and, of course, Jack would not have meddled with it except upon
my express order, which, in spite of some pangs of pity for the otter, I
did not like to give him, as in the extremely few resources of either
profit or pleasure possessed by the slaves I could not tell at all what
might be the value of an otter to his captor.

Yesterday evening the burial of the poor man Shadrach took place. I had
been applied to for a sufficient quantity of cotton cloth to make a
winding-sheet for him, and just as the twilight was thickening into
darkness I went with Mr. ---- to the cottage of one of the slaves whom I
may have mentioned to you before--a cooper of the name of London, the head
of the religious party of the inhabitants of the island, a methodist
preacher of no small intelligence and influence among the people--who was
to perform the burial service. The coffin was laid on trestles in front of
the cooper's cottage, and a large assemblage of the people had gathered
round, many of the men carrying pine-wood torches, the fitful glare of
which glanced over the strange assembly, where every pair of large
white-rimmed eyes turned upon ---- and myself; we two poor creatures on
this more solemn occasion, as well as on every other when these people
encounter us, being the objects of admiration and wonderment, on which
their gaze is immovably riveted. Presently the whole congregation uplifted
their voices in a hymn, the first high wailing notes of which--sung all in
unison, in the midst of these unwonted surroundings--sent a thrill through
all my nerves. When the chant ceased, cooper London began a prayer, and
all the people knelt down in the sand, as I did also. Mr. ---- alone
remained standing in the presence of the dead man, and of the living God
to whom his slaves were now appealing. I cannot tell you how profoundly
the whole ceremony, if such it could be called, affected me, and there was
nothing in the simple and pathetic supplication of the poor black artisan
to check or interfere with the solemn influences of the whole scene. It
was a sort of conventional methodist prayer, and probably quite as
conventional as all the rest was the closing invocation of God's blessing
upon their master, their mistress, and our children; but this fairly
overcame my composure, and I began to cry very bitterly; for these same
individuals, whose implication in the state of things in the midst of
which we are living, seemed to me as legitimate a cause for tears as for
prayers. When the prayer was concluded we all rose, and the coffin being
taken up, proceeded to the people's burial-ground, when London read aloud
portions of the funeral service from the prayer-book--I presume the
American episcopal version of our Church service, for what he read
appeared to be merely a selection from what was perfectly familiar to me;
but whether he himself extracted what he uttered I did not enquire. Indeed
I was too much absorbed in the whole scene, and the many mingled emotions
it excited of awe and pity, and an indescribable sensation of wonder at
finding myself on this slave soil, surrounded by MY slaves, among whom
again I knelt while the words proclaiming to the living and the dead the
everlasting covenant of freedom, 'I am the resurrection and the life,'
sounded over the prostrate throng, and mingled with the heavy flowing of
the vast river sweeping, not far from where we stood, through the darkness
by which we were now encompassed (beyond the immediate circle of our
torch-bearers). There was something painful to me in ----'s standing
while we all knelt on the earth, for though in any church in Philadelphia
he would have stood during the praying of any minister, here I wished he
would have knelt, to have given his slaves some token of his belief
that--at least in the sight of that Master to whom we were addressing our
worship--all men are equal. The service ended with a short address from
London upon the subject of Lazarus, and the confirmation which the story
of his resurrection afforded our hopes. The words were simple and rustic,
and of course uttered in the peculiar sort of jargon which is the habitual
negro speech; but there was nothing in the slightest degree incongruous or
grotesque in the matter or manner, and the exhortations not to steal, or
lie, or neglect to work well for massa, with which the glorious hope of
immortality was blended in the poor slave preacher's closing address, was
a moral adaptation, as wholesome as it was touching, of the great
Christian theory to the capacities and consciences of his hearers. When
the coffin was lowered the grave was found to be partially filled with
water--naturally enough, for the whole island is a mere swamp, off which
the Altamaha is only kept from sweeping by the high dykes all round it.
This seemed to shock and distress the people, and for the first time
during the whole ceremony there were sounds of crying and exclamations of
grief heard among them. Their chief expression of sorrow, however, when
Mr. ---- and myself bade them good night at the conclusion of the
service, was on account of my crying, which appeared to affect them very
much, many of them mingling with their 'Farewell, good night, massa and
missis,' affectionate exclamations of 'God bless you, missis; don't cry!'
'Lor, missis, don't you cry so!' Mr. ---- declined the assistance of any
of the torch-bearers home, and bade them all go quietly to their quarters;
and as soon as they had dispersed, and we had got beyond the fitful and
unequal glaring of the torches, we found the shining of the stars in the
deep blue lovely night sky quite sufficient to light our way along the
dykes. I could not speak to ----, but continued to cry as we walked
silently home; and whatever his cogitations were, they did not take the
unusual form with him of wordy demonstration, and so we returned from one
of the most striking religious ceremonies at which I ever assisted.
Arrived at the door of the house we perceived that we had been followed
the whole way by the naked noiseless feet of a poor half-witted creature,
a female idiot, whose mental incapacity, of course, in no respect unfits
her for the life of toil, little more intellectual than that of any beast
of burthen, which is her allotted portion here. Some small gratification
was given to her, and she departed gibbering and muttering in high glee.
Think, E----, of that man London--who, in spite of all the bitter barriers
in his way, has learnt to read, has read his Bible, teaches it to his
unfortunate fellows, and is used by his owner and his owner's agents, for
all these causes, as an effectual influence for good over the slaves of
whom he is himself the despised and injured companion. Like them, subject
to the driver's lash; like them, the helpless creature of his master's
despotic will, without a right or a hope in this dreary world. But though
the light he has attained must show him the terrible aspects of his fate
hidden by blessed ignorance from his companions, it reveals to him also
other rights, and other hopes--another world, another life--towards which
he leads, according to the grace vouchsafed him, his poor fellow-slaves.
How can we keep this man in such a condition? How is such a cruel sin of
injustice to be answered? Mr. ----, of course, sees and feels none of this
as I do, and I should think must regret that he ever brought me here, to
have my abhorrence of the theory of slavery deepened, and strengthened
every hour of my life, by what I see of its practice.

This morning I went over to Darien upon the very female errands of
returning visits and shopping. In one respect (assuredly in none other)
our life here resembles existence in Venice; we can never leave home for
any purpose or in any direction but by boat--not, indeed, by gondola, but
the sharp cut, well made, light craft in which we take our walks on the
water is a very agreeable species of conveyance. One of my visits this
morning was to a certain Miss ----, whose rather grandiloquent name and
very striking style of beauty exceedingly well became the daughter of an
ex-governor of Georgia. As for the residence of this princess, it was like
all the planters' residences that I have seen, and such as a well-to-do
English farmer would certainly not inhabit. Occasional marks of former
elegance or splendour survive sometimes in the size of the rooms,
sometimes in a little carved wood-work about the mantelpieces or
wainscoatings of these mansions; but all things have a Castle Rackrent air
of neglect, and dreary careless untidiness, with which the dirty
bare-footed negro servants are in excellent keeping. Occasionally a huge
pair of dazzling shirt gills, out of which a black visage grins as out of
some vast white paper cornet, adorns the sable footman of the
establishment, but unfortunately without at all necessarily indicating any
downward prolongation of the garment; and the perfect tulip bed of a head
handkerchief with which the female attendants of these 'great families'
love to bedizen themselves, frequently stands them instead of every other
most indispensable article of female attire.

As for my shopping, the goods or rather 'bads,' at which I used to
grumble, in your village emporium at Lenox, are what may be termed 'first
rate,' both in excellence and elegance, compared with the vile products of
every sort which we wretched southerners are expected to accept as the
conveniences of life in exchange for current coin of the realm. I regret
to say, moreover, that all these infamous articles are Yankee
made--expressly for this market, where every species of _thing_ (to use
the most general term I can think of), from list shoes to pianofortes, is
procured from the North--almost always New England, utterly worthless of
its kind, and dearer than the most perfect specimens of the same articles
would be anywhere else. The incredible variety and ludicrous combinations
of goods to be met with in one of these southern shops beats the stock of
your village omnium-gatherum hollow to be sure, one class of articles, and
that probably the most in demand here, is not sold over any counter in
Massachussetts--cow-hides, and man-traps, of which a large assortment
enters necessarily into the furniture of every southern shop.

In passing to-day along the deep sand road, calling itself the street of
Darien, my notice was attracted by an extremely handsome and
intelligent-looking poodle, standing by a little wizen-looking
knife-grinder, whose features were evidently European, though he was
nearly as black as a negro who, strange to say, was discoursing with him
in very tolerable French. The impulse of curiosity led me to accost the
man at the grindstone, when his companion immediately made off. The
itinerant artisan was from Aix in Provence; think of wandering thence to
Darien in Georgia! I asked him about the negro who was talking to him; he
said he knew nothing of him, but that he was a slave belonging to
somebody in the town. And upon my expressing surprise at his having left
his own beautiful and pleasant country for this dreary distant region, he
answered, with a shrug and a smile, 'Oui, madame, c'est vrai; c'est un
joli pays, mais dans ce pays-là, quand un homme n'a rien, c'est rien pour
toujours.' A property which many no doubt have come hither, like the
little French knife-grinder, to increase, without succeeding in the
struggle much better than he appeared to have done.

       *       *       *       *       *


Dear E----, Having made a fresh and, as I thought, more promising purchase
of fishing-tackle, Jack and I betook ourselves to the river, and succeeded
in securing some immense cat-fish, of which, to tell you the truth, I am
most horribly afraid when I have caught them. The dexterity necessary for
taking them off the hook so as to avoid the spikes on their backs, and the
spikes on each side of their gills, the former having to be pressed down,
and the two others pressed up, before you can get any purchase on the
slimy beast (for it is smooth skinned and without scales, to add to the
difficulty)--these conditions, I say, make the catching of cat-fish
questionable sport. Then too, they hiss, and spit, and swear at one, and
are altogether devilish in their aspect and demeanour; nor are they good
for food, except, as Jack with much humility said this morning, for
coloured folks--'Good for coloured folks, missis; me 'spect not good
enough for white people.' That 'spect, meaning _ex_pect, has sometimes a
possible meaning of _sus_pect, which would give the sentence in which it
occurs a very humorous turn, and I always take the benefit of that
interpretation. After exhausting the charms of our occupation, finding
that cat-fish were likely to be our principal haul, I left the river and
went my rounds to the hospitals. On my way I encountered two batches of
small black fry, Hannah's children and poor Psyche's children, looking
really as neat and tidy as children of the bettermost class of artisans
among ourselves. These people are so quick and so imitative that it would
be the easiest thing in the world to improve their physical condition by
appealing to their emulative propensities. Their passion for what is
_genteel_ might be used most advantageously in the same direction; and
indeed, I think it would be difficult to find people who offered such a
fair purchase by so many of their characteristics to the hand of the
reformer.

Returning from the hospital I was accosted by poor old Teresa, the
wretched negress who had complained to me so grievously of her back being
broken by hard work and child-bearing. She was in a dreadful state of
excitement, which she partly presently communicated to me, because she
said Mr. O---- had ordered her to be flogged for having complained to me
as she did. It seems to me that I have come down here to be tortured, for
this punishing these wretched creatures for crying out to me for help is
really converting me into a source of increased misery to them. It is
almost more than I can endure to hear these horrid stories of lashings
inflicted because I have been invoked; and though I dare say Mr. ----,
thanks to my passionate appeals to him, gives me little credit for
prudence or self-command, I have some, and I exercise it too when I listen
to such tales as these with my teeth set fast and my lips closed. Whatever
I may do to the master, I hold my tongue to the slaves, and I wonder how I
do it.

In the afternoon I rowed with Mr. ---- to another island in the broad
waters of the Altamaha, called Tunno's Island, to return the visit of a
certain Dr. T----, the proprietor of the island, named after him, as our
rice swamp is after Major ----. I here saw growing in the open air the
most beautiful gardinias I ever beheld; the branches were as high and as
thick as the largest clumps of Kalmia, that grow in your woods, but
whereas the tough, stringy, fibrous branches of these gives them a
straggling appearance, these magnificent masses of dark shiny glossy green
leaves were quite compact; and I cannot conceive anything lovelier or more
delightful than they would be starred all over with their thick-leaved
cream-white odoriferous blossoms.

In the course of our visit a discussion arose as to the credibility of any
negro assertion, though, indeed, that could hardly be called a discussion
that was simply a chorus of assenting opinions. No negro was to be
believed on any occasion or any subject. No doubt they are habitual liars,
for they are slaves, but there are some thrice honourable exceptions who,
being slaves, are yet not liars; and certainly the vice results much more
from the circumstances in which they are placed than from any natural
tendency to untruth in their case. The truth is that they are always
considered as false and deceitful, and it is very seldom that any special
investigation of the facts of any particular case is resorted to in their
behalf. They are always prejudged on their supposed general
characteristics, and never judged after the fact on the merit of any
special instance.

A question which was discussed in the real sense of the term, was that of
ploughing the land instead of having it turned with the spade or hoe. I
listened to this with great interest, for Jack and I had had some talk
upon this subject, which began in his ardently expressed wish that massa
would allow his land to be ploughed, and his despairing conclusion that he
never would, ''cause horses more costly to keep than coloured folks,' and
ploughing, therefore, dearer than hoeing or digging. I had ventured to
suggest to Mr. ----- the possibility of ploughing some of the fields on
the island, and his reply was that the whole land was too moist and too
much interrupted with the huge masses of the Cypress yam roots, which
would turn the share of any plough. Yet there is land belonging to our
neighbour Mr. G----, on the other side of the river, where the conditions
of the soil must be precisely the same, and yet which is being ploughed
before our faces. On Mr. ----'s adjacent plantation the plough is also
used extensively and successfully.

On my return to our own island I visited another of the hospitals, and the
settlements to which it belonged. The condition of these places and of
their inhabitants is, of course, the same all over the plantation, and if
I were to describe them I should but weary you with a repetition of
identical phenomena: filthy, wretched, almost naked, always bare-legged
and bare-footed children; negligent, ignorant, wretched mothers, whose
apparent indifference to the plight of their offspring, and utter
incapacity to alter it, are the inevitable result of their slavery. It is
hopeless to attempt to reform their habits or improve their condition
while the women are condemned to field labour; nor is it possible to
overestimate the bad moral effect of the system as regards the women
entailing this enforced separation from their children and neglect of all
the cares and duties of mother, nurse, and even house-wife, which are all
merged in the mere physical toil of a human hoeing machine. It seems to me
too--but upon this point I cannot, of course, judge as well as the persons
accustomed to and acquainted with the physical capacities of their
slaves--that the labour is not judiciously distributed in many cases; at
least, not as far as the women are concerned. It is true that every
able-bodied woman is made the most of in being driven a-field as long as
under all and any circumstances she is able to wield a hoe; but on the
other hand, stout, hale, hearty girls and boys, of from eight to twelve
and older, are allowed to lounge about filthy and idle, with no pretence
of an occupation but what they call 'tend baby,' i.e. see to the life and
limbs of the little slave infants, to whose mothers, working in distant
fields, they carry them during the day to be suckled, and for the rest of
the time leave them to crawl and kick in the filthy cabins or on the
broiling sand which surrounds them, in which industry, excellent enough
for the poor babies, these big lazy youths and lasses emulate them. Again,
I find many women who have borne from five to ten children rated as
workers, precisely as young women in the prime of their strength who have
had none; this seems a cruel carelessness. To be sure, while the women are
pregnant their task is diminished, and this is one of the many indirect
inducements held out to reckless propagation, which has a sort of premium
offered to it in the consideration of less work and more food,
counterbalanced by none of the sacred responsibilities which hallow and
ennoble the relation of parent and child; in short, as their lives are for
the most part those of mere animals, their increase is literally mere
animal breeding, to which every encouragement is given, for it adds to
the master's live stock, and the value of his estate.

       *       *       *       *       *


Dear E----. To-day, I have the pleasure of announcing to you a variety of
improvements about to be made in the infirmary of the island. There is to
be a third story--a mere loft indeed--added to the buildings, but by
affording more room for the least distressing cases of sickness to be
drafted off into, it will leave the ground-floor and room above it
comparatively free for the most miserable of these unfortunates. To my
unspeakable satisfaction these destitute apartments are to be furnished
with bedsteads, mattresses, pillows, and blankets; and I feel a little
comforted for the many heart-aches my life here inflicts upon me: at least
some of my twinges will have wrought this poor alleviation of their
wretchedness for the slaves, when prostrated by disease or pain.

I had hardly time to return from the hospital home this morning before one
of the most tremendous storms I ever saw burst over the island. Your
northern hills, with their solemn pine woods, and fresh streams and lakes,
telling of a cold rather than a warm climate, always seem to me as if
undergoing some strange and unnatural visitation, when one of your heavy
summer thunder-storms bursts over them. Snow and frost, hail and, above
all, wind, trailing rain clouds and brilliant northern lights, are your
appropriate sky phenomena; here, thunder and lightning seem as if they
might have been invented. Even in winter (remember, we are now in
February) they appear neither astonishing nor unseasonable, and I should
think in summer (but Heaven defend me from ever making good my
supposition) lightning must be as familiar to these sweltering lands and
slimy waters as sunlight itself.

The afternoon cleared off most beautifully, and Jack and I went out on the
river to catch what might be caught. Jack's joyful excitement was extreme
at my announcing to him the fact that Mr. ---- had consented to try
ploughing on some of the driest portions of the island instead of the slow
and laborious process of hoeing the fields; this is a disinterested
exultation on his part, for at any rate as long as I am here, he will
certainly be nothing but 'my boy Jack,' and I should think after my
departure will never be degraded to the rank of a field-hand or common
labourer. Indeed the delicacy of his health, to which his slight slender
figure and languid face bear witness, and which was one reason of his
appointment to the eminence of being 'my slave,' would, I should think,
prevent the poor fellow's ever being a very robust or useful working
animal.

On my return from the river I had a long and painful conversation with
Mr. ---- upon the subject of the flogging which had been inflicted on the
wretched Teresa. These discussions are terrible: they throw me into
perfect agonies of distress for the slaves, whose position is utterly
hopeless; for myself, whose intervention in their behalf sometimes seems
to me worse than useless; for Mr. ----, whose share in this horrible
system fills me by turns with indignation and pity. But, after all, what
can he do? how can he help it all? Moreover, born and bred in America,
how should he care or wish to help it? and of course he does not; and I
am in despair that he does not: et voilà, it is a happy and hopeful
plight for us both. He maintained that there had been neither hardship
nor injustice in the case of Teresa's flogging; and that, moreover, she
had not been flogged at all for complaining to me, but simply because her
allotted task was not done at the appointed time. Of course this was the
result of her having come to appeal to me, instead of going to her
labour; and as she knew perfectly well the penalty she was incurring, he
maintained that there was neither hardship nor injustice in the case; the
whole thing was a regularly established law, with which all the slaves
were perfectly well acquainted; and this case was no exception whatever.
The circumstance of my being on the island could not of course be allowed
to overthrow the whole system of discipline established to secure the
labour and obedience of the slaves; and if they chose to try experiments
as to that fact, they and I must take the consequences. At the end of the
day, the driver of the gang to which Teresa belongs reported her work
not done, and Mr. O---- ordered him to give her the usual number of
stripes; which order the driver of course obeyed, without knowing how
Teresa had employed her time instead of hoeing. But Mr. O---- knew well
enough, for the wretched woman told me that she had herself told him she
should appeal to me about her weakness and suffering and inability to do
the work exacted from her.

He did not, however, think proper to exceed in her punishment the usual
number of stripes allotted to the non-performance of the appointed daily
task, and Mr. ---- pronounced the whole transaction perfectly satisfactory
and _en règle_. The common drivers are limited in their powers of
chastisement, not being allowed to administer more than a certain number
of lashes to their fellow slaves. Head man Frank, as he is called, has
alone the privilege of exceeding this limit; and the overseer's latitude
of infliction is only curtailed by the necessity of avoiding injury to
life or limb. The master's irresponsible power has no such bound. When I
was thus silenced on the particular case under discussion, I resorted in
my distress and indignation to the abstract question, as I never can
refrain from doing; and to Mr. ----'s assertion of the justice of poor
Teresa's punishment, I retorted the manifest injustice of unpaid and
enforced labour; the brutal inhumanity of allowing a man to strip and
lash a woman, the mother of ten children; to exact from her toil which was
to maintain in luxury two idle young men, the owners of the plantation. I
said I thought female labour of the sort exacted from these slaves, and
corporal chastisement such as they endure, must be abhorrent to any manly
or humane man. Mr. ---- said he thought it was _disagreeable_, and left me
to my reflections with that concession. My letter has been interrupted for
the last three days; by nothing special, however. My occupations and
interests here of course know no change; but Mr. ---- has been anxious for
a little while past that we should go down to St. Simon's, the cotton
plantation.

We shall suffer less from the heat, which I am beginning to find
oppressive on this swamp island; and he himself wished to visit that part
of his property, whither he had not yet been since our arrival in Georgia.
So the day before yesterday he departed to make the necessary arrangements
for our removal thither; and my time in the meanwhile has been taken up in
fitting him out for his departure.

In the morning Jack and I took our usual paddle, and having the tackle on
board, tried fishing. I was absorbed in many sad and serious
considerations, and wonderful to relate (for you know ---- how keen an
angler I am), had lost all consciousness of my occupation, until after I
know not how long a time elapsing without the shadow of a nibble, I was
recalled to a most ludicrous perception of my ill-success by Jack's
sudden observation, 'Missis, fishing berry good fun when um fish bite.'
This settled the fishing for that morning, and I let Jack paddle me down
the broad turbid stream, endeavouring to answer in the most comprehensible
manner to his keen but utterly undeveloped intellects the innumerable
questions with which he plied me about Philadelphia, about England, about
the Atlantic, &c. He dilated much upon the charms of St. Simon's, to which
he appeared very glad that we were going; and among other items of
description mentioned, what I was very glad to hear, that it was a
beautiful place for riding, and that I should be able to indulge to my
heart's content in my favourite exercise, from which I have, of course,
been utterly debarred in this small dykeland of ours. He insinuated more
than once his hope and desire that he might be allowed to accompany me,
but as I knew nothing at all about his capacity for equestrian exercises,
or any of the arrangements that might or might not interfere with such a
plan, I was discreetly silent, and took no notice of his most comically
turned hints on the subject. In our row we started a quantity of wild
duck, and he told me that there was a great deal of game at St. Simon's,
but that the people did not contrive to catch much, though they laid traps
constantly for it. Of course their possessing firearms is quite out of
the question; but this abundance of what must be to them such especially
desirable prey, makes the fact a great hardship. I almost wonder they
don't learn to shoot like savages with bows and arrows, but these would be
weapons, and equally forbidden them.

In the afternoon I saw Mr. ---- off for St. Simon's; it is fifteen miles
lower down the river, and a large island at the very mouth of the
Altamaha.

The boat he went in was a large, broad, rather heavy, though well-built
craft, by no means as swift or elegant as the narrow eight-oared long boat
in which he generally takes his walks on the water, but well adapted for
the traffic between the two plantations, where it serves the purpose of a
sort of omnibus or stage-coach for the transfer of the people from one to
the other, and of a baggage waggon or cart for the conveyance of all sorts
of household goods, chattels, and necessaries. Mr. ---- sat in the middle
of a perfect chaos of such freight; and as the boat pushed off, and the
steersman took her into the stream, the men at the oars set up a chorus,
which they continued to chaunt in unison with each other, and in time with
their stroke, till the voices and oars were heard no more from the
distance. I believe I have mentioned to you before the peculiar
characteristics of this veritable negro minstrelsy--how they all sing in
unison, having never, it appears, attempted or heard anything like
part-singing. Their voices seem oftener tenor than any other quality, and
the tune and time they keep something quite wonderful; such truth of
intonation and accent would make almost any music agreeable. That which I
have heard these people sing is often plaintive and pretty, but almost
always has some resemblance to tunes with which they must have become
acquainted through the instrumentality of white men; their overseers or
masters whistling Scotch or Irish airs, of which they have produced by ear
these _rifacciamenti_. The note for note reproduction of 'Ah! vous
dirai-je, maman?' in one of the most popular of the so-called Negro
melodies with which all America and England are familiar, is an example of
this very transparent plagiarism; and the tune with which Mr. ----'s
rowers started him down the Altamaha, as I stood at the steps to see him
off, was a very distinct descendant of 'Coming through the Rye.' The
words, however, were astonishingly primitive, especially the first line,
which, when it burst from their eight throats in high unison, sent me into
fits of laughter.

    Jenny shake her toe at me,
    Jenny gone away;
    Jenny shake her toe at me,
    Jenny gone away.
    Hurrah! Miss Susy, oh!
    Jenny gone away;
    Hurrah! Miss Susy, oh!
    Jenny gone away.

What the obnoxious Jenny meant by shaking her toe, whether defiance or
mere departure, I never could ascertain, but her going away was an
unmistakable subject of satisfaction; and the pause made on the last 'oh!'
before the final announcement of her departure, had really a good deal of
dramatic and musical effect. Except the extemporaneous chaunts in our
honour, of which I have written to you before, I have never heard the
negroes on Mr. ----'s plantation sing any words that could be said to have
any sense. To one, an extremely pretty, plaintive, and original air, there
was but one line, which was repeated with a sort of wailing chorus--

    Oh! my massa told me, there's no grass in Georgia.

Upon enquiring the meaning of which, I was told it was supposed to be the
lamentation of a slave from one of the more northerly states, Virginia or
Carolina, where the labour of hoeing the weeds, or grass as they call it,
is not nearly so severe as here, in the rice and cotton lands of Georgia.
Another very pretty and pathetic tune began with words that seemed to
promise something sentimental--

    Fare you well, and good-bye, oh, oh!
    I'm goin' away to leave you, oh, oh!

but immediately went off into nonsense verses about gentlemen in the
parlour drinking wine and cordial, and ladies in the drawing-room drinking
tea and coffee, &c. I have heard that many of the masters and overseers on
these plantations prohibit melancholy tunes or words, and encourage
nothing but cheerful music and senseless words, deprecating the effect of
sadder strains upon the slaves, whose peculiar musical sensibility might
be expected to make them especially excitable by any songs of a plaintive
character, and having any reference to their particular hardships. If it
is true, I think it a judicious precaution enough--these poor slaves are
just the sort of people over whom a popular musical appeal to their
feelings and passions would have an immense power.

In the evening, Mr. ----'s departure left me to the pleasures of an
uninterrupted _tête-à-tête_ with his crosseyed overseer, and I
endeavoured, as I generally do, to atone by my conversibleness and
civility for the additional trouble which, no doubt, all my outlandish
ways and notions are causing the worthy man. So suggestive (to use the
new-fangled jargon about books) a woman as myself is, I suspect, an
intolerable nuisance in these parts; and poor Mr. O---- cannot very well
desire Mr. ---- to send me away, however much he may wish that he would;
so that figuratively, as well as literally, I fear the worthy master _me
voit d'un mauvais oeil_, as the French say. I asked him several questions
about some of the slaves who had managed to learn to read, and by what
means they had been able to do so. As teaching them is strictly prohibited
by the laws, they who instructed them, and such of them as acquired the
knowledge, must have been not a little determined and persevering. This
was my view of the case, of course, and of course it was not the
overseer's. I asked him if many of Mr. ----'s slaves could read. He said
'No; very few, he was happy to say, but those few were just so many too
many.' 'Why, had he observed any insubordination in those who did?' And I
reminded him of Cooper London, the methodist preacher, whose performance
of the burial service had struck me so much some time ago--to whose
exemplary conduct and character there is but one concurrent testimony all
over the plantation. No; he had no special complaint to bring against the
lettered members of his subject community, but he spoke by anticipation.
Every step they take towards intelligence and enlightenment lessens the
probability of their acquiescing in their condition. Their condition is
not to be changed--ergo, they had better not learn to read; a very
succinct and satisfactory argument as far as it goes, no doubt, and one to
which I had not a word to reply, at any rate, to Mr. O----, as I did not
feel called upon to discuss the abstract justice or equity of the matter
with him; indeed he, to a certain degree, gave up that part of the
position, starting with 'I don't say whether it's right or wrong;' and in
all conversations that I have had with the southerners upon these
subjects, whether out of civility to what may be supposed to be an
Englishwoman's prejudices, or a forlorn respect to their own convictions,
the question of the fundamental wrong of slavery is generally admitted, or
at any rate certainly never denied. That part of the subject is summarily
dismissed, and all its other aspects vindicated, excused, and even lauded,
with untiring eloquence. Of course, of the abstract question I could judge
before I came here, but I confess I had not the remotest idea how
absolutely my observation of every detail of the system, as a practical
iniquity, would go to confirm my opinion of its abomination. Mr. O----
went on to condemn and utterly denounce all the preaching and teaching and
moral instruction upon religious subjects, which people in the south,
pressed upon by northern opinion, are endeavouring to give their slaves.
The kinder and the more cowardly masters are anxious to evade the charge
of keeping their negroes in brutish ignorance, and so they crumble what
they suppose and hope may prove a little harmless, religious
enlightenment, which, mixed up with much religious authority on the
subject of submission and fidelity to masters, they trust their slaves may
swallow without its doing them any harm--i.e., that they may be better
Christians and better slaves--and so, indeed, no doubt they are; but it is
a very dangerous experiment, and from Mr. O----'s point of view I quite
agree with him. The letting out of water, or the letting in of light, in
infinitesimal quantities, is not always easy. The half-wicked of the earth
are the leaks through which wickedness is eventually swamped; compromises
forerun absolute surrender in most matters, and fools and cowards are, in
such cases, the instruments of Providence for their own defeat. Mr. O----
stated unequivocally his opinion that free labour would be more profitable
on the plantations than the work of slaves, which, being compulsory, was
of the worst possible quality and the smallest possible quantity; then the
charge of them before and after they are able to work is onerous, the cost
of feeding and clothing them very considerable, and upon the whole he, a
southern overseer, pronounced himself decidedly in favour of free labour,
upon grounds of expediency. Having at the beginning of our conversation
declined discussing the moral aspect of slavery, evidently not thinking
that position tenable, I thought I had every right to consider Mr. ----'s
slave-driver a decided abolitionist.

I had been anxious to enlist his sympathies on behalf of my extreme
desire, to have some sort of garden, but did not succeed in inspiring him
with my enthusiasm on the subject; he said there was but one garden that
he knew of in the whole neighbourhood of Darien, and that was our
neighbour, old Mr. C----'s, a Scotchman on St. Simon's. I remembered the
splendid gardinias on Tunno's Island, and referred to them as a proof of
the material for ornamental gardening. He laughed, and said rice and
cotton crops were the ornamental gardening principally admired by the
planters, and that, to the best of his belief, there was not another
decent kitchen or flower garden in the State, but the one he had
mentioned.

The next day after this conversation, I walked with my horticultural
zeal much damped, and wandered along the dyke by the broad river,
looking at some pretty peach trees in blossom, and thinking what a curse
of utter stagnation this slavery produces, and how intolerable to me a
life passed within its stifling influence would be. Think of peach trees
in blossom in the middle of February! It does seem cruel, with such a
sun and soil, to be told that a garden is worth nobody's while here;
however, Mr. O---- said that he believed the wife of the former overseer
had made a 'sort of a garden' at St. Simon's. We shall see 'what sort'
it turns out to be. While I was standing on the dyke, ruminating above
the river, I saw a beautiful white bird of the crane species alight not
far from me. I do not think a little knowledge of natural history would
diminish the surprise and admiration with which I regard the, to me,
unwonted specimens of animal existence that I encounter every day, and
of which I do not even know the names. Ignorance is an odious thing. The
birds here are especially beautiful, I think. I saw one the other day,
of what species of course I do not know, of a warm and rich brown, with
a scarlet hood and crest--a lovely creature, about the size of your
northern robin, but more elegantly shaped.

This morning, instead of my usual visit to the infirmary, I went to look
at the work and workers in the threshing mill--all was going on actively
and orderly under the superintendence of head-man Frank, with whom, and a
very sagacious clever fellow, who manages the steam power of the mill,
and is honourably distinguished as Engineer Ned, I had a small chat.
There is one among various drawbacks to the comfort and pleasure of our
intercourse with these coloured 'men and brethren,' at least in their
slave condition, which certainly exercises my fortitude not a
little,--the swarms of fleas that cohabit with these sable dependants of
ours are--well--incredible; moreover they are by no means the only or
most objectionable companions one borrows from them, and I never go to
the infirmary, where I not unfrequently am requested to look at very
dirty limbs and bodies in very dirty draperies, without coming away with
a strong inclination to throw myself into the water, and my clothes into
the fire, which last would be expensive. I do not suppose that these
hateful consequences of dirt and disorder are worse here than among the
poor and neglected human creatures who swarm in the lower parts of
European cities; but my call to visit them has never been such as that
which constrains me to go daily among these poor people, and although on
one or two occasions I have penetrated into fearfully foul and filthy
abodes of misery in London, I have never rendered the same personal
services to their inhabitants that I do to Mr. ----'s slaves, and so
have not incurred the same amount of entomological inconvenience.

After leaving the mill, I prolonged my walk, and came, for the first time,
upon one of the 'gangs,' as they are called, in full field work. Upon my
appearance and approach there was a momentary suspension of labour, and
the usual chorus of screams and ejaculations of welcome, affection, and
infinite desires for infinite small indulgences. I was afraid to stop
their work, not feeling at all sure that urging a conversation with me
would be accepted as any excuse for an uncompleted task, or avert the
fatal infliction of the usual award of stripes; so I hurried off and left
them to their hoeing.

On my way home I was encountered by London, our Methodist preacher, who
accosted me with a request for a prayer-book and Bible, and expressed his
regret at hearing that we were so soon going to St. Simon's. I promised
him his holy books, and asked him how he had learned to read, but found it
impossible to get him to tell me. I wonder if he thought he should be
putting his teacher, whoever he was, in danger of the penalty of the law
against instructing the slaves, if he told me who he was; it was
impossible to make him do so, so that, besides his other good qualities,
he appears to have that most unusual one of all in an uneducated
person--discretion. He certainly is a most remarkable man.

After parting with him, I was assailed by a small gang of children,
clamouring for the indulgence of some meat, which they besought me to
give them. Animal food is only allowed to certain of the harder working
men, hedgers and ditchers, and to them only occasionally, and in very
moderate rations. My small cannibals clamoured round me for flesh, as if I
had had a butcher's cart in my pocket, till I began to laugh and then to
run, and away they came, like a pack of little black wolves, at my heels,
shrieking, 'Missis, you gib me piece meat, missis, you gib me meat,' till
I got home. At the door I found another petitioner, a young woman named
Maria, who brought a fine child in her arms, and demanded a present of a
piece of flannel. Upon my asking her who her husband was, she replied,
without much hesitation, that she did not possess any such appendage. I
gave another look at her bonny baby, and went into the house to get the
flannel for her. I afterwards heard from Mr. ---- that she and two other
girls of her age, about seventeen, were the only instances on the island
of women with illegitimate children.

After I had been in the house a little while, I was summoned out again to
receive the petition of certain poor women in the family-way to have their
work lightened. I was, of course, obliged to tell them that I could not
interfere in the matter, that their master was away, and that, when he
came back, they must present their request to him: they said they had
already begged 'massa,' and he had refused, and they thought, perhaps, if
'missis' begged 'massa' for them, he would lighten their task. Poor
'missis,' poor 'massa,' poor woman, that I am to have such prayers
addressed to me! I had to tell them, that if they had already spoken to
their master, I was afraid my doing so would be of no use, but that when
he came back I would try; so, choking with crying, I turned away from
them, and re-entered the house, to the chorus of 'Oh, thank you, missis!
God bless you, missis!' E----, I think an improvement might be made upon
that caricature published a short time ago, called the 'Chivalry of the
South.' I think an elegant young Carolinian, or Georgian gentleman, whip
in hand, driving a gang of 'lusty women,' as they are called here, would
be a pretty version of the 'Chivalry of the South'--a little coarse, I am
afraid you will say. Oh! quite horribly coarse, but then so true--a great
matter in works of art, which, now-a-days, appear to be thought excellent
only in proportion to their lack of ideal elevation. That would be a
subject, and a treatment of it, which could not be accused of imaginative
exaggeration, at any rate.

In the evening I mentioned the petitions of these poor women to Mr. O----,
thinking that perhaps he had the power to lessen their tasks. He seemed
evidently annoyed at their having appealed to me; said that their work was
not a bit too much for them, and that constantly they were _shamming_
themselves in the family-way, in order to obtain a diminution of their
labour. Poor creatures! I suppose some of them do; but again, it must be
a hard matter for those who do not, not to obtain the mitigation of their
toil which their condition requires; for their assertion and their
evidence are never received--they can't be believed, even if they were
upon oath, say their white taskmasters; why? because they have never been
taught the obligations of an oath, to whom made, or wherefore binding; and
they are punished both directly and indirectly for their moral ignorance,
as if it were a natural and incorrigible element of their character,
instead of the inevitable result of their miserable position. The oath of
any and every scoundrelly fellow with a white skin is received, but not
that of such a man as Frank, Ned, old Jacob, or Cooper London.

       *       *       *       *       *


Dearest E----. I think it right to begin this letter with an account of a
most prosperous fishing expedition Jack and I achieved the other morning.
It is true we still occasionally drew up huge cat-fish, with their
detestable beards and spikes, but we also captivated some magnificent
perch, and the Altamaha perch are worth one's while both to catch and to
eat. On a visit I had to make on the mainland, the same day, I saw a tiny
strip of garden ground, rescued from the sandy road, called the street,
perfectly filled with hyacinths, double jonquils, and snowdrops, a
charming nosegay for February 11. After leaving the boat on my return
home, I encountered a curious creature walking all sideways, a small cross
between a lobster and a crab. One of the negroes to whom I applied for its
denomination informed me that it was a land crab, with which general
description of this very peculiar multipede you must be satisfied, for I
can tell you no more. I went a little further, as the nursery rhyme says,
and met with a snake, and not being able to determine, at ignorant first
sight, whether it was a malignant serpent or not, I ingloriously took to
my heels, and came home on the full run. It is the first of these
exceedingly displeasing animals I have encountered here; but Jack, for my
consolation, tells me that they abound on St. Simon's, whither we are
going--'rattlesnakes, and all kinds,' says he, with an affluence of
promise in his tone that is quite agreeable. Rattlesnakes will be quite
enough of a treat, without the vague horrors that may be comprised in the
additional 'all kinds.' Jack's account of the game on St. Simon's is
really quite tantalising to me, who cannot carry a gun any more than if I
were a slave. He says that partridges, woodcocks, snipe, and wild duck
abound, so that, at any rate, our table ought to be well supplied. His
account of the bears that are still to be found in the woods of the
mainland, is not so pleasant, though he says they do no harm to the
people, if they are not meddled with, but that they steal the corn from
the fields when it is ripe, and actually swim the river to commit their
depredations on the islands. It seems difficult to believe this, looking
at this wide and heavy stream--though, to be sure, I did once see a young
horse swim across the St. Lawrence, between Montreal and Quebec; a feat of
natation which much enlarged my belief in what quadrupeds may accomplish
when they have no choice between swimming and sinking.

You cannot imagine how great a triumph the virtue next to godliness is
making under my auspices and a judicious system of small bribery. I can
hardly stir now without being assailed with cries of 'Missis, missis me
mind chile, me bery clean,' or the additional gratifying fact, 'and chile
too, him bery clean.' This virtue, however, if painful to the practisers,
as no doubt it is, is expensive, too, to me, and I shall have to try some
moral influence equivalent in value to a cent current coin of the realm.
What a poor chance, indeed, the poor abstract idea runs! however, it is
really a comfort to see the poor little woolly heads, now in most
instances stripped of their additional filthy artificial envelopes.

In my afternoon's row to-day I passed a huge dead alligator, lying half in
and half out of the muddy slime of the river bank--a most hideous object
it was, and I was glad to turn my eyes to the beautiful surface of the mid
stream, all burnished with sunset glories, and broken with the vivacious
gambols of a school of porpoises. It is curious, I think, that these
creatures should come fifteen miles from the sea to enliven the waters
round our little rice swamp.

While rowing this evening, I was led by my conversation with Jack to some
of those reflections with which my mind is naturally incessantly filled
here, but which I am obliged to be very careful not to give any utterance
to. The testimony of no negro is received in a southern court of law, and
the reason commonly adduced for this is, that the state of ignorance in
which the negroes are necessarily kept, renders them incapable of
comprehending the obligations of an oath, and yet with an inconsistency
which might be said to border on effrontery, these same people are
admitted to the most holy sacrament of the Church, and are certainly
thereby supposed to be capable of assuming the highest Christian
obligations, and the entire fulfilment of God's commandments--including,
of course, the duty of speaking the truth at all times.

As we were proceeding down the river, we met the flat, as it is called,
a huge sort of clumsy boat, more like a raft than any other species
of craft, coming up from St. Simon's with its usual swarthy freight
of Mr. ----'s dependants from that place. I made Jack turn our canoe,
because the universal outcries and exclamations very distinctly intimated
that I should be expected to be at home to receive the homage of this
cargo of 'massa's people.' No sooner, indeed, had I disembarked and
reached the house, than a dark cloud of black life filled the piazza
and swarmed up the steps, and I had to shake hands, like a popular
president, till my arm ached at the shoulder-joint.

When this tribe had dispersed itself, a very old woman with a remarkably
intelligent, nice-looking young girl, came forward and claimed my
attention. The old woman, who must, I think, by her appearance, have been
near seventy, had been one of the house servants on St. Simon's Island in
Major ----'s time, and retained a certain dignified courtesy and
respectfulness of manner which is by no means an uncommon attribute of the
better class of slaves, whose intercourse with their masters, while
tending to expand their intelligence, cultivates, at the same time, the
natural turn for good manners which is, I think, a distinctive peculiarity
of negroes, if not in the kingdom of Dahomey, certainly in the United
States of America. If it can be for a moment attributed to the beneficent
influence of slavery on their natures (and I think slaveowners are quite
likely to imagine so), it is curious enough that there is hardly any alloy
whatever of cringing servility, or even humility, in the good manners of
the blacks, but a rather courtly and affable condescension which, combined
with their affection for, and misapplication of, long words, produces an
exceedingly comical effect. Old-house Molly, after congratulating herself,
with many thanks to heaven, for having spared her to see 'massa's' wife
and children, drew forward her young companion, and informed me she was
one of her numerous grandchildren. The damsel, ycleped Louisa, made rather
a shame-faced obeisance, and her old grandmother went on to inform me that
she had only lately been forgiven by the overseer for an attempt to run
away from the plantation. I enquired the cause of her desire to do so--a
'thrashing' she had got for an unfinished task--'but lor, missis,'
explained the old woman, 'taint no use--what use nigger run away?--de
swamp all round; dey get in dar, an dey starve to def, or de snakes eat em
up--massa's nigger, dey don't neber run away;' and if the good lady's
account of their prospects in doing so is correct (which, substituting
biting for eating, on the part of the snakes, it undoubtedly is), one does
not see exactly what particular merit the institution of slavery as
practised on Mr. ----'s plantation derives from the fact that his 'nigger
don't neber run away.'

After dismissing Molly and her grand-daughter, I was about to re-enter the
house, when I was stopped by Betty, head-man Frank's wife, who came with a
petition that she might be baptised. As usual with all requests involving
anything more than an immediate physical indulgence, I promised to refer
the matter to Mr. ----, but expressed some surprise that Betty, now by no
means a young woman, should have postponed a ceremony which the religious
among the slaves are apt to attach much importance to. She told me she
had more than once applied for this permission to Massa K---- (the former
overseer), but had never been able to obtain it, but that now she thought
she would ask 'de missis.'[2]

[Footnote 2: Of this woman's life on the plantation, I subsequently
learned the following circumstances:--She was the wife of head-man Frank,
the most intelligent and trustworthy of Mr. ----'s slaves; the head
driver--second in command to the overseer, and indeed second to none
during the pestilential season, when the rice swamps cannot with impunity
be inhabited by any white man, and when, therefore, the whole force
employed in its cultivation on the island remains entirely under his
authority and control. His wife--a tidy, trim, intelligent woman, with a
pretty figure, but a decidedly negro face--was taken from him by the
overseer left in charge of the plantation by the Messrs. ----, the
all-efficient and all-satisfactory Mr. K----, and she had a son by him,
whose straight features and diluted colour, no less than his troublesome,
discontented and insubmissive disposition, bear witness to his Yankee
descent. I do not know how long Mr. K----'s occupation of Frank's wife
continued, or how the latter endured the wrong done to him. When I visited
the island, Betty was again living with her husband--a grave, sad,
thoughtful-looking man, whose admirable moral and mental qualities were
extolled to me by no worse a judge of such matters than Mr. K---- himself,
during the few days he spent with Mr. ----, while we were on the
plantation. This outrage upon this man's rights was perfectly notorious
among all the slaves; and his hopeful offspring, Renty, alluding very
unmistakably to his superior birth on one occasion when he applied for
permission to have a gun, observed that, though the people in general on
the plantation were not allowed firearms, he thought he might, _on
account of his colour_, and added that he thought Mr. K---- might have
left him his. This precious sample of the mode in which the vices of the
whites procure the intellectual progress of the blacks to their own
endangerment, was, as you will easily believe, a significant chapter to me
in the black history of oppression which is laid before my eyes in this
place.]

Yesterday afternoon I received a visit from the wife of our neighbour Dr.
T----. As usual, she exclaimed at my good fortune in having a white woman
with my children when she saw M----, and, as usual, went on to expatiate
on the utter impossibility of finding a trustworthy nurse anywhere in the
South, to whom your children could be safely confided for a day or even an
hour; as usual too, the causes of this unworthiness or incapacity for a
confidential servant's occupation were ignored, and the fact laid to the
natural defects of the negro race. I am sick and weary of this cruel and
ignorant folly. This afternoon I went out to refresh myself with a row on
the broad Altamaha and the conversation of my slave Jack, which is, I
assure you, by no means devoid of interest of various kinds, pathetic and
humorous. I do not know that Jack's scientific information is the most
valuable in the world, and I sometimes marvel with perhaps unjust
incredulity at the facts in natural history which he imparts to me; for
instance, to-day he told me as we rowed past certain mud islands, very
like children's mud puddings on a rather larger scale than usual, that
they were inaccessible, and that it would be quite impossible to land on
one of them even for the shortest time. Not understanding why people who
did not mind being up to their knees in mud should not land there if they
pleased, I demurred to his assertion, when he followed it up by assuring
me that there were what he called sand-sinks under the mud, and that
whatever was placed on the surface would not only sink through the mud,
but also into a mysterious quicksand of unknown depth and extent below it.
This may be true, but sounds very strange, although I remember that the
frequent occurrence of large patches of quicksand was found to be one of
the principal impediments in the way of the canal speculators at
Brunswick. I did not, however, hear that these sinks, as Jack called them,
were found below a thick stratum of heavy mud.

In remonstrating with him upon the want of decent cleanliness generally
among the people, and citing to him one among the many evils resulting
from it, the intolerable quantity of fleas in all the houses, he met me
full with another fact in natural history which, if it be fact and not
fiction, certainly gave him the best of the argument: he declared, with
the utmost vehemence, that the sand of the pine woods on the mainland
across the river literally swarmed with fleas--that in the uninhabited
places the sand itself was full of them, and that so far from being a
result of human habitation, they were found in less numbers round the
negro huts on the mainland than in the lonely woods around them.

The ploughing is at length fairly inaugurated, and there is a regular
jubilee among the negroes thereat. After discoursing fluently on the
improvements likely to result from the measure, Jack wound up by saying he
had been afraid it would not be tried on account of the greater scarcity,
and consequently greater value, of horses over men in these parts--a
modest and slave-like conclusion.

       *       *       *       *       *


Dearest E----. I walked up to-day, _February 14th_, to see that land of
promise the ploughed field: it did not look to me anything like as heavy
soil as the cold wet sour stiff clay I have seen turned up in some of the
swampy fields round Lenox; and as for the cypress roots which were urged
as so serious an impediment, they are not much more frequent, and
certainly not as resisting, as the granite knees and elbows that stick out
through the scanty covering of the said clay, which mother earth allows
herself as sole garment for her old bones in many a Berkshire patch of
corn. After my survey, as I walked home, I came upon a gang of lusty
women, as the phrase is here for women in the family-way; they were
engaged in burning stubble, and I was nearly choked while receiving the
multitudinous complaints and compliments with which they overwhelmed me.
After leaving them, I wandered along the river side on the dyke homeward,
rejoicing in the buds and green things putting forth their tender shoots
on every spray, in the early bees and even the less amiable wasps busy in
the sunshine with flowers--(weeds I suppose they should be called),
already opening their sweet temptations to them, and giving the earth a
spring aspect, such as it does not wear with you in Massachusetts till
late in May.

In the afternoon I took my accustomed row: there had been a tremendous ebb
tide, the consequence of which was to lay bare portions of the banks which
I had not seen before. The cypress roots form a most extraordinary mass of
intertwined wood-work, so closely matted and joined together, that the
separate roots, in spite of their individual peculiarities, appeared only
like divisions of a continuous body; they presented the appearance in
several places of jagged pieces of splintered rock, with their huge teeth
pointing downward into the water. Their decay is so slow that the
protection they afford the soft spongy banks against the action of the
water, is likely to be prolonged until the gathering and deposit of
successive layers of alluvium will remove them from the margin of which
they are now most useful supports. On my return home, I was met by a child
(as she seemed to me) carrying a baby, in whose behalf she begged me for
some clothes. On making some enquiry, I was amazed to find that the child
was her own: she said she was married and fourteen years old, she looked
much younger even than that, poor creature. Her mother, who came up while
I was talking to her, said she did not herself know the girl's age;--how
horridly brutish it all did seem, to be sure.

The spring is already here with her hands full of flowers. I do not know
who planted some straggling pyrus japonica near the house, but it is
blessing my eyes with a hundred little flame-like buds, which will
presently burst into a blaze; there are clumps of narcissus roots sending
up sheaves of ivory blossoms, and I actually found a monthly rose in bloom
on the sunny side of one of the dykes; what a delight they are in the
slovenly desolation of this abode of mine! what a garden one might have on
the banks of these dykes, with the least amount of trouble and care!

In the afternoon I rowed over to Darien, and there procuring the most
miserable vehicle calling itself a carriage that I had ever seen (the
dirtiest and shabbiest London hackney-coach were a chariot of splendour
and ease to it), we drove some distance into the sandy wilderness that
surrounds the little town, to pay a visit to some of the resident gentry
who had called upon us. The road was a deep wearisome sandy track,
stretching wearisomely into the wearisome pine forest--a species of
wilderness more oppressive a thousand times to the senses and imagination
than any extent of monotonous prairie, barren steppe, or boundless desert
can be; for the horizon there at least invites and detains the eye,
suggesting beyond its limit possible change; the lights and shadows and
enchanting colours of the sky afford some variety in their movement and
change, and the reflections of their tints; while in this hideous and
apparently boundless pine barren, you are deprived alike of horizon before
you and heaven above you: nor sun nor star appears through the thick
covert, which, in the shabby dinginess of its dark blue-green expanse,
looks like a gigantic cotton umbrella stretched immeasurably over you. It
is true that over that sandy soil a dark green cotton umbrella is a very
welcome protection from the sun, and when the wind makes music in the tall
pine-tops and refreshment in the air beneath them. The comparison may seem
ungrateful enough: to-day, however, there was neither sound above nor
motion below, and the heat was perfectly stifling, as we ploughed our way
through the resinous-smelling sand solitudes.

From time to time a thicket of exquisite evergreen shrubs broke the
monotonous lines of the countless pine shafts rising round us, and still
more welcome were the golden garlands of the exquisite wild jasmine,
hanging, drooping, trailing, clinging, climbing through the dreary forest,
joining to the warm aromatic smell of the fir trees a delicious fragrance
as of acres of heliotrope in bloom. I wonder if this delightful creature
is very difficult of cultivation out of its natural region; I never
remember to have seen it, at least not in blossom, in any collection of
plants in the Northern States or in Europe, where it certainly deserves an
honourable place for its grace, beauty, and fragrance.

On our drive we passed occasionally a tattered man or woman, whose yellow
mud complexion, straight features, and singularly sinister countenance
bespoke an entirely different race from the negro population in the midst
of which they lived. These are the so-called pine-landers of Georgia, I
suppose the most degraded race of human beings claiming an Anglo-Saxon
origin that can be found on the face of the earth,--filthy, lazy,
ignorant, brutal, proud, penniless savages, without one of the nobler
attributes which have been found occasionally allied to the vices of
savage nature. They own no slaves, for they are almost without exception
abjectly poor; they will not work, for that, as they conceive, would
reduce them to an equality with the abhorred negroes; they squat, and
steal, and starve, on the outskirts of this lowest of all civilised
societies, and their countenances bear witness to the squalor of their
condition and the utter degradation of their natures. To the crime of
slavery, though they have no profitable part or lot in it, they are
fiercely accessory, because it is the barrier that divides the black and
white races, at the foot of which they lie wallowing in unspeakable
degradation, but immensely proud of the base freedom which still separates
them from the lash-driven tillers of the soil.[3]

[Footnote 3: Of such is the white family so wonderfully described in Mrs.
Stowe's 'Dred'--whose only slave brings up the orphaned children of his
masters with such exquisitely grotesque and pathetic tenderness. From such
the conscription which has fed the Southern army in the deplorable civil
conflict now raging in America has drawn its rank and file. Better 'food
for powder' the world could scarcely supply. Fierce and idle, with hardly
one of the necessities or amenities that belong to civilised existence,
they are hardy endurers of hardship, and reckless to a savage degree of
the value of life, whether their own or others. The soldier's pay,
received or promised, exceeds in amount per month anything they ever
earned before per year, and the war they wage is one that enlists all
their proud and ferocious instincts. It is against the Yankees--the
northern sons of free soil, free toil and intelligence, the hated
abolitionists whose success would sweep away slavery and reduce the
southern white men to work--no wonder they are ready to fight to the death
against this detestable alternative, especially as they look to victory as
the certain promotion of the refuse of the 'poor white' population of the
South, of which they are one and all members, to the coveted dignity of
slaveholders.]

The house at which our call was paid was set down in the midst of the Pine
Barren with half-obliterated roads and paths round it, suggesting that it
might be visited and was inhabited. It was large and not unhandsome,
though curiously dilapidated considering that people were actually living
in it; certain remnants of carving on the cornices and paint on the panels
bore witness to some former stage of existence less neglected and
deteriorated than the present. The old lady mistress of this most forlorn
abode amiably enquired if so much exercise did not fatigue me; at first I
thought she imagined I must have walked through the pine forest all the
way from Darien, but she explained that she considered the drive quite an
effort; and it is by no means uncommon to hear people in America talk of
being dragged over bad roads in uneasy carriages as exercise, showing how
very little they know the meaning of the word, and how completely they
identify it with the idea of mere painful fatigue, instead of pleasurable
exertion.

Returning home, my reflections ran much on the possible future destiny of
these vast tracts of sandy soil. It seems to me that the ground capable of
supporting the evergreen growth, the luxuriant gardenia bushes, the bay
myrtle, the beautiful magnolia grandiflora, and the powerful and gnarled
live oaks, that find their sustenance in this earth and under this same
sky as the fir trees, must be convertible into a prosperous habitation for
other valuable vegetable growth that would add immensely to the wealth of
the Southern States. The orange thrives and bears profusely along this
part of the sea-board of Georgia; and I cannot conceive that the olive,
the mulberry, and the vine might not be acclimated and successfully and
profitably cultivated throughout the whole of this region, the swampy
lower lands alone remaining as rice plantations. The produce of these
already exceeds in value that of the once gold-growing cotton-fields, and
I cannot help believing that silk and wine and oil may, and will,
hereafter, become, with the present solitary cotton crop, joint possessors
of all this now but half-reclaimed wilderness. The soil all round Sorrento
is very nearly as light and dry and sandy as this, and vineyards and olive
orchards and cocooneries are part of the agricultural wealth there. Our
neighbour Mr. C---- has successfully cultivated the date-palm in his
garden on the edge of the sea, at St. Simon's, and certainly the ilex,
orange, and myrtle abounding here suggest natural affinities between the
Italian soil and climate and this.

I must tell you something funny which occurred yesterday at dinner, which
will give you some idea of the strange mode in which we live. We have now
not unfrequently had mutton at table, the flavour of which is quite
excellent, as indeed it well may be, for it is raised under all the
conditions of the famous _Pré salé_ that the French gourmands especially
prize, and which are reproduced on our side of the channel in the peculiar
qualities of our best South Down. The mutton we have here grazes on the
short sweet grass at St. Simon's within sea-salt influence, and is some of
the very best I have ever tasted, but it is invariably brought to table in
lumps or chunks of no particular shape or size, and in which it is utterly
impossible to recognise any part of the quadruped creature sheep with
which my eyes have hitherto become acquainted. Eat it, one may and does
thankfully; name it, one could not by any possibility. Having submitted to
this for some time, I at length enquired why a decent usual Christian
joint of mutton--leg, shoulder, or saddle--was never brought to table: the
reply was that the _carpenter_ always cut up the meat, and that he did not
know how to do it otherwise than by dividing it into so many thick square
pieces, and proceeding to chop it up on that principle; and the
consequence of this is that _four lumps_ or _chunks_ are all that a whole
sheep ever furnishes to our table by this artistic and economical process.

This morning I have been to the hospital to see a poor woman who has just
enriched Mr. ---- by _borning_ him another slave. The poor little
piccaninny, as they called it, was not one bit uglier than white babies
under similarly novel circumstances, except in one particular, that it had
a head of hair like a trunk, in spite of which I had all the pains in the
world in persuading its mother not to put a cap upon it. I bribed her
finally, by the promise of a pair of socks instead, with which I undertook
to endow her child, and, moreover, actually prevailed upon her to forego
the usual swaddling and swathing process, and let her poor baby be dressed
at its first entrance into life as I assured her both mine had been.

On leaving the hospital I visited the huts all along the street,
confiscating sundry refractory baby caps among shrieks and outcries,
partly of laughter and partly of real ignorant alarm for the consequence.
I think if this infatuation for hot head-dresses continues, I shall make
shaving the children's heads the only condition upon which they shall be
allowed to wear caps.

On Sunday morning I went over to Darien to church. Our people's church was
closed, the minister having gone to officiate elsewhere. With laudable
liberality I walked into the opposite church of a different, not to say
opposite sect: here I heard a sermon, the opening of which will,
probably, edify you as it did me, viz., that if a man was _just in all his
dealings_ he was apt to think he did all that could be required of
him,--and no wide mistake either one might suppose. But is it not
wonderful how such words can be spoken here, with the most absolute
unconsciousness of their tremendous bearing upon the existence of every
slaveholder who hears them? Certainly the use that is second nature has
made the awful injustice in the daily practice of which these people live,
a thing of which they are as little aware as you or I of the atmospheric
air that we inhale each time we breathe. The bulk of the congregation in
this church was white. The negroes are, of course, not allowed to mix with
their masters in the house of God, and there is no special place set apart
for them. Occasionally one or two are to be seen in the corners of the
singing gallery, but any more open pollution by them of their owners'
church could not be tolerated. Mr. ----'s people have petitioned very
vehemently that he would build a church for them on the island. I doubt,
however, his allowing them such a luxury as a place of worship all to
themselves. Such a privilege might not be well thought of by the
neighbouring planters; indeed, it is almost what one might call a
whity-brown idea, dangerous, demoralising, inflammatory, incendiary. I
should not wonder if I should be suspected of being the chief corner-stone
of it, and yet I am not: it is an old hope and entreaty of these poor
people, which am afraid they are not destined to see fulfilled.

       *       *       *       *       *


Dearest E----. Passing the rice-mill this morning in my walk, I went in to
look at the machinery, the large steam mortars which shell the rice, and
which work under the intelligent and reliable supervision of Engineer Ned.
I was much surprised, in the course of conversation with him this morning,
to find how much older a man he was than he appeared. Indeed his youthful
appearance had hitherto puzzled me much in accounting for his very
superior intelligence and the important duties confided to him. He is,
however, a man upwards of forty years old, although he looks ten years
younger. He attributed his own uncommonly youthful appearance to the fact
of his never having done what he called field work, or been exposed, as
the common gang negroes are, to the hardships of their all but brutish
existence. He said his former master had brought him up very kindly, and
he had learnt to tend the engines, and had never been put to any other
work, but he said this was not the case with his poor wife. He wished she
was as well off as he was, but she had to work in the rice-fields and was
'most broke in two' with labour and exposure and hard work while with
child, and hard work just directly after child-bearing; he said she could
hardly crawl, and he urged me very much to speak a kind word for her to
massa. She was almost all the time in hospital, and he thought she could
not live long.

Now, E----, here is another instance of the horrible injustice of this
system of slavery. In my country or in yours, a man endowed with
sufficient knowledge and capacity to be an engineer would, of course, be
in the receipt of considerable wages; his wife would, together with
himself, reap the advantages of his ability, and share the well-being his
labour earned; he would be able to procure for her comfort in sickness or
in health, and beyond the necessary household work, which the wives of
most artisans are inured to, she would have no labour to encounter; in
case of sickness even these would be alleviated by the assistance of some
stout girl of all work, or kindly neighbour, and the tidy parlour or snug
bed-room would be her retreat if unequal to the daily duties of her own
kitchen. Think of such a lot compared with that of the head engineer of
Mr. ----'s plantation, whose sole wages are his coarse food and raiment
and miserable hovel, and whose wife, covered with one filthy garment of
ragged texture and dingy colour, bare-footed and bare-headed, is daily
driven a-field to labour with aching pain-racked joints, under the lash of
a driver, or lies languishing on the earthen floor of the dismal
plantation hospital in a condition of utter physical destitution and
degradation such as the most miserable dwelling of the poorest inhabitant
of your free Northern villages never beheld the like of. Think of the
rows of tidy tiny houses in the long suburbs of Boston and Philadelphia,
inhabited by artisans of just the same grade as this poor Ned, with their
white doors and steps, their hydrants of inexhaustible fresh flowing
water, the innumerable appliances for decent comfort of their cheerful
rooms, the gay wardrobe of the wife, her cotton prints for daily use, her
silk for Sunday church-going; the careful comfort of the children's
clothing, the books and newspapers in the little parlour, the daily
district school, the weekly parish church: imagine if you can--but you are
happy that you cannot--the contrast between such an existence and that of
the best mechanic on a Southern plantation.

Did you ever read (but I am sure you never did, and no more did I), an
epic poem on fresh-water fish? Well, such a one was once written, I have
forgotten by whom, but assuredly the heroine of it ought to have been the
Altamaha shad--a delicate creature, so superior to the animal you
northerners devour with greedy thankfulness when the spring sends back
their finny drove to your colder waters, that one would not suppose these
were of the same family, instead of being, as they really are, precisely
the same fish. Certainly the mud of the Altamaha must have some most
peculiar virtues; and, by the by, I have never anywhere tasted such
delicious tea as that which we make with this same turbid stream, the
water of which duly filtered, of course, has some peculiar softness which
affects the tea (and it is the same we always use) in a most curious and
agreeable manner.

On my return to the house I found a terrible disturbance in consequence of
the disappearance from under cook John's safe keeping, of a ham Mr. -----
had committed to his charge. There was no doubt whatever that the
unfortunate culinary slave had made away in some inscrutable manner with
the joint intended for our table: the very lies he told about it were so
curiously shallow, child-like, and transparent, that while they confirmed
the fact of his theft quite as much if not more than an absolute
confession would have done, they provoked at once my pity and my
irrepressible mirth to a most painful degree. Mr. ---- was in a state of
towering anger and indignation, and besides a flogging sentenced the
unhappy cook to degradation from his high and dignified position (and,
alas! all its sweets of comparatively easy labour and good living from the
remains of our table) to the hard toil, coarse scanty fare, and despised
position of a common field hand. I suppose some punishment was inevitably
necessary in such a plain case of deliberate theft as this, but,
nevertheless, my whole soul revolts at the injustice of visiting upon
these poor wretches a moral darkness which all possible means are taken to
increase and perpetuate.

In speaking of this and the whole circumstance of John's trespass to
Mr. ---- in the evening, I observed that the ignorance of these poor
people ought to screen them from punishment. He replied, that they knew
well enough what was right and wrong. I asked how they could be expected
to know it? He replied, by the means of Cooper London, and the religious
instruction he gave them. So that, after all, the appeal is to be made
against themselves to that moral and religious instruction which is
withheld from them, and which, if they obtain it at all, is the result of
their own unaided and unencouraged exertion. The more I hear, and see,
and learn, and ponder the whole of this system of slavery, the more
impossible I find it to conceive how its practisers and upholders are to
justify their deeds before the tribunal of their own conscience or God's
law. It is too dreadful to have those whom we love accomplices to this
wickedness; it is too intolerable to find myself an involuntary
accomplice to it.

I had a conversation the next morning with Abraham, cook John's brother,
upon the subject of his brother's theft; and only think of the _slave_
saying that 'this action had brought disgrace upon the family.' Does not
that sound very like the very best sort of free pride, the pride of
character, the honourable pride of honesty, integrity, and fidelity? But
this was not all, for this same Abraham, a clever carpenter and much
valued _hand_ on the estate, went on, in answer to my questions, to tell
me such a story that I declare to you I felt as if I could have howled
with helpless indignation and grief when he departed and went to resume
his work. His grandfather had been an old slave in Darien, extremely
clever as a carpenter, and so highly valued for his skill and good
character that his master allowed him to purchase his liberty by money
which he earned by working for himself at odd times, when his task work
was over. I asked Abraham what sum his grandfather paid for his freedom:
he said he did not know, but he supposed a large one, because of his being
a 'skilled carpenter,' and so a peculiarly valuable chattel. I presume,
from what I remember Major M---- and Dr. H---- saying on the subject of
the market value of negroes in Charleston and Savannah, that such a man in
the prime of life would have been worth from 1,500 to 2,000 dollars.
However, whatever the man paid for his ransom, by his grandson's account,
fourteen years after he became free, when he died, he had again amassed
money to the amount of 700 dollars, which he left among his wife and
children, the former being a slave on Major ----'s estate, where the
latter remained by virtue of that fact slaves also. So this man not only
bought his own freedom at a cost of _at least_ 1,000 dollars, but left a
little fortune of 700 more at his death: and then we are told of the
universal idleness, thriftlessness, incorrigible sloth, and brutish
incapacity of this inferior race of creatures, whose only fitting and
Heaven-appointed condition is that of beasts of burthen to the whites. I
do not believe the whole low white population of the state of Georgia
could furnish such an instance of energy, industry, and thrift, as the
amassing of this laborious little fortune by this poor slave, who left,
nevertheless, his children and grandchildren to the lot from which he had
so heroically ransomed himself: and yet the white men with whom I live and
talk tell me, day after day, that there is neither cruelty nor injustice
in this accursed system.

About half-past five I went to walk on the dykes, and met a gang of the
field-hands going to the tide-mill, as the water served them for working
then. I believe I have told you that besides the great steam mill there is
this, which is dependent on the rise and fall of the tide in the river,
and where the people are therefore obliged to work by day or night at
whatever time the water serves to impel the wheel. They greeted me with
their usual profusion of exclamations, petitions, and benedictions, and I
parted from them to come and oversee my slave Jack, for whom I had bought
a spade, and to whom I had entrusted the task of turning up some ground
for me, in which I wanted to establish some of the Narcissus and other
flowers I had remarked about the ground and the house. Jack, however, was
a worse digger than Adam could have been when first he turned his hand to
it, after his expulsion from Paradise. I think I could have managed a
spade with infinitely more efficiency, or rather less incapacity, than he
displayed. Upon my expressing my amazement at his performance, he said
the people here never used spades, but performed all their agricultural
operations with the hoe. Their soil must be very light and their
agriculture very superficial, I should think. However, I was obliged to
terminate Jack's spooning process and abandon, for the present, my hopes
of a flower-bed created by his industry, being called into the house to
receive the return visit of old Mrs. S----. As usual, the appearance,
health, vigour, and good management of the children were the theme of
wondering admiration; as usual, my possession of a white nurse the theme
of envious congratulation; as usual, I had to hear the habitual senseless
complaints of the inefficiency of coloured nurses. If you are half as
tired of the sameness and stupidity of the conversation of my southern
female neighbours as I am, I pity you; but not as much as I pity them for
the stupid sameness of their most vapid existence, which would deaden any
amount of intelligence, obliterate any amount of instruction, and render
torpid and stagnant any amount of natural energy and vivacity. I would
rather die--rather a thousand times--than live the lives of these Georgia
planters' wives and daughters.

Mrs. S---- had brought me some of the delicious wild jasmine that festoons
her dreary pine-wood drive, and most grateful I was for the presence of
the sweet wild nosegay in my highly unornamental residence. When my
visitors had left me, I took the refreshment of a row over to Darien; and
as we had the tide against us coming back, the process was not so
refreshing for the rowers. The evening was so extremely beautiful, and the
rising of the moon so exquisite, that instead of retreating to the house
when I reached the island, I got into the Dolphin, my special canoe, and
made Jack paddle me down the great river to meet the Lily, which was
coming back from St. Simon's with Mr. ---- who has been preparing all
things for our advent thither.

My letter has been interrupted, dear E----, by the breaking up of our
residence on the rice plantation, and our arrival at St. Simon's, whence I
now address you. We came down yesterday afternoon, and I was thankful
enough of the fifteen miles' row to rest in, from the labour of
leave-taking, with which the whole morning was taken up, and which,
combined with packing and preparing all our own personalities and those of
the children, was no sinecure. At every moment one or other of the poor
people rushed in upon me to bid me good-bye; many of their farewells were
grotesque enough, some were pathetic, and all of them made me very sad.
Poor people! how little I have done, how little I can do for them. I had a
long talk with that interesting and excellent man, Cooper London, who made
an earnest petition that I would send him from the North a lot of Bibles
and Prayer Books; certainly the science of reading must be much more
common among the negroes than I supposed, or London must look to a
marvellously increased spread of the same hereafter. There is, however,
considerable reticence upon this point, or else the poor slaves must
consider the mere possession of the holy books as good for salvation and
as effectual for spiritual assistance to those who cannot as to those who
can comprehend them. Since the news of our departure has spread, I have
had repeated eager entreaties for presents of Bibles and Prayer Books, and
to my demurrer of 'But you can't read; can you?' have generally received
for answer a reluctant acknowledgement of ignorance, which, however, did
not always convince me of the fact. In my farewell conversation with
London I found it impossible to get him to tell me how he had learned to
read: the penalties for teaching them are very severe, heavy fines,
increasing in amount for the first and second offence, and imprisonment
for the third.[4] Such a man as London is certainly aware that to teach
the slaves to read is an illegal act, and he may have been unwilling to
betray whoever had been his preceptor even to my knowledge; at any rate, I
got no answers from him but 'Well, missis, me learn; well, missis, me
try,' and finally, 'Well, missis, me 'spose Heaven help me;' to which I
could only reply, that I knew Heaven was helpful, but very hardly to the
tune of teaching folks their letters. I got no satisfaction. Old Jacob,
the father of Abraham, cook John, and poor Psyche's husband, took a most
solemn and sad leave of me, saying he did not expect ever to see me again.
I could not exactly tell why, because, though he is aged and infirm, the
fifteen miles between the rice plantation and St. Simon's do not appear so
insuperable a barrier between the inhabitants of the two places, which I
represented to him as a suggestion of consolation.

[Footnote 4: These laws have been greatly increased in stringency and
severity since these letters were written, and _death_ has not been
reckoned too heavy a penalty for those who should venture to offer these
unfortunate people the fruit of that forbidden tree of knowledge, their
access to which has appeared to their owners the crowning danger of their
own precarious existence among their terrible dependents.]

I have worked my fingers nearly off with making, for the last day or two,
innumerable rolls of coarse little baby clothes, layettes for the use of
small new-born slaves; M---- diligently cutting and shaping, and I as
diligently stitching. We leave a good supply for the hospitals, and for
the individual clients besides who have besieged me ever since my
departure became imminent.

Our voyage from the rice to the cotton plantation was performed in the
Lily, which looked like a soldier's baggage wagon and an emigrant
transport combined. Our crew consisted of eight men. Forward in the bow
were miscellaneous live stock, pots, pans, household furniture, kitchen
utensils, and an indescribable variety of heterogeneous necessaries.
Enthroned upon beds, bedding, tables, and other chattels, sat that poor
pretty chattel Psyche, with her small chattel children. Midships sat the
two tiny free women, and myself, and in the stern Mr. ---- steering. And
'all in the blue unclouded weather' we rowed down the huge stream, the men
keeping time and tune to their oars with extemporaneous chaunts of adieu
to the rice island and its denizens. Among other poetical and musical
comments on our departure recurred the assertion, as a sort of burthen,
that we were 'parted in body, but not in mind,' from those we left behind.
Having relieved one set of sentiments by this reflection, they very wisely
betook themselves to the consideration of the blessings that remained to
them, and performed a spirited chaunt in honour of Psyche and our bouncing
black housemaid, Mary.

At the end of a fifteen miles' row we entered one among a perfect
labyrinth of arms or branches, into which the broad river ravels like a
fringe as it reaches the sea, a dismal navigation along a dismal tract,
called 'Five Pound,' through a narrow cut or channel of water divided from
the main stream. The conch was sounded, as at our arrival at the rice
island, and we made our descent on the famous long staple cotton island of
St. Simon's, where we presently took up our abode in what had all the
appearance of an old half-decayed rattling farm-house.

This morning, Sunday, I peeped round its immediate neighbourhood, and saw,
to my inexpressible delight, within hail, some noble-looking evergreen
oaks, and close to the house itself a tiny would-be garden, a plot of
ground with one or two peach-trees in full blossom, tufts of silver
narcissus and jonquils, a quantity of violets and an exquisite myrtle
bush; wherefore I said my prayers with especial gratitude.

       *       *       *       *       *


Dearest E----. The fame of my peculiar requisitions has, I find, preceded
me here, for the babies that have been presented to my admiring notice
have all been without caps; also, however, without socks to their opposite
little wretched extremities, but that does not signify quite so much. The
people, too, that I saw yesterday were remarkably clean and tidy; to be
sure, it was Sunday. The whole day, till quite late in the afternoon, the
house was surrounded by a crowd of our poor dependents, waiting to catch a
glimpse of Mr. ----, myself, or the children; and until, from sheer
weariness, I was obliged to shut the doors, an incessant stream poured in
and out, whose various modes of salutation, greeting, and welcome were
more grotesque and pathetic at the same time than anything you can
imagine. In the afternoon I walked with ---- to see a new house in process
of erection, which, when it is finished, is to be the overseer's abode and
our residence during any future visits we may pay to the estate. I was
horrified at the dismal site selected, and the hideous house erected on
it. It is true that the central position is the principal consideration in
the overseer's location, but both position and building seemed to me to
witness to an inveterate love of ugliness, or at any rate a deadness to
every desire of beauty, nothing short of horrible; and for my own part, I
think it is intolerable to have to leave the point where the waters meet,
and where a few fine picturesque old trees are scattered about, to come to
this place even for the very short time I am ever likely to spend here.

In every direction our view, as we returned, was bounded by thickets of
the most beautiful and various evergreen growth, which beckoned my
inexperience most irresistibly. ---- said, to my unutterable horror, that
they were perfectly infested with rattlesnakes, and I must on no account
go 'beating about the bush' in these latitudes, as the game I should be
likely to start would be anything but agreeable to me. We saw quantities
of wild plum-trees all silvery with blossoms, and in lovely companionship
and contrast with them a beautiful shrub covered with delicate pink bloom
like flowering peach-trees. After that life in the rice-swamp, where the
Altamaha kept looking over the dyke at me all the time as I sat in the
house writing or working, it is pleasant to be on _terra firma_ again, and
to know that the river is at the conventional, not to say natural, depth
below its banks, and under my feet instead of over my head. The two
plantations are of diametrically opposite dispositions--that is all swamp,
and this all sand; or to speak more accurately, that is all swamp, and
all of this that is not swamp, is sand.

On our way home we met a most extraordinary creature of the negro kind,
who, coming towards us, halted, and caused us to halt straight in the
middle of the path, when bending himself down till his hands almost
touched the ground, he exclaimed to Mr. ----, 'Massa ----, your most
obedient;' and then, with a kick and a flourish altogether indescribable,
he drew to the side of the path to let us pass, which we did perfectly
shouting with laughter, which broke out again every time we looked at each
other and stopped to take breath--so sudden, grotesque, uncouth, and yet
dexterous a gambado never came into the brain or out of the limbs of
anything but a 'niggar.'

I observed, among the numerous groups that we passed or met, a much larger
proportion of mulattoes than at the rice-island; upon asking Mr. ---- why
this was so, he said that there no white person could land without his or
the overseer's permission, whereas on St. Simon's, which is a large island
containing several plantations belonging to different owners, of course
the number of whites, both residing on and visiting the place, was much
greater, and the opportunity for intercourse between the blacks and whites
much more frequent. While we were still on this subject, a horrid-looking
filthy woman met us with a little child in her arms, a very light mulatto,
whose extraordinary resemblance to Driver Bran (one of the officials, who
had been duly presented to me on my arrival, and who was himself a
mulatto) struck me directly. I pointed it out to Mr. ----, who merely
answered, 'Very likely his child.' 'And,' said I, 'did you never remark
that Driver Bran is the exact image of Mr. K----?' 'Very likely his
brother,' was the reply: all which rather unpleasant state of
relationships seemed accepted as such a complete matter of course, that I
felt rather uncomfortable, and said no more about who was like who, but
came to certain conclusions in my own mind as to a young lad who had been
among our morning visitors, and whose extremely light colour and straight
handsome features and striking resemblance to Mr. K----, had suggested
suspicions of a rather unpleasant nature to me, and whose
sole-acknowledged parent was a very black negress of the name of Minda. I
have no doubt at all, now, that he is another son of Mr. K----, Mr. ----'s
paragon overseer.

As we drew near the house again we were gradually joined by such a
numerous escort of Mr. ----'s slaves that it was almost with difficulty we
could walk along the path. They buzzed, and hummed, and swarmed round us
like flies, and the heat and dust consequent upon this friendly
companionship were a most unpleasant addition to the labour of walking in
the sandy soil through which we were ploughing. I was not sorry when we
entered the house and left our bodyguard outside. In the evening I looked
over the plan of the delightful residence I had visited in the morning,
and could not help suggesting to Mr. ---- the advantage to be gained in
point of picturesqueness by merely turning the house round. It is but a
wooden frame one after all, and your folks 'down east' would think no more
of inviting it to face about than if it was built of cards; but the fact
is, here nothing signifies except the cotton crop, and whether one's nose
is in a swamp and one's eyes in a sand-heap, is of no consequence whatever
either to oneself (if oneself was not I) or anyone else.

I find here an immense proportion of old people; the work and the climate
of the rice plantation require the strongest of the able-bodied men and
women of the estate. The cotton crop is no longer by any means as
paramount in value as it used to be, and the climate, soil, and labour of
St. Simon's are better adapted to old, young, and feeble cultivators,
than the swamp fields of the rice-island. I wonder if I ever told you of
the enormous decrease in value of this same famous sea-island long staple
cotton. When Major ----, Mr. ----'s grandfather, first sent the produce
of this plantation where we now are to England, it was of so fine a
quality that it used to be quoted by itself in the Liverpool cotton
market, and was then worth half a guinea a pound; it is now not worth a
shilling a pound. This was told me by the gentleman in Liverpool who has
been factor for this estate for thirty years. Such a decrease as this in
the value of one's crop and the steady increase at the same time of a
slave population, now numbering between 700 and 800 bodies to clothe and
house,--mouths to feed, while the land is being exhausted by the careless
and wasteful nature of the agriculture itself, suggests a pretty serious
prospect of declining prosperity; and, indeed, unless these Georgia
cotton planters can command more land or lay abundant capital (which they
have not, being almost all of them over head and ears in debt) upon that
which has already spent its virgin vigour, it is a very obvious thing
that they must all very soon be eaten up by their own property. The rice
plantations are a great thing to fall back upon under these
circumstances, and the rice crop is now quite as valuable, if not more
so, than the cotton one on Mr. ----'s estates, once so famous and
prosperous through the latter.

I find any number of all but superannuated men and women here, whose
tales of the former grandeur of the estate and family are like things one
reads of in novels. One old woman who crawled to see me, and could hardly
lift her poor bowed head high enough to look in my face, had been in
Major ----'s establishment in Philadelphia, and told with infinite pride
of having waited upon his daughters and grand-daughters, Mr. ----'s
sisters. Yet here she is, flung by like an old rag, crippled with age and
disease, living, or rather dying by slow degrees in a miserable hovel,
such as no decent household servant would at the North, I suppose, ever
set their foot in. The poor old creature complained bitterly to me of all
her ailments and all her wants. I can do little, alas! for either. I had
a visit from another tottering old crone called Dorcas, who all but went
on her knees as she wrung and kissed my hands; with her came my friend
Molly, the grandmother of the poor runaway girl, Louisa, whose story I
wrote you some little time ago. I had to hear it all over again, it being
the newest event evidently in Molly's life; and it ended as before with
the highly reasonable proposition: 'Me say, missis, what for massa's
niggar run away? Snake eat em up, or dey starve to def in a swamp.
Massa's niggars dey don't nebbar run away.' If I was 'massa's niggars,' I
'spose' I shouldn't run away either, with only those alternatives, but
when I look at these wretches and at the sea that rolls round this
island, and think how near the English West Indies and freedom are, it
gives me a pretty severe twinge at the heart.

       *       *       *       *       *


Dearest E----. I am afraid my letters must be becoming very wearisome to
you, for if, as the copy-book runs, 'variety is charming,' they certainly
cannot be so, unless monotony is also charming, a thing not impossible to
some minds, but of which the copy-book makes no mention. But what will
you? as the French say; my days are no more different from one another
than peas in a dish, or sands on the shore: 'tis a pleasant enough life to
live, for one who, like myself, has a passion for dulness, but it affords
small matter for epistolary correspondence. I suppose it is the surfeit of
excitement that I had in my youth that has made a life of quiet monotony
so extremely agreeable to me; it is like stillness after loud noise,
twilight after glare, rest after labour. There is enough strangeness too
in everything that surrounds me here to interest and excite me agreeably
and sufficiently, and I should like the wild savage loneliness of the far
away existence extremely, if it were not for the one small item of 'the
slavery.'

I had a curious visit this morning from half a dozen of the women, among
whom were Driver Morris's wife and Venus (a hideous old goddess she was,
to be sure), Driver Bran's mother. They came especially to see the
children, who are always eagerly asked for, and hugely admired by their
sooty dependents. These poor women went into ecstasies over the little
white piccaninnies, and were loud and profuse in their expressions of
gratitude to massa ---- for getting married and having children, a matter
of thankfulness which, though it always makes me laugh very much, is a
most serious one to them; for the continuance of the family keeps the
estate and slaves from the hammer, and the poor wretches, besides seeing
in every new child born to their owners a security against their own
banishment from the only home they know, and separation from all ties of
kindred and habit, and dispersion to distant plantations, not unnaturally
look for a milder rule from masters who are the children of their fathers'
masters. The relation of owner and slave may be expected to lose some of
its harsher features, and, no doubt, in some instances, does so, when it
is on each side the inheritance of successive generations. And so ----'s
slaves laud, and applaud, and thank, and bless him for having married, and
endowed their children with two little future mistresses. One of these
women, a Diana by name, went down on her knees and uttered in a loud voice
a sort of extemporaneous prayer of thanksgiving at our advent, in which
the sacred and the profane were most ludicrously mingled; her 'tanks to de
good Lord God Almighty that missus had come, what give de poor niggar
sugar and flannel,' and dat 'massa ----, him hab brought de missis and de
two little misses down among de people,' were really too grotesque; and
yet certainly more sincere acts of thanksgiving are not often uttered
among the solemn and decorous ones that are offered up to heaven for
'benefits received.'

I find the people here much more inclined to talk than those on the
rice-island; they have less to do and more leisure, and bestow it very
liberally on me; moreover, the poor old women, of whom there are so many
turned out to grass here, and of whom I have spoken to you before,
though they are past work, are by no means past gossip, and the stories
they have to tell of the former government of the estate under old Massa
K---- are certainly pretty tremendous illustrations of the merits of
slavery as a moral institution. This man, the father of the late owner,
Mr. R---- K----, was Major ----'s agent in the management of this
property; and a more cruel and unscrupulous one as regards the slaves
themselves, whatever he may have been in his dealings with the master, I
should think it would be difficult to find, even among the cruel and
unscrupulous class to which he belonged.

In a conversation with old 'House Molly,' as she is called, to distinguish
her from all other Mollies on the estate, she having had the honour of
being a servant in Major ----'s house for many years, I asked her if the
relation between men and women who are what they call married, i.e., who
have agreed to live together as man and wife (the only species of marriage
formerly allowed on the estate, I believe now London may read the Marriage
Service to them), was considered binding by the people themselves and by
the overseer. She said 'not much, formerly,' and that the people couldn't
be expected to have much regard to such an engagement, utterly ignored as
it was by Mr. K----, whose invariable rule, if he heard of any
disagreement between a man and woman calling themselves married, was
immediately to bestow them in 'marriage' on other parties, whether they
chose it or not, by which summary process the slightest 'incompatibility
of temper' received the relief of a divorce more rapid and easy than even
Germany could afford, and the estate lost nothing by any prolongation of
celibacy on either side. Of course, the misery consequent upon such
arbitrary destruction of voluntary and imposition of involuntary ties was
nothing to Mr. K----.

I was very sorry to hear to-day, that Mr. O----, the overseer at the
rice-island, of whom I have made mention to you more than once in my
letters, had had one of the men flogged very severely for getting his wife
baptised. I was quite unable, from the account I received, to understand
what his objection had been to the poor man's desire to make his wife at
least a formal Christian; but it does seem dreadful that such an act
should be so visited. I almost wish I was back again at the rice-island;
for though this is every way the pleasanter residence, I hear so much more
that is intolerable of the treatment of the slaves from those I find here,
that my life is really made wretched by it. There is not a single natural
right that is not taken away from these unfortunate people, and the worst
of all is, that their condition does not appear to me, upon further
observation of it, to be susceptible of even partial alleviation as long
as the fundamental evil, the slavery itself, remains.

My letter was interrupted as usual by clamours for my presence at the
door, and petitions for sugar, rice, and baby clothes, from a group of
women who had done their tasks at three o'clock in the afternoon, and had
come to say, 'Ha do missis?' (How do you do?), and beg something on their
way to their huts. Observing one among them whose hand was badly maimed,
one finger being reduced to a mere stump, she told me it was in
consequence of the bite of a rattlesnake, which had attacked and bitten
her child, and then struck her as she endeavoured to kill it; her little
boy had died, but one of the drivers cut off her finger, and so she had
escaped with the loss of that member only. It is yet too early in the
season for me to make acquaintance with these delightful animals; but the
accounts the negroes give of their abundance is full of agreeable promise
for the future. It seems singular, considering how very common they are,
that there are not more frequent instances of the slaves being bitten by
them; to be sure, they seem to me to have a holy horror of ever setting
their feet near either tree or bush, or anywhere but on the open road, and
the fields where they labour; and of course the snakes are not so frequent
in open and frequented places, as in their proper coverts. The Red Indians
are said to use successfully some vegetable cure for the bite, I believe
the leaves of the slippery ash or elm; the only infallible remedy,
however, is suction, but of this the ignorant negroes are so afraid, that
they never can be induced to have recourse to it, being of course
immovably persuaded that the poison which is so fatal to the blood, must
be equally so to the stomach. They tell me that the cattle wandering into
the brakes and bushes are often bitten to death by these deadly creatures;
the pigs, whose fat it seems does not accept the venom into its tissues
with the same effect, escape unhurt for the most part--so much for the
anti-venomous virtue of adipose matter--a consolatory consideration for
such of us as are inclined to take on flesh more than we think graceful.

_Monday morning, 25th._--This letter has been long on the stocks, dear
E----. I have been busy all day, and tired, and lazy in the evening
latterly, and, moreover, feel as if such very dull matter was hardly worth
sending all the way off to where you are happy to be. However, that is
nonsense; I know well enough that you are glad to hear from me, be it what
it will, and so I resume my chronicle. Some of my evenings have been spent
in reading Mr. Clay's anti-abolition speech, and making notes on it, which
I will show you when we meet. What a cruel pity and what a cruel shame it
is that such a man should either know no better or do no better for his
country than he is doing now!

Yesterday I for the first time bethought me of the riding privileges of
which Jack used to make such magnificent mention when he was fishing with
me at the rice-island; and desiring to visit the remoter parts of the
plantation and the other end of the island, I enquired into the resources
of the stable. I was told I could have a mare with foal; but I declined
adding my weight to what the poor beast already carried, and my only
choice then was between one who had just foaled, or a fine stallion used
as a plough horse on the plantation. I determined for the latter, and
shall probably be handsomely shaken whenever I take my rides abroad.

_Tuesday, the 26th._--My dearest E----. I write to you to-day in great
depression and distress. I have had a most painful conversation with
Mr. ----, who has declined receiving any of the people's petitions
through me. Whether he is wearied with the number of these prayers and
supplications which he would escape but for me, as they probably would
not venture to come so incessantly to him, and I of course feel bound to
bring every one confided to me to him; or whether he has been annoyed at
the number of pitiful and horrible stories of misery and oppression under
the former rule of Mr. K----, which have come to my knowledge since I
have been here, and the grief and indignation caused, but which cannot by
any means always be done away with, though their expression may be
silenced by his angry exclamations of 'Why do you listen to such stuff?'
or 'Why do you believe such trash; don't you know the niggers are all
d----d liars?' &c. I do not know; but he desired me this morning to bring
him no more complaints or requests of any sort, as the people had
hitherto had no such advocate, and had done very well without, and I was
only kept in an incessant state of excitement with all the falsehoods
they 'found they could make me believe.' How well they have done without
my advocacy, the conditions which I see with my own eyes even more than
their pitiful petitions demonstrate; it is indeed true, that the
sufferings of those who come to me for redress, and still more the
injustice done to the great majority who cannot, have filled my heart
with bitterness and indignation that have overflowed my lips, till, I
suppose, ---- is weary of hearing what he has never heard before, the
voice of passionate expostulation, and importunate pleading against
wrongs that he will not even acknowledge, and for creatures whose common
humanity with his own I half think he does not believe;--but I must
return to the North, for my condition would be almost worse than
theirs--condemned to hear and see so much wretchedness, not only without
the means of alleviating it, but without permission even to represent it
for alleviation--this is no place for me, since I was not born among
slaves, and cannot bear to live among them.

Perhaps after all what he says is true: when I am gone they will fall back
into the desperate uncomplaining habit of suffering, from which my coming
among them, willing to hear and ready to help, has tempted them; he says
that bringing their complaints to me, and the sight of my credulous
commiseration, only tend to make them discontented and idle, and brings
renewed chastisement upon them; and that so, instead of really befriending
them, I am only preparing more suffering for them whenever I leave the
place, and they can no more cry to me for help. And so I see nothing for
it but to go and leave them to their fate; perhaps, too, he is afraid of
the mere contagion of freedom which breathes from the very existence of
those who are free; my way of speaking to the people, of treating them, of
living with them, the appeals I make to their sense of truth, of duty, of
self-respect, the infinite compassion and the human consideration I feel
for them,--all this of course makes my intercourse with them dangerously
suggestive of relations far different from anything they have ever known,
and as Mr. O---- once almost hinted to me, my existence among slaves was
an element of danger to the 'institution.' If I should go away, the human
sympathy that I have felt for them will certainly never come near them
again.

I was too unhappy to write any more, my dear friend, and you have been
spared the rest of my paroxysm, which hereabouts culminated in the blessed
refuge of abundant tears. God will provide. He has not forgotten, nor will
He forsake these His poor children; and if I may no longer minister to
them, they yet are in His hand, who cares for them more and better than I
can.

Towards the afternoon yesterday, I rowed up the river to the rice-island,
by way of refreshment to my spirits, and came back to-day, Wednesday the
27th, through rather a severe storm. Before going to bed last night I
finished Mr. Clay's speech, and ground my teeth over it. Before starting
this morning I received from head-man Frank a lesson on the various
qualities of the various sorts of rice, and should be (at any rate till I
forget all he told me, which I 'feel in my bones' will be soon) a
competent judge and expert saleswoman. The dead white speck, which shows
itself sometimes in rice as it does in teeth, is in the former, as in the
latter, a sign of decay; the finest quality of rice is what may be called
flinty, clear and unclouded, and a pretty clean sparkling-looking thing it
is.

I will tell you something curious and pleasant about my row back. The wind
was so high and the river so rough when I left the rice-island, that just
as I was about to get into the boat I thought it might not be amiss to
carry my life-preserver with me, and ran back to the house to fetch it.
Having taken that much care for my life, I jumped into the boat, and we
pushed off. The fifteen miles' row with a furious wind, and part of the
time the tide against us, and the huge broad turbid river broken into a
foaming sea of angry waves, was a pretty severe task for the men. They
pulled with a will, however, but I had to forego the usual accompaniment
of their voices, for the labour was tremendous, especially towards the end
of our voyage, where, of course, the nearness of the sea increased the
roughness of the water terribly. The men were in great spirits, however
(there were eight of them rowing, and one behind was steering); one of
them said something which elicited an exclamation of general assent, and I
asked what it was; the steerer said they were pleased because there was
not another planter's lady in all Georgia who would have gone through the
storm all alone with them in a boat; i.e. without the protecting presence
of a white man. 'Why,' said I, 'my good fellows, if the boat capsized, or
anything happened, I am sure I should have nine chances for my life
instead of one;' at this there was one shout of 'So you would, missis!
true for dat, missis,' and in great mutual good-humour we reached the
landing at Hampton Point.

As I walked home I pondered over this compliment of Mr. ----'s slaves to
me, and did not feel quite sure that the very absence of the fear which
haunts the southern women in their intercourse with these people and
prevents them from trusting themselves ever with them out of reach of
white companionship and supervision was not one of the circumstances which
makes my intercourse with them unsafe and undesirable. The idea of
apprehending any mischief from them never yet crossed my brain; and in the
perfect confidence with which I go amongst them, they must perceive a
curious difference between me and my lady neighbours in these parts; all
have expressed unbounded astonishment at my doing so.

The spring is fast coming on; and we shall, I suppose, soon leave
Georgia. How new and sad a chapter of my life this winter here has been!

       *       *       *       *       *


Dear E----. I cannot give way to the bitter impatience I feel at my
present position, and come back to the north without leaving my babies;
and though I suppose their stay will not in any case be much prolonged in
these regions of swamp and slavery, I must, for their sakes, remain where
they are, and learn this dreary lesson of human suffering to the end. The
record, it seems to me, must be utterly wearisome to you, as the instances
themselves I suppose in a given time (thanks to that dreadful reconciler
to all that is evil--habit) would become to me.

This morning I had a visit from two of the women, Charlotte and Judy, who
came to me for help and advice for a complaint, which it really seems to
me every other woman on the estate is cursed with, and which is a direct
result of the conditions of their existence; the practice of sending women
to labour in the fields in the third week after their confinement is a
specific for causing this infirmity, and I know no specific for curing it
under these circumstances. As soon as these poor things had departed with
such comfort as I could give them, and the bandages they especially begged
for, three other sable graces introduced themselves, Edie, Louisa, and
Diana; the former told me she had had a family of seven children, but had
lost them all through 'ill luck,' as she denominated the ignorance and ill
treatment which were answerable for the loss of these, as of so many other
poor little creatures their fellows. Having dismissed her and Diana with
the sugar and rice they came to beg, I detained Louisa, whom I had never
seen but in the presence of her old grandmother, whose version of the poor
child's escape to, and hiding in the woods, I had a desire to compare with
the heroine's own story. She told it very simply, and it was most
pathetic. She had not finished her task one day, when she said she felt
ill, and unable to do so, and had been severely flogged by Driver Bran, in
whose 'gang' she then was. The next day, in spite of this encouragement to
labour, she had again been unable to complete her appointed work; and Bran
having told her that he'd tie her up and flog her if she did not get it
done, she had left the field and run into the swamp. 'Tie you up, Louisa!'
said I, 'what is that?' She then described to me that they were fastened
up by their wrists to a beam or a branch of a tree, their feet barely
touching the ground, so as to allow them no purchase for resistance or
evasion of the lash, their clothes turned over their heads, and their
backs scored with a leather thong, either by the driver himself, or if he
pleases to inflict their punishment by deputy, any of the men he may
choose to summon to the office; it might be father, brother, husband, or
lover, if the overseer so ordered it. I turned sick, and my blood curdled
listening to these details from the slender young slip of a lassie, with
her poor piteous face and murmuring pleading voice. 'Oh,' said I, 'Louisa;
but the rattlesnakes, the dreadful rattlesnakes in the swamps; were you
not afraid of those horrible creatures?' 'Oh, missis,' said the poor
child, 'me no tink of dem, me forget all 'bout dem for de fretting.' 'Why
did you come home at last?' 'Oh, missis, me starve with hunger, me most
dead with hunger before me come back.' 'And were you flogged, Louisa?'
said I, with a shudder at what the answer might be. 'No, missis, me go to
hospital; me almost dead and sick so long, 'spec Driver Bran him forgot
'bout de flogging.' I am getting perfectly savage over all these doings,
E----, and really think I should consider my own throat and those of my
children well cut, if some night the people were to take it into their
heads to clear off scores in that fashion.

The Calibanish wonderment of all my visitors at the exceedingly coarse and
simple furniture and rustic means of comfort of my abode is very droll. I
have never inhabited any apartment so perfectly devoid of what we should
consider the common decencies of life; but to them my rude chintz-covered
sofa and common pine-wood table, with its green baize cloth, seem the
adornings of a palace; and often in the evening, when my bairns are
asleep, and M---- up-stairs keeping watch over them, and I sit writing
this daily history for your edification,--the door of the great barn-like
room is opened stealthily, and one after another, men and women come
trooping silently in, their naked feet falling all but inaudibly on the
bare boards as they betake themselves to the hearth, where they squat down
on their hams in a circle,--the bright blaze from the huge pine logs,
which is the only light of this half of the room, shining on their sooty
limbs and faces, and making them look like a ring of ebony idols
surrounding my domestic hearth. I have had as many as fourteen at a time
squatting silently there for nearly half an hour, watching me writing at
the other end of the room. The candles on my table give only light enough
for my own occupation, the fire light illuminates the rest of the
apartment; and you cannot imagine anything stranger than the effect of all
these glassy whites of eyes and grinning white teeth turned towards me,
and shining in the flickering light. I very often take no notice of them
at all, and they seem perfectly absorbed in contemplating me. My evening
dress probably excites their wonder and admiration no less than my rapid
and continuous writing, for which they have sometimes expressed
compassion, as if they thought it must be more laborious than hoeing;
sometimes at the end of my day's journal I look up and say suddenly,
'Well, what do you want?' when each black figure springs up at once, as if
moved by machinery, they all answer, 'Me come say ha do (how d'ye do),
missis;' and then they troop out as noiselessly as they entered, like a
procession of sable dreams, and I go off in search, if possible, of whiter
ones.

Two days ago I had a visit of great interest to me from several lads from
twelve to sixteen years old, who had come to beg me to give them work. To
make you understand this you must know, that wishing very much to cut some
walks and drives through the very picturesque patches of woodland not far
from the house, I announced, through Jack, my desire to give employment in
the wood-cutting line, to as many lads as chose, when their unpaid task
was done, to come and do some work for me, for which I engaged to pay
them. At the risk of producing a most dangerous process of reflection and
calculation in their brains, I have persisted in paying what I considered
wages to every slave that has been my servant; and these my labourers
must, of course, be free to work or no, as they like, and if they work for
me must be paid by me. The proposition met with unmingled approbation from
my 'gang;' but I think it might be considered dangerously suggestive of
the rightful relation between work and wages; in short, very involuntarily
no doubt, but, nevertheless, very effectually I am disseminating ideas
among Mr. ----'s dependents, the like of which have certainly never before
visited their wool-thatched brains.

_Friday, March 1._--Last night after writing so much to you I felt weary,
and went out into the air to refresh my spirit. The scene just beyond the
house was beautiful, the moonlight slept on the broad river which here is
almost the sea, and on the masses of foliage of the great southern oaks;
the golden stars of German poetry shone in the purple curtains of the
night, and the measured rush of the Atlantic unfurling its huge skirts
upon the white sands of the beach (the sweetest and most awful lullaby in
nature) resounded through the silent air.

I have not felt well, and have been much depressed for some days past. I
think I should die if I had to live here. This morning, in order not to
die yet, I thought I had better take a ride, and accordingly mounted the
horse which I told you was one of the equestrian alternatives offered me
here; but no sooner did he feel my weight, which, after all, is mere
levity and frivolity to him, than he thought proper to rebel, and find the
grasshopper a burthen, and rear and otherwise demonstrate his disgust. I
have not ridden for a long time now, but Montreal's opposition very
presently aroused the Amazon which is both natural and acquired in me, and
I made him comprehend that, though I object to slaves, I expect obedient
servants; which views of mine being imparted by a due administration of
both spur and whip, attended with a judicious combination of coaxing pats
on his great crested neck, and endearing commendations of his beauty,
produced the desired effect. Montreal accepted me as inevitable, and
carried me very wisely and well up the island to another of the slave
settlements on the plantation, called Jones's Creek.

On my way I passed some magnificent evergreen oaks,[5] and some thickets
of exquisite evergreen shrubs, and one or two beautiful sites for a
residence, which made me gnash my teeth when I thought of the one we have
chosen. To be sure, these charming spots, instead of being conveniently in
the middle of the plantation, are at an out of the way end of it, and so
hardly eligible for the one quality desired for the overseer's abode, viz.
being central.

[Footnote 5: The only ilex trees which I have seen comparable in size and
beauty with those of the sea-board of Georgia are some to be found in the
Roman Campagna, at Passerano, Lunghegna, Castel Fusano, and other of its
great princely farms, but especially in the magnificent woody wilderness
of Valerano.]

All the slaves' huts on St. Simon's are far less solid, comfortable, and
habitable than those at the rice-island. I do not know whether the
labourer's habitation bespeaks the alteration in the present relative
importance of the crops, but certainly the cultivators of the once
far-famed long staple sea-island cotton of St. Simon's are far more
miserably housed than the rice-raisers of the other plantation. These
ruinous shielings, that hardly keep out wind or weather, are deplorable
homes for young or aged people, and poor shelters for the hardworking men
and women who cultivate the fields in which they stand. Riding home I
passed some beautiful woodland with charming pink and white blossoming
peach and plum-trees, which seemed to belong to some orchard that had been
attempted, and afterwards delivered over to wildness. On enquiry I found
that no fruit worth eating was ever gathered from them. What a pity it
seems! for in this warm delicious winter climate any and every species of
fruit might be cultivated with little pains and to great perfection. As I
was cantering along the side of one of the cotton fields I suddenly heard
some inarticulate vehement cries, and saw what seemed to be a heap of
black limbs tumbling and leaping towards me, renewing the screams at
intervals as it approached. I stopped my horse, and the black ball bounded
almost into the road before me, and suddenly straightening itself up into
a haggard hag of a half-naked negress, exclaimed, with panting eager
breathlessness, 'Oh missis, missis! you no hear me cry, you no hear me
call. Oh missis! me call, me cry, and me run; make me a gown like dat. Do,
for massy's sake, only make me a gown like dat.' This modest request for a
riding habit in which to hoe the cotton fields served for an introduction
to sundry other petitions for rice and sugar and flannel, all which I
promised the petitioner, but not the 'gown like dat;' whereupon I rode
off, and she flung herself down in the middle of the road to get her wind
and rest.

The passion for dress is curiously strong in these people, and seems as
though it might be made an instrument in converting them, outwardly at any
rate, to something like civilisation; for though their own native taste
is decidedly both barbarous and ludicrous, it is astonishing how very soon
they mitigate it in imitation of their white models. The fine figures of
the mulatto women in Charleston and Savannah are frequently as elegantly
and tastefully dressed as those of any of their female superiors; and here
on St. Simon's, owing, I suppose, to the influence of the resident lady
proprietors of the various plantations, and the propensity to imitation in
their black dependents, the people that I see all seem to me much tidier,
cleaner, and less fantastically dressed than those on the rice plantation,
where no such influences reach them.

On my return from my ride I had a visit from Captain F----, the manager
of a neighbouring plantation, with whom I had a long conversation about
the present and past condition of the estate, the species of feudal
magnificence in which its original owner, Major ----, lived, the iron
rule of old overseer K---- which succeeded to it, and the subsequent
sovereignty of his son, Mr. R---- K----, the man for whom Mr. ----
entertains such a cordial esteem, and of whom every account I receive
from the negroes seems to me to indicate a merciless sternness of
disposition that may be a virtue in a slave-driver, but is hardly a
Christian grace. Captain F---- was one of our earliest visitors at the
rice plantation on our arrival, and I think I told you of his mentioning,
in speaking to me of the orange trees which formerly grew all round the
dykes there, that he had taken Basil Hall there once in their blossoming
season, and that he had said the sight was as well worth crossing the
Atlantic for as Niagara. To-day he referred to that again. He has resided
for a great many years on a plantation here, and is connected with our
neighbour, old Mr. C----, whose daughter, I believe, he married. He
interested me extremely by his description of the house Major ---- had
many years ago on a part of the island called St. Clair. As far as I can
understand there must have been an indefinite number of 'masters''
residences on this estate in the old Major's time; for what with the one
we are building, and the ruined remains of those not quite improved off
the face of the earth, and the tradition of those that have ceased to
exist, even as ruins, I make out no fewer than seven. How gladly would I
exchange all that remain and all that do not, for the smallest tenement
in your blessed Yankee mountain village!

Captain F---- told me that at St. Clair General Oglethorpe, the good and
brave English governor of the State of Georgia in its colonial days, had
his residence, and that among the magnificent live oaks which surround the
site of the former settlement, there was one especially venerable and
picturesque, which in his recollection always went by the name of General
Oglethorpe's Oak. If you remember the history of the colony under his
benevolent rule, you must recollect how absolutely he and his friend and
counsellor, Wesley, opposed the introduction of slavery in the colony. How
wrathfully the old soldier's spirit ought to haunt these cotton fields and
rice swamps of his old domain, with their population of wretched slaves! I
will ride to St. Clair and see his oak; if I should see him, he cannot
have much to say to me on the subject that I should not cry amen to.

_Saturday, March 2._--I have made a gain, no doubt, in one respect in
coming here, dear E----, for, not being afraid of a rearing stallion, I
can ride; but, on the other hand, my aquatic diversions are all likely, I
fear, to be much curtailed. Well may you, or any other Northern
Abolitionist, consider this a heaven-forsaken region,--why? I cannot even
get worms to fish with, and was solemnly assured by Jack this morning that
the whole 'point,' i.e. neighbourhood of the house, had been searched in
vain for these useful and agreeable animals. I must take to some more
sportsman-like species of bait; but in my total ignorance of even the kind
of fish that inhabit these waters, it is difficult for me to adapt my
temptations to their taste.

Yesterday evening I had a visit that made me very sorrowful--if anything
connected with these poor people can be called more especially sorrowful
than their whole condition; but Mr. ----'s declaration that he will
receive no more statements of grievances or petitions for redress through
me, makes me as desirous now of shunning the vain appeals of these
unfortunates as I used to be of receiving and listening to them. The
imploring cry, 'Oh missis!' that greets me whichever way I turn, makes me
long to stop my ears now; for what can I say or do any more for them? The
poor little favours--the rice, the sugar, the flannel--that they beg for
with such eagerness, and receive with such exuberant gratitude, I can, it
is true, supply, and words and looks of pity and counsel of patience and
such instruction in womanly habits of decency and cleanliness, as may
enable them to better, in some degree, their own hard lot; but to the
entreaty, 'Oh missis, you speak to massa for us! Oh missis, you beg massa
for us! Oh missis, you tell massa for we, he sure do as you say!'--I
cannot now answer as formerly, and I turn away choking and with eyes full
of tears from the poor creatures, not even daring to promise any more the
faithful transmission of their prayers.

The women who visited me yesterday evening were all in the family-way, and
came to entreat of me to have the sentence (what else can I call it?)
modified, which condemns them to resume their labour of hoeing in the
fields three weeks after their confinement. They knew, of course, that I
cannot interfere with their appointed labour, and therefore their sole
entreaty was that I would use my influence with Mr. ---- to obtain for
them a month's respite from labour in the field after child-bearing. Their
principal spokeswoman, a woman with a bright sweet face, called Mary, and
a very sweet voice, which is by no means an uncommon excellence among
them, appealed to my own experience; and while she spoke of my babies, and
my carefully tended, delicately nursed, and tenderly watched confinement
and convalescence, and implored me to have a kind of labour given to them
less exhausting during the month after their confinement, I held the table
before me so hard in order not to cry that I think my fingers ought to
have left a mark on it. At length I told them that Mr. ---- had forbidden
me to bring him any more complaints from them, for that he thought the
ease with which I received and believed their stories only tended to make
them discontented, and that, therefore, I feared I could not promise to
take their petitions to him; but that he would be coming down to 'the
point' soon, and that they had better come then some time when I was with
him, and say what they had just been saying to me: and with this, and
various small bounties, I was forced, with a heavy heart, to dismiss them,
and when they were gone, with many exclamations of, 'Oh yes, missis, you
will, you will speak to massa for we; God bless you, missis, we sure you
will!' I had my cry out for them, for myself, for us. All these women had
had large families, and _all_ of them had lost half their children, and
several of them had lost more. How I do ponder upon the strange fate which
has brought me here, from so far away, from surroundings so curiously
different--how my own people in that blessed England of my birth would
marvel if they could suddenly have a vision of me as I sit here, and how
sorry some of them would be for me!

I am helped to bear all that is so very painful to me here by my constant
enjoyment of the strange wild scenery in the midst of which I live, and
which my resumption of my equestrian habits gives me almost daily
opportunity of observing. I rode to-day to some new cleared and ploughed
ground that was being prepared for the precious cotton crop. I crossed a
salt marsh upon a raised causeway that was perfectly alive with
land-crabs, whose desperately active endeavours to avoid my horse's hoofs
were so ludicrous that I literally laughed alone and aloud at them. The
sides of this road across the swamp were covered with a thick and close
embroidery of creeping moss or rather lichens of the most vivid green and
red: the latter made my horse's path look as if it was edged with an
exquisite pattern of coral; it was like a thing in a fairy tale, and
delighted me extremely.

I suppose, E----, one secret of my being able to suffer as acutely as I do
without being made either ill or absolutely miserable, is the childish
excitability of my temperament, and the sort of ecstacy which any
beautiful thing gives me. No day, almost no hour, passes without some
enjoyment of the sort this coral-bordered road gave me, which not only
charms my senses completely at the time, but returns again and again
before my memory, delighting my fancy, and stimulating my imagination. I
sometimes despise myself for what seems to me an inconceivable rapidity of
emotion, that almost makes me doubt whether anyone who feels so many
things can really be said to feel anything; but I generally recover from
this perplexity, by remembering whither invariably every impression of
beauty leads my thoughts, and console myself for my contemptible facility
of impression by the reflection that it is, upon the whole, a merciful
system of compensation by which my whole nature, tortured as it was last
night, can be absorbed this morning, in a perfectly pleasurable
contemplation of the capers of crabs and the colour of mosses as if
nothing else existed in creation. One thing, however, I think, is equally
certain, and that is, that I need never expect much sympathy; and perhaps
this special endowment will make me, to some degree, independent of it;
but I have no doubt that to follow me through half a day with any species
of lively participation in my feelings would be a severe breathless moral
calisthenic to most of my friends,--what Shakspeare calls 'sweating
labour.' As far as I have hitherto had opportunities of observing,
children and maniacs are the only creatures who would be capable of
sufficiently rapid transitions of thought and feeling to keep pace with
me.

And so I rode through the crabs and the coral. There is one thing,
however, I beg to commend to your serious consideration as a trainer of
youth, and that is, the expediency of cultivating in all the young minds
you educate an equal love of the good, the beautiful, and the absurd
(not an easy task, for the latter is apt in its developement to
interfere a little with the two others): doing this, you command all the
resources of existence. The love of the good and beautiful of course you
are prepared to cultivate--that goes without saying, as the French say;
the love of the ludicrous will not appear to you as important, and yet
you will be wrong to undervalue it. In the first place, I might tell you
that it was almost like cherishing the love of one's
fellow-creatures--at which no doubt you shake your head reprovingly;
but, leaving aside the enormous provision for the exercise of this
natural faculty which we offer to each other, why should crabs scuttle
from under my horse's feet in such a way as to make me laugh again every
time I think of it, if there is not an inherent propriety in laughter,
as the only emotion which certain objects challenge--an emotion
wholesome for the soul and body of man? After all, _why_ are we
contrived to laugh at all, if laughter is not essentially befitting and
beneficial? and most people's lives are too lead-coloured to afford to
lose one sparkle on them, even the smallest twinkle of light gathered
from a flash of nonsense. Hereafter point out for the 'appreciative'
study of your pupils all that is absurd in themselves, others, and the
universe in general; 't is an element largely provided, of course, to
meet a corresponding and grateful capacity for its enjoyment.

After my crab and coral causeway I came to the most exquisite thickets of
evergreen shrubbery you can imagine. If I wanted to paint paradise I would
copy this undergrowth, passing through which I went on to the settlement
at St. Annie's, traversing another swamp on another raised causeway. The
thickets through which I next rode were perfectly draped with the
beautiful wild jasmine of these woods. Of all the parasitical plants I
ever saw, I do think it is the most exquisite in form and colour, and its
perfume is like the most delicate heliotrope.

I stopped for some time before a thicket of glittering evergreens, over
which hung, in every direction, streaming garlands of these fragrant
golden cups, fit for Oberon's banqueting service. These beautiful
shrubberies were resounding with the songs of mocking birds. I sat there
on my horse in a sort of dream of enchantment, looking, listening, and
inhaling the delicious atmosphere of those flowers; and suddenly my eyes
opened, as if I had been asleep, on some bright red bunches of spring
leaves on one of the winter-stripped trees, and I as suddenly thought of
the cold northern skies and earth, where the winter was still inflexibly
tyrannising over you all, and, in spite of the loveliness of all that was
present, and the harshness of all that I seemed to see at that moment, no
first tokens of the spring's return were ever more welcome to me than
those bright leaves that reminded me how soon I should leave this scene of
material beauty and moral degradation, where the beauty itself is of an
appropriate character to the human existence it surrounds: above all,
loveliness, brightness, and fragrance; but below! it gives one a sort of
melusina feeling of horror--all swamp and poisonous stagnation, which the
heat will presently make alive with venomous reptiles.

I rode on, and the next object that attracted my attention was a very
startling and by no means agreeable one--an enormous cypress tree which
had been burnt stood charred and blackened, and leaning towards the road
so as to threaten a speedy fall across it, and on one of the limbs of this
great charcoal giant hung a dead rattlesnake. If I tell you that it looked
to me at least six feet long you will say you only wonder I did not say
twelve; it was a hideous-looking creature, and some negroes I met soon
after told me they had found it in the swamp, and hung it dead on the
burning tree. Certainly the two together made a dreadful trophy, and a
curious contrast to the lovely bowers of bloom I had just been
contemplating with such delight.

This settlement at St. Annie's is the remotest on the whole plantation,
and I found there the wretchedest huts, and most miserably squalid,
filthy and forlorn creatures I had yet seen here--certainly the condition
of the slaves on this estate is infinitely more neglected and deplorable
than that on the rice plantation. Perhaps it may be that the extremely
unhealthy nature of the rice cultivation makes it absolutely necessary
that the physical condition of the labourers should be maintained at its
best to enable them to abide it; and yet it seems to me that even the
process of soaking the rice can hardly create a more dangerous miasma than
the poor creatures must inhale who live in the midst of these sweltering
swamps, half sea, half river slime. Perhaps it has something to do with
the fact that the climate on St. Simon's is generally considered
peculiarly mild and favourable, and so less protection of clothes and
shelter is thought necessary here for the poor residents; perhaps, too, it
may be because the cotton crop is now, I believe, hardly as valuable as
the rice crop, and the plantation here, which was once the chief source of
its owner's wealth, is becoming a secondary one, and so not worth so much
care or expense in repairing and constructing negro huts and feeding and
clothing the slaves. More pitiable objects than some of those I saw at the
St. Annie's settlement to-day I hope never to see: there was an old crone
called Hannah, a sister, as well as I could understand what she said, of
old house Molly, whose face and figure seamed with wrinkles and bowed and
twisted with age and infirmity really hardly retained the semblance of
those of a human creature, and as she crawled to me almost half her naked
body was exposed through the miserable tatters that she held on with one
hand, while the other eagerly clutched my hand, and her poor blear eyes
wandered all over me as if she was bewildered by the strange aspect of any
human being but those whose sight was familiar to her. One or two forlorn
creatures like herself, too old or too infirm to be compelled to work, and
the half-starved and more than half-naked children apparently left here
under their charge, were the only inmates I found in these wretched
hovels.

I came home without stopping to look at anything, for I had no heart any
longer for what had so charmed me on my way to this place. Galloping along
the road after leaving the marshes, I scared an ox who was feeding
leisurely, and to my great dismay saw the foolish beast betake himself
with lumbering speed into the 'bush:' the slaves will have to hunt after
him, and perhaps will discover more rattlesnakes six or twelve feet long.

After reaching home I went to the house of the overseer to see his wife, a
tidy, decent, kind-hearted, little woman, who seems to me to do her duty
by the poor people she lives among, as well as her limited intelligence
and still more limited freedom allow. The house her husband lives in is
the former residence of Major ----, which was the great mansion of the
estate. It is now in a most ruinous and tottering condition, and they
inhabit but a few rooms in it; the others are gradually mouldering to
pieces, and the whole edifice will, I should think, hardly stand long
enough to be carried away by the river, which in its yearly inroads on the
bank on which it stands has already approached within a perilous proximity
to the old dilapidated planter's palace. Old Molly, of whom I have often
before spoken to you, who lived here in the days of the prosperity and
grandeur of 'Hampton,' still clings to the relics of her old master's
former magnificence and with a pride worthy of old Caleb of Ravenswood
showed me through the dismantled decaying rooms and over the remains of
the dairy, displaying a capacious fish-box or well, where, in the good old
days, the master's supply was kept in fresh salt water till required for
table. Her prideful lamentations over the departure of all this quondam
glory were ludicrous and pathetic; but while listening with some amusement
to the jumble of grotesque descriptions through which her impression of
the immeasurable grandeur and nobility of the house she served was the
predominant feature, I could not help contrasting the present state of the
estate with that which she described, and wondering why it should have
become, as it undoubtedly must have done, so infinitely less productive a
property than in the old Major's time.

Before closing this letter, I have a mind to transcribe to you the
entries for to-day recorded in a sort of daybook, where I put down very
succinctly the number of people who visit me, their petitions and
ailments, and also such special particulars concerning them as seem to me
worth recording. You will see how miserable the physical condition of many
of these poor creatures is; and their physical condition, it is insisted
by those who uphold this evil system, is the only part of it which is
prosperous, happy, and compares well with that of northern labourers.
Judge from the details I now send you; and never forget, while reading
them, that the people on this plantation are well off, and consider
themselves well off, in comparison with the slaves on some of the
neighbouring estates.

_Fanny_ has had six children, all dead but one. She came to beg to have
her work in the field lightened.

_Nanny_ has had three children, two of them are dead; she came to implore
that the rule of sending them into the field three weeks after their
confinement might be altered.

_Leah_, Caesar's wife, has had six children, three are dead.

_Sophy_, Lewis' wife, came to beg for some old linen; she is suffering
fearfully, has had ten children, five of them are dead. The principal
favour she asked was a piece of meat, which I gave her.

_Sally_, Scipio's wife, has had two miscarriages and three children born,
one of whom is dead. She came complaining of incessant pain and weakness
in her back. This woman was a mulatto daughter of a slave called Sophy, by
a white man of the name of Walker, who visited the plantation.

_Charlotte_, Renty's wife, had had two miscarriages, and was with child
again. She was almost crippled with rheumatism, and showed me a pair of
poor swollen knees that made my heart ache. I have promised her a pair of
flannel trowsers, which I must forthwith set about making.

_Sarah_, Stephen's wife,--this woman's case and history were, alike,
deplorable, she had had four miscarriages, had brought seven children into
the world, five of whom were dead, and was again with child. She
complained of dreadful pains in the back, and an internal tumour which
swells with the exertion of working in the fields; probably, I think, she
is ruptured. She told me she had once been mad and ran into the woods,
where she contrived to elude discovery for some time, but was at last
tracked and brought back, when she was tied up by the arms and heavy logs
fastened to her feet, and was severely flogged. After this she contrived
to escape again, and lived for some time skulking in the woods, and she
supposes mad, for when she was taken again she was entirely naked. She
subsequently recovered from this derangement, and seems now just like all
the other poor creatures who come to me for help and pity. I suppose her
constant child-bearing and hard labour in the fields at the same time may
have produced the temporary insanity.

_Sukey_, Bush's wife, only came to pay her respects. She had had four
miscarriages, had brought eleven children into the world, five of whom are
dead.

_Molly_, Quambo's wife, also only came to see me; hers was the best
account I have yet received; she had had nine children, and six of them
were still alive.

This is only the entry for to-day, in my diary, of the people's complaints
and visits. Can you conceive a more wretched picture than that which it
exhibits of the conditions under which these women live? Their cases are
in no respect singular, and though they come with pitiful entreaties that
I will help them with some alleviation of their pressing physical
distresses, it seems to me marvellous with what desperate patience (I
write it advisedly, patience of utter despair) they endure their
sorrow-laden existence. Even the poor wretch who told that miserable story
of insanity and lonely hiding in the swamps and scourging when she was
found, and of her renewed madness and flight, did so in a sort of low,
plaintive, monotonous murmur of misery, as if such sufferings were all 'in
the day's work.'

I ask these questions about their children because I think the number they
bear as compared with the number they rear a fair gauge of the effect of
the system on their own health and that of their offspring. There was
hardly one of these women, as you will see by the details I have noted of
their ailments, who might not have been a candidate for a bed in an
hospital, and they had come to me after working all day in the fields.

       *       *       *       *       *


Dearest E----. When I told you in my last letter of the encroachments
which the waters of the Altamaha are daily making on the bank at Hampton
Point and immediately in front of the imposing-looking old dwelling of the
former master, I had no idea how rapid this crumbling process has been of
late years; but to-day, standing there with Mrs. G----, whom I had gone to
consult about the assistance we might render to some of the poor creatures
whose cases I sent you in my last letter, she told me that within the
memory of many of the slaves now living on the plantation, a grove of
orange trees had spread its fragrance and beauty between the house and the
river. Not a vestige remains of them. The earth that bore them was
gradually undermined, slipped, and sank down into the devouring flood, and
when she saw the astonished incredulity of my look she led me to the
ragged and broken bank, and there, immediately below it and just covered
by the turbid waters of the in-rushing tide, were the heads of the poor
drowned orange trees, swaying like black twigs in the briny flood which
had not yet dislodged all of them from their hold upon the soil which had
gone down beneath the water wearing its garland of bridal blossom. As I
looked at those trees a wild wish rose in my heart that the river and the
sea would swallow up and melt in their salt waves the whole of this
accursed property of ours. I am afraid the horror of slavery with which I
came down to the south, the general theoretic abhorrence of an
Englishwoman for it, has gained, through the intensity it has acquired, a
morbid character of mere desire to be delivered from my own share in it. I
think so much of these wretches that I see, that I can hardly remember any
others, and my zeal for the general emancipation of the slave, has almost
narrowed itself to this most painful desire that I and mine were freed
from the responsibility of our share in this huge misery,--and so I
thought:--'Beat, beat, the crumbling banks and sliding shores, wild waves
of the Atlantic and the Altamaha! Sweep down and carry hence this evil
earth and these homes of tyranny, and roll above the soil of slavery, and
wash my soul and the souls of those I love clean from the blood of our
kind!' But I have no idea that Mr. ---- and his brother would cry amen to
any such prayer. Sometimes, as I stand and listen to the roll of the great
ocean surges on the further side of little St. Simon's Island, a small
green screen of tangled wilderness that interposes between this point and
the Atlantic, I think how near our West Indian islands and freedom are to
these unfortunate people, many of whom are expert and hardy boatmen, as
far as the mere mechanical management of a boat goes; but unless
Providence were compass and steersman too it avails nothing that they
should know how near their freedom might be found, nor have I any right to
tell them if they could find it, for the slaves are not mine, they are
Mr. ----'s.

The mulatto woman, Sally, accosted me again to-day, and begged that she
might be put to some other than field labour. Supposing she felt herself
unequal to it, I asked her some questions, but the principal reason she
urged for her promotion to some less laborious kind of work was, that
hoeing in the field was so hard to her on '_account of her colour_,' and
she therefore petitions to be allowed to learn a trade. I was much puzzled
at this reason for her petition, but was presently made to understand that
being a mulatto, she considered field labour a degradation; her white
bastardy appearing to her a title to consideration in my eyes. The
degradation of these people is very complete, for they have accepted the
contempt of their masters to that degree that they profess, and really
seem to feel it for themselves, and the faintest admixture of white blood
in their black veins appears at once, by common consent of their own race,
to raise them in the scale of humanity. I had not much sympathy for this
petition. The woman's father had been a white man who was employed for
some purpose on the estate. In speaking upon this subject to Mrs. G----,
she said that, as far as her observation went, the lower class of white
men in the south lived with coloured women precisely as they would at the
north with women of their own race; the outcry that one hears against
amalgamation appears therefore to be something educated and acquired,
rather than intuitive. I cannot perceive in observing my children, that
they exhibit the slightest repugnance or dislike to these swarthy
dependents of theirs, which they surely would do if, as is so often
pretended, there is an inherent, irreconcilable repulsion on the part of
the white towards the negro race. All the southern children that I have
seen seem to have a special fondness for these good-natured childish human
beings, whose mental condition is kin in its simplicity and proneness to
impulsive emotion to their own, and I can detect in them no trace of the
abhorrence and contempt for their dusky skins which all questions of
treating them with common justice is so apt to elicit from American men
and women.

To-day, for the first time since I left the Rice Island, I went out
fishing, but had no manner of luck. Jack rowed me up Jones's Creek, a
small stream which separates St. Simon's from the main, on the opposite
side from the great waters of the Altamaha. The day was very warm. It is
becoming almost too hot to remain here much longer, at least for me, who
dread and suffer from heat so much. The whole summer, however, is passed
by many members of the Georgia families on their estates by the sea. When
the heat is intense, the breeze from the ocean and the salt air, I
suppose, prevent it from being intolerable or hurtful. Our neighbour Mr.
C---- and his family reside entirely, the year round, on their plantations
here without apparently suffering in their health from the effects of the
climate. I suppose it is the intermediate region between the sea-board and
the mountains that becomes so pestilential when once the warm weather sets
in. I remember the Belgian minister, M. de ----, telling me that the
mountain country of Georgia was as beautiful as paradise, and that the
climate, as far as his experience went, was perfectly delicious. He was,
however, only there on an exploring expedition, and, of course, took the
most favourable season of the year for the purpose.

I have had several women with me this afternoon more or less disabled by
chronic rheumatism. Certainly, either their labour or the exposure it
entails must be very severe, for this climate is the last that ought to
engender rheumatism. This evening I had a visit from a bright young woman,
calling herself Minda, who came to beg for a little rice or sugar. I
enquired from which of the settlements she had come down, and found that
she has to walk three miles every day to and from her work. She made no
complaint whatever of this, and seemed to think her laborious tramp down
to the Point after her day of labour on the field well-rewarded by the
pittance of rice and sugar she obtained. Perhaps she consoled herself for
the exertion by the reflection which occurred to me while talking to her,
that many women who have borne children, and many women with child, go the
same distance to and from their task ground--that seems dreadful!

I have let my letter lie from a stress of small interruptions. Yesterday,
Sunday 3rd, old Auber, a stooping, halting hag, came to beg for flannel
and rice. As usual, of course, I asked various questions concerning her
condition, family, &c.; she told me she had never been married, but had
had five children, two of whom were dead. She complained of flooding, of
intolerable back-ache, and said that with all these ailments, she
considered herself quite recovered, having suffered horribly from an
abscess in her neck, which was now nearly well. I was surprised to hear of
her other complaints, for she seemed to me like quite an old woman; but
constant child-bearing, and the life of labour, exposure, and privation
which they lead, ages these poor creatures prematurely.

Dear E----, how I do defy you to guess the novel accomplishment I have
developed within the last two days; what do you say to my turning
butcher's boy, and cutting up the carcase of a sheep for the instruction
of our butcher and cook, and benefit of our table? You know, I have often
written you word, that we have mutton here--thanks to the short salt grass
on which it feeds--that compares with the best south down or _pré salé_;
but such is the barbarous ignorance of the cook, or rather the butcher who
furnishes our kitchen supplies, that I defy the most expert anatomist to
pronounce on any piece (joints they cannot be called) of mutton brought to
our table to what part of the animal sheep it originally belonged. I have
often complained bitterly of this, and in vain implored Abraham the cook
to send me some dish of mutton to which I might with safety apply the
familiar name of leg, shoulder, or haunch. These remonstrances and
expostulations have produced no result whatever, however, but an increase
of eccentricity in the _chunks_ of sheeps' flesh placed upon the table;
the squares, diamonds, cubes, and rhomboids of mutton have been more
ludicrously and hopelessly unlike anything we see in a Christian butcher's
shop, with every fresh endeavour Abraham has made to find out 'zackly wot
de missis do want;' so the day before yesterday, while I was painfully
dragging S---- through the early intellectual science of the alphabet and
first reading lesson, Abraham appeared at the door of the room brandishing
a very long thin knife, and with many bows, grins, and apologies for
disturbing me, begged that I would go and cut up a sheep for him. My first
impulse of course was to decline the very unusual task offered me with
mingled horror and amusement. Abraham, however, insisted and besought,
extolled the fineness of his sheep, declared his misery at being unable
to cut it as I wished, and his readiness to conform for the future to
whatever _patterns_ of mutton 'de missis would only please to give him.'
Upon reflection I thought I might very well contrive to indicate upon the
sheep the size and form of the different joints of civilised mutton, and
so for the future save much waste of good meat; and moreover the lesson
once taught would not require to be repeated, and I have ever held it
expedient to accept every opportunity of learning to do anything, no
matter how unusual, which presented itself to be done; and so I followed
Abraham to the kitchen, when, with a towel closely pinned over my silk
dress, and knife in hand, I stood for a minute or two meditating
profoundly before the rather unsightly object which Abraham had pronounced
'de beautifullest sheep de missis eber saw.' The sight and smell of raw
meat are especially odious to me, and I have often thought that if I had
had to be my own cook, I should inevitably become a vegetarian, probably,
indeed, return entirely to my green and salad days. Nathless, I screwed my
courage to the sticking point, and slowly and delicately traced out with
the point of my long carving-knife two shoulders, two legs, a saddle, and
a neck of mutton; not probably in the most thoroughly artistic and
butcherly style, but as nearly as my memory and the unassisted light of
nature would enable me; and having instructed Abraham in the various
boundaries, sizes, shapes and names of the several joints, I returned to
S---- and her belles-lettres, rather elated upon the whole at the
creditable mode in which I flattered myself I had accomplished my unusual
task, and the hope of once more seeing roast mutton of my acquaintance. I
will confess to you, dear E----, that the _neck_ was not a satisfactory
part of the performance, and I have spent some thoughts since in trying to
adjust in my own mind its proper shape and proportions.

As an accompaniment to 'de beautifullest mutton de missis ever see,' we
have just received from my neighbour Mr. C---- the most magnificent supply
of fresh vegetables, green peas, salad, &c. He has a garden and a
Scotchman's real love for horticulture, and I profit by them in this very
agreeable manner.

I have been interrupted by several visits, my dear E----, among other, one
from a poor creature called Judy, whose sad story and condition affected
me most painfully. She had been married, she said, some years ago to one
of the men called Temba, who however now has another wife, having left her
because she went mad. While out of her mind she escaped into the jungle,
and contrived to secrete herself there for some time, but was finally
tracked and caught, and brought back and punished by being made to sit,
day after day, for hours in the stocks--a severe punishment for a man, but
for a woman perfectly barbarous. She complained of chronic rheumatism, and
other terrible ailments, and said she suffered such intolerable pain while
labouring in the fields, that she had come to entreat me to have her work
lightened. She could hardly crawl, and cried bitterly all the time she
spoke to me.

She told me a miserable story of her former experience on the plantation
under Mr. K----'s overseership. It seems that Jem Valiant (an extremely
difficult subject, a mulatto lad, whose valour is sufficiently accounted
for now by the influence of the mutinous white blood) was her firstborn,
the son of Mr. K----, who forced her, flogged her severely for having
resisted him, and then sent her off, as a further punishment, to Five
Pound--a horrible swamp in a remote corner of the estate, to which the
slaves are sometimes banished for such offences as are not sufficiently
atoned for by the lash. The dismal loneliness of the place to these poor
people, who are as dependent as children upon companionship and sympathy,
makes this solitary exile a much-dreaded infliction; and this poor
creature said, that bad as the flogging was, she would sooner have taken
that again than the dreadful lonely days and nights she spent on the penal
swamp of Five Pound.

I make no comment on these terrible stories, my dear friend, and tell them
to you as nearly as possible in the perfectly plain unvarnished manner in
which they are told to me. I do not wish to add to, or perhaps I ought to
say take away from, the effect of such narrations by amplifying the simple
horror and misery of their bare details.

       *       *       *       *       *


My dearest E----. I have had an uninterrupted stream of women and children
flowing in the whole morning to say, 'Ha de missis!' Among others, a poor
woman called Mile, who could hardly stand for pain and swelling in her
limbs; she had had fifteen children and two miscarriages, nine of her
children had died; for the last three years she had become almost a
cripple with chronic rheumatism, yet she is driven every day to work in
the field. She held my hands and stroked them in the most appealing way,
while she exclaimed, 'Oh my missis! my missis! me neber sleep till day for
de pain,' and with the day her labour must again be resumed. I gave her
flannel and sal volatile to rub her poor swelled limbs with; rest I could
not give her--rest from her labour and her pain--this mother of fifteen
children.

Another of my visitors had a still more dismal story to tell; her name was
Die; she had had sixteen children, fourteen of whom were dead; she had had
four miscarriages, one had been caused by falling down with a very heavy
burthen on her head, and one from having her arms strained up to be
lashed. I asked her what she meant by having her arms tied up; she said
their hands were first tied together, sometimes by the wrists, and
sometimes, which was worse, by the thumbs, and they were then drawn up to
a tree or post, so as almost to swing them off the ground, and then their
clothes rolled round their waist, and a man with a cow-hide stands and
stripes them. I give you the woman's words; she did not speak of this as
of anything strange, unusual or especially horrid and abominable; and when
I said, 'Did they do that to you when you were with child?' she simply
replied, 'Yes, missis.' And to all this I listen--I, an English woman, the
wife of the man who owns these wretches, and I cannot say, 'That thing
shall not be done again; that cruel shame and villany shall never be known
here again.' I gave the woman meat and flannel, which were what she came
to ask for, and remained choking with indignation and grief long after
they had all left me to my most bitter thoughts.

I went out to try and walk off some of the weight of horror and depression
which I am beginning to feel daily more and more, surrounded by all this
misery and degradation that I can neither help nor hinder. The blessed
spring is coming very fast, the air is full of delicious wild wood
fragrances, and the wonderful songs of southern birds; the wood paths are
as tempting as paths into Paradise, but Jack is in such deadly terror
about the snakes, which are now beginning to glide about with a freedom
and frequency certainly not pleasing, that he will not follow me off the
open road, and twice to-day scared me back from charming wood paths I
ventured to explore with his exclamations of terrified warning.

I gathered some exquisite pink blossoms, of a sort of waxen texture, off a
small shrub which was strange to me, and for which Jack's only name was
dye-bush; but I could not ascertain from him whether any dyeing substance
was found in its leaves, bark, or blossoms.

I returned home along the river side, stopping to admire a line of noble
live oaks beginning, alas! to be smothered with the treacherous white moss
under whose pale trailing masses their verdure gradually succumbs, leaving
them, like huge hoary ghosts, perfect mountains of parasitical vegetation,
which, strangely enough, appears only to hang upon and swing from their
boughs without adhering to them. The mixture of these streams of
grey-white filaments with the dark foliage is extremely beautiful as long
as the leaves of the tree survive in sufficient masses to produce the rich
contrast of colour; but when the moss has literally conquered the whole
tree, and after stripping its huge limbs bare, clothed them with its own
wan masses, they always looked to me like so many gigantic Druid ghosts,
with flowing robes and beards, and locks all of one ghastly grey, and I
would not have broken a twig off them for the world, lest a sad voice,
like that which reproached Dante, should have moaned out of it to me,

    Non hai tu spirto di pietade alcuno?

A beautiful mass of various woodland skirted the edge of the stream, and
mingled in its foliage every shade of green, from the pale stiff spikes
and fans of the dwarf palmetto to the dark canopy of the magnificent
ilex--bowers and brakes of the loveliest wildness, where one dare not
tread three steps for fear--what a tantalisation! it is like some wicked
enchantment.

       *       *       *       *       *


Dearest E----. I have found growing along the edge of the dreary enclosure
where the slaves are buried such a lovely wild flower; it is a little like
the euphrasia or eye-bright of the English meadows; but grows quite close
to the turf, almost into it, and consists of clusters of tiny white
flowers that look as if they were made of the finest porcelain; I took up
a root of it yesterday, with a sort of vague idea that I could transplant
it to the north--though I cannot say that I should care to transplant
anything thither that could renew to me the associations of this
place--not even the delicious wild flowers, if I could.

The woods here are full of wild plum-trees, the delicate white blossoms of
which twinkle among the evergreen copses, and besides illuminating them
with a faint starlight, suggest to my mind a possible liqueur like kirsch,
which I should think could quite as well be extracted from wild plums as
wild cherries, and the trees are so numerous that there ought to be quite
a harvest from them. You may, and, doubtless, have seen palmetto plants in
northern green and hot houses, but you never saw palmetto roots; and what
curious things they are! huge, hard, yellowish-brown stems, as thick as my
arm, or thicker, extending and ramifying under the ground in masses that
seem hardly justified or accounted for by the elegant, light, spiky fans
of dusky green foliage with which they fill the under part of the woods
here. They look very tropical and picturesque, but both in shape and
colour suggest something metallic rather than vegetable, the bronze green
hue and lance-like form of their foliage has an arid hard character that
makes one think they could be manufactured quite as well as cultivated. At
first I was extremely delighted with the novelty of their appearance; but
now I feel thirsty when I look at them, and the same with their kinsfolk
the yuccas and their intimate friends, if not relations, the prickly
pears, with all of which once strange growth I have grown, contemptuously
familiar now.

Did it ever occur to you what a strange affinity there is between the
texture and colour of the wild vegetables of these sandy southern soils,
and the texture and colour of shells? The prickly pear, and especially the
round little cactus plants all covered with hairy spikes, are curiously
suggestive of a family of round spiked shells, with which you, as well as
myself, are, doubtless, familiar; and though the splendid flame colour of
some cactus blossoms never suggests any nature but that of flowers, I have
seen some of a peculiar shade of yellow pink, that resembles the mingled
tint on the inside of some elaborately coloured shell, and the pale white
and rose flowers of another kind have the colouring and almost texture of
shell, much rather than of any vegetable substance.

To-day I walked out without Jack, and in spite of the terror of snakes
with which he has contrived slightly to inoculate me, I did make a short
exploring journey into the woods. I wished to avoid a ploughed field, to
the edge of which my wanderings had brought me; but my dash into the
woodland, though unpunished by an encounter with snakes, brought me only
into a marsh as full of land-crabs as an ant-hill is of ants, and from
which I had to retreat ingloriously, finding my way home at last by the
beach.

I have had, as usual, a tribe of visitors and petitioners ever since I
came home. I will give you an account of those cases which had anything
beyond the average of interest in their details. One poor woman, named
Molly, came to beg that I would, if possible, get an extension of their
exemption from work after child-bearing. The close of her argument was
concise and forcible. 'Missis, we hab um piccaninny--tree weeks in de
ospital, and den right out upon the hoe again--_can we strong_ dat way,
missis? No!' And truly I do not see that they can. This poor creature had
had eight children and two miscarriages. All her children were dead but
one. Another of my visitors was a divinely named but not otherwise divine
Venus; it is a favourite name among these sable folk, but, of course, must
have been given originally in derision. The Aphrodite in question was a
dirt-coloured (convenient colour I should say for these parts) mulatto. I
could not understand how she came on this property, for she was the
daughter of a black woman and the overseer of an estate to which her
mother formerly belonged, and from which I suppose she was sold,
exchanged, or given, as the case may be, to the owners of this plantation.
She was terribly crippled with rheumatism, and came to beg for some
flannel. She had had eleven children, five of whom had died, and two
miscarriages. As she took her departure the vacant space she left on the
other side of my writing table was immediately filled by another black
figure with a bowed back and piteous face, one of the thousand 'Mollies'
on the estate, where the bewildering redundancy of their name is avoided
by adding that of their husband; so when the question, 'Well, who are
you?' was answered with the usual genuflexion, and 'I'se Molly, missis!'
I, of course, went on with 'whose Molly?' and she went on to refer herself
to the ownership (under Mr. ---- and heaven) of one Tony, but proceeded to
say that he was not her _real_ husband. This appeal to an element of
reality in the universally accepted fiction which passes here by the title
of marriage surprised me; and on asking her what she meant, she replied
that her real husband had been sold from the estate for repeated attempts
to run away; he had made his escape several times, and skulked starving in
the woods and morasses, but had always been tracked and brought back, and
flogged almost to death, and finally sold as an incorrigible runaway. What
a spirit of indomitable energy the wretched man must have had to have
tried so often that hideously hopeless attempt to fly! I do not write you
the poor woman's jargon, which was ludicrous; for I cannot write you the
sighs, and tears, and piteous looks, and gestures, that made it pathetic;
of course she did not know whither or to whom her _real_ husband had been
sold; but in the meantime Mr. K----, that merciful Providence of the
estate, had provided her with the above-named Tony, by whom she had had
nine children, six of whom were dead; she, too, had miscarried twice. She
came to ask me for some flannel for her legs, which are all swollen with
constant rheumatism, and to beg me to give her something to cure some bad
sores and ulcers, which seemed to me dreadful enough in their present
condition, but which she said break out afresh and are twice as bad every
summer.

I have let my letter lie since the day before yesterday, dear E----,
having had no leisure to finish it. Yesterday morning I rode out to St.
Clair's, where there used formerly to be another negro settlement and
another house of Major ----'s. I had been persuaded to try one of the
mares I had formerly told you of, and to be sure a more 'curst' quadruped,
and one more worthy of a Petruchio for a rider I did never back. Her
temper was furious, her gait intolerable, her mouth, the most obdurate
that ever tugged against bit and bridle. It is not wise anywhere--here it
is less wise than anywhere else in the world--to say 'Jamais de cette eau
je ne boirai;' but I _think_ I will never ride that delightful creature
Miss Kate again.

I wrote you of my having been to a part of the estate called St. Clair's,
where there was formerly another residence of Major ----'s; nothing
remains now of it but a ruined chimney of some of the offices, which is
standing yet in the middle of what has become a perfect wilderness. At the
best of times, with a large house, numerous household, and paths, and
drives of approach, and the usual external conditions of civilisation
about it, a residence here would have been the loneliest that can well be
imagined; now it is the shaggiest desert of beautiful wood that I ever
saw. The magnificent old oaks stand round the place in silent solemn
grandeur; and among them I had no difficulty in recognising, by the
description Captain F---- had given me of it, the crumbling shattered
relic of a tree called Oglethorpe's oak. That worthy valiant old governor
had a residence here himself in the early days of the colony; when, under
the influence of Wesley, he vainly made such strenuous efforts to keep
aloof from his infant province the sore curse of slavery.

I rode almost the whole way through a grove of perfect evergreen. I had
with me one of the men of the name of Hector, who has a good deal to do
with the horses, and so had volunteered to accompany me, being one of the
few negroes on the estate who can sit a horse. In the course of our
conversation, Hector divulged certain opinions relative to the comparative
gentility of driving in a carriage, and the vulgarity of walking; which
sent me into fits of laughing; at which he grinned sympathetically, and
opened his eyes very wide, but certainly without attaining the least
insight into what must have appeared to him my very unaccountable and
unreasonable merriment. Among various details of the condition of the
people on the several estates in the island, he told me that a great
number of the men on all the different plantations had _wives_ on the
neighbouring estates, as well as on that to which they properly belonged.
'Oh, but,' said I, 'Hector, you know that cannot be, a man has but one
lawful wife.' Hector knew this, he said, and yet seemed puzzled himself,
and rather puzzled me to account for the fact, that this extensive
practice of bigamy was perfectly well known to the masters and overseers,
and never in any way found fault with, or interfered with. Perhaps this
promiscuous mode of keeping up the slave population finds favour with the
owners of creatures who are valued in the market at so much per head. This
was a solution which occurred to me, but which I left my Trojan hero to
discover, by dint of the profound pondering into which he fell.

Not far from the house as I was cantering home, I met S----, and took her
up on the saddle before me, an operation which seemed to please her better
than the vicious horse I was riding, whose various demonstrations of
dislike to the arrangement afforded my small equestrian extreme delight
and triumph. My whole afternoon was spent in shifting my bed and bed-room
furniture from a room on the ground-floor to one above; in the course of
which operation, a brisk discussion took place between M---- and my boy
Jack, who was nailing on the vallence of the bed; and whom I suddenly
heard exclaim in answer to something she had said--'Well den, I do tink
so; and dat's the speech of a man, whether um bond or free.' A very
trifling incident, and insignificant speech; and yet it came back to my
ears very often afterward--'the speech of a _man_, whether bond or free.'
They might be made conscious--some of them are evidently conscious--of an
inherent element of manhood superior to the bitter accident of slavery;
and to which, even in their degraded condition, they might be made to
refer that vital self-respect which can survive all external pressure of
mere circumstance, and give their souls to that service of God, which is
perfect freedom, in spite of the ignoble and cruel bondage of their
bodies.

My new apartment is what I should call decidedly airy; the window, unless
when styled by courtesy, shut, which means admitting of draught enough to
blow a candle out, must be wide open, being incapable of any intermediate
condition; the latch of the door, to speak the literal truth, does shut;
but it is the only part of it that does; that is, the latch and the
hinges; everywhere else its configuration is traced by a distinct line of
light and air. If what old Dr. Physic used to say be true, that a draught
which will not blow out a candle will blow out a man's life, (a Spanish
proverb originally I believe) my life is threatened with extinction in
almost every part of this new room of mine, wherein, moreover, I now
discover to my dismay, having transported every other article of bed-room
furniture to it, it is impossible to introduce the wardrobe for my
clothes. Well, our stay here is drawing to a close, and therefore these
small items of discomfort cannot afflict me much longer.

Among my visitors to-day was a poor woman named Oney, who told me her
husband had gone away from her now for four years; it seems he was the
property of Mr. K----, and when that gentleman went to slave-driving on
his own account, and ceased to be the overseer of this estate, he carried
her better half, who was his chattel, away with him, and she never expects
to see him again. After her departure I had a most curious visitor, a
young lad of the name of Renty, whose very decidedly mulatto tinge
accounted, I suppose, for the peculiar disinvoltura of his carriage and
manner; he was evidently in his own opinion a very superior creature; and
yet, as his conversation with me testified, he was conscious of some flaw
in the honour of his 'yellow' complexion. 'Who is your mother, Renty?'
said I (I give you our exact dialogue); 'Betty, head-man Frank's wife.' I
was rather dismayed at the promptness of this reply, and hesitated a
little at my next question, 'Who is your father?' My sprightly young
friend, however, answered, without an instant's pause, 'Mr. K----.' Here I
came to a halt, and, willing to suggest some doubt to the lad, because for
many peculiar reasons this statement seemed to me shocking, I said, 'What,
old Mr. K----?' 'No, massa R----.' 'Did your mother tell you so?' 'No,
missis, me ashamed to ask her; Mr. C----'s children told me so, and I
'spect they know it.' Renty, you see, did not take Falconbridge's view of
such matters; and as I was by no means sorry to find that he considered
his relation to Mr. K---- a disgrace to his mother, which is an advance in
moral perception not often met with here, I said no more upon the subject.

_Tuesday, March 3._--This morning, old House Molly, coming from Mr.
G----'s upon some errand to me, I asked her if Renty's statement was true;
she confirmed the whole story, and, moreover, added that this connection
took place after Betty was married to head-man Frank. Now, he, you know,
E----, is the chief man at the Rice Island, second in authority to Mr.
O----, and indeed, for a considerable part of the year, absolute master
and guardian during the night, of all the people and property at the rice
plantation, for, after the early spring, the white overseer himself is
obliged to betake himself to the mainland to sleep, out of the influence
of the deadly malaria of the rice swamp, and Frank remains sole sovereign
of the island, from sunset to sunrise, in short, during the whole period
of his absence. Mr. ---- bestowed the highest commendations upon his
fidelity and intelligence, and, during the visit Mr. R---- K---- paid us
at the island, he was emphatic in his praise of both Frank and his wife,
the latter having, as he declared, by way of climax to his eulogies, quite
the principles of a white woman. Perhaps she imbibed them from his
excellent influence over her. Frank is a serious, sad, sober-looking, very
intelligent man; I should think he would not relish having his wife
borrowed from him even by the white gentleman, who admired her principles
so much; and it is quite clear from poor Renty's speech about his mother,
that by some of these people (and if by any, then very certainly by
Frank), the disgrace of such an injury is felt and appreciated much after
the fashion of white men.

This old woman Molly is a wonderfully intelligent, active, energetic
creature, though considerably over seventy years old; she was talking to
me about her former master, Major ----, and what she was pleased to call
the _revelation_ war (i.e. revolution war), during which that gentleman,
having embraced the side of the rebellious colonies in their struggle
against England, was by no means on a bed of roses. He bore King George's
commission, and was a major in the British army, but having married a
great Carolina heiress, and become proprietor of these plantations, sided
with the country of his adoption, and not that of his birth, in the war
between them, and was a special object of animosity on that account to the
English officers who attacked the sea-board of Georgia, and sent troops on
shore and up the Altamaha, to fetch off the negroes, or incite them to
rise against their owners. 'De British,' said Molly 'make old massa run
about bery much in de great revelation war.' He ran effectually, however,
and contrived to save both his life and property from the invader.

Molly's account was full of interest, in spite of the grotesque lingo in
which it was delivered, and which once or twice nearly sent me into
convulsions of laughing, whereupon she apologized with great gravity for
her mispronunciation, modestly suggesting that _white words_ were
impossible to the organs of speech of black folks. It is curious how
universally any theory, no matter how absurd, is accepted by these people,
for anything in which the contemptuous supremacy of the dominant race is
admitted, and their acquiescence in the theory of their own incorrigible
baseness is so complete, that this, more than any other circumstance in
their condition, makes me doubtful of their rising from it.

In order to set poor dear old Molly's notions straight with regard to the
negro incapacity for speaking plain the noble white words, I called
S---- to me and set her talking; and having pointed out to Molly how very
imperfect her mode of pronouncing many words was, convinced the worthy old
negress that want of training, and not any absolute original impotence,
was the reason why she disfigured the _white words_, for which she had
such a profound respect. In this matter, as in every other, the slaves pay
back to their masters the evil of their own dealings with usury, though
unintentionally. No culture, however slight, simple, or elementary, is
permitted to these poor creatures, and the utterance of many of them is
more like what Prospero describes Caliban's to have been, than the speech
of men and women in a Christian and civilised land: the children of their
owners, brought up among them, acquire their negro mode of
talking;--slavish speech surely it is--and it is distinctly perceptible in
the utterances of all southerners, particularly of the women, whose
avocations, taking them less from home, are less favourable to their
throwing off this ignoble trick of pronunciation, than the more varied
occupation, and the more extended and promiscuous business relations of
men. The Yankee twang of the regular down Easter is not more easily
detected by any ear, nice in enunciation and accent, than the thick negro
speech of the southerners: neither is lovely or melodious; but though the
Puritan snuffle is the harsher of the two, the slave _slobber_ of the
language is the more ignoble, in spite of the softer voices of the pretty
southern women who utter it.

I rode out to-day upon Miss Kate again, with Jack for my esquire. I made
various vain attempts to ride through the woods, following the cattle
tracks; they turned round and round into each other, or led out into the
sandy pine barren, the eternal frame in which all nature is set here, the
inevitable limit to the prospect, turn landward which way you will. The
wood paths which I followed between evergreen thickets, though little
satisfactory in their ultimate result, were really more beautiful than the
most perfect arrangement of artificial planting that I ever saw in an
English park; and I thought if I could transplant the region which I was
riding through bodily into the midst of some great nobleman's possessions
on the other side of the water, how beautiful an accession it would be
thought to them. I was particularly struck with the elegant growth of a
profuse wild shrub I passed several times to-day, the leaves of which were
pale green underneath, and a deep red, varnished brown above.

I must give you an idea of the sort of service one is liable to obtain
from one's most intelligent and civilised servants hereabouts, and the
consequent comfort and luxury of one's daily existence. Yesterday,
Aleck, the youth who fulfils the duties of what you call a waiter, and
we in England a footman, gave me a salad for dinner, mixed with so large
a portion of the soil in which it had grown, that I requested him to-day
to be kind enough to wash the lettuce before he brought it to table.
M---- later in the day told me that he had applied to her very urgently
for soap and a brush 'as missis wished de lettuce scrubbed,' a fate from
which my second salad was saved by her refusal of these desired
articles, and further instructions upon the subject.

       *       *       *       *       *


Dearest E----. I have been long promising poor old House Molly to visit
her in her own cabin, and so the day before yesterday I walked round the
settlement to her dwelling; and a most wretched hovel I found it. She has
often told me of the special directions left by her old master for the
comfort and well-being of her old age; and certainly his charge has been
but little heeded by his heirs, for the poor faithful old slave is most
miserably off in her infirm years. She made no complaint, however, but
seemed overjoyed at my coming to see her. She took me to the hut of her
brother, Old Jacob, where the same wretched absence of every decency and
every comfort prevailed; but neither of them seemed to think the condition
that appeared so wretched to me one of peculiar hardship--though Molly's
former residence in her master's house might reasonably have made her
discontented with the lot of absolute privation to which she was now
turned over--but, for the moment, my visit seemed to compensate for all
sublunary sorrows, and she and poor old Jacob kept up a duet of rejoicing
at my advent, and that I had brought 'de little missis among um people
afore they die.'

Leaving them, I went on to the house of Jacob's daughter Hannah, with whom
Psyche, the heroine of the Rice Island story, and wife of his son Joe,
lives. I found their cabin as tidy and comfortable as it could be made,
and their children, as usual, neat and clean; they are capital women, both
of them, with an innate love of cleanliness and order most uncommon among
these people. On my way home, I overtook two of my daily suppliants, who
were going to the house in search of me, and meat, flannel, rice, and
sugar, as the case might be; they were both old and infirm-looking women,
and one of them, called Scylla, was extremely lame, which she accounted
for by an accident she had met with while carrying a heavy weight of rice
on her head; she had fallen on a sharp stake, or snag, as she called it,
and had never recovered the injury she had received. She complained also
of falling of the womb. Her companion (who was not Charybdis however, but
Phoebe) was a cheery soul who complained of nothing, but begged for
flannel. I asked her about her family and children; she had no children
left, nothing but grandchildren; she had had nine children, and seven of
them died quite young; the only two who grew up left her to join the
British when they invaded Georgia in the last war, and their children,
whom they left behind, were all her family now.

In the afternoon, I made my first visit to the hospital of the estate, and
found it, as indeed I find everything else here, in a far worse state even
than the wretched establishments on the Rice Island, dignified by that
name; so miserable a place for the purpose to which it was dedicated I
could not have imagined on a property belonging to Christian owners. The
floor (which was not boarded, but merely the damp hard earth itself,) was
strewn with wretched women, who, but for their moans of pain and uneasy
restless motions, might very well have each been taken for a mere heap of
filthy rags; the chimney refusing passage to the smoke from the pine wood
fire, it puffed out in clouds through the room, where it circled and hung,
only gradually oozing away through the windows, which were so far well
adapted to the purpose that there was not a single whole pane of glass in
them. My eyes, unaccustomed to the turbid atmosphere, smarted and watered,
and refused to distinguish at first the different dismal forms, from which
cries and wails assailed me in every corner of the place. By degrees I was
able to endure for a few minutes what they were condemned to live their
hours and days of suffering and sickness through; and, having given what
comfort kind words and promises of help in more substantial forms could
convey, I went on to what seemed a yet more wretched abode of
wretchedness. This was a room where there was no fire because there was no
chimney, and where the holes made for windows had no panes or glasses in
them. The shutters being closed, the place was so dark that, on first
entering it, I was afraid to stir lest I should fall over some of the
deplorable creatures extended upon the floor. As soon as they perceived
me, one cry of 'Oh missis!' rang through the darkness; and it really
seemed to me as if I was never to exhaust the pity and amazement and
disgust which this receptacle of suffering humanity was to excite in me.
The poor dingy supplicating sleepers upraised themselves as I cautiously
advanced among them; those who could not rear their bodies from the earth
held up piteous beseeching hands, and as I passed from one to the other, I
felt more than one imploring clasp laid upon my dress to solicit my
attention to some new form of misery. One poor woman, called Tressa, who
was unable to speak above a whisper from utter weakness and exhaustion,
told me she had had nine children, was suffering from incessant flooding,
and felt 'as if her back would split open.' There she lay, a mass of
filthy tatters, without so much as a blanket under or over her, on the
bare earth in this chilly darkness. I promised them help and comfort, beds
and blankets, and light and fire--that is, I promised to ask Mr. ---- for
all this for them; and, in the very act of doing so, I remembered with a
sudden pang of anguish, that I was to urge no more petitions for his
slaves to their master. I groped my way out, and emerging on the piazza,
all the choking tears and sobs I had controlled broke forth, and I leaned
there crying over the lot of these unfortunates, till I heard a feeble
voice of 'Missis, you no cry; missis, what for you cry?' and looking up,
saw that I had not yet done with this intolerable infliction. A poor
crippled old man, lying in the corner of the piazza, unable even to crawl
towards me, had uttered this word of consolation, and by his side
(apparently too idiotic, as he was too impotent, to move,) sat a young
woman, the expression of whose face was the most suffering and at the same
time the most horribly repulsive I ever saw. I found she was, as I
supposed, half-witted; and on coming nearer to enquire into her ailments
and what I could do for her, found her suffering from that horrible
disease--I believe some form of scrofula--to which the negroes are
subject, which attacks and eats away the joints of their hands and
fingers--a more hideous and loathsome object I never beheld; her name was
Patty, and she was grand-daughter to the old crippled creature by whose
side she was squatting.

I wandered home, stumbling with crying as I went, and feeling so utterly
miserable that I really hardly saw where I was going, for I as nearly as
possible fell over a great heap of oyster shells left in the middle of the
path. This is a horrid nuisance, which results from an indulgence which
the people here have and value highly; the waters round the island are
prolific in shell fish, oysters, and the most magnificent prawns I ever
saw. The former are a considerable article of the people's diet, and the
shells are allowed to accumulate, as they are used in the composition of
which their huts are built, and which is a sort of combination of mud and
broken oyster shells, which forms an agglomeration of a kind very solid
and durable for such building purposes. But instead of being all carried
to some specified place out of the way, these great heaps of oyster shells
are allowed to be piled up anywhere and everywhere, forming the most
unsightly obstructions in every direction. Of course, the cultivation of
order for the sake of its own seemliness and beauty is not likely to be an
element of slave existence; and as masters have been scarce on this
plantation for many years now, a mere unsightliness is not a matter likely
to trouble anybody much; but after my imminent overthrow by one of these
disorderly heaps of refuse, I think I may make bold to request that the
paths along which I am likely to take my daily walks may be kept free from
them.

On my arrival at home--at the house--I cannot call any place here my
home!--I found Renty waiting to exhibit to me an extremely neatly made
leather pouch, which he has made by my order, of fitting size and
dimensions, to receive Jack's hatchet and saw. Jack and I have set up a
sort of Sir Walter and Tom Purdie companionship of clearing and cutting
paths through the woods nearest to the house; thinning the overhanging
branches, clearing the small evergreen thickets which here and there close
over and across the grassy track. To me this occupation was especially
delightful until quite lately, since the weather began to be rather warmer
and the snakes to slide about. Jack has contrived to inoculate me with
some portion of his terror of them; but I have still a daily hankering
after the lovely green wood walks; perhaps when once I have seen a live
rattlesnake my enthusiasm for them will be modified to the degree that his
is.

       *       *       *       *       *


Dear E----. This letter has remained unfinished, and my journal
interrupted for more than a week. Mr. ---- has been quite unwell, and I
have been travelling to and fro daily between Hampton and the Rice Island
in the long boat to visit him; for the last three days I have remained at
the latter place, and only returned here this morning early. My daily
voyages up and down the river have introduced me to a great variety of new
musical performances of our boatmen, who invariably, when the rowing is
not too hard, moving up or down with the tide, accompany the stroke of
their oars with the sound of their voices. I told you formerly that I
thought I could trace distinctly some popular national melody with which
I was familiar in almost all their songs; but I have been quite at a loss
to discover any such foundation for many that I have heard lately, and
which have appeared to me extraordinarily wild and unaccountable. The way
in which the chorus strikes in with the burthen, between each phrase of
the melody chanted by a single voice, is very curious and effective,
especially with the rhythm of the rowlocks for accompaniment. The high
voices all in unison, and the admirable time and true accent with which
their responses are made, always make me wish that some great musical
composer could hear these semi-savage performances. With a very little
skilful adaptation and instrumentation, I think one or two barbaric chants
and choruses might be evoked from them that would make the fortune of an
opera.

The only exception that I have met with, yet among our boat voices to the
high tenor which they seem all to possess is in the person of an
individual named Isaac, a basso profondo of the deepest dye, who
nevertheless never attempts to produce with his different register any
different effects in the chorus by venturing a second, but sings like the
rest in unison, perfect unison, of both time and tune. By-the-by, this
individual _does_ speak, and therefore I presume he is not an ape,
ourang-outang, chimpanzee, or gorilla; but I could not, I confess, have
conceived it possible that the presence of articulate sounds, and the
absence of an articulate tail, should make, externally at least, so
completely the only appreciable difference between a man and a monkey, as
they appear to do in this individual 'black brother.' Such stupendous long
thin hands, and long flat feet, I did never see off a large quadruped of
the ape species. But, as I said before, Isaac _speaks_, and I am much
comforted thereby.

You cannot think (to return to the songs of my boatmen) how strange some
of their words are: in one, they repeatedly chanted the 'sentiment' that
'God made man, and man makes'--what do you think?--'money!' Is not that a
peculiar poetical proposition? Another ditty to which they frequently
treat me they call Caesar's song; it is an extremely spirited war-song,
beginning 'The trumpets blow, the bugles sound--Oh, stand your ground!' It
has puzzled me not a little to determine in my own mind whether this title
of Caesar's song has any reference to the great Julius, and if so what may
be the negro notion of him, and whence and how derived. One of their songs
displeased me not a little, for it embodied the opinion that 'twenty-six
black girls not make mulatto yellow girl;' and as I told them I did not
like it, they have omitted it since. This desperate tendency to despise
and undervalue their own race and colour, which is one of the very worst
results of their abject condition, is intolerable to me.

While rowing up and down the broad waters of the Altamaha to the music of
these curious chants, I have been reading Mr. Moore's speech about the
abolition of slavery in the district of Columbia; and I confess I think
his the only defensible position yet taken, and the only consistent
argument yet used in any of the speeches I have hitherto seen upon the
subject.

I have now settled down at Hampton again; Mr. ---- is quite recovered, and
is coming down here in a day or two for change of air; it is getting too
late for him to stay on the rice plantation even in the day, I think. You
cannot imagine anything so exquisite as the perfect curtains of yellow
jasmine with which this whole island is draped; and as the boat comes
sweeping down towards the point, the fragrance from the thickets hung with
their golden garlands greets one before one can distinguish them; it is
really enchanting.

I have now to tell you of my hallowing last Sunday by gathering a
congregation of the people into my big sitting-room, and reading prayers
to them. I had been wishing very much to do this for some time past, and
obtained Mr. ----'s leave while I was with him at the Rice Island, and it
was a great pleasure to me. Some of the people are allowed to go up to
Darien once a month to church; but, with that exception, they have no
religious service on Sunday whatever for them. There is a church on the
Island of St. Simon, but they are forbidden to frequent it, as it leads
them off their own through neighbouring plantations, and gives
opportunities for meetings between the negroes of the different estates,
and very likely was made the occasion of abuses and objectionable
practices of various kinds; at any rate, Mr. K---- forbade the Hampton
slaves resorting to the St. Simon's church; and so, for three Sundays in
the month they are utterly without Christian worship or teaching, or any
religious observance of God's day whatever.

I was very anxious that it should not be thought that I _ordered_ any of
the people to come to prayers, as I particularly desired to see if they
themselves felt the want of any Sabbath service, and would of their own
accord join in any such ceremony; I therefore merely told the house
servants that if they would come to the sitting-room at eleven o'clock, I
would read prayers to them, and that they might tell any of their friends
or any of the people that I should be very glad to see them if they liked
to come. Accordingly, most of those who live at the Point, i.e. in the
immediate neighbourhood of the house, came, and it was encouraging to see
the very decided efforts at cleanliness and decorum of attire which they
had all made. I was very much affected and impressed myself by what I was
doing, and I suppose must have communicated some of my own feeling to
those who heard me. It is an extremely solemn thing to me to read the
Scriptures aloud to any one, and there was something in my relation to the
poor people by whom I was surrounded that touched me so deeply while thus
attempting to share with them the best of my possessions, that I found it
difficult to command my voice, and had to stop several times in order to
do so. When I had done, they all with one accord uttered the simple words,
'We thank you, missis,' and instead of overwhelming me as usual with
petitions and complaints, they rose silently and quietly, in a manner that
would have become the most orderly of Christian congregations accustomed
to all the impressive decorum of civilised church privileges. Poor people!
They are said to have what a very irreligious young English clergyman once
informed me I had--a '_turn_ for religion.' They seem to me to have a
'turn' for instinctive good manners too; and certainly their mode of
withdrawing from my room after our prayers bespoke either a strong feeling
of their own or a keen appreciation of mine.

I have resumed my explorations in the woods with renewed enthusiasm, for
during my week's absence they have become more lovely and enticing than
ever: unluckily, however, Jack seems to think that fresh rattlesnakes have
budded together with the tender spring foliage, and I see that I shall
either have to give up my wood walks and rides, or go without a guide.
Lovely blossoms are springing up everywhere, weeds, of course, wild
things, impertinently so called. Nothing is cultivated here but cotton;
but in some of the cotton fields, beautiful creatures are peeping into
blossom, which I suppose will all be duly hoed off the surface of the
soil in proper season: meantime I rejoice in them, and in the splendid
magnificent thistles, which would be in flower-gardens in other parts of
the world, and in the wonderful, strange, beautiful butterflies that seem
to me almost as big as birds, that go zig-zagging in the sun. I saw
yesterday a lovely monster, who thought proper, for my greater
delectation, to alight on a thistle I was admiring, and as the flower was
purple, and he was all black velvet, fringed with gold, I was exceedingly
pleased with his good inspiration.

This morning I drove up to the settlement at St. Annie's, having various
bundles of benefaction to carry in the only equipage my estate here
affords,--an exceedingly small, rough, and uncomfortable cart, called the
sick house waggon, inasmuch as it is used to convey to the hospital such
of the poor people as are too ill to walk there. Its tender mercies must
be terrible indeed for the sick, for I who am sound could very hardly
abide them; however, I suppose Montreal's pace is moderated for them:
to-day he went rollicking along with us behind him, shaking his fine head
and mane, as if he thought the more we were jolted the better we should
like it. We found, on trying to go on to Cartwright's Point, that the
state of the tide would not admit of our getting thither, and so had to
return, leaving it unvisited. It seems to me strange that where the labour
of so many hands might be commanded, piers, and wharves, and causeways,
are not thrown out (wooden ones, of course, I mean), wherever the common
traffic to or from different parts of the plantation is thus impeded by
the daily rise and fall of the river; the trouble and expense would be
nothing, and the gain in convenience very considerable. However, perhaps
the nature of the tides, and of the banks and shores themselves, may not
be propitious for such constructions, and I rather incline upon reflection
to think this may be so, because to go from Hampton to our neighbour Mr.
C----'s plantation, it is necessary to consult the tide in order to land
conveniently. Driving home to-day by Jones' Creek, we saw an immovable row
of white cranes, all standing with imperturbable gravity upon one leg. I
thought of Boccaccio's cook, and had a mind to say, Ha! at them to try if
they had two. I have been over to Mr. C----, and was very much pleased
with my visit, but will tell you of it in my next.

       *       *       *       *       *


Dear E----. I promised to tell you of my visit to my neighbour Mr. C----,
which pleased and interested me very much. He is an old Glasgow man, who
has been settled here many years. It is curious how many of the people
round this neighbourhood have Scotch names; it seems strange to find them
thus gathered in the vicinity of a new Darien; but those in our immediate
neighbourhood seem to have found it a far less fatal region than their
countrymen did its namesake of the Isthmus. Mr. C----'s house is a roomy,
comfortable, handsomely laid out mansion, to which he received me with
very cordial kindness, and where I spent part of a very pleasant morning,
talking with him, hearing all he could tell me of the former history of
Mr. ----'s plantation. His description of its former master, old
Major ----, and of his agent and overseer Mr. K----, and of that
gentleman's worthy son and successor the late overseer, interested me very
much; of the two latter functionaries his account was terrible, and much
what I had supposed any impartial account of them would be; because, let
the propensity to lying of the poor wretched slaves be what it will, they
could not invent, with a common consent, the things that they one and all
tell me with reference to the manner in which they have been treated by
the man who has just left the estate, and his father, who for the last
nineteen years have been sole sovereigns of their bodies and souls. The
crops have satisfied the demands of the owners, who, living in
Philadelphia, have been perfectly contented to receive a large income
from their estate without apparently caring how it was earned. The
stories that the poor people tell me of the cruel tyranny under which
they have lived are not complaints, for they are of things past and gone,
and very often, horridly as they shock and affect me, they themselves
seem hardly more than half conscious of the misery their condition
exhibits to me, and they speak of things which I shudder to hear of,
almost as if they had been matters of course with them.

Old Mr. C---- spoke with extreme kindness of his own people, and had
evidently bestowed much humane and benevolent pains upon endeavours to
better their condition. I asked him if he did not think the soil and
climate of this part of Georgia admirably suited to the cultivation of the
mulberry and the rearing of the silk-worm; for it has appeared to me that
hereafter, silk may be made one of the most profitable products of this
whole region: he said that that had long been his opinion, and he had at
one time had it much at heart to try the experiment, and had proposed to
Major ---- to join him in it, on a scale large enough to test it
satisfactorily; but he said Mr. K---- opposed the scheme so persistently
that of course it was impossible to carry it out, as his agency and
cooperation were indispensable; and that in like manner he had suggested
sowing turnip crops, and planting peach trees for the benefit and use of
the people on the Hampton estate, experiments which he had tried with
excellent success on his own; but all these plans for the amelioration and
progress of the people's physical condition had been obstructed and
finally put entirely aside by old Mr. K---- and his son, who, as Mr. C----
said, appeared to give satisfaction to their employers, so it was not his
business to find fault with them; he said, however, that the whole
condition and treatment of the slaves had changed from the time of
Major ----'s death, and that he thought it providential for the poor
people that Mr. K---- should have left the estate, and the young
gentleman, the present owner, come down to look after the people.

He showed me his garden, from whence come the beautiful vegetables he had
more than once supplied me with; in the midst of it was a very fine and
flourishing date palm tree, which he said bore its fruit as prosperously
here as it would in Asia. After the garden, we visited a charming
nicely-kept poultry yard, and I returned home much delighted with my visit
and the kind good humour of my host.

In the afternoon, I sat as usual at the receipt of custom, hearing of
aches and pains, till I ached myself sympathetically from head to foot.

Yesterday morning, dear E----, I went on horseback to St. Annie's,
exploring on my way some beautiful woods, and in the afternoon I returned
thither in a wood waggon with Jack to drive and a mule to draw me,
Montreal being quite beyond his management; and then and there, the
hatchet and saw being in company, I compelled my slave Jack, all the
rattlesnakes in creation to the contrary notwithstanding, to cut and clear
a way for my chariot through the charming copse.

My letter has been lying unfinished for the last three days. I have been
extraordinarily busy, having emancipated myself from the trammels of Jack
and all his terror, and as I fear no serpents on horseback, have been
daily riding through new patches of woodland without any guide, taking my
chance of what I might come to in the shape of impediments. Last Tuesday,
I rode through a whole wood, of burned and charred trees, cypresses and
oaks, that looked as if they had been each of them blasted by a special
thunderbolt, and whole thickets of young trees and shrubs perfectly black
and brittle from the effect of fire, I suppose the result of some
carelessness of the slaves. As this charcoal woodland extended for some
distance, I turned out of it, and round the main road through the
plantation, as I could not ride through the blackened boughs and branches
without getting begrimed. It had a strange wild desolate effect, not
without a certain gloomy picturesqueness.

In the afternoon, I made Israel drive me through Jack's new-made path to
break it down and open it still more, and Montreal's powerful trampling
did good service to that effect, though he did not seem to relish the
narrow wood road with its grass path by any means as much as the open way
of what may be called the high road. After this operation, I went on to
visit the people at the Busson Hill settlement. I here found, among other
noteworthy individuals, a female named Judy, whose two children belong to
an individual called (not Punch) but Joe, who has another wife, called
Mary, at the Rice Island. In one of the huts I went to leave some flannel
and rice and sugar for a poor old creature called Nancy, to whom I had
promised such indulgences: she is exceedingly infirm and miserable,
suffering from sore limbs and an ulcerated leg so cruelly that she can
hardly find rest in any position from the constant pain she endures, and
is quite unable to lie on her hard bed at night. As I bent over her
to-day, trying to prop her into some posture where she might find some
ease, she took hold of my hand, and with the tears streaming over her
face, said, 'I have worked every day through dew and damp, and sand and
heat, and done good work; but oh, missis, me old and broken now, no tongue
can tell how much I suffer.' In spite of their curious thick utterance and
comical jargon, these people sometimes use wonderfully striking and
pathetic forms of speech. In the next cabin, which consisted of an
enclosure, called by courtesy a room, certainly not ten feet square, and
owned by a woman called Dice--that is, not owned, of course, but inhabited
by her--three grown up human beings and eight children stow themselves by
day and night, which may be called close packing, I think. I presume that
they must take turns to be inside and outside the house, but they did not
make any complaint about it, though I should think the aspect of my
countenance, as I surveyed their abode and heard their numbers, might have
given them a hint to that effect; but I really do find these poor
creatures patient of so much misery, that it inclines me the more to heed
as well as hear their petitions and complaints, when they bring them to
me.

After my return home, I had my usual evening reception, and, among other
pleasant incidents of plantation life, heard the following agreeable
anecdote from a woman named Sophy, who came to beg for some rice. In
asking her about her husband and children, she said she had never had any
husband, that she had had two children by a white man of the name of
Walker, who was employed at the mill on the rice island; she was in the
hospital after the birth of the second child she bore this man, and at the
same time two women, Judy and Sylla, of whose children Mr. K---- was the
father, were recovering from their confinements. It was not a month since
any of them had been delivered, when Mrs. K---- came to the hospital, had
them all three severely flogged, a process which _she_ personally
superintended, and then sent them to Five Pound--the swamp Botany Bay of
the plantation, of which I have told you--with further orders to the
drivers to flog them every day for a week. Now, E----, if I make you sick
with these disgusting stories, I cannot help it--they are the life itself
here; hitherto I have thought these details intolerable enough, but this
apparition of a female fiend in the middle of this hell I confess adds an
element of cruelty which seems to me to surpass all the rest. Jealousy is
not an uncommon quality in the feminine temperament; and just conceive the
fate of these unfortunate women between the passions of their masters and
mistresses, each alike armed with power to oppress and torture them. Sophy
went on to say that Isaac was her son by driver Morris, who had forced
her while she was in her miserable exile at Five Pound. Almost beyond my
patience with this string of detestable details, I exclaimed--foolishly
enough, heaven knows--'Ah, but don't you know, did nobody ever tell or
teach any of you, that it is a sin to live with men who are not your
husbands?' Alas, E----, what could the poor creature answer but what she
did, seizing me at the same time vehemently by the wrist: 'Oh yes, missis,
we know--we know all about dat well enough; but we do anything to get our
poor flesh some rest from de whip; when he made me follow him into de
bush, what use me tell him no? he have strength to make me.' I have
written down the woman's words; I wish I could write down the voice and
look of abject misery with which they were spoken. Now, you will observe
that the story was not told to me as a complaint; it was a thing long past
and over, of which she only spoke in the natural course of accounting for
her children to me. I make no comment; what need, or can I add, to such
stories? But how is such a state of things to endure?--and again, how is
it to end? While I was pondering, as it seemed to me, at the very bottom
of the Slough of Despond, on this miserable creature's story, another
woman came in (Tema), carrying in her arms a child the image of the
mulatto Bran; she came to beg for flannel. I asked her who was her
husband. She said she was not married. Her child is the child of
bricklayer Temple, who has a wife at the rice island. By this time, what
do you think of the moralities, as well as the amenities, of slave life?
These are the conditions which can only be known to one who lives among
them; flagrant acts of cruelty may be rare, but this ineffable state of
utter degradation, this really _beastly_ existence, is the normal
condition of these men and women, and of that no one seems to take heed,
nor have I ever heard it described so as to form any adequate conception
of it, till I found myself plunged into it;--where and how is one to begin
the cleansing of this horrid pestilential immondezzio of an existence?

It is Wednesday, the 20th of March; we cannot stay here much longer; I
wonder if I shall come back again! and whether, when I do, I shall find
the trace of one idea of a better life left in these poor people's minds
by my sojourn among them.

One of my industries this morning has been cutting out another dress for
one of our women, who had heard of my tailoring prowess at the rice
island. The material, as usual, was a miserable cotton, many-coloured like
the scarf of Iris. While shaping it for my client, I ventured to suggest
the idea of the possibility of a change of the nethermost as well as the
uppermost garment. This, I imagine, is a conception that has never dawned
upon the female slave mind on this plantation. They receive twice a year a
certain supply of clothing, and wear them (as I have heard some nasty fine
ladies do their stays, for fear they should get out of shape), without
washing, till they receive the next suit. Under these circumstances I
think it is unphilosophical, to say the least of it, to speak of the
negroes as a race whose unfragrance is heaven-ordained, and the result of
special organisation.

I must tell you that I have been delighted, surprised, and the very least
perplexed, by the sudden petition on the part of our young waiter, Aleck,
that I will teach him to read. He is a very intelligent lad of about
sixteen, and preferred his request with an urgent humility that was very
touching. I told him I would think about it. I mean to do it. I will do
it,--and yet, it is simply breaking the laws of the government under which
I am living. Unrighteous laws are made to be broken,--_perhaps_,--but
then, you see, I am a woman, and Mr. ---- stands between me and the
penalty. If I were a man, I would do that and many a thing besides, and
doubtless should be shot some fine day from behind a tree by some good
neighbour, who would do the community a service by quietly getting rid of
a mischievous incendiary; and I promise you in such a case no questions
would be asked, and my lessons would come to a speedy and silent end; but
teaching slaves to read is a fineable offence, and I am _feme couverte_,
and my fines must be paid by my legal owner, and the first offence of the
sort is heavily fined, and the second more heavily fined, and for the
third, one is sent to prison. What a pity it is I can't begin with
Aleck's third lesson, because going to prison can't be done by proxy, and
that penalty would light upon the right shoulders! I certainly intend to
teach Aleck to read. I certainly won't tell Mr. ---- anything about it.
I'll leave him to find it out, as slaves, and servants and children, and
all oppressed, and ignorant, and uneducated and unprincipled people do;
then, if he forbids me I can stop--perhaps before then the lad may have
learnt his letters. I begin to perceive one most admirable circumstance in
this slavery: you are absolute on your own plantation. No slaves'
testimony avails against you, and no white testimony exists but such as
you choose to admit. Some owners have a fancy for maiming their slaves,
some brand them, some pull out their teeth, some shoot them a little here
and there (all details gathered from advertisements of runaway slaves in
southern papers); now they do all this on their plantations, where nobody
comes to see, and I'll teach Aleck to read, for nobody is here to see, at
least nobody whose seeing I mind; and I'll teach every other creature that
wants to learn. I haven't much more than a week to remain in this blessed
purgatory, in that last week perhaps I may teach the boy enough to go on
alone when I am gone.

_Thursday, 21st._--I took a long ride to-day all through some new woods
and fields, and finally came upon a large space sown with corn for the
people. Here I was accosted by such a shape as I never beheld in the worst
of my dreams; it looked at first, as it came screaming towards me, like a
live specimen of the arms of the Isle of Man, which, as you may or may not
know, are three legs joined together, and kicking in different directions.
This uncouth device is not an invention of the Manxmen, for it is found on
some very ancient coins,--Greek, I believe; but at any rate it is now the
device of our subject Island of Man, and, like that set in motion, and
nothing else, was the object that approached me, only it had a head where
the three legs were joined, and a voice came out of the head to this
effect, 'Oh missis, you hab to take me out of dis here bird field, me no
able to run after birds, and ebery night me lick because me no run after
dem.' When this apparition reached me and stood as still as it could, I
perceived it consisted of a boy who said his name was 'Jack de bird
driver.' I suppose some vague idea of the fitness of things had induced
them to send this living scarecrow into the cornfield, and if he had been
set up in the midst of it, nobody, I am sure, would have imagined he was
anything else; but it seems he was expected to run after the feathered
fowl who alighted on the grain field, and I do not wonder that he did not
fulfil this expectation. His feet, legs, and knees were all maimed and
distorted, his legs were nowhere thicker than my wrist, his feet were a
yard apart from each other, and his knees swollen and knocking together.
What a creature to ran after birds! He implored me to give him some meat,
and have him sent back to Little St. Simon's Island, from which he came,
and where he said his poor limbs were stronger and better.

Riding home, I passed some sassafras trees, which are putting forth
deliciously fragrant tassels of small leaves and blossoms, and other
exquisite flowering shrubs, which are new to me, and enchant me perhaps
all the more for their strangeness. Before reaching the house, I was
stopped by one of our multitudinous Jennies, with a request for some meat,
and that I would help her with some clothes for Ben and Daphne, of whom
she had the sole charge; these are two extremely pretty and
interesting-looking mulatto children, whose resemblance to Mr. K---- had
induced me to ask Mr. ----, when first I saw them, if he did not think
they must be his children? He said they were certainly like him, but Mr.
K---- did not acknowledge the relationship. I asked Jenny who their mother
was. 'Minda.' 'Who their father?' 'Mr. K----.' 'What! old Mr. K----?' 'No,
Mr. R. K----.' 'Who told you so?' 'Minda, who ought to know.' 'Mr. K----
denies it.' 'That's because he never has looked upon them, nor done a
thing for them.' 'Well, but he acknowledged Renty as his son, why should
he deny these?' 'Because old master was here then, when Renty was born,
and he made Betty tell all about it, and Mr. K---- had to own it; but
nobody knows anything about this, and so he denies it'--with which
information I rode home. I always give you an exact report of any
conversation I may have with any of the people, and you see from this that
the people on the plantation themselves are much of my worthy neighbour
Mr. C----'s mind, that the death of Major ---- was a great misfortune for
the slaves on his estate.

I went to the hospital this afternoon, to see if the condition of the poor
people was at all improved since I had been last there; but nothing had
been done. I suppose Mr. G---- is waiting for Mr. ---- to come down in
order to speak to him about it. I found some miserable new cases of women
disabled by hard work. One poor thing, called Priscilla, had come out of
the fields to-day scarcely able to crawl; she has been losing blood for a
whole fortnight without intermission, and, until to-day, was labouring in
the fields. Leah, another new face since I visited the hospital last, is
lying quite helpless from exhaustion; she is advanced in her pregnancy,
and doing task work in the fields at the same time. What piteous
existences to be sure! I do wonder, as I walk among them, well fed, well
clothed, young, strong, idle, doing nothing but ride and drive about all
day, a woman, a creature like themselves, who have borne children too,
what sort of feeling they have towards me. I wonder it is not one of
murderous hate--that they should lie here almost dying with unrepaid
labour for me. I stand and look at them, and these thoughts work in my
mind and heart, till I feel as if I must tell them how dreadful and how
monstrous it seems to me myself, and how bitterly ashamed and grieved I
feel for it all.

To-day I rode in the morning round poor Cripple Jack's bird field again,
through the sweet spicy-smelling pine land, and home by my new road cut
through Jones's wood, of which I am as proud as if I had made instead of
found it--the grass, flowering shrubs, and all. In the afternoon, I drove
in the wood wagon back to Jones's, and visited Busson Hill on the way,
with performances of certain promises of flannel, quarters of dollars, &c.
&c. At Jones's, the women to-day had all done their work at a quarter past
three, and had swept their huts out very scrupulously for my reception.
Their dwellings are shockingly dilapidated and over-crammed--poor
creatures!--and it seems hard that, while exhorting them to spend labour
in cleaning and making them tidy, I cannot promise them that they shall be
repaired and made habitable for them.

In driving home through my new wood cut, Jack gave me a terrible account
of a flogging that a negro called Glasgow had received yesterday. He
seemed awfully impressed with it; so I suppose it must have been an
unusually severe punishment; but he either would not or could not tell me
what the man had done. On my return to the house, I found Mr. ---- had
come down from the rice plantation, whereat I was much delighted on all
accounts. I am sure it is getting much too late for him to remain in that
pestilential swampy atmosphere; besides I want him to see my improvements
in the new wood paths, and I want him to come and hear all these poor
people's complaints and petitions himself. They have been flocking in to
see him ever since it was known he had arrived. I met coming on that
errand Dandy, the husband of the woman for whom I cut out the gown the
other day; and asking him how it had answered, he gave a piteous account
of its tearing all to pieces the first time she put it on; it had appeared
to me perfectly rotten and good for nothing, and, upon questioning him as
to where he bought it and what he paid for it, I had to hear a sad account
of hardship and injustice. I have told you that the people collect moss
from the trees and sell it to the shopkeepers in Darien for the purpose of
stuffing furniture; they also raise poultry, and are allowed to dispose of
the eggs in the same way. It seems that poor Dandy had taken the miserable
material Edie's gown was made of as payment for a quantity of moss and
eggs furnished by him at various times to one of the Darien storekeepers,
who refused him payment in any other shape, and the poor fellow had no
redress; and this, he tells me, is a frequent experience with all the
slaves both here and at the rice island. Of course, the rascally
shopkeepers can cheat these poor wretches to any extent they please with
perfect impunity.

Mr. ---- told me of a visit Renty paid him, which was not a little curious
in some of its particulars. You know none of the slaves are allowed the
use of fire arms; but Renty put up a petition to be allowed Mr. K----'s
gun, which it seems that gentleman left behind him. Mr. ---- refused this
petition, saying at the same time to the lad that he knew very well that
none of the people were allowed guns. Renty expostulated on the score of
his _white blood_, and finding his master uninfluenced by that
consideration, departed with some severe reflections on Mr. K----, his
father, for not having left him his gun as a keepsake, in token of
(paternal) affection, when he left the plantation.

It is quite late, and I am very tired, though I have not done much more
than usual to-day, but the weather is beginning to be oppressive to me,
who hate heat; but I find the people, and especially the sick in the
hospital, speak of it as cold. I will tell you hereafter of a most comical
account Mr. ---- has given me of the prolonged and still protracted
pseudo-pregnancy of a woman called Markie, who for many more months than
are generally required for the process of continuing the human species,
pretended to be what the Germans pathetically and poetically call 'in good
hope,' and continued to reap increased rations as the reward of her
expectation, till she finally had to disappoint the estate and receive a
flogging.

He told me too, what interested me very much, of a conspiracy among Mr.
C----'s slaves some years ago. I cannot tell you about it now; I will some
other time. It is wonderful to me that such attempts are not being made
the whole time among these people to regain their liberty; probably
because many are made ineffectually, and never known beyond the limits of
the plantation where they take place.

       *       *       *       *       *


Dear E----. We have been having something like northern March
weather--blinding sun, blinding wind, and blinding dust, through all
which, the day before yesterday, Mr. ---- and I rode together round most
of the fields, and over the greater part of the plantation. It was a
detestable process, the more so that he rode Montreal and I Miss Kate, and
we had no small difficulty in managing them both. In the afternoon we had
an equally detestable drive through the new wood paths to St. Annie's, and
having accomplished all my errands among the people there, we crossed over
certain sounds, and seas, and separating waters, to pay a neighbourly
visit to the wife of one of our adjacent planters.

How impossible it would be for you to conceive, even if I could describe,
the careless desolation which pervaded the whole place; the shaggy unkempt
grounds we passed through to approach the house; the ruinous, rackrent,
tumble-down house itself, the untidy, slatternly all but beggarly
appearance of the mistress of the mansion herself. The smallest Yankee
farmer has a tidier estate, a tidier house, and a tidier wife than this
member of the proud southern chivalry, who, however, inasmuch as he has
slaves, is undoubtedly a much greater personage in his own estimation than
those capital fellows W---- and B----, who walk in glory and in joy behind
their ploughs upon your mountain sides. The Brunswick canal project was
descanted upon, and pronounced, without a shadow of dissent, a scheme the
impracticability of which all but convicted its projectors of insanity.
Certainly, if, as I hear the monied men of Boston have gone largely into
this speculation, their habitual sagacity must have been seriously at
fault; for here on the spot nobody mentions the project but as a subject
of utter derision.

While the men discussed about this matter, Mrs. B---- favoured me with the
congratulations I have heard so many times on the subject of my having a
white nursery maid for my children. Of course, she went into the old
subject of the utter incompetency of negro women to discharge such an
office faithfully; but in spite of her multiplied examples of their utter
inefficiency, I believe the discussion ended by simply our both agreeing
that ignorant negro girls of twelve years old are not as capable or
trustworthy as well-trained white women of thirty.

Returning home our route was changed, and Quash the boatman took us all
the way round by water to Hampton. I should have told you that our exit
was as wild as our entrance to this estate and was made through a broken
wooden fence, which we had to climb partly over and partly under, with
some risk and some obloquy, in spite of our dexterity, as I tore my dress,
and very nearly fell flat on my face in the process. Our row home was
perfectly enchanting; for though the morning's wind and (I suppose) the
state of the tide had roughened the waters of the great river, and our
passage was not as smooth as it might have been, the wind had died away,
the evening air was deliciously still, and mild, and soft. A young slip of
a moon glimmered just above the horizon, and 'the stars climbed up the
sapphire steps of heaven,' while we made our way over the rolling,
rushing, foaming waves, and saw to right and left the marsh fires burning
in the swampy meadows, adding another coloured light in the landscape to
the amber-tinted lower sky and the violet arch above, and giving wild
picturesqueness to the whole scene by throwing long flickering rays of
flame upon the distant waters.

_Sunday, the 14th._--I read service again to-day to the people. You cannot
conceive anything more impressive than the silent devotion of their whole
demeanour while it lasted, nor more touching than the profound thanks with
which they rewarded me when it was over, and they took their leave; and
to-day they again left me with the utmost decorum of deportment, and
without pressing a single petition or complaint, such as they ordinarily
thrust upon me on all other occasions, which seems to me an instinctive
feeling of religious respect for the day and the business they have come
upon, which does them infinite credit.

In the afternoon I took a long walk with the chicks in the woods; long at
least for the little legs of S---- and M----, who carried baby. We came
home by the shore, and I stopped to look at a jutting point, just below
which a small sort of bay would have afforded the most capital position
for a bathing house. If we stayed here late in the season, such a
refreshment would become almost a necessary of life, and anywhere along
the bank just where I stopped to examine it to-day, an establishment for
that purpose might be prosperously founded.

I am amused, but by no means pleased, at an entirely new mode of
pronouncing which S---- has adopted. Apparently the negro jargon has
commended itself as euphonious to her infantile ears, and she is now
treating me to the most ludicrous and accurate imitations of it every time
she opens her mouth. Of course I shall not allow this, comical as it is,
to become a habit. This is the way the southern ladies acquire the thick
and inelegant pronunciation which distinguishes their utterances from the
northern snuffle; and I have no desire that S---- should adorn her mother
tongue with either peculiarity. It is a curious and sad enough thing to
observe, as I have frequent opportunities of doing, the unbounded
insolence and tyranny (of manner, of course it can go no farther), of the
slaves towards each other. 'Hi! you boy!' and 'Hi! you girl!' shouted in
an imperious scream, is the civillest mode of apostrophising those at a
distance from them; more frequently it is 'You niggar, you hear? hi! you
niggar!' And I assure you no contemptuous white intonation ever equalled
the _prepotenza_ of the despotic insolence of this address of these poor
wretches to each other.

I have left my letter lying for a couple of days, dear E----. I have been
busy and tired; my walking and riding is becoming rather more laborious to
me, for, though nobody here appears to do so, I am beginning to feel the
relaxing influence of the spring.

The day before yesterday I took a disagreeable ride, all through swampy
fields and charred blackened thickets, to discover nothing either
picturesque or beautiful; the woods in one part of the plantation have
been on fire for three days, and a whole tract of exquisite evergreens has
been burnt down to the ground. In the afternoon I drove in the wood wagon
to visit the people at St. Annie's. There had been rain these last two
nights, and their wretched hovels do not keep out the weather; they are
really miserable abodes for human beings. I think pigs who were at all
particular might object to some of them. There is a woman at this
settlement called Sophy, the wife of a driver, Morris, who is so pretty
that I often wonder if it is only by contrast that I admire her so much,
or if her gentle, sweet, refined face, in spite of its dusky colour, would
not approve itself anywhere to any one with an eye for beauty. Her manner
and voice too are peculiarly soft and gentle; but, indeed, the voices of
all these poor people, men as well as women, are much pleasanter and more
melodious than the voices of white people in general. Most of the wretched
hovels had been swept and tidied out in expectation of my visit, and many
were the consequent petitions for rations of meat, flannel, osnaburgs,
etc. Promising all which, in due proportion to the cleanliness of each
separate dwelling, I came away. On my way home I called for a moment at
Jones' settlement to leave money and presents promised to the people
there, for similar improvement in the condition of their huts. I had not
time to stay and distribute my benefactions myself; and so appointed a
particularly bright intelligent looking woman, called Jenny, pay-mistress
in my stead; and her deputed authority was received with the utmost
cheerfulness by them all.

I have been having a long talk with Mr. ---- about Ben and Daphne, those
two young mulatto children of Mr. K----'s, whom I mentioned to you lately.
Poor pretty children! they have refined and sensitive faces as well as
straight regular features; and the expression of the girl's countenance,
as well as the sound of her voice, and the sad humility of her deportment,
are indescribably touching. Mr. B---- expressed the strongest interest in
and pity for them, _because of their colour_: it seems unjust almost to
the rest of their fellow unfortunates that this should be so, and yet it
is almost impossible to resist the impression of the unfitness of these
two forlorn young creatures, for the life of coarse labour and dreadful
degradation to which they are destined. In any of the southern cities the
girl would be pretty sure to be reserved for a worse fate; but even here,
death seems to me a thousand times preferable to the life that is before
her.

In the afternoon I rode with Mr. ---- to look at the fire in the woods. We
did not approach it, but stood where the great volumes of smoke could be
seen rising steadily above the pines, as they have now continued to do for
upwards of a week; the destruction of the pine timber must be something
enormous. We then went to visit Dr. and Mrs. G----, and wound up these
exercises of civilized life by a call on dear old Mr. C----, whose nursery
and kitchen garden are a real refreshment to my spirits. How completely
the national character of the worthy canny old Scot is stamped on the care
and thrift visible in his whole property, the judicious successful culture
of which has improved and adorned his dwelling in this remote corner of
the earth! The comparison, or rather contrast, between himself and his
quondam neighbour Major ----, is curious enough to contemplate. The Scotch
tendency of the one to turn everything to good account, the Irish
propensity of the other to leave everything to ruin, to disorder, and
neglect; the careful economy and prudent management of the mercantile
man, the reckless profusion, and careless extravagance of the soldier. The
one made a splendid fortune and spent it in Philadelphia, where he built
one of the finest houses that existed there, in the old-fashioned days,
when fine old family mansions were still to be seen breaking the
monotonous uniformity of the Quaker city. The other has resided here on
his estate ameliorating the condition of his slaves and his property, a
benefactor to the people and the soil alike--a useful and a good
existence, an obscure and tranquil one.

Last Wednesday we drove to Hamilton--by far the finest estate on St.
Simon's Island. The gentleman to whom it belongs lives, I believe,
habitually in Paris; but Captain F---- resides on it, and, I suppose, is
the real overseer of the plantation. All the way along the road (we
traversed nearly the whole length of the island) we found great tracts of
wood, all burnt or burning; the destruction had spread in every direction,
and against the sky we saw the slow rising of the smoky clouds that showed
the pine forest to be on fire still. What an immense quantity of property
such a fire must destroy! The negro huts on several of the plantations
that we passed through were the most miserable human habitations I ever
beheld. The wretched hovels at St. Annie's, on the Hampton estate, that
had seemed to me the _ne plus ultra_ of misery, were really palaces to
some of the dirty, desolate, dilapidated dog kennels which we passed
to-day, and out of which the negroes poured like black ants at our
approach, and stood to gaze at us as we drove by.

The planters' residences we passed were only three. It makes one ponder
seriously when one thinks of the mere handful of white people on this
island. In the midst of this large population of slaves, how absolutely
helpless they would be if the blacks were to become restive! They could be
destroyed to a man before human help could reach them from the main, or
the tidings even of what was going on be carried across the surrounding
waters. As we approached the southern end of the island, we began to
discover the line of the white sea sands beyond the bushes and
fields,--and presently, above the sparkling, dazzling line of snowy
white,--for the sands were as white as our English chalk
cliffs,--stretched the deep blue sea line of the great Atlantic Ocean.

We found that there had been a most terrible fire in the Hamilton
woods--more extensive than that on our own plantation. It seems as if the
whole island had been burning at different points for more than a week.
What a cruel pity and shame it does seem to have these beautiful masses of
wood so destroyed! I suppose it is impossible to prevent it. The 'field
hands' make fires to cook their mid-day food wherever they happen to be
working; and sometimes through their careless neglect, but sometimes too
undoubtedly on purpose, the woods are set fire to by these means. One
benefit they consider that they derive from the process is the destruction
of the dreaded rattlesnakes that infest the woodland all over the island;
but really the funeral pyre of these hateful reptiles is too costly at
this price.

Hamilton struck me very much,--I mean the whole appearance of the place;
the situation of the house, the noble water prospect it commanded, the
magnificent old oaks near it, a luxuriant vine trellis, and a splendid
hedge of Yucca gloriosa, were all objects of great delight to me. The
latter was most curious to me, who had never seen any but single specimens
of the plant, and not many of these. I think our green house at the north
boasts but two; but here they were growing close together, and in such a
manner as to form a compact and impenetrable hedge, their spiky leaves
striking out on all sides like _chevaux de frise_, and the tall slender
stems that bear those delicate ivory-coloured bells of blossoms, springing
up against the sky in a regular row. I wish I could see that hedge in
blossom. It must be wonderfully strange and lovely, and must look by
moonlight like a whole range of fairy Chinese pagodas carved in ivory.

At dinner we had some delicious green peas, so much in advance of you are
we down here with the seasons. Don't you think one might accept the
rattlesnakes, or perhaps indeed the slavery, for the sake of the green
peas? 'Tis a world of compensations--a life of compromises, you know; and
one should learn to set one thing against another if one means to thrive
and fare well, i.e. eat green peas on the twenty-eighth of March.

After dinner I walked up and down before the house for a long while with
Mrs. F----, and had a most interesting conversation with her about the
negroes and all the details of their condition. She is a kind-hearted,
intelligent woman; but though she seemed to me to acquiesce, as a matter
of inevitable necessity, in the social system in the midst of which she
was born and lives, she did not appear to me, by several things she
said, to be by any means in love with it. She gave me a very sad
character of Mr. K----, confirming by her general description of him the
impression produced by all the details I have received from our own
people. As for any care for the moral or religious training of the
slaves, that, she said, was a matter that never troubled his thoughts;
indeed, his only notion upon the subject of religion, she said, was,
that it was something _not bad_ for white women and children.

We drove home by moonlight; and as we came towards the woods in the middle
of the island, the fire-flies glittered out from the dusky thickets as if
some magical golden veil was every now and then shaken out into the
darkness. The air was enchantingly mild and soft, and the whole way
through the silvery night delightful.

My dear friend, I have at length made acquaintance with a live
rattlesnake. Old Scylla had the pleasure of discovering it while hunting
for some wood to burn. Israel captured it, and brought it to the house for
my edification. I thought it an evil-looking beast, and could not help
feeling rather nervous while contemplating it, though the poor thing had a
noose round its neck and could by no manner of means have extricated
itself. The flat head, and vivid vicious eye, and darting tongue, were
none of them lovely to behold; but the sort of threatening whirr produced
by its rattle, together with the deepening and fading of the marks on its
skin, either with its respiration or the emotions of fear and anger it was
enduring, were peculiarly dreadful and fascinating. It was quite a young
one, having only two or three rattles in its tail. These, as you probably
know, increase in number by one annually; so that you can always tell the
age of the amiable serpent you are examining--if it will let you count the
number of joints of its rattle. Captain F---- gave me the rattle of one
which had as many as twelve joints. He said it had belonged to a very
large snake which had crawled from under a fallen tree trunk on which his
children were playing. After exhibiting his interesting captive, Israel
killed, stuffed, and presented it to me for preservation as a trophy, and
made me extremely happy by informing me that there was a nest of them
where this one was found. I think with terror of S---- running about with
her little socks not reaching half-way up her legs, and her little frocks
not reaching half-way down them. However, we shall probably not make
acquaintance with many more of these natives of Georgia, as we are to
return as soon as possible now to the north. We shall soon be free again.

This morning I rode to the burnt district, and attempted to go through it
at St. Clair's, but unsuccessfully: it was impossible to penetrate through
the charred and blackened thickets. In the afternoon I walked round the
point, and visited the houses of the people who are our nearest
neighbours. I found poor Edie in sad tribulation at the prospect of
resuming her field labour. It is really shameful treatment of a woman just
after child labour. She was confined exactly three weeks ago to-day, and
she tells me she is ordered out to field work on Monday. She seems to
dread the approaching hardships of her task-labour extremely. Her baby was
born dead, she thinks in consequence of a fall she had while carrying a
heavy weight of water. She is suffering great pain in one of her legs and
sides, and seems to me in a condition utterly unfit for any work, much
less hoeing in the fields; but I dare not interfere to prevent this
cruelty. She says she has already had to go out to work three weeks after
her confinement with each of her other children, and does not complain of
it as anything special in her case. She says that is now the invariable
rule of the whole plantation, though it used not to be so formerly.

I have let my letter lie since I wrote the above, dear E----; but as mine
is a story without beginning, middle, or end, it matters extremely little
where I leave it off or where I take it up; and if you have not, between
my wood rides and sick slaves, come to Falstaff's conclusion that I have
'damnable iteration,' you are patient of sameness. But the days are like
each other; and the rides and the people, and, alas! their conditions, do
not vary.

To-day, however, my visit to the infirmary was marked by an event which
has not occurred before--the death of one of the poor slaves while I was
there. I found on entering the first ward,--to use a most inapplicable
term for the dark, filthy, forlorn room I have so christened,--an old
negro called Friday lying on the ground. I asked what ailed him, and was
told he was dying. I approached him, and perceived, from the glazed eyes
and the feeble rattling breath, that he was at the point of expiring.
His tattered shirt and trousers barely covered his poor body; his
appearance was that of utter exhaustion from age and feebleness; he had
nothing under him but a mere handful of straw that did not cover the
earth he was stretched on; and under his head, by way of pillow for his
dying agony, two or three rough sticks just raising his skull a few
inches from the ground. The flies were all gathering around his mouth,
and not a creature was near him. There he lay,--the worn-out slave,
whose life had been spent in unrequited labour for me and mine,--without
one physical alleviation, one Christian solace, one human sympathy, to
cheer him in his extremity,--panting out the last breath of his wretched
existence, like some forsaken, over-worked, wearied-out beast of
burthen, rotting where it falls! I bent over the poor awful human
creature in the supreme hour of his mortality; and while my eyes,
blinded with tears of unavailing pity and horror, were fixed upon him,
there was a sudden quivering of the eyelids and falling of the jaw,--and
he was free. I stood up, and remained long lost in the imagination of
the change that creature had undergone, and in the tremendous
overwhelming consciousness of the deliverance God had granted the soul
whose cast-off vesture of decay lay at my feet. How I rejoiced for
him--and how, as I turned to the wretches who were calling to me from
the inner room, whence they could see me as I stood contemplating the
piteous object, I wished they all were gone away with him, the
delivered, the freed by death from bitter bitter bondage. In the next
room, I found a miserable, decrepid, old negress, called Charity, lying
sick, and I should think near too to die; but she did not think her work
was over, much as she looked unfit for further work on earth; but with
feeble voice and beseeching hands implored me to have her work lightened
when she was sent back to it from the hospital. She is one of the oldest
slaves on the plantation, and has to walk to her field labour, and back
again at night, a distance of nearly four miles. There were an unusual
number of sick women in the room to-day; among them quite a young girl,
daughter of Boatman Quash's, with a sick baby, who has a father, though
she has no husband. Poor thing! she looks like a mere child herself. I
returned home so very sad and heart-sick that I could not rouse myself
to the effort of going up to St. Annie's with the presents I had
promised the people there. I sent M---- up in the wood wagon with them,
and remained in the house with my thoughts, which were none of the
merriest.

       *       *       *       *       *


Dearest E----. On Friday, I rode to where the rattlesnake was found, and
where I was informed by the negroes there was a _nest_ of them--a pleasing
domestic picture of home and infancy that word suggests, not altogether
appropriate to rattlesnakes, I think. On horseback I felt bold to
accomplish this adventure, which I certainly should not have attempted on
foot; however, I could discover no sign of either snake or nest--(perhaps
it is of the nature of a mare's nest, and undiscoverable); but, having
done my duty by myself in endeavouring to find it, I rode off and coasted
the estate by the side of the marsh, till I came to the causeway. There I
found a new cleared field, and stopped to admire the beautiful appearance
of the stumps of the trees scattered all about it, and wreathed and
garlanded with the most profuse and fantastic growth of various
plants--wild roses being among the most abundant. What a lovely aspect one
side of nature presents here, and how hideous is the other!

In the afternoon, I drove to pay a visit to old Mrs. A----, the lady
proprietress whose estate immediately adjoins ours. On my way thither, I
passed a woman called Margaret walking rapidly and powerfully along the
road. She was returning home from the field, having done her task at three
o'clock; and told me, with a merry beaming black face, that she was going
'to clean up de house, to please de missis.' On driving through my
neighbour's grounds, I was disgusted more than I can express with the
miserable negro huts of her people; they were not fit to shelter
cattle--they were not fit to shelter anything, for they were literally in
holes, and, as we used to say of our stockings at school, too bad to darn.
To be sure, I will say, in excuse for their old mistress, her own
habitation was but a very few degrees less ruinous and disgusting. What
would one of your Yankee farmers say to such abodes? When I think of the
white houses, the green blinds, and the flower plots, of the villages in
New England, and look at these dwellings of lazy filth and inert
degradation, it does seem amazing to think that physical and moral
conditions so widely opposite should be found among people occupying a
similar place in the social scale of the same country. The Northern
farmer, however, thinks it no shame to work, the Southern planter does;
and there begins and ends the difference. Industry, man's crown of honour
elsewhere, is here his badge of utter degradation; and so comes all by
which I am here surrounded--pride, profligacy, idleness, cruelty,
cowardice, ignorance, squalor, dirt, and ineffable abasement.

When I returned home, I found that Mrs. F---- had sent me some magnificent
prawns. I think of having them served singly, and divided as one does a
lobster--their size really suggests no less respect.

_Saturday, 31st._--I rode all through the burnt district and the bush to
Mrs. W----'s field, in making my way out of which I was very nearly
swamped, and, but for the valuable assistance of a certain sable Scipio
who came up and extricated me, I might be floundering hopelessly there
still. He got me out of my Slough of Despond, and put me in the way to a
charming wood ride which runs between Mrs. W----'s and Colonel H----'s
grounds. While going along this delightful boundary of these two
neighbouring estates, my mind not unnaturally dwelt upon the terms of
deadly feud in which the two families owning them are living with each
other. A horrible quarrel has occurred quite lately upon the subject of
the ownership of this very ground I was skirting, between Dr. H---- and
young Mr. W----; they have challenged each other, and what I am going to
tell you is a good sample of the sort of spirit which grows up among
slaveholders. So read it, for it is curious to people who have not lived
habitually among savages. The terms of the challenge that has passed
between them have appeared like a sort of advertisement in the local
paper, and are to the effect that they are to fight at a certain distance
with certain weapons--firearms, of course; that there is to be on the
person of each a white paper, or mark, immediately over the region of the
heart, as a point for direct aim; and whoever kills the other is to have
the privilege of _cutting off his head, and sticking it up on a pole on
the piece of land which was the origin of the debate_; so that, some fine
day, I might have come hither as I did to-day and found myself riding
under the shadow of the gory locks of Dr. H---- or Mr. W----, my peaceful
and pleasant neighbours.

I came home through our own pine woods, which are actually a wilderness
of black desolation. The scorched and charred tree trunks are still
smoking and smouldering; the ground is a sort of charcoal pavement, and
the fire is still burning on all sides, for the smoke was rapidly rising
in several directions on each hand of the path I pursued. Across this
dismal scene of strange destruction, bright blue and red birds, like
living jewels, darted in the brilliant sunshine. I wonder if the fire
has killed and scared away many of these beautiful creatures. In the
afternoon I took Jack with me to clear some more of the wood paths; but
the weather is what I call hot, and what the people here think warm, and
the air was literally thick with little black points of insects, which
they call sand flies, and which settle upon one's head and face
literally like a black net; you hardly see them or feel them at the
time, but the irritation occasioned by them is intolerable, and I had to
relinquish my work and fly before this winged plague as fast as I could
from my new acquaintance the rattlesnakes. Jack informed me, in the
course of our expedition, that the woods on the island were sometimes
burnt away in order to leave the ground in grass for fodder for the
cattle, and that the very beautiful ones he and I had been clearing
paths through were not unlikely to be so doomed, which strikes me as a
horrible idea.

In the evening, poor Edie came up to the house to see me, with an old
negress called Sackey, who has been one of the chief nurses on the island
for many years. I suppose she has made some application to Mr. G---- for a
respite for Edie, on finding how terribly unfit she is for work; or
perhaps Mr. ----, to whom I represented her case, may have ordered her
reprieve; but she came with much gratitude to me (who have, as far as I
know, had nothing to do with it), to tell me that she is not able to be
sent into the field for another week. Old Sackey fully confirmed Edie's
account of the terrible hardships the women underwent in being thus driven
to labour before they had recovered from child-bearing. She said that old
Major ---- allowed the women at the rice island five weeks, and those here
four weeks, to recover from a confinement, and then never permitted them
for some time after they resumed their work to labour in the fields before
sunrise or after sunset; but Mr. K---- had altered that arrangement,
allowing the women at the rice island only four weeks, and those here only
three weeks, for their recovery; 'and then, missis,' continued the old
woman, 'out into the field again, through dew and dry, as if nothing had
happened; that is why, missis, so many of the women have falling of the
womb, and weakness in the back; and if he had continued on the estate, he
would have utterly destroyed all the breeding women.' Sometimes, after
sending them back into the field, at the expiration of their three weeks,
they would work for a day or two, she said, and then fall down in the
field with exhaustion, and be brought to the hospital almost at the point
of death.

Yesterday, Sunday, I had my last service at home with these poor people;
nearly thirty of them came, all clean, neat, and decent, in their dress
and appearance. S---- had begged very hard to join the congregation, and
upon the most solemn promise of remaining still she was admitted; but in
spite of the perfect honour with which she kept her promise, her presence
disturbed my thoughts not a little, and added much to the poignancy of the
feeling with which I saw her father's poor slaves gathered round me. The
child's exquisite complexion, large grey eyes, and solemn and at the same
time eager countenance, was such a wonderful piece of contrast to their
sable faces, so many of them so uncouth in their outlines and proportions,
and yet all of them so pathetic, and some so sublime in their expression
of patient suffering and religious fervour; their eyes never wandered from
me and my child, who sat close by my knee, their little mistress, their
future providence, my poor baby! Dear E----, bless God that you have never
reared a child with such an awful expectation: and at the end of the
prayers, the tears were streaming over their faces, and one chorus of
blessings rose round me and the child--farewell blessings, and prayers
that we would return; and thanks so fervent in their incoherency, it was
more than I could bear, and I begged them to go away and leave me to
recover myself. And then I remained with S----, and for quite a long while
even her restless spirit was still in wondering amazement at my bitter
crying. I am to go next Sunday to the church on the island, where there is
to be service; and so this is my last Sunday with the people.

When I had recovered from the emotion of this scene, I walked out with
S---- a little way, but meeting M---- and the baby, she turned home with
them, and I pursued my walk alone up the road, and home by the shore. They
are threatening to burn down all my woods to make grass land for the
cattle, and I have terrified them by telling them that I will never come
back if they destroy the woods. I went and paid a visit to Mrs. G----;
poor little, well-meaning, helpless woman! what can she do for these poor
people, where I who am supposed to own them can do nothing? and yet how
much may be done, is done, by the brain and heart of one human being in
contact with another! We are answerable for incalculable opportunities of
good and evil in our daily intercourse with every soul with whom we have
to deal; every meeting, every parting, every chance greeting, and every
appointed encounter, are occasions open to us for which we are to account.
To our children, our servants, our friends, our acquaintances,--to each
and all every day, and all day long, we are distributing that which is
best or worst in existence,--influence: with every word, with every look,
with every gesture, something is given or withheld of great importance it
may be to the receiver, of inestimable importance to the giver.

Certainly the laws and enacted statutes on which this detestable system is
built up are potent enough; the social prejudice that buttresses it is
almost more potent still; and yet a few hearts and brains well bent to do
the work, would bring within this almost impenetrable dungeon of
ignorance, misery, and degradation, in which so many millions of human
souls lie buried, that freedom of God which would presently conquer for
them their earthly liberty. With some such thoughts I commended the
slaves on the plantation to the little overseer's wife; I did not tell my
thoughts to her, they would have scared the poor little woman half out of
her senses. To begin with, her bread, her husband's occupation, has its
root in slavery; it would be difficult for her to think as I do of it. I
am afraid her care, even of the bodily habits and sicknesses of the people
left in Mrs. G----'s charge, will not be worth much, for nobody treats
others better than they do themselves; and she is certainly doing her best
to injure herself and her own poor baby, who is two and a-half years old,
and whom she is still suckling.

This is, I think, the worst case of this extraordinary delusion so
prevalent among your women that I have ever met with yet; but they all
nurse their children much longer than is good for either baby or mother.
The summer heat, particularly when a young baby is cutting teeth, is, I
know, considered by young American mothers an exceedingly critical time,
and therefore I always hear of babies being nursed till after the second
summer; so that a child born in January would be suckled till it was
eighteen or nineteen months old, in order that it might not be weaned till
its second summer was over. I am sure that nothing can be worse than this
system, and I attribute much of the wretched ill health of young American
mothers to over nursing; and of course a process that destroys their
health and vigour completely must affect most unfavourably the child they
are suckling. It is a grievous mistake. I remember my charming friend
F---- D---- telling me that she had nursed her first child till her second
was born--a miraculous statement, which I can only believe because she
told it me herself. Whenever anything seems absolutely impossible, the
word of a true person is the only proof of it worth anything.

       *       *       *       *       *


Dear E----. I have been riding into the swamp behind the new house; I had
a mind to survey the ground all round it before going away, to see what
capabilities it afforded for the founding of a garden, but I confess it
looked very unpromising. Trying to return by another way, I came to a
morass, which, after contemplating, and making my horse try for a few
paces, I thought it expedient not to attempt. A woman called Charlotte,
who was working in the field, seeing my dilemma and the inglorious retreat
I was about to make, shouted to me at the top of her voice, 'You no turn
back, missis! if you want to go through, send, missis, send! you hab slave
enough, nigger enough, let 'em come, let 'em fetch planks, and make de
bridge; what you say dey must do,--send, missis, send, missis!' It seemed
to me, from the lady's imperative tone in my behalf, that if she had been
in my place, she would presently have had a corduroy road through the
swamp of prostrate 'niggers,' as she called her family in Ham, and ridden
over the same dry-hoofed; and to be sure, if I pleased, so might I, for,
as she very truly said, 'what you say, missis, they must do.' Instead of
summoning her sooty tribe, however, I backed my horse out of the swamp,
and betook myself to another pretty woodpath, which only wants widening to
be quite charming. At the end of this, however, I found swamp the second,
and out of this having been helped by a grinning facetious personage, most
appropriately named Pun, I returned home in dudgeon, in spite of what dear
Miss M---- calls the 'moral suitability' of finding a foul bog at the end
of every charming wood path or forest ride in this region.

In the afternoon, I drove to Busson Hill, to visit the people there. I
found that both the men and women had done their work at half-past three.
Saw Jema with her child, that ridiculous image of Driver Bran, in her
arms, in spite of whose whitey brown skin she still maintains that its
father is a man as black as herself--and she (to use a most extraordinary
comparison I heard of a negro girl making with regard to her mother) is as
black as 'de hinges of hell.' Query: Did she really mean hinges--or
angels? The angels of hell is a polite and pretty paraphrase for devils,
certainly. In complimenting a woman, called Joan, upon the tidy condition
of her house, she answered, with that cruel humility that is so bad an
element in their character, 'Missis no 'spect to find coloured folks'
house clean as white folks.' The mode in which they have learned to accept
the idea of their own degradation and unalterable inferiority, is the most
serious impediment that I see in the way of their progress, since
assuredly, 'self-love is not so vile a sin as self-neglecting.' In the
same way yesterday, Abraham the cook, in speaking of his brother's theft
at the rice island, said 'it was a shame even for a coloured man to do
such things.' I labour hard, whenever any such observation is made, to
explain to them that the question is one of moral and mental culture,--not
the colour of an integument,--and assure them, much to my own comfort,
whatever it may be to theirs, that white people are as dirty and as
dishonest as coloured folks, when they have suffered the same lack of
decent training. If I could but find one of these women, on whose mind the
idea had dawned that she was neither more nor less than my equal, I think
I should embrace her in an ecstacy of hopefulness.

In the evening, while I was inditing my journal for your edification, Jema
made her appearance with her Bran-brown baby, having walked all the way
down from Busson Hill to claim a little sugar I had promised her. She had
made her child perfectly clean, and it looked quite pretty. When I asked
her what I should give her the sugar in, she snatched her filthy
handkerchief off her head; but I declined this sugar basin, and gave it
to her in some paper. Hannah came on the same errand.

After all, dear E----, we shall not leave Georgia so soon as I expected;
we cannot get off for at least another week. You know, our movements are
apt to be both tardy and uncertain. I am getting sick in spirit of my stay
here; but I think the spring heat is beginning to affect me miserably, and
I long for a cooler atmosphere. Here, on St. Simon's, the climate is
perfectly healthy, and our neighbours, many of them, never stir from their
plantations within reach of the purifying sea influence. But a land that
grows magnolias is not fit for me--I was going to say magnolias and
rattlesnakes; but I remember K----'s adventure with her friend the
rattlesnake of Monument Mountain, and the wild wood-covered hill half-way
between Lenox and Stockbridge, which your Berkshire farmers have
christened Rattlesnake Mountain. These agreeable serpents seem, like the
lovely little humming birds which are found in your northernmost as well
as southernmost States, to have an accommodating disposition with regard
to climate.

Not only is the vicinity of the sea an element of salubrity here; but the
great masses of pine wood growing in every direction indicate lightness of
soil and purity of air. Wherever these fragrant, dry, aromatic fir forests
extend, there can be no inherent malaria, I should think, in either
atmosphere or soil. The beauty and profusion of the weeds and wild
flowers in the fields now is something, too, enchanting. I wish I could
spread one of these enamelled tracts on the side of one of your
snow-covered hills now--for I daresay they are snow-covered yet.

I must give you an account of Aleck's first reading lesson, which took
place at the same time that I gave S---- hers this morning. It was the
first time he had had leisure to come, and it went off most successfully.
He seems to me by no means stupid. I am very sorry he did not ask me to do
this before; however, if he can master his alphabet before I go, he may,
if chance favour him with the occasional sight of a book, help himself on
by degrees. Perhaps he will have the good inspiration to apply to Cooper
London for assistance; I am much mistaken if that worthy does not contrive
that Heaven shall help Aleck, as it formerly did him--in the matter of
reading.

I rode with Jack afterwards, showing him where I wish paths to be cut
and brushwood removed. I passed the new house, and again circumvented it
meditatingly to discover its available points of possible future
comeliness, but remained as convinced as ever that there are absolutely
none. Within the last two days, a perfect border of the dark blue
Virginicum has burst into blossom on each side of the road, fringing it
with purple as far as one can look along it; it is lovely. I must tell
you of something which has delighted me greatly. I told Jack yesterday,
that if any of the boys liked, when they had done their tasks, to come
and clear the paths that I want widened and trimmed, I would pay them a
certain small sum per hour for their labour; and behold, three boys have
come, having done their tasks early in the afternoon, to apply for
_work_ and _wages_: so much for a suggestion not barely twenty-four
hours old, and so much for a prospect of compensation!

In the evenings I attempted to walk out when the air was cool, but had to
run precipitately back into the house to escape from the clouds of
sand-flies that had settled on my neck and arms. The weather has suddenly
become intensely hot; at least, that is what it appears to me. After I had
come in I had a visit from Venus and her daughter, a young girl of ten
years old, for whom she begged a larger allowance of food as, she said,
what she received for her was totally inadequate to the girl's proper
nourishment. I was amazed, upon enquiry, to find that three quarts of
grits a week--that is not a pint a day--was considered a sufficient supply
for children of her age. The mother said her child was half-famished on
it, and it seemed to me terribly little.

My little workmen have brought me in from the woods three darling little
rabbits which they have contrived to catch. They seemed to me slightly
different from our English bunnies; and Captain F----, who called to-day,
gave me a long account of how they differed from the same animal in the
northern States. I did not like to mortify my small workmen by refusing
their present; but the poor little things must be left to run wild again,
for we have no conveniences for pets here, besides we are just weighing
anchor ourselves. I hope these poor little fluffy things will not meet any
rattlesnakes on their way back to the woods.

I had a visit for flannel from one of our Dianas to-day,--who had done her
task in the middle of the day, yet came to receive her flannel,--the most
horribly dirty human creature I ever beheld, unless indeed her child, whom
she brought with her, may have been half a degree dirtier.

The other day, Psyche (you remember the pretty under nurse, the poor thing
whose story I wrote you from the rice plantation) asked me if her mother
and brothers might be allowed to come and see her when we are gone away. I
asked her some questions about them, and she told me that one of her
brothers, who belonged to Mr. K----, was hired by that gentleman to a Mr.
G---- of Darien, and that, upon the latter desiring to purchase him, Mr.
K---- had sold the man without apprising him or any one member of his
family that he had done so--a humane proceeding that makes one's blood
boil when one hears of it. He had owned the man ever since he was a boy.
Psyche urged me very much to obtain an order permitting her to see her
mother and brothers. I will try and obtain it for her, but there seems
generally a great objection to the visits of slaves from neighbouring
plantations, and, I have no doubt, not without sufficient reason. The more
I see of this frightful and perilous social system, the more I feel that
those who live in the midst of it must make their whole existence one
constant precaution against danger of some sort or other.

I have given Aleck a second reading lesson with S----, who takes an
extreme interest in his newly acquired alphabetical lore. He is a very
quick and attentive scholar, and I should think a very short time would
suffice to teach him to read; but, alas! I have not even that short time.
When I had done with my class, I rode off with Jack, who has become quite
an expert horseman, and rejoices in being lifted out of the immediate
region of snakes by the length of his horse's legs. I cantered through the
new wood paths, and took a good sloping gallop through the pine land to
St. Annie's. The fire is actually still burning in the woods. I came home
quite tired with the heat, though my ride was not a long one.

Just as I had taken off my habit and was preparing to start off with
M----and the chicks for Jones's, in the wood wagon, old Dorcas, one of
the most decrepid, rheumatic, and miserable old negresses from the
further end of the plantation, called in to beg for some sugar. She had
walked the whole way from her own settlement, and seemed absolutely
exhausted then, and yet she had to walk all the way back. It was not
otherwise than slightly meritorious in me, my dear E----, to take her up
in the wagon and endure her abominable dirt and foulness in the closest
proximity, rather than let her drag her poor old limbs all that way
back; but I was glad when we gained her abode and lost her company. I am
mightily reminded occasionally in these parts of Trinculo's soliloquy
over Caliban. The people at Jones's had done their work at half-past
three. Most of the houses were tidy and clean, so were many of the
babies. On visiting the cabin of an exceedingly decent woman called
Peggy, I found her, to my surprise, possessed of a fine large bible. She
told me her husband, Carpenter John, can read, and that she means to
make him teach her. The fame of Aleck's literature has evidently reached
Jones's, and they are not afraid to tell me that they can read or wish
to learn to do so. This poor woman's health is miserable; I never saw a
more weakly sickly looking creature. She says she has been broken down
ever since the birth of her last child. I asked her how soon after her
confinement she went out into the field to work again. She answered very
quietly, but with a deep sigh: 'Three weeks, missis; de usual time.' As
I was going away, a man named Martin came up, and with great vehemence
besought me to give him a prayer-book. In the evening, he came down to
fetch it, and to show me that he can read. I was very much pleased to
see that they had taken my hint about nailing wooden slats across the
windows of their poor huts, to prevent the constant ingress of the
poultry. This in itself will produce an immense difference in the
cleanliness and comfort of their wretched abodes. In one of the huts I
found a broken looking-glass; it was the only piece of furniture of the
sort that I had yet seen among them. The woman who owned it was, I am
sorry to say, peculiarly untidy and dirty, and so were her children: so
that I felt rather inclined to scoff at the piece of civilized vanity,
which I should otherwise have greeted as a promising sign.

I drove home, late in the afternoon, through the sweet-smelling woods,
that are beginning to hum with the voice of thousands of insects. My troop
of volunteer workmen is increased to five; five lads working for my wages
after they have done their task work; and this evening, to my no small
amazement, Driver Bran came down to join them for an hour, after working
all day at Five Pound, which certainly shows zeal and energy.

Dear E----, I have been riding through the woods all the morning with
Jack, giving him directions about the clearings, which I have some faint
hope may be allowed to continue after my departure. I went on an exploring
expedition round some distant fields, and then home through the St.
Annie's woods. They have almost stripped the trees and thickets along the
swamp road since I first came here. I wonder what it is for: not fuel
surely, nor to make grass land of, or otherwise cultivate the swamp. I do
deplore these pitiless clearings; and as to this once pretty road, it
looks 'forlorn,' as a worthy Pennsylvania farmer's wife once said to me of
a pretty hill-side from which her husband had ruthlessly felled a
beautiful grove of trees.

I had another snake encounter in my ride this morning. Just as I had
walked my horse through the swamp, and while contemplating ruefully its
naked aspect, a huge black snake wriggled rapidly across the path, and I
pulled my reins tight and opened my mouth wide with horror. These
hideous-looking creatures are, I believe, not poisonous, but they grow to
a monstrous size, and have tremendous _constrictive_ power. I have heard
stories that sound like the nightmare, of their fighting desperately with
those deadly creatures, rattlesnakes. I cannot conceive, if the black
snakes are not poisonous, what chance they have against such antagonists,
let their squeezing powers be what they will. How horrid it did look,
_slithering_ over the road! Perhaps the swamp has been cleared on account
of its harbouring these dreadful worms.

I rode home very fast, in spite of the exquisite fragrance of the wild
cherry blossoms, the carpets and curtains of wild flowers, among which a
sort of glorified dandelion glowed conspicuously; dandelions such as I
should think grew in the garden of Eden, if there were any at all there. I
passed the finest magnolia that I have yet seen; it was magnificent, and
I suppose had been spared for its beauty, for it grew in the very middle
of a cotton field; it was as large as a fine forest tree, and its huge
glittering leaves shone like plates of metal in the sun; what a spectacle
that tree must be in blossom, and I should think its perfume must be smelt
from one end of the plantation to the other. What a glorious creature!
Which do you think ought to weigh most in the scale, the delight of such a
vegetable, or the disgust of the black animal I had just met a few minutes
before? Would you take the one with the other? Neither would I.

I have spent the whole afternoon at home; my 'gang' is busily at work
again. Sawney, one of them, came to join it nearly at sun-down, not having
got through his day's task before. In watching and listening to these
lads, I was constantly struck with the insolent tyranny of their demeanour
towards each other. This is almost a universal characteristic of the
manner of the negroes among themselves. They are diabolically cruel to
animals too, and they seem to me as a rule hardly to know the difference
between truth and falsehood. These detestable qualities, which I
constantly hear attributed to them as innate and inherent in their race,
appear to me the direct result of their condition. The individual
exceptions among them are, I think, quite as many as would be found under
similar circumstances, among the same number of white people.

In considering the whole condition of the people on this plantation, it
appears to me that the principal hardships fall to the lot of the women;
that is, the principal physical hardships. The very young members of the
community are of course idle and neglected; the very very old, idle and
neglected too; the middle-aged men do not appear to me over-worked, and
lead a mere animal existence, in itself not peculiarly cruel or
distressing, but involving a constant element of fear and uncertainty, and
the trifling evils of unrequited labour, ignorance the most profound, (to
which they are condemned by law); and the unutterable injustice which
precludes them from all the merits and all the benefits of voluntary
exertion, and the progress that results from it. If they are absolutely
unconscious of these evils, then they are not very ill-off brutes, always
barring the chance of being given or sold away from their mates or their
young--processes which even brutes do not always relish. I am very much
struck with the vein of melancholy, which assumes almost a poetical tone
in some of the things they say. Did I tell you of that poor old decrepid
creature Dorcas, who came to beg some sugar of me the other day? saying as
she took up my watch from the table and looked at it, 'Ah? I need not look
at this, I have almost done with time!' Was not that striking from such a
poor old ignorant crone?

       *       *       *       *       *


Dear E----. This is the fourth day that I have had a 'gang' of lads
working in the woods for me after their task hours, for pay; you cannot
think how zealous and energetic they are; I daresay the novelty of the
process pleases them almost as much as the money they earn. I must say
they quite deserve their small wages.

Last night I received a present from Mrs. F---- of a drum fish, which
animal I had never beheld before, and which seemed to me first cousin to
the great Leviathan. It is to be eaten, and is certainly the biggest fish
food I ever saw; however, everything is in proportion, and the prawns that
came with it are upon a similarly extensive scale; this magnificent
piscatorial bounty was accompanied by a profusion of Hamilton green peas,
really a munificent supply.

I went out early after breakfast with Jack hunting for new paths; we rode
all along the road by Jones's Creek, and most beautiful it was. We skirted
the plantation burial ground, and a dismal place it looked; the cattle
trampling over it in every direction--except where Mr. K---- had had an
enclosure put up round the graves of two white men who had worked on the
estate. They were strangers, and of course utterly indifferent to the
people here; but by virtue of their white skins, their resting-place was
protected from the hoofs of the cattle, while the parents and children,
wives, husbands, brothers and sisters, of the poor slaves, sleeping
beside them, might see the graves of those they loved trampled upon and
browsed over, desecrated and defiled, from morning till night. There is
something intolerably cruel in this disdainful denial of a common humanity
pursuing these wretches even when they are hid beneath the earth.

The day was exquisitely beautiful, and I explored a new wood path, and
found it all strewed with a lovely wild flower not much unlike a primrose.
I spent the afternoon at home. I dread going out twice a-day now, on
account of the heat and the sand flies. While I was sitting by the window,
Abraham, our cook, went by with some most revolting looking 'raw material'
(part I think of the interior of the monstrous drum fish of which I have
told you). I asked him with considerable disgust what he was going to do
with it, he replied, 'Oh! we coloured people eat it, missis;' said I, 'Why
do you say we coloured people?' 'Because, missis, white people won't touch
what we too glad of.' 'That,' said I, 'is because you are poor, and do not
often have meat to eat, not because you are coloured, Abraham; rich white
folks will not touch what poor white folks are too glad of; it has nothing
in the world to do with colour, and if there were white people here worse
off than you (amazing and inconceivable suggestion, I fear), they would be
glad to eat what you perhaps would not touch.' Profound pause of
meditation on the part of Abraham, wound up by a considerate 'Well,
missis, I suppose so.' After which he departed with the horrid looking
offal.

To-day--Saturday--I took another ride of discovery round the fields by
Jones's. I think I shall soon be able to survey this estate, I have ridden
so carefully over it in every direction; but my rides are drawing to a
close and even were I to remain here this must be the case unless I got up
and rode under the stars in the cool of the night. This afternoon I was
obliged to drive up to St. Annie's: I had promised the people several
times that I would do so. I went after dinner and as late as I could, and
found very considerable improvement in the whole condition of the place;
the houses had all been swept, and some of them actually scoured. The
children were all quite tolerably clean; they had put slats across all
their windows, and little chicken gates to the doors to keep out the
poultry. There was a poor woman lying in one of the cabins in a wretched
condition. She begged for a bandage, but I do not see of what great use
that can be to her, as long as she has to hoe in the fields so many hours
a day, which I cannot prevent.

Returning home, Israel undertook to pilot me across the cotton fields into
the pine land; and a more excruciating process than being dragged over
that very uneven surface in that wood wagon without springs I did never
endure, mitigated and soothed though it was by the literally fascinating
account my charioteer gave me of the rattlesnakes with which the place we
drove through becomes infested as the heat increases. I cannot say that
his description of them, though more demonstrative as far as regarded his
own horror of them, was really worse than that which Mr. G---- was giving
me of them yesterday. He said they were very numerous, and were found in
every direction all over the plantation, but that they did not become
really vicious until quite late in the summer; until then, it appears that
they generally endeavour to make off if one meets them, but during the
intense heats of the latter part of July and August they never think of
escaping, but at any sight or sound which they may consider inimical, they
instantly coil themselves for a spring. The most intolerable proceeding on
their part, however, that he described, was their getting up into the
trees, and either coiling themselves in or depending from the branches.
There is something too revolting in the idea of serpents looking down upon
one from the shade of the trees to which one may betake oneself for
shelter in the dreadful heat of the southern midsummer; decidedly I do not
think the dog-days would be pleasant here. The mocassin snake, which is
nearly as deadly as the rattlesnake, abounds all over the island.

In the evening, I had a visit from Mr. C---- and Mr. B----, who officiates
to-morrow at our small island church. The conversation I had with these
gentlemen was sad enough. They seem good and kind and amiable men, and I
have no doubt are conscientious in their capacity of slaveholders; but to
one who has lived outside this dreadful atmosphere, the whole tone of
their discourse has a morally muffled sound, which one must hear to be
able to conceive. Mr. B---- told me that the people on this plantation not
going to church was the result of a positive order from Mr. K----, who had
peremptorily forbidden their doing so, and of course to have infringed
that order would have been to incur severe corporal chastisement. Bishop
B----, it seems, had advised that there should be periodical preaching on
the plantations, which, said Mr. B----, would have obviated any necessity
for the people of different estates congregating at any given point at
stated times, which might perhaps be objectionable, and at the same time
would meet the reproach which was now beginning to be directed towards the
southern planters as a class, of neglecting the eternal interest of their
dependents. But Mr. K---- had equally objected to this. He seems to have
held religious teaching a mighty dangerous thing--and how right he was! I
have met with conventional cowardice of various shades and shapes in
various societies that I have lived in; but anything like the pervading
timidity of tone which I find here on all subjects, but above all on that
of the condition of the slaves, I have never dreamed of. Truly slavery
begets slavery, and the perpetual state of suspicion and apprehension of
the slaveholders is a very handsome offset, to say the least of it,
against the fetters and the lash of the slaves. Poor people, one and all,
but especially poor oppressors of the oppressed! The attitude of these men
is really pitiable; they profess (perhaps some of them strive to do so
indeed) to consult the best interests of their slaves, and yet shrink back
terrified from the approach of the slightest intellectual or moral
improvement which might modify their degraded and miserable existence. I
do pity these deplorable servants of two masters more than any human
beings I have ever seen--more than their own slaves a thousand times!

To-day is Sunday, and I have been to the little church on the island. It
is the second time since I came down to the south that I have been to a
place of worship. A curious little incident prefaced my going thither this
morning. I had desired Israel to get my horse ready and himself to
accompany me, as I meant to ride to church; and you cannot imagine
anything droller than his horror and dismay when he at length comprehended
that my purpose was to attend divine service in my riding habit. I asked
him what was the trouble, for though I saw something was creating a
dreadful convulsion in his mind, I had no idea what it was till he told
me, adding, that he had never seen such a thing on St. Simon's in his
life--as who should say, such a thing was never seen in Hyde Park or the
Tuileries before. You may imagine my amusement, but presently I was
destined to shock something much more serious than poor Israel's sense of
_les convénances et bienséances_, and it was not without something of an
effort that I made up my mind to do so. I was standing at the open window
speaking to him about the horses, and telling him to get ready to ride
with me, when George, another of the men, went by with a shade or visor to
his cap exactly the shape of the one I left behind at the north, and for
want of which I have been suffering severely from the intense heat and
glare of the sun for the last week. I asked him to hand me his cap,
saying, 'I want to take the pattern of that shade.' Israel exclaimed, 'Oh
missis, not to-day; let him leave the cap with you to-morrow, but don't
cut pattern on de Sabbath day!' It seemed to me a much more serious matter
to offend this scruple than the prejudice with regard to praying in a
riding habit; still it had to be done. 'Do you think it wrong, Israel,'
said I, 'to work on Sunday?' 'Yes, missis, parson tell we so.' 'Then,
Israel, be sure you never do it. Did your parson never tell you that your
conscience was for yourself and not for your neighbours, Israel?' 'Oh yes,
missis, he tell we that too.' 'Then mind that too, Israel.' The shade was
cut out and stitched upon my cap, and protected my eyes from the fierce
glare of the sun and sand as I rode to church.

On our way, we came to a field where the young corn was coming up. The
children were in the field--little living scarecrows--watching it, of
course, as on a weekday, to keep off the birds. I made Israel observe
this, who replied, 'Oh missis, if de people's corn left one whole day not
watched, not one blade of it remain to-morrow; it must be watched,
missis.' 'What, on the Sabbath day, Israel?' 'Yes, missis, or else we lose
it all.' I was not sorry to avail myself of this illustration of the
nature of works of necessity, and proceeded to enlighten Israel with
regard to what I conceive to be the genuine observance of the Sabbath.

You cannot imagine anything wilder or more beautiful than the situation of
the little rustic temple in the woods where I went to worship to-day, with
the magnificent live oaks standing round it and its picturesque burial
ground. The disgracefully neglected state of the latter, its broken and
ruinous enclosure, and its shaggy weed-grown graves, tell a strange story
of the residents of this island, who are content to leave the
resting-place of their dead in so shocking a condition. In the tiny little
chamber of a church, the grand old litany of the Episcopal Church of
England was not a little shorn of its ceremonial stateliness; clerk there
was none, nor choir, nor organ, and the clergyman did duty for all, giving
out the hymn and then singing it himself, followed as best might be by the
uncertain voices of his very small congregation, the smallest I think I
ever saw gathered in a Christian place of worship, even counting a few of
the negroes who had ventured to place themselves standing at the back of
the church--an infringement on their part upon the privileges of their
betters--as Mr. B---- generally preaches a second sermon to them after the
_white_ service, to which as a rule they are not admitted.

On leaving the church, I could not but smile at the quaint and original
costumes with which Israel had so much dreaded a comparison for my
irreproachable London riding habit. However, the strangeness of it was
what inspired him with terror; but, at that rate, I am afraid a Paris gown
and bonnet might have been in equal danger of shocking his prejudices.
There was quite as little affinity with the one as the other in the
curious specimens of the 'art of dressing' that gradually distributed
themselves among the two or three indescribable machines (to use the
appropriate Scotch title) drawn up under the beautiful oak trees, on which
they departed in various directions to the several plantations on the
island.

I mounted my horse, and resumed my ride and my conversation with Israel.
He told me that Mr. K----'s great objection to the people going to church
was their meeting with the slaves from the other plantations; and one
reason, he added, that he did not wish them to do that was, that they
trafficked and bartered away the cooper's wares, tubs, piggins, &c., made
on the estate. I think, however, from everything I hear of that gentleman,
that the mere fact of the Hampton people coming in contact with the slaves
of other plantations would be a thing he would have deprecated. As a
severe disciplinarian, he was probably right.

In the course of our talk, a reference I made to the Bible, and Israel's
answer that he could not read, made me ask him why his father had never
taught any of his sons to read; old Jacob, I know, can read. What followed
I shall never forget. He began by giving all sorts of childish unmeaning
excuses and reasons for never having tried to learn--became confused and
quite incoherent,--and then, suddenly stopping, and pulling up his horse,
said, with a look and manner that went to my very heart; 'Missis, what for
me learn to read? me have no prospect!' I rode on without venturing to
speak to him again for a little while. When I had recovered from that
remark of his, I explained to him that, though indeed 'without prospect'
in some respects, yet reading might avail him much to better his
condition, moral, mental, and physical. He listened very attentively, and
was silent for a minute; after which he said:--'All you say very true,
missis, and me sorry now me let de time pass; but you know what de white
man dat goberns de estate him seem to like and favour, dat de people find
out bery soon and do it; now, Massa K----, him neber favour our reading,
him not like it; likely as not he lick you if he find you reading, or if
you wish to teach your children, him always say, "Pooh, teach 'em to
read--teach 'em to work." According to dat, we neber paid much attention
to it, but now it will be different; it was different in former times. De
old folks of my father and mother's time could read more than we can, and
I expect de people will dare to give some thought to it again now.'
There's a precious sample of what one man's influence may do in his own
sphere, dear E----! This man Israel is a remarkably fine fellow in every
way, with a frank, open, and most intelligent countenance, which rises
before me with its look of quiet sadness whenever I think of those words
(and they haunt me), 'I have no prospect.'

On my arrival at home, I found that a number of the people, not knowing I
had gone to church, had come up to the house, hoping that I would read
prayers to them, and had not gone back to their homes, but waited to see
me. I could not bear to disappoint them, for many of them had come from
the farthest settlements on the estate; and so, though my hot ride had
tired me a good deal, and my talk with Israel troubled me profoundly, I
took off my habit, and had them all in, and read the afternoon service to
them. When it was over, two of the women--Venus and Trussa--asked if they
might be permitted to go to the nursery and see the children. Their
account of the former condition of the estate was a corroboration of
Israel's. They said that the older slaves on the plantation had been far
better off than the younger ones of the present day; that Major ---- was
considerate and humane to his people; and that the women were especially
carefully treated. But they said Mr. K---- had ruined all the young women
with working them too soon after their confinements; and as for the elder
ones, he would kick them, curse them, turn their clothes over their heads,
flog them unmercifully himself, and abuse them shamefully, no matter what
condition they were in. They both ended with fervent thanks to God that he
had left the estate, and rejoicing that we had come, and, above all, that
we 'had made young missis for them.' Venus went down on her knees,
exclaiming, 'Oh, missis, I glad now; and when I am dead, I glad in my
grave that you come to us and bring us little missis.'

       *       *       *       *       *


Dear E----. I still go on exploring, or rather surveying, the estate, the
aspect of which is changing every day with the unfolding of the leaves and
the wonderful profusion of wild flowers. The cleared ground all round the
new building is one sheet of blooming blue of various tints; it is
perfectly exquisite. But in the midst of my delight at these new blossoms,
I am most sorrowfully bidding adieu to that paragon of parasites, the
yellow jasmine; I think I must have gathered the very last blossoms of it
to-day. Nothing can be more lovely, nothing so exquisitely fragrant. I was
surprised to recognise by their foliage, to-day, some fine mulberry
trees, by Jones's Creek; perhaps they are the remains of the silk-worm
experiment that Mr. C---- persuaded Major ---- to try so ineffectually.
While I was looking at some wild plum and cherry trees that were already
swarming with blight in the shape of multitudinous caterpillars' nests, an
ingenuous darkie, by name Cudgie, asked me if I could explain to him why
the trees blossomed out so fair, and then all 'went off into a kind of
dying.' Having directed his vision and attention to the horrid white
glistening webs, all lined with their brood of black devourers, I left him
to draw his own conclusions.

The afternoon was rainy, in spite of which I drove to Busson Hill, and had
a talk with Bran about the vile caterpillar blights on the wild plum
trees, and asked him if it would not be possible to get some sweet grafts
from Mr. C---- for some of the wild fruit trees, of which there are such
quantities. Perhaps, however, they are not worth grafting. Bran promised
me that the people should not be allowed to encumber the paths and the
front of their houses with unsightly and untidy heaps of oyster shells. He
promised all sorts of things. I wonder how soon after I am gone they will
all return into the condition of brutal filth and disorder in which I
found them.

The men and women had done their work here by half-past three. The chief
labour in the cotton fields, however, is both earlier and later in the
season. At present they have little to do but let the crop grow. In the
evening I had a visit from the son of a very remarkable man, who had been
one of the chief drivers on the estate in Major ----'s time, and his son
brought me a silver cup which Major ---- had given his father as a
testimonial of approbation, with an inscription on it recording his
fidelity and trustworthiness at the time of the invasion of the coast of
Georgia by the English troops. Was not that a curious reward for a slave
who was supposed not to be able to read his own praises? And yet, from the
honourable pride with which his son regarded this relic, I am sure the
master did well so to reward his servant, though it seemed hard that the
son of such a man should be a slave. Maurice himself came with his
father's precious silver cup in his hand, to beg for a small pittance of
sugar, and for a prayer-book, and also to know if the privilege of a milch
cow for the support of his family, which was among the favours Major ----
allowed his father, might not be continued to him. He told me he had ten
children 'working for massa,' and I promised to mention his petition to
Mr. ----.

On Sunday last, I rode round the woods near St. Annie's and met with a
monstrous snake, which Jack called a chicken snake; but whether because it
particularly affected poultry as its diet, or for what other reason, he
could not tell me. Nearer home, I encountered another gliding creature,
that stopped a moment just in front of my horse's feet, as if it was too
much afraid of being trampled upon to get out of the way; it was the only
snake animal I ever saw that I did not think hideous. It was of a
perfectly pure apple green colour, with a delicate line of black like a
collar round its throat; it really was an exquisite worm, and Jack said it
was harmless. I did not, however, think it expedient to bring it home in
my bosom, though if ever I have a pet snake, it shall be such an one.

In the afternoon, I drove to Jones's with several supplies of flannel for
the rheumatic women and old men. We have ridden over to Hamilton again, to
pay another visit to the F----s, and on our way passed an enormous
rattlesnake, hanging dead on the bough of a tree. Dead as it was, it
turned me perfectly sick with horror, and I wished very much to come back
to the north immediately, where these are not the sort of blackberries
that grow on every bush. The evening air now, after the heat of the day,
is exquisitely mild, and the nights dry and wholesome, the whole
atmosphere indescribably fragrant with the perfume of flowers; and as I
stood, before going to bed last night, watching the slow revolving light
on Sapelo Island, that warns the ships from the dangerous bar at the
river's mouth, and heard the measured pulse of the great Atlantic waters
on the beach, I thought no more of rattlesnakes--no more, for one short
while, of slavery. How still, and sweet, and solemn, it was!

We have been paying more friendly and neighbourly visits, or rather
returning them; and the recipients of these civilised courtesies on our
last calling expedition were the family one member of which was a party
concerned in that barbarous challenge I wrote you word about. Hitherto
that very brutal and bloodthirsty cartel appears to have had no result.
You must not on that account imagine that it will have none. At the north,
were it possible for a duel intended to be conducted on such savage terms
to be matter of notoriety, the very horror of the thing would create a
feeling of grotesqueness, and the antagonists in such a proposed encounter
would simply incur an immense amount of ridicule and obloquy. But here
nobody is astonished and nobody ashamed of such preliminaries to a mortal
combat between two gentlemen, who propose firing at marks over each
other's hearts, and cutting off each other's heads; and though this
agreeable party of pleasure has not come off yet, there seems to be no
reason why it should not at the first convenient season. Reflecting upon
all which, I rode not without trepidation through Colonel H----'s grounds,
and up to his house. Mr. W----'s head was not stuck upon a pole anywhere
within sight, however, and as soon as I became pretty sure of this, I
began to look about me, and saw instead a trellis tapestried with the most
beautiful roses I ever beheld, another of these exquisite southern
flowers--the Cherokee rose. The blossom is very large, composed of four
or five pure white petals, as white and as large as those of the finest
Camellia with a bright golden eye for a focus; the buds and leaves are
long and elegantly slender, like those of some tea roses, and the green of
the foliage is dark and at the same time vivid and lustrous; it grew in
masses so as to form almost a hedge, all starred with these wonderful
white blossoms, which, unfortunately, have no perfume.

We rode home through the pine land to Jones's, looked at the new house
which is coming on hideously, saw two beautiful kinds of trumpet
honeysuckle already lighting up the woods in every direction with gleams
of scarlet, and when we reached home found a splendid donation of
vegetables, flowers, and mutton from our kind neighbour Mrs. F----, who is
a perfect Lady Bountiful to us. This same mutton, however--my heart bleeds
to say it--disappeared the day after it was sent to us. Abraham the cook
declares that he locked the door of the safe upon it, which I think may be
true, but I also think he unlocked it again. I am sorry; but, after all,
it is very natural these people should steal a little of our meat from us
occasionally, who steal almost all their bread from them habitually.

I rode yesterday to St. Annie's with Mr. ----. We found a whole tract of
marsh had been set on fire by the facetious negro called Pun, who had
helped me out of it some time ago. As he was set to work in it, perhaps it
was with a view of making it less damp; at any rate, it was crackling,
blazing, and smoking cheerily, and I should think would be insupportable
for the snakes. While stopping to look at the conflagration, Mr. ---- was
accosted by a three parts naked and one part tattered little she
slave--black as ebony, where her skin was discoverable through its perfect
incrustation of dirt--with a thick mat of frizzly wool upon her skull,
which made the sole request she preferred to him irresistibly
ludicrous:--'Massa, massa, you please to buy me a comb to tick in my
head?' Mr. ---- promised her this necessary of life, and I promised myself
to give her the luxury of one whole garment. Mrs. ---- has sent me the
best possible consolation for the lost mutton, some lovely flowers, and
these will not be stolen.

       *       *       *       *       *


_Saturday, the 13th._--Dear E----, I rode to-day through all my woodpaths
for the last time with Jack, and I think I should have felt quite
melancholy at taking leave of them and him, but for the apparition of a
large black snake, which filled me with disgust and nipped my other
sentiments in the bud. Not a day passes now that I do not encounter one or
more of these hateful reptiles; it is curious how much more odious they
are to me than the alligators that haunt the mud banks of the river round
the rice plantation. It is true that there is something very dreadful in
the thick shapeless mass, uniform in colour almost to the black slime on
which it lies basking, and which you hardly detect till it begins to
move. But even those ungainly crocodiles never sickened me as those rapid,
lithe, and sinuous serpents do. Did I ever tell you that the people at the
rice plantation caught a young alligator and brought it to the house, and
it was kept for some time in a tub of water? It was an ill-tempered little
monster; it used to set up its back like a cat when it was angry, and open
its long jaws in a most vicious manner.

After looking at my new path in the pine land, I crossed Pike Bluff, and
breaking my way all through the burnt district, returned home by Jones's.
In the afternoon, we paid a long visit to Mr. C----. It is extremely
interesting to me to talk with him about the negroes; he has spent so much
of his life among them, has managed them so humanely, and apparently so
successfully, that his experience is worthy of all attention. And yet it
seems to me that it is impossible, or rather, perhaps, for those very
reasons it is impossible, for him ever to contemplate them in any
condition but that of slavery. He thinks them very like the Irish, and
instanced their subserviency, their flattering, their lying, and
pilfering, as traits common to the character of both peoples. But I cannot
persuade myself that in both cases, and certainly in that of the negroes,
these qualities are not in great measure the result of their condition. He
says that he considers the extremely low diet of the negroes one reason
for the absence of crimes of a savage nature among them; most of them do
not touch meat the year round. But in this respect they certainly do not
resemble the Irish, who contrive upon about as low a national diet as
civilisation is acquainted with, to commit the bloodiest and most frequent
outrages with which civilisation has to deal. His statement that it is
impossible to bribe the negroes to work on their own account with any
steadiness may be generally true, but admits of quite exceptions enough to
throw doubt upon its being natural supineness in the race rather than the
inevitable consequence of denying them the entire right to labour for
their own profit. Their laziness seems to me the necessary result of their
primary wants being supplied, and all progress denied them. Of course, if
the natural spur to exertion, necessity, is removed, you do away with the
will to work of a vast proportion of all who do work in the world. It is
the law of progress that a man's necessities grow with his exertions to
satisfy them, and labour and improvement thus continually act and react
upon each other to raise the scale of desire and achievement; and I do not
believe that, in the majority of instances among any people on the face of
the earth, the will to labour for small indulgences would survive the loss
of freedom and the security of food enough to exist upon. Mr. ---- said
that he had offered a bribe of twenty dollars apiece, and the use of a
pair of oxen, for the clearing of a certain piece of land, to the men on
his estate, and found the offer quite ineffectual to procure the desired
result; the land was subsequently cleared as usual task work under the
lash. Now, certainly, we have among Mr. ----'s people instances of men who
have made very considerable sums of money by boat-building in their
leisure hours, and the instances of almost life-long persevering stringent
labour by which slaves have at length purchased their own freedom and that
of their wives and children, are on record in numbers sufficient to prove
that they are capable of severe sustained effort of the most patient and
heroic kind for that great object, liberty. For my own part, I know no
people who doat upon labour for its own sake; and it seems to me quite
natural to any absolutely ignorant and nearly brutish man, if you say to
him, 'No effort of your own can make you free, but no absence of effort
shall starve you,' to decline to work for anything less than mastery over
his whole life, and to take up with his mess of porridge as the
alternative. One thing that Mr. ---- said seemed to me to prove rather too
much. He declared that his son, objecting to the folks on his plantation
going about bare-headed, had at one time offered a reward of a dollar to
those who should habitually wear hats without being able to induce them to
do so, which he attributed to sheer careless indolence; but I think it was
merely the force of the habit of going uncovered rather than absolute
laziness. The universal testimony of all present at this conversation was
in favour of the sweetness of temper and natural gentleness of
disposition of the negroes; but these characteristics they seemed to think
less inherent than the result of diet and the other lowering influences of
their condition; and it must not be forgotten that on the estate of this
wise and kind master a formidable conspiracy was organised among his
slaves.

We rowed home through a world of stars, the stedfast ones set in the still
blue sky, and the flashing swathes of phosphoric light turned up by our
oars and keel in the smooth blue water. It was lovely.

       *       *       *       *       *


_Sunday, 14th._--My dear E----. That horrid tragedy with which we have
been threatened, and of which I was writing to you almost jestingly a few
days ago, has been accomplished, and apparently without exciting anything
but the most passing and superficial sensation in this community. The duel
between Dr. H---- and Mr. W---- did not take place, but an accidental
encounter in the hotel at Brunswick did, and the former shot the latter
dead on the spot. He has been brought home and buried here by the little
church close to his mother's plantation; and the murderer, if he is even
prosecuted, runs no risk of finding a jury in the whole length and breadth
of Georgia who could convict him of anything. It is horrible.

I drove to church to-day in the wood wagon, with Jack and Aleck, Hector
being our charioteer, in a gilt guard-chain and pair of slippers to match
as the Sabbatic part of his attire. The love of dirty finery is not a
trait of the Irish in Ireland, but I think it crops out strongly when they
come out here; and the proportion of their high wages put upon their backs
by the young Irish maid-servants in the north, indicates a strong
addiction to the female passion for dress. Here the tendency seems to
exist in men and women alike; but I think all savage men rejoice, even
more than their women, in personal ornamentation. The negroes certainly
show the same strong predilection for finery with their womenkind.

I stopped before going into church to look at the new grave that has taken
its place among the defaced stones, all overgrown with briers, that lie
round it. Poor young W----! poor widowed mother, of whom he was the only
son! What a savage horror! And no one seems to think anything of it, more
than of a matter of course. My devotions were anything but satisfactory or
refreshing to me. My mind was dwelling incessantly upon the new grave
under the great oaks outside, and the miserable mother in her home. The
air of the church was perfectly thick with sand-flies; and the disgraceful
carelessness of the congregation in responding and singing the hymns, and
their entire neglect of the prayer-book regulations for kneeling,
disturbed and displeased me even more than the last time I was at church;
but I think that was because of the total absence of excitement or
feeling among the whole population of St. Simon's upon the subject of the
bloody outrage with which my mind was full, which has given me a sensation
of horror towards the whole community. Just imagine--only it is impossible
to imagine--such a thing taking place in a New England village; the
dismay, the grief, the shame, the indignation, that would fill the hearts
of the whole population. I thought we should surely have some reference to
the event from the pulpit, some lesson of Christian command over furious
passions. Nothing--nobody looked or spoke as if anything unusual had
occurred; and I left the church, rejoicing to think that I was going away
from such a dreadful state of society. Mr. B---- remained to preach a
second sermon to the negroes--the duty of submission to masters who
intermurder each other.

I had service at home in the afternoon, and my congregation was much more
crowded than usual; for I believe there is no doubt at last that we shall
leave Georgia this week. Having given way so much before when I thought I
was praying with these poor people for the last time, I suppose I had, so
to speak, expended my emotion; and I was much more composed and quiet than
when I took leave of them before. But, to tell you the truth, this
dreadful act of slaughter done in our neighbourhood by one man of our
acquaintance upon another, impresses me to such a degree that I can hardly
turn my mind from it, and Mrs. W---- and her poor young murdered son have
taken almost complete possession of my thoughts.

After prayers I gave my poor people a parting admonition, and many charges
to remember me and all I had tried to teach them during my stay. They
promised with one voice to mind and do all that 'missis tell we;' and with
many a parting benediction, and entreaties to me to return, they went
their way. I think I have done what I could for them--I think I have done
as well as I could by them; but when the time comes for ending any human
relation, who can be without their misgivings? who can be bold to say, I
could have done no more, I could have done no better?

In the afternoon I walked out, and passed many of the people, who are now
beginning, whenever they see me, to say, 'Good bye, missis!' which is
rather trying. Many of them were clean and tidy, and decent in their
appearance to a degree that certainly bore strong witness to the temporary
efficacy of my influence in this respect. There is, however, of course
much individual difference even with reference to this, and some take much
more kindly and readily to cleanliness, no doubt to godliness too, than
some others. I met Abraham, and thought that, in a quiet tête-à-tête, and
with the pathetic consideration of my near departure to assist me, I could
get him to confess the truth about the disappearance of the mutton; but he
persisted in the legend of its departure through the locked door; and as
I was only heaping sins on his soul with every lie I caused him to add to
the previous ones, I desisted from my enquiries. Dirt and lying are the
natural tendencies of humanity, which are especially fostered by slavery.
Slaves may be infinitely wrong, and yet it is very hard to blame them.

I returned home, finding the heat quite oppressive. Late in the evening,
when the sun had gone down a long time, I thought I would try and breathe
the fresh sea air, but the atmosphere was thick with sand-flies, which
drove me in at last from standing listening to the roar of the Atlantic on
Little St. Simon's Island, the wooded belt that fends off the ocean surges
from the north side of Great St. Simon's. It is a wild little sand-heap,
covered with thick forest growth, and belongs to Mr. ----. I have long had
a great desire to visit it. I hope yet to be able to do so before our
departure.

I have just finished reading, with the utmost interest and admiration,
J---- C----'s narrative of his escape from the wreck of the Poolaski: what
a brave, and gallant, and unselfish soul he must be! You never read
anything more thrilling, in spite of the perfect modesty of this account
of his. If I can obtain his permission, and squeeze out the time, I will
surely copy it for you. The quiet unassuming character of his usual
manners and deportment adds greatly to his prestige as a hero. What a fine
thing it must be to be such a man!

       *       *       *       *       *


Dear E----. We shall leave this place next Thursday or Friday, and there
will be an end to this record; meantime I am fulfilling all sorts of last
duties, and especially those of taking leave of my neighbours, by whom the
neglect of a farewell visit would be taken much amiss.

On Sunday, I rode to a place called Frederica to call on a Mrs. A----, who
came to see me some time ago. I rode straight through the island by the
main road that leads to the little church.

How can I describe to you the exquisite spring beauty that is now adorning
these woods, the variety of the fresh new-born foliage, the fragrance of
the sweet wild perfumes that fill the air? Honeysuckles twine round every
tree; the ground is covered with a low white-blossomed shrub more fragrant
than lilies of the valley. The accacuas are swinging their silver censers
under the green roof of these wood temples; every stump is like a
classical altar to the sylvan gods, garlanded with flowers; every post, or
stick, or slight stem, like a Bacchante's thyrsus, twined with wreaths of
ivy and wild vine, waving in the tepid wind. Beautiful butterflies flicker
like flying flowers among the bushes, and gorgeous birds, like winged
jewels, dart from the boughs,--and--and--a huge ground snake slid like a
dark ribbon, across the path while I was stopping to enjoy all this
deliciousness, and so I became less enthusiastic, and cantered on past
the little deserted churchyard, with the new-made grave beneath its grove
of noble oaks, and a little farther on reached Mrs. A----'s cottage, half
hidden in the midst of ruins and roses.

This Frederica is a very strange place; it was once a town, _the_ town,
the metropolis of the island. The English, when they landed on the coast
of Georgia in the war, destroyed this tiny place, and it has never been
built up again. Mrs. A----'s, and one other house, are the only dwellings
that remain in this curious wilderness of dismantled crumbling grey walls
compassionately cloaked with a thousand profuse and graceful creepers.
These are the only ruins properly so called, except those of Fort Putnam,
that I have ever seen in this land of contemptuous youth. I hailed these
picturesque groups and masses with the feelings of a European, to whom
ruins are like a sort of relations. In my country, ruins are like a minor
chord in music, here they are like a discord; they are not the relics of
time, but the results of violence; they recall no valuable memories of a
remote past, and are mere encumbrances to the busy present. Evidently they
are out of place in America, except on St. Simon's Island, between this
savage selvage of civilisation and the great Atlantic deep. These heaps of
rubbish and roses would have made the fortune of a sketcher; but I imagine
the snakes have it all to themselves here, and are undisturbed by camp
stools, white umbrellas, and ejaculatory young ladies.

I sat for a long time with Mrs. A----, and a friend of hers staying with
her, a Mrs. A----, lately from Florida. The latter seemed to me a
remarkable woman; her conversation was extremely interesting. She had been
stopping at Brunswick, at the hotel where Dr. H---- murdered young W----,
and said that the mingled ferocity and blackguardism of the men who
frequented the house had induced her to cut short her stay there, and come
on to her friend Mrs. A----'s. We spoke of that terrible crime which had
occurred only the day after she left Brunswick, and both ladies agreed
that there was not the slightest chance of Dr. H----'s being punished in
any way for the murder he had committed; that shooting down a man who had
offended you was part of the morals and manners of the southern gentry,
and that the circumstance was one of quite too frequent occurrence to
cause any sensation, even in the small community where it obliterated one
of the principal members of the society. If the accounts given by these
ladies of the character of the planters in this part of the south may be
believed, they must be as idle, arrogant, ignorant, dissolute, and
ferocious as that mediaeval chivalry to which they are fond of comparing
themselves; and these are southern women, and should know the people among
whom they live.

We had a long discussion on the subject of slavery, and they took as
usual the old ground of justifying the system, _where_ it was administered
with kindness and indulgence. It is not surprising that women should
regard the question from this point of view; they are very seldom _just_,
and are generally treated with more indulgence than justice by men. They
were very patient of my strong expressions of reprobation of the whole
system, and Mrs. A----, bidding me good-bye, said that, for aught she
could tell, I might be right, and might have been led down here by
Providence to be the means of some great change in the condition of the
poor coloured people.

I rode home pondering on the strange fate that has brought me to this
place so far from where I was born, this existence so different in all its
elements from that of my early years and former associations. If I
believed Mrs. A----'s parting words, I might perhaps verify them; perhaps
I may yet verify although I do not believe them. On my return home, I
found a most enchanting bundle of flowers, sent to me by Mrs. G----;
pomegranate blossoms, roses, honeysuckle, everything that blooms two
months later with us in Pennsylvania.

I told you I had a great desire to visit Little St. Simon's, and the day
before yesterday I determined to make an exploring expedition thither. I
took M---- and the children, little imagining what manner of day's work
was before me. Six men rowed us in the 'Lily,' and Israel brought the wood
wagon after us in a flat. Our navigation was a very intricate one, all
through sea swamps and marshes, mud-banks and sand-banks, with great white
shells and bleaching bones stuck upon sticks to mark the channel. We
landed on this forest in the sea by Quash's house, the only human
residence on the island. It was larger and better, and more substantial
than the negro huts in general, and he seemed proud and pleased to do the
honours to us. Thence we set off, by my desire, in the wagon through the
woods to the beach; road there was none, save the rough clearing that the
men cut with their axes before us as we went slowly on. Presently, we came
to a deep dry ditch, over which there was no visible means of proceeding.
Israel told me if we would sit still he would undertake to drive the wagon
into and out of it; and so, indeed, he did, but how he did it is more than
I can explain to you now, or could explain to myself then. A less powerful
creature than Montreal could never have dragged us through; and when we
presently came to a second rather worse edition of the same, I insisted
upon getting out and crossing it on foot. I walked half a mile while the
wagon was dragged up and down the deep gulley, and lifted bodily over some
huge trunks of fallen trees. The wood through which we now drove was all
on fire, smoking, flaming, crackling, and burning round us. The sun glared
upon us from the cloudless sky, and the air was one cloud of sand-flies
and mosquitoes. I covered both my children's faces with veils and
handkerchiefs, and repented not a little in my own breast of the rashness
of my undertaking. The back of Israel's coat was covered so thick with
mosquitoes that one could hardly see the cloth; and I felt as if we should
be stifled, if our way lay much longer through this terrible wood.
Presently we came to another impassable place, and again got out of the
wagon, leaving Israel to manage it as best he could. I walked with the
baby in my arms a quarter of a mile, and then was so overcome with the
heat that I sat down in the burning wood, on the floor of ashes, till the
wagon came up again. I put the children and M---- into it, and continued
to walk till we came to a ditch in a tract of salt marsh, over which
Israel drove triumphantly, and I partly jumped and was partly hauled over,
having declined the entreaties of several of the men to let them lie down
and make a bridge with their bodies for me to walk over. At length we
reached the skirt of that tremendous wood, to my unspeakable relief, and
came upon the white sand hillocks of the beach. The trees were all
strained crooked, from the constant influence of the sea-blast. The coast
was a fearful-looking stretch of dismal, trackless sand, and the ocean lay
boundless and awful beyond the wild and desolate beach, from which we were
now only divided by a patch of low coarse-looking bush, growing as thick
and tangled as heather, and so stiff and compact that it was hardly
possible to drive through it. Yet in spite of this several lads who had
joined our train rushed off into it in search of rabbits, though Israel
called repeatedly to them, warning them of the danger of rattlesnakes. We
drove at last down to the smooth sea sand; and here, outstripping our
guides, was barred farther progress by a deep gully, down which it was
impossible to take the wagon. Israel, not knowing the beach well, was
afraid to drive round the mouth of it; and so it was determined that from
this point we should walk home under his guidance. I sat in the wagon
while he constructed a rough foot-bridge of bits of wood and broken planks
for us, over the narrow chasm, and he then took Montreal out of the wagon
and tied him behind it, leaving him for the other men to take charge of
when they should arrive at this point. And so, having mightily desired to
see the coast of Little St. Simon's Island, I did see it thoroughly; for I
walked a mile and a half round it, over beds of sharp shells, through
swamps half knee deep, poor little S---- stumping along with dogged
heroism, and Israel carrying the baby, except at one deep _mal passo_,
when I took the baby and he carried S----; and so, through the wood round
Quash's house, where we arrived almost fainting with fatigue and heat, and
where we rested but a short time; for we had to start almost immediately
to save the tide home.

I called at Mr. C----'s on my way back, to return him his son's
manuscript, which I had in the boat for that purpose. I sent Jack, who
had come to meet me with the horses, home, being too tired to attempt
riding; and, covered with mud literally up to my knees I was obliged to
lie down ignominiously all the afternoon to rest. And now I will give you
a curious illustration of the utter subserviency of slaves. It seems that
by taking the tide in proper season, and going by boat, all that horrible
wood journey might have been avoided, and we could have reached the beach,
with perfect ease in half the time; but because, being of course
absolutely ignorant of this, I had expressed a desire to go through the
wood, not a syllable of remonstrance was uttered by any one; and the men
not only underwent the labour of cutting a path for the wagon and dragging
it through and over all the impediments we encountered, but allowed me and
the children to traverse that burning wood, rather than tell me that by
waiting and taking another way I could get to the sea. When I expressed my
astonishment at their not having remonstrated against my order, and
explained how I could best achieve the purpose I had in view, the sole
answer I got even from Israel was, 'Missis say so, so me do; missis say me
go through the wood, me no tell missis go another way.' You see, my dear
E----, one had need bethink oneself what orders one gives, when one has
the misfortune to be despotic.

How sorry I am that I have been obliged to return that narrative of Mr.
C----'s without asking permission to copy it, which I did not do because
I should not have been able to find the time to do it! We go away the day
after to-morrow. All the main incidents of the disaster the newspapers
have made you familiar with--the sudden and appalling loss of that fine
vessel laden with the very flower of the south. There seems hardly to be a
family in Georgia and South Carolina that had not some of its members on
board that ill-fated ship. You know it was a sort of party of pleasure
more than anything else; the usual annual trip to the north for change of
air and scene, for the gaieties of Newport and Saratoga, that all the
wealthy southern people invariably take every summer.

The weather had been calm and lovely; and dancing, talking, and laughing,
as if they were in their own drawing-rooms, they had passed the time away
till they all separated for the night. At the first sound of the exploding
boiler, Mr. C---- jumped up, and in his shirt and trousers ran on deck.
The scene was one of horrible confusion; women screaming, men swearing,
the deck strewn with broken fragments of all descriptions, the vessel
leaning frightfully to one side, and everybody running hither and thither
in the darkness in horror and dismay. He had left Georgia with Mrs. F----
and Mrs. N----, the two children, and one of the female servants of these
ladies under his charge. He went immediately to the door of the ladies'
cabin and called Mrs. F----; they were all there half-dressed; he bade
them dress as quickly as possible and be ready to follow and obey him. He
returned almost instantly, and led them to the side of the vessel, where,
into the boats, that had already been lowered, desperate men and women
were beginning to swarm, throwing themselves out of the sinking ship. He
bade Mrs. F---- jump down into one of these boats which was only in the
possession of two sailors; she instantly obeyed him, and he threw her
little boy to the men after her. He then ordered Mrs. N----, with the
negro woman, to throw themselves off the vessel into the boat, and, with
Mrs. N----'s baby in his arms, sprang after them. His foot touched the
gunwale of the boat, and he fell into the water; but recovering himself
instantly, he clambered into the boat, which he then peremptorily ordered
the men to set adrift, in spite of the shrieks, and cries, and commands,
and entreaties of the frantic crowds who were endeavouring to get into it.
The men obeyed him, and rowing while he steered, they presently fell
astern of the ship, in the midst of the darkness and tumult and terror.
Another boat laden with people was near them. For some time they saw the
heartrending spectacle of the sinking vessel, and the sea strewn with
mattresses, seats, planks, &c, to which people were clinging, floating,
and shrieking for succour, in the dark water all round them. But they
gradually pulled further and further out of the horrible chaos of despair,
and, with the other boat still consorting with them, rowed on. They
watched from a distance the piteous sight of the ill-fated steamer
settling down, the gay girdle of light that marked the line of her
beautiful saloons and cabins gradually sinking nearer and nearer to the
blackness, in which they were presently extinguished; and the ship, with
all its precious human freight engulfed--all but the handful left in those
two open boats, to brave the dangers of that terrible coast!

They were somewhere off the North Carolina shore, which, when the daylight
dawned, they could distinctly see, with its ominous line of breakers and
inhospitable perilous coast. The men had continued rowing all night, and
as the summer sun rose flaming over their heads, the task of pulling the
boat became dreadfully severe; still they followed the coast, Mr. C----
looking out for any opening, creek, or small inlet, that might give them a
chance of landing in safety. The other boat rowed on at some little
distance from them.

All the morning, and through the tremendous heat of the middle day, they
toiled on without a mouthful of food--without a drop of water. At length,
towards the afternoon, the men at the oars said they were utterly
exhausted and could row no longer, and that Mr. C---- must steer the boat
ashore. With wonderful power of command, he prevailed on them to continue
their afflicting labour. The terrible blazing sun pouring on all their
unsheltered heads had almost annihilated them; but still there lay
between them and the land those fearful foaming ridges, and the women and
children, if not the men themselves, seemed doomed to inevitable death in
the attempt to surmount them. Suddenly they perceived that the boat that
had kept them company was about to adventure itself in the perilous
experiment of landing. Mr. C---- kept his boat's head steady, the men
rested on their oars, and watched the result of the fearful risk they were
themselves about to run. They saw the boat enter the breakers--they saw
her whirled round and capsized, and then they watched, slowly emerging and
dragging themselves out of the foaming sea, _some_, and only some, of the
people that they knew the boat contained. Mr. C----, fortified with this
terrible illustration of the peril that awaited them, again besought them
to row yet for a little while further along the coast, in search of some
possible place to take the boat safely to the beach, promising at sunset
to give up the search; and again the poor men resumed their toil, but the
line of leaping breakers stretched along the coast as far as eye could
see, and at length the men declared they could labour no longer, and
insisted that Mr. C---- should steer them to shore. He then said that he
would do so, but they must take some rest before encountering the peril
which awaited them, and for which they might require whatever remaining
strength they could command. He made the men leave the oars and lie down
to sleep for a short time, and then, giving the helm to one of them, did
the same himself. When they were thus a little refreshed with this short
rest, he prepared to take the boat into the breakers.

He laid Mrs. N----'s baby on her breast, and wrapped a shawl round and
round her body so as to secure the child to it, and said, in the event of
the boat capsizing, he would endeavour to save her and her child. Mrs.
F---- and her boy he gave in charge to one of the sailors, and the
coloured woman who was with her to the other; and they promised solemnly,
in case of misadventure to the boat, to do their best to save these
helpless creatures; and so they turned, as the sun was going down, the
bows of the boat to the terrible shore. They rose two of the breakers
safely, but then the oar of one of the men was struck from his hand, and
in an instant the boat whirled round and turned over. Mr. C---- instantly
struck out to seize Mrs. N----, but she had sunk, and though he dived
twice he could not see her; at last, he felt her hair floating loose with
his foot, and seizing hold of it, grasped her securely and swam with her
to shore. While in the act of doing so, he saw the man who had promised to
save the coloured woman making alone for the beach; and even then, in that
extremity, he had power of command enough left to drive the fellow back to
seek her, which he did, and brought her safe to land. The other man kept
his word of taking care of Mrs. F----, and the latter never released her
grasp of her child's wrist, which bore the mark of her agony for weeks
after their escape. They reached the sands, and Mrs. N----'s shawl having
been unwound, her child was found laughing on her bosom. But hardly had
they had time to thank God for their deliverance when Mr. C---- fell
fainting on the beach; and Mrs. F----, who told me this, said that for one
dreadful moment they thought that the preserver of all their lives had
lost his own in the terrible exertion and anxiety that he had undergone.
He revived, however, and crawling a little further up the beach, they
burrowed for warmth and shelter as well as they could in the sand, and lay
there till the next morning, when they sought and found succour.

You cannot imagine, my dear E----, how strikingly throughout this whole
narrative the extraordinary power of Mr. C----'s character makes itself
felt,--the immediate obedience that he obtained from women whose terror
might have made them unmanageable, and men whose selfishness might have
defied his control; the wise though painful firmness, which enabled him to
order the boat away from the side of the perishing vessel, in spite of the
pity that he felt for the many, in attempting to succour whom he could
only have jeopardized the few whom he was bound to save; the wonderful
influence he exercised over the poor oarsmen, whose long protracted labour
postponed to the last possible moment the terrible risk of their landing.
The firmness, courage, humanity, wisdom, and presence of mind, of all his
preparations for their final tremendous risk, and the authority which he
was able to exercise while struggling in the foaming water for his own
life and that of the woman and child he was saving, over the man who was
proving false to a similar sacred charge,--all these admirable traits are
most miserably transmitted to you by my imperfect account; and when I
assure you that his own narrative, full as it necessarily was of the
details of his own heroism, was as simple, modest, and unpretending, as it
was interesting and touching, I am sure you will agree with me that he
must be a very rare man. When I spoke with enthusiasm to his old father of
his son's noble conduct, and asked him if he was not proud of it, his sole
reply was,--'I am glad, madam, my son was not selfish.'

Now, E----, I have often spoken with you and written to you of the
disastrous effect of slavery upon the character of the white men
implicated in it; many, among themselves, feel and acknowledge it to the
fullest extent, and no one more than myself can deplore that any human
being I love should be subjected to such baneful influences; but the devil
must have his due, and men brought up in habits of peremptory command over
their fellow men, and under the constant apprehension of danger, and awful
necessity of immediate readiness to meet it, acquire qualities precious to
themselves and others in hours of supreme peril such as this man passed
through, saving by their exercise himself and all committed to his charge.
I know that the southern men are apt to deny the fact that they do live
under an habitual sense of danger; but a slave population, coerced into
obedience, though unarmed and half fed, _is_ a threatening source of
constant insecurity, and every southern _woman_ to whom I have spoken on
the subject, has admitted to me that they live in terror of their slaves.
Happy are such of them as have protectors like J---- C----. Such men will
best avoid and best encounter the perils that may assail them from the
abject subject, human element, in the control of which their noble
faculties are sadly and unworthily employed.

_Wednesday, 17th April._--I rode to-day after breakfast, to Mrs. D----'s,
another of my neighbours, who lives full twelve miles off. During the last
two miles of my expedition, I had the white sand hillocks and blue line of
the Atlantic in view. The house at which I called was a tumble-down
barrack of a dwelling in the woods, with a sort of poverty-stricken
pretentious air about it, like sundry 'proud planters' dwellings that I
have seen. I was received by the sons as well as the lady of the house,
and could not but admire the lordly rather than manly indifference, with
which these young gentlemen, in gay guard chains and fine attire, played
the gallants to me, while filthy, bare-footed half naked negro women
brought in refreshments, and stood all the while fanning the cake, and
sweetmeats, and their young masters, as if they had been all the same sort
of stuff. I felt ashamed for the lads. The conversation turned upon Dr.
H----'s trial; for there has been a trial as a matter of form, and an
acquittal as a matter of course; and the gentlemen said, upon my
expressing some surprise at the latter event, that there could not be
found in all Georgia a jury who would convict him, which says but little
for the moral sense of 'all Georgia.' From this most painful subject we
fell into the Brunswick canal, and thereafter I took my leave and rode
home. I met my babies in the wood-wagon, and took S---- up before me, and
gave her a good gallop home. Having reached the house with the appetite of
a twenty-four miles' ride, I found no preparation for dinner, and not so
much as a boiled potato to eat, and the sole reply to my famished and
disconsolate exclamations was--'Being that you order none, missis, I not
know.' I had forgotten to order my dinner, and my _slaves_, unauthorised,
had not ventured to prepare any. Wouldn't a Yankee have said, 'Wal now,
you went off so uncommon quick, I kinder guessed you forgot all about
dinner,' and have had it all ready for me? But my slaves durst not, and so
I fasted till some tea could be got for me.

       *       *       *       *       *


This was the last letter I wrote from the plantation, and I never returned
there, nor ever saw again any of the poor people among whom I lived during
this winter, but Jack, once, under sad circumstances. The poor lad's
health failed so completely, that his owners humanely brought him to the
north, to try what benefit he might derive from the change; but this was
before the passing of the Fugitive Slave Bill, when touching the soil of
the northern states, a slave became free; and such was the apprehension
felt lest Jack should be enlightened as to this fact by some philanthropic
abolitionist, that he was kept shut up in a high upper room of a large
empty house, where even I was not allowed to visit him. I heard at length
of his being in Philadelphia; and upon my distinct statement that I
considered freeing their slaves the business of the Messrs. ----
themselves, and not mine, I was at length permitted to see him. Poor
fellow! coming to the north did not prove to him the delight his eager
desire had so often anticipated from it; nor under such circumstances is
it perhaps much to be wondered at that he benefited but little by the
change,--he died not long after.

I once heard a conversation between Mr. O---- and Mr. K----, the two
overseers of the plantation on which I was living, upon the question of
taking slaves, servants, necessary attendants, into the northern states;
Mr. O---- urged the danger of their being 'got hold of,' i.e., set free
by the abolitionists, to which Mr. K---- very pertinently replied, 'Oh,
stuff and nonsense, I take care when my wife goes north with the children,
to send Lucy with her; _her children are down here, and I defy all the
abolitionists in creation to get her to stay north_.' Mr. K---- was an
extremely wise man.



APPENDIX


I wrote the following letter after reading several leading articles in the
_Times_ newspaper, at the time of the great sensation occasioned by Mrs.
Beecher Stowe's novel of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' and after the Anti-Slavery
Protest which that book induced the women of England to address to those
of America, on the subject of the condition of the slaves in the southern
states.


My dear E----. I have read the articles in the _Times_ to which you refer,
on the subject of the inaccuracy of Mrs. Beecher Stowe's book as a picture
of slavery in America, and have ascertained who they were written by.
Having done so, I do not think it worth while to send my letter for
insertion, because, as that is the tone deliberately taken upon the
subject by that paper, my counter statement would not, I imagine, be
admitted into its columns. I enclose it to you, as I should like you to
see how far from true, according to my experience, the statements of the
'_Times'_ Correspondent' are. It is impossible of course to know why it
erects itself into an advocate for slavery; and the most charitable
conjecture I can form upon the subject is, that the Stafford House
demonstration may have been thought likely to wound the sensitive national
views of America upon this subject; and the statement put forward by the
_Times_, contradicting Mrs. Stowe's picture, may be intended to soothe
their irritation at the philanthropic zeal of our lady abolitionists.

Believe me, dear E----,

Yours always truly,

F.A.K.

       *       *       *       *       *


_Letter to the Editor of the_ 'Times.'

Sir,--As it is not to be supposed that you consciously afford the support
of your great influence to misstatements, I request your attention to some
remarks I wish to make on an article on a book called 'Uncle Tom's Cabin
as it is,' contained in your paper of the 11th. In treating Mrs. Harriet
Beecher Stowe's work as an exaggerated picture of the evils of slavery, I
beg to assure you that you do her serious injustice:--of the merits of her
book as a work of art, I have no desire to speak,--to its power as a most
interesting and pathetic story, all England and America can bear
witness,--but of its truth and moderation as a representation of the
slave system in the United States, I can testify with the experience of
an eye witness, having been a resident in the Southern States, and had
opportunities of observation such as no one who has not lived on a slave
estate can have. It is very true that in reviving the altogether exploded
fashion of making the hero of her novel 'the perfect monster that the
world ne'er saw,' Mrs. Stowe has laid herself open to fair criticism, and
must expect to meet with it from the very opposite taste of the present
day; but the ideal excellence of her principal character is no argument at
all against the general accuracy of her statements with regard to the
evils of slavery;--everything else in her book is not only possible, but
probable, and not only probable, but a very faithful representation of the
existing facts:--faithful, and not, as you accuse it of being,
exaggerated; for, with the exception of the horrible catastrophe, the
flogging to death of poor Tom, she has pourtrayed none of the most
revolting instances of crime produced by the slave system--with which she
might have darkened her picture, without detracting from its perfect
truth. Even with respect to the incident of Tom's death, it must not be
said that if such an event is possible, it is hardly probable; for this is
unfortunately not true. It is not true that the value of the slave as
property infallibly protects his life from the passions of his master. It
is no new thing for a man's passions to blind him to his most obvious and
immediate temporal interests, as well as to his higher and everlasting
ones,--in various parts of the world and stages of civilisation, various
human passions assume successive prominence, and become developed, to the
partial exclusion or deadening of others. In savage existence, and those
states of civilisation least removed from it, the animal passions
predominate. In highly cultivated modern society, where the complicated
machinery of human existence is at once a perpetually renewed cause and
effect of certain legal and moral restraints, which, in the shape of
government and public opinion, protect the congregated lives and interests
of men from the worst outrages of open violence, the natural selfishness
of mankind assumes a different development; and the love of power, of
pleasure, or of pelf, exhibits different phenomena from those elicited
from a savage under the influence of the same passions. The channel in
which the energy and activity of modern society inclines more and more to
pour itself, is the peaceful one of the pursuit of gain. This is
preeminently the case with the two great commercial nations of the earth,
England and America;--and in either England or the Northern States of
America, the prudential and practical views of life prevail so far, that
instances of men sacrificing their money interests at the instigation of
rage, revenge, and hatred, will certainly not abound. But the Southern
slaveholders are a very different race of men from either Manchester
manufacturers or Massachusetts merchants; they are a remnant of barbarism
and feudalism, maintaining itself with infinite difficulty and danger by
the side of the latest and most powerful developement of commercial
civilisation.

The inhabitants of Baltimore, Richmond, Charleston, Savannah, and New
Orleans, whose estates lie like the suburban retreats of our city magnates
in the near neighbourhood of their respective cities, are not now the
people I refer to. They are softened and enlightened by many
influences,--the action of city life itself, where human sympathy, and
human respect, stimulated by neighbourhood, produce salutary social
restraint, as well as less salutary social cowardice. They travel to the
Northern States, and to Europe; and Europe and the Northern States travel
to them; and in spite of themselves, their peculiar conditions receive
modifications from foreign intercourse. The influence, too, of commercial
enterprise, which, in these latter days, is becoming the agent of
civilisation all over the earth, affects even the uncommercial residents
of the Southern cities, and however cordially they may dislike or despise
the mercantile tendencies of Atlantic Americans, or transatlantic
Englishmen, their frequent contact with them breaks down some of the
barriers of difference between them, and humanises the slaveholder of the
great cities into some relation with the spirit of his own times and
country. But these men are but a most inconsiderable portion of the
slaveholding population of the South,--a nation, for as such they should
be spoken of, of men whose organisation and temperament is that of the
southern European; living under the influence of a climate at once
enervating and exciting; scattered over trackless wildernesses of arid
sand and pestilential swamp; entrenched within their own boundaries;
surrounded by creatures absolutely subject to their despotic will;
delivered over by hard necessity to the lowest excitements of drinking,
gambling, and debauchery for sole recreation; independent of all opinion;
ignorant of all progress; isolated from all society--it is impossible to
conceive a more savage existence within the pale of any modern
civilisation.

The South Carolinan gentry have been fond of styling themselves the
chivalry of the South, and perhaps might not badly represent, in their
relations with their dependents, the nobility of France before the
purifying hurricane of the Revolution swept the rights of the suzerain and
the wrongs of the serf together into one bloody abyss. The planters of the
interior of the Southern and South-Western States, with their furious
feuds and slaughterous combats, their stabbings and pistolings, their
gross sensuality, brutal ignorance, and despotic cruelty, resemble the
chivalry of France before the horrors of the Jacquerie admonished them
that there was a limit even to the endurance of slaves. With such men as
these, human life, even when it can be bought or sold in the market for so
many dollars, is but little protected by considerations of interest from
the effects of any violent passion. There is yet, however, another aspect
of the question, which is, that it is sometimes clearly _not_ the interest
of the owner to prolong the life of his slaves; as in the case of inferior
or superannuated labourers, or the very notorious instance in which some
of the owners of sugar plantations stated that they found it better worth
their while to _work off_ (i.e. kill with labour) a certain proportion, of
their force, and replace them by new hands every seven years, than work
them less severely and maintain them in diminished efficiency for an
indefinite length of time. Here you will observe a precise estimate of the
planter's material interest led to a result which you argue passion itself
can never be so blind as to adopt. This was a deliberate economical
calculation, openly avowed some years ago by a number of sugar planters in
Louisiana. If, instead of accusing Mrs. Stowe of exaggeration, you had
brought the same charge against the author of the 'White Slave,' I should
not have been surprised; for his book presents some of the most revolting
instances of atrocity and crime that the miserable abuse of irresponsible
power is capable of producing, and it is by no means written in the spirit
of universal humanity which pervades Mrs. Stowe's volumes: but it is not
liable to the charge of exaggeration, any more than her less disgusting
delineation. The scenes described in the 'White Slave' _do_ occur in the
slave States of North America; and in two of the most appalling incidents
of the book--the burning alive of the captured runaway, and the hanging
without trial of the Vicksburg gamblers--the author of the 'White Slave'
has very simply related positive facts of notorious occurrence. To which
he might have added, had he seen fit to do so, the instance of a slave who
perished in the sea swamps, where he was left bound and naked, a prey to
the torture inflicted upon him by the venomous mosquito swarms. My
purpose, however, in addressing you was not to enter into a disquisition
on either of these publications; but I am not sorry to take this
opportunity of bearing witness to the truth of Mrs. Stowe's admirable
book, and I have seen what few Englishmen can see--the working of the
system in the midst of it.

In reply to your 'Dispassionate Observer,' who went to the South
professedly with the purpose of seeing and judging of the state of things
for himself, let me tell you that, little as he may be disposed to believe
it, his testimony is worth less than nothing; for it is morally impossible
for any Englishman going into the Southern States, except as a _resident_,
to know anything whatever of the real condition of the slave population.
This was the case some years ago, as I experienced, and it is now likely
to be more the case than ever; for the institution is not _yet_ approved
divine to the perceptions of Englishmen, and the Southerners are as
anxious to hide its uglier features from any note-making observer from
this side the water, as to present to his admiration and approval such as
can by any possibility be made to wear the most distant approach to
comeliness.

The gentry of the Southern States are preeminent in their own country
for that species of manner which, contrasted with the breeding of the
Northerners, would be emphatically pronounced 'good' by Englishmen. Born
to inhabit landed property, they are not inevitably made clerks and
counting-house men of, but inherit with their estates some of the
invariable characteristics of an aristocracy. The shop is not their
element; and the eager spirit of speculation and the sordid spirit of
gain do not infect their whole existence, even to their very demeanour
and appearance, as they too manifestly do those of a large proportion of
the inhabitants of the Northern States. Good manners have an undue value
for Englishmen, generally speaking; and whatever departs from their
peculiar standard of breeding is apt to prejudice them, as whatever
approaches it prepossesses them, far more than is reasonable. The
Southerners are infinitely better bred men, according to English
notions, than the men of the Northern States. The habit of command gives
them a certain self-possession, the enjoyment of leisure a certain ease.
Their temperament is impulsive and enthusiastic, and their manners have
the grace and spirit which seldom belong to the deportment of a Northern
people; but upon more familiar acquaintance, the vices of the social
system to which they belong will be found to have infected them with
their own peculiar taint; and haughty overbearing irritability,
effeminate indolence, reckless extravagance, and a union of profligacy
and cruelty, which is the immediate result of their irresponsible power
over their dependents, are some of the less pleasing traits which
acquaintance developes in a Southern character. In spite of all this,
there is no manner of doubt that the 'candid English observer' will, for
the season of his sojourning among them, greatly prefer their
intercourse to that of their Northern brethren. Moreover, without in the
least suspecting it, he will be bribed insidiously and incessantly by
the extreme desire and endeavour to please and prepossess him which the
whole white population of the slave States will exhibit--as long as he
goes only as a 'candid observer,' with a mind not _yet_ made up upon the
subject of slavery, and open to conviction as to its virtues. Every
conciliating demonstration of courtesy and hospitable kindness will be
extended to him, and, as I said before, if his observation is permitted
(and it may even appear to be courted), it will be to a fairly bound
purified edition of the black book of slavery, in which, though the
inherent viciousness of the whole story cannot be suppressed, the
coarser and more offensive passages will be carefully expunged. And now,
permit me to observe, that the remarks of your traveller must derive
much of their value from the scene of his enquiry. In Maryland,
Kentucky, and Virginia, the outward aspect of slavery has ceased to wear
its most deplorable features. The remaining vitality of the system no
longer resides in the interests, but in the pride and prejudices of the
planters. Their soil and climate are alike favourable to the labours of
a white peasantry: the slave cultivation has had time to prove itself
there the destructive pest which, in time, it will prove itself wherever
it prevails. The vast estates and large fortunes that once maintained,
and were maintained by, the serfdom of hundreds of negroes, have
dwindled in size and sunk in value, till the slaves have become so heavy
a burthen on the resources of the exhausted soil and impoverished owners
of it, that they are made themselves objects of traffic in order to ward
off the ruin that their increase would otherwise entail. Thus, the
plantations of the Northern slave States now present to the traveller
very few of the darker and more oppressive peculiarities of the system;
and, provided he does not stray too near the precincts where the negroes
are sold, or come across gangs of them on their way to Georgia,
Louisiana, or Alabama, he may, if he is a very superficial observer,
conclude that the most prosperous slavery is not much worse than the
most miserable freedom.

But of what value will be such conclusions applied to those numerous
plantations where no white man ever sets foot without the express
permission of the owner? not estates lying close to Baltimore and
Charleston, or even Lesington or Savannah, but remote and savage
wildernesses like Legree's estate in 'Uncle Tom,' like all the plantations
in the interior of Tennessee and Alabama, like the cotton-fields and
rice-swamps of the great muddy rivers of Lousiana and Georgia, like the
dreary pine barrens and endless woody wastes of north Carolina. These,
especially the islands, are like so many fortresses, approachable for
'observers' only at the owners' will. On most of the rice plantations in
these pestilential regions, no white man can pass the night at certain
seasons of the year without running the risk of his life; and during the
day, the master and overseer are as much alone and irresponsible in their
dominion over their black cattle, as Robinson Crusoe was over his small
family of animals on his desert habitation. Who, on such estates as these,
shall witness to any act of tyranny or barbarity, however atrocious? No
black man's testimony is allowed against a white, and who on the dismal
swampy rice-grounds of the Savannah, or the sugar-brakes of the
Mississippi and its tributaries, or the up country cotton lands of the
Ocamulgee, shall go to perform the task of candid observation and
benevolent enquiry?

I passed some time on two such estates--plantations where the negroes
esteemed themselves well off, and, compared with the slaves on several of
the neighbouring properties, might very well consider themselves so; and
I will, with your permission, contrast some of the items of my observation
with those of the traveller whose report you find so satisfactory on the
subject of the 'consolations' of slavery.

And first, for the attachment which he affirms to subsist between the
slave and master. I do not deny that certain manifestations on the part of
the slave may suggest the idea of such a feeling; but whether upon better
examination it will be found to deserve the name, I very much doubt. In
the first place, on some of the great Southern estates, the owners are
habitual absentees, utterly unknown to their serfs, and enjoying the
proceeds of their labour in residences as remote as possible from the
sands and swamps where their rice and cotton grow, and their slaves bow
themselves under the eye of the white overseer, and the lash of the black
driver. Some of these Sybarites prefer living in Paris, that paradise of
American republicans, some in the capitals of the middle states of the
union, Philadelphia or New York.

The air of New England has a keen edge of liberty, which suits few
Southern constitutions; and unkindly as abolition has found its native
soil and native skies, that is its birthplace, and there it flourishes, in
spite of all attempts to root it out and trample it down, and within any
atmosphere poisoned by its influence no slaveholder can willingly draw
breath. Some travel in Europe, and few, whose means permit the contrary,
ever pass the entire year on their plantations. Great intervals of many
years pass, and no master ever visits some of these properties: what
species of attachment do you think the slave entertains for him? In other
cases, the visits made will be of a few days in one of the winter months;
the estate and its cultivators remaining for the rest of the year under
the absolute control of the overseer, who, provided he contrives to get a
good crop of rice or cotton into the market for his employers, is left to
the arbitrary exercise of a will seldom uninfluenced for evil, by the
combined effects of the grossest ignorance and habitual intemperance. The
temptation to the latter vice is almost irresistible to a white man in
such a climate, and leading an existence of brutal isolation, among a
parcel of human beings as like brutes as they can be made. But the owner
who at these distant intervals of months or years revisits his estates, is
looked upon as a returning providence by the poor negroes. They have no
experience of his character to destroy their hopes in his goodness, and
all possible and impossible ameliorations of their condition are
anticipated from his advent, less work, more food, fewer stripes, and some
of that consideration which the slave hopes may spring from his positive
money value to his owner,--a fallacious dependence, as I have already
attempted to show, but one which, if it has not always predominating
weight with the master, never can have any with the overseer, who has not
even the feeling of regard for his own property to mitigate his
absolutism over the slaves of another man.

There is a very powerful cause which makes the prosperity and well-being
(as far as life is concerned) of most masters a subject of solicitude with
their slaves. The only stability of their condition, such as it is, hangs
upon it. If the owner of a plantation dies, his estates may fall into the
market, and his slaves be sold at public auction the next day; and whether
this promises a better, or threatens a worse condition, the slaves cannot
know, and no human being cares. One thing it inevitably brings, the
uprooting of all old associations; the disruption of all the ties of
fellowship in misery; the tearing asunder of all relations of blood and
affection; the sale into separate and far distant districts of fathers,
mothers, husbands, wives, and children. If the estate does not lie in the
extreme south, there is the vague dread of being driven thither from
Virginia to Georgia, from Carolina to Alabama, or Louisiana, a change
which, for reasons I have shown above, implies the passing from a higher
into a lower circle of the infernal pit of slavery.

I once heard a slave on the plantation of an absentee express the most
lively distress at hearing that his master was ill. Before, however, I had
recovered from my surprise at this warm 'attachment' to a distant and all
but unknown proprietor, the man added, 'massa die, what become of all him
people?'

On my arrival on the plantation where I resided, I was hailed with the
most extravagant demonstrations of delight, and all but lifted off my feet
in the arms of people who had never seen me before; but who, knowing me to
be connected with their owners, expected from me some of the multitudinous
benefits which they always hope to derive from masters. These, until they
come to reside among them, are always believed to be sources of
beneficence and fountains of redress by the poor people, who have known no
rule but the delegated tyranny of the overseer. In these expectations,
however, they very soon find themselves cruelly mistaken. Of course, if
the absentee planter has received a satisfactory income from his estate,
he is inclined to be satisfied with the manager of it, and as
subordination to the only white man among hundreds of blacks must be
maintained at any and every cost, the overseer is justified and upheld in
his whole administration. If the wretched slave ever dared to prefer a
complaint of ill-usage the most atrocious, the law which refuses the
testimony of a black against a white is not only the law of the land, but
of every man's private dealings; and lying being one of the natural
results of slavery, and a tendency to shirk compelled and unrequited
labour another, the overseer stands on excellent vantage-ground, when he
refers to these undoubted characteristics of the system, if called upon to
rebut any charge of cruelty or injustice. But pray consider for a moment
the probability of any such charge being preferred by a poor creature,
who has been for years left to the absolute disposal of this man, and who
knows very well that in a few days, or months at furthest, the master will
again depart, leaving him again for months, perhaps for years, utterly at
the mercy of the man against whom he has dared to prefer a complaint. On
the estates which I visited, the owners had been habitually absent, and
the 'attachment' of slaves to such masters as these, you will allow, can
hardly come under the denomination of a strong personal feeling.

Your authority next states that the infirm and superannuated slaves no
longer capable of ministering to their masters' luxuries, on the estate
that he visited, were ending their lives among all the comforts of home,
with kindred and friends around them, in a condition which he contrasts,
at least by implication, very favourably with the workhouse, the last
refuge provided by the social humanity of England--for the pauper labourer
when he has reached that term when 'unregarded age is in corners thrown.'
On the plantation where I lived the infirmary was a large room, the walls
of which were simply mud and lathes--the floor, the soil itself, damp with
perpetual drippings from the holes in the roof, and the open space which
served for a window was protected only by a broken shutter, which, in
order to exclude the cold, was drawn so near as almost to exclude the
light at the same time. Upon this earthen floor, with nothing but its
hard damp surface beneath him, no covering but a tattered shirt and
trowsers, and a few sticks under his head for a pillow, lay an old man of
upwards of seventy, dying. When I first looked at him I thought by the
glazed stare of his eyes, and the flies that had gathered round his half
open mouth, that he was dead: but on stooping nearer, I perceived that the
last faint struggle of life was still going on, but even while I bent over
him it ceased; and so, like a worn-out hound, with no creature to comfort
or relieve his last agony, with neither Christian solace or human succour
near him, with neither wife, nor child, nor even friendly fellow being to
lift his head from the knotty sticks on which he had rested it, or drive
away the insects that buzzed round his lips and nostrils like those of a
fallen beast, died this poor old slave, whose life had been exhausted in
unrequited labour, the fruits of which had gone to pamper the pride and
feed the luxury of those who knew and cared neither for his life or death,
and to whom, if they had heard of the latter, it would have been a matter
of absolute though small gain, the saving of a daily pittance of meal,
which served to prolong a life no longer available to them.

I proceed to the next item in your observer's record. All children below
the age of twelve were unemployed, he says, on the estate he visited: this
is perhaps a questionable benefit, when, no process of mental cultivation
being permitted, the only employment for the leisure thus allowed is that
of rolling, like dogs or cats, in the sand and the sun. On all the
plantations I visited, and on those where I resided, the infants in arms
were committed to the care of these juvenile slaves, who were denominated
nurses, and whose sole employment was what they call to 'mind baby.' The
poor little negro sucklings were cared for (I leave to your own judgement
how efficiently or how tenderly) by these half-savage slips of
slavery--carried by them to the fields where their mothers were working
under the lash, to receive their needful nourishment, and then carried
back again to the 'settlement,' or collection of negro huts, where they
wallowed unheeded in utter filth and neglect until the time again returned
for their being carried to their mother's breast. Such was the employment
of the children of eight or nine years old, and the only supervision
exercised over either babies or 'baby minders' was that of the old woman
left in charge of the infirmary, where she made her abode all day long and
bestowed such samples of her care and skill upon its inmates as I shall
have occasion to mention presently. The practice of thus driving the
mothers a-field, even while their infants were still dependent upon them
for their daily nourishment, is one of which the evil as well as the
cruelty is abundantly apparent without comment. The next note of
admiration elicited from your 'impartial observer' is bestowed upon the
fact that the domestic servants (i.e. house slaves) on the plantation he
visited were _allowed_ to live away from the owner's residence, and to
marry. But I never was on a southern plantation, and I never heard of one,
where any of the slaves were allowed to sleep under the same roof with
their owner. With the exception of the women to whose care the children of
the planter, if he had any, might be confided, and perhaps a little boy or
girl slave, kept as a sort of pet animal and allowed to pass the night on
the floor of the sleeping apartment of some member of the family, the
residence of _any_ slaves belonging to a plantation night and day in their
master's house, like Northern or European servants, is a thing I believe
unknown throughout the Southern States. Of course I except the cities, and
speak only of the estates, where the house servants are neither better
housed or accommodated than the field-hands. Their intolerably dirty
habits and offensive persons would indeed render it a severe trial to any
family accustomed to habits of decent cleanliness; and, moreover,
considerations of safety, and that cautious vigilance which is a hard
necessity of the planter's existence, in spite of the supposed attachment
of his slaves, would never permit the near proximity, during the
unprotected hours of the night, of those whose intimacy with the daily
habits and knowledge of the nightly securities resorted to might prove
terrible auxiliaries to any attack from without. The city guards, patrols,
and night-watches, together with their stringent rules about negroes
being abroad after night, and their well fortified lock-up houses for all
detected without a pass, afford some security against these attached
dependents; but on remote plantations, where the owner and his family and
perhaps a white overseer are alone, surrounded by slaves and separated
from all succour against them, they do not sleep under the white man's
roof, and, for politic reasons, pass the night away from their master's
abode. The house servants have no other or better allowance of food than
the field labourers, but have the advantage of eking it out by what is
left from the master's table,--if possible, with even less comfort in one
respect, inasmuch as no time whatever is set apart for their meals, which
they snatch at any hour and in any way that they can--generally, however,
standing or squatting on their hams round the kitchen fire; the kitchen
being a mere outhouse or barn with a fire in it. On the estate where I
lived, as I have mentioned, they had no sleeping-rooms in the house; but
when their work was over, they retired like the rest to their hovels, the
discomfort of which had to them all the additional disadvantage of
comparison with their owner's mode of living. In all establishments
whatever, of course some disparity exists between the accommodation of the
drawing-rooms and best bed-rooms and the servants' kitchen and attics; but
on a plantation it is no longer a matter of degree. The young women who
performed the offices of waiting and housemaids, and the lads who
attended upon the service of their master's table where I lived, had
neither table to feed at nor chair to sit down upon themselves; the 'boys'
lay all night on the hearth by the kitchen fire, and the women upon the
usual slave's bed--a frame of rough boards, strewed with a little moss off
the trees, with the addition perhaps of a tattered and filthy blanket. As
for the so-called privilege of marrying--surely it is gross mockery to
apply such a word to a bond which may be holy in God's sight, but which
did not prevent the owner of a plantation where my observations were made
from selling and buying men and their so-called wives and children into
divided bondage, nor the white overseer from compelling the wife of one of
the most excellent and exemplary of his master's slaves to live with
him--nor the white wife of another overseer, in her husband's temporary
absence from the estate, from barbarously flogging three _married_ slaves
within a month of their confinement, their condition being the result of
the profligacy of the said overseer, and probably compelled by the very
same lash by which it was punished. This is a very disgusting picture of
married life on slave estates: but I have undertaken to reply to the
statements of your informant, and I regret to be obliged to record the
facts by which alone I can do so. 'Work,' continues your authority, 'began
at six in the morning, at nine an hour's rest was allowed for breakfast,
and by two or three o'clock the day's work was done.' Certainly this was a
pattern plantation, and I can only lament that my experience lay amid such
far less favourable circumstances. The negroes among whom I lived went to
the fields at daybreak, carrying with them their allowance of food, which
toward noon, and not till then, they ate, cooking it over a fire which
they kindled as best they could where they were working; their _second_
meal in the day was at night after their labour was over, having worked at
the _very least_ six hours without rest or refreshment, since their
noon-day meal--properly so called, indeed, for it was meal and nothing
else, or a preparation something thicker than porridge, which they call
hominy. Perhaps the candid observer, whose report of the estate he visited
appeared to you so consolatory, would think that this diet contrasted
favourably with that of potato and butter-milk fed Irish labourers. But a
more just comparison surely would be with the mode of living of the
labouring population of the United States, the peasantry of Ohio,
Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, or indeed with the condition of those
very potato and butter-milk fed Irishmen when they have exchanged their
native soil for the fields of the Northern and North-Western States, and
when, as one of them once was heard to say, it was no use writing home
that he got meat three times a-day, for nobody in Ireland would believe
it. The next item in the list of commendation is the hospital, which your
informant also visited, and of which he gives the following account--'It
consisted of three separate wards, all clean and well ventilated: one was
for lying-in women, who were invariably allowed a month's rest after their
confinement.' Permit me to place beside this picture that of a Southern
infirmary, such as I saw it, and taken on the spot. In the first room that
I entered I found only half of the windows, of which there were six,
glazed; these were almost as much obscured with dirt as the other
windowless ones were darkened by the dingy shutters which the shivering
inmates had closed in order to protect themselves from the cold. In the
enormous chimney glimmered the powerless embers of a few chips of wood,
round which as many of the sick women as had strength to approach were
cowering, some on wooden settles (there was not such a thing as a chair
with a back in the whole establishment), most of them on the ground,
excluding those who were too ill to rise--and these poor wretches lay
prostrate on the earth, without bedstead, bed, mattress, or pillow, with
no covering but the clothes they had on and some filthy rags of blanket in
which they endeavoured to wrap themselves as they lay literally strewing
the floor, so that there was hardly room to pass between them. Here in
their hour of sickness and suffering lay those whose health and strength
had given way under unrequited labour--some of them, no later than the
previous day, had been urged with the lash to their accustomed tasks--and
their husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons were even at that hour
sweating over the earth whose increase was to procure for others all the
luxuries which health can enjoy, all the comforts which can alleviate
sickness. Here lay women expecting every hour the terror and agonies of
child-birth, others who had just brought their doomed offspring into the
world, others who were groaning over the anguish and bitter disappointment
of miscarriages--here lay some burning with fever, others chilled with
cold and aching with rheumatism, upon the hard cold ground, the draughts
and damp of the atmosphere increasing their sufferings, and dirt, noise,
stench, and every aggravation of which sickness is capable combined in
their condition. There had been among them one or two cases of prolonged
and terribly hard labour; and the method adopted by the ignorant old
negress, who was the sole matron, midwife, nurse, physician, surgeon, and
servant of the infirmary, to assist them in their extremity, was to tie a
cloth tight round the throats of the agonised women, and by drawing it
till she almost suffocated them she produced violent and spasmodic
struggles, which she assured me she thought materially assisted the
progress of the labour. This was one of the Southern infirmaries with
which I was acquainted; and I beg to conclude this chapter of contrasts to
your informant's consolatory views of slavery, by assuring you once more
very emphatically that they have been one and all drawn from estates
where the slaves esteemed themselves well treated, were reputed generally
to be so, and undoubtedly, as far as my observation went, were so,
compared with those on several of the adjoining plantations.

With regard to the statement respecting the sums of money earned by
industrious negroes, there is no doubt that it is perfectly correct. I
knew of some slaves on a plantation in the extreme South who had received,
at various times, large sums of money from a shopkeeper in the small town
near their estate, for the grey moss or lichen collected from the
evergreen oaks of Carolina and Georgia, upon which it hangs in vast
masses, and after some cleaning process becomes an excellent substitute
for horse-hair, for bed, chair, and sofa-stuffing. On another estate, some
of the slaves were expert boat makers, and had been allowed by their
masters to retain the price (no inconsiderable one) for some that they had
found time to manufacture after their day's labour was accomplished. These
were undoubtedly privileges, but I confess it appears to me that the
juster view of the matter would be this--if these men were industrious
enough out of their scanty leisure to earn these sums of money, which a
mere exercise of arbitrary will on the part of the master allowed them to
keep, how much more of remuneration, of comfort, of improvement, physical
and mental, might they not have achieved, had the due price of their daily
labour merely been paid to them? It seems to me that this is the mode of
putting the case to Englishmen, and all who have not agreed to consider
uncertain favour an equivalent for common justice in the dealings of man
with man. As the slaves are well known to toil for years sometimes to
amass the means of rescuing themselves from bondage, the fact of their
being able and sometimes allowed to earn considerable sums of money is
notorious. But now that I have answered one by one the instances you have
produced, with others--I am sure as accurate and I believe as common--of
an entirely opposite description, permit me to ask you what this sort of
testimony amounts to. I allow you full credit for yours, allow me full
credit for mine, and the result is very simply a nullification of the one
by the other statement, and a proof that there is as much good as evil in
the details of slavery; but now, be pleased to throw into the scale this
consideration, that the principle of the whole is unmitigated abominable
evil, as by your own acknowledgement you hold it to be, and add, moreover,
that the principle being invariably bad beyond the power of the best man
acting under it to alter its execrable injustice, the goodness of the
detail is a matter absolutely dependent upon the will of each individual
slaveholder, so that though the best cannot make the system in the
smallest particular better, the bad can make every practical detail of it
as atrocious as the principle itself; and then tell me upon what ground
you palliate a monstrous iniquity, which is the rule, because of the
accidental exceptions which go to prove it. Moreover, if, as you have
asserted, good preponderates over evil in the practice, though not in the
theory of slavery, or it would not maintain its existence, why do you
uphold to us, with so much complacency, the hope that it is surely if not
rapidly approaching its abolishment? Why is the preponderating good, which
has, as you say, proved sufficient to uphold the institution hitherto, to
become (in spite of the spread of civilisation and national progress, and
the gradual improvement of the slaves themselves) inadequate to its
perpetuation henceforward? Or why, if good really has prevailed in it, do
you rejoice that it is speedily to pass away? You say the emancipation of
the slaves is inevitable, and that through progressive culture the negro
of the Southern States daily approaches more nearly to the recovery of the
rights of which he has been robbed. But whence do you draw this happy
augury, except from the hope, which all Christian souls must cherish, that
God will not permit much longer so great a wickedness to darken the face
of the earth? Surely the increased stringency of the Southern slave-laws,
the more than ever vigilant precautions against all attempts to enlighten
or educate the negroes, the severer restrictions on manumission, the
thrusting forth out of certain States of all free persons of colour, the
atrocious Fugitive Slave Bill, one of the latest achievements of
Congress, and the piratical attempts upon Cuba, avowedly on the part of
all Southerners, abetting or justifying it because it will add
slave-territory and 600,000 slaves to their possessions;--surely these do
not seem indications of the better state of things you anticipate, except,
indeed, as the straining of the chain beyond all endurable tightness
significantly suggests the probability of its giving way.

I do not believe the planters have any disposition to put an end to
slavery, nor is it perhaps much to be wondered at that they have not. To
do so is, in the opinion of the majority of them, to run the risk of
losing their property, perhaps their lives, for a benefit which they
profess to think doubtful to the slaves themselves. How far they are right
in anticipating ruin from the manumission of their slaves I think
questionable, but that they do so is certain, and self-impoverishment for
the sake of abstract principle is not a thing to be reasonably expected
from any large mass of men. But, besides the natural fact that the
slaveholders wish to retain their property, emancipation is, in their view
of it, not only a risk of enormous pecuniary loss, and of their entire
social status, but involves elements of personal danger, and above all,
disgust to inveterate prejudices, which they will assuredly never
encounter. The question is not alone one of foregoing great wealth, or the
mere means of subsistence (in either case almost equally hard); it is not
alone the unbinding the hands of those who have many a bloody debt of
hatred and revenge to settle; it is not alone the consenting suddenly to
see by their side, upon a footing of free social equality, creatures
towards whom their predominant feeling is one of mingled terror and
abhorrence, and who, during the whole of their national existence, have
been, as the earth, trampled beneath their feet, yet ever threatening to
gape and swallow them alive. It is not all this alone which makes it
unlikely that the Southern planter should desire to free his slaves:
freedom in America is not merely a personal right, it involves a political
privilege. Freemen there are legislators. The rulers of the land are the
majority of the people, and in many parts of the Southern States the black
free citizens would become, if not at once, yet in process of time,
inevitably voters, landholders, delegates to state legislatures, members
of assembly--who knows?--senators, judges, aspirants to the presidency of
the United States. You must be an American, or have lived long among them,
to conceive the shout of derisive execration with which such an idea would
be hailed from one end of the land to the other.

That the emancipation of the negroes need not necessarily put them in
possession of the franchise is of course obvious, but as a general
consequence the one would follow from the other; and at present certainly
the slaveholders are no more ready to grant the political privilege than
the natural right of freedom. Under these circumstances, though the utmost
commiseration is naturally excited by the slaves, I agree with you that
some forbearance is due to the masters. It is difficult to conceive a more
awful position than theirs: fettered by laws which impede every movement
towards right and justice, and utterly without the desire to repeal
them--dogged by the apprehension of nameless retributions--bound beneath a
burthen of responsibility for which, whether they acknowledge it or not,
they are held accountable by God and men--goaded by the keen consciousness
of the growing reprobation of all civilised Christian communities, their
existence presents the miserable moral counterpart of the physical
condition of their slaves; and it is one compared with which that of the
wretchedest slave is, in my judgement, worthy of envy.

       *       *       *       *       *


_Letter to C.G., Esq._

Before entering upon my answer to your questions, let me state that I have
no claim to be ranked as an abolitionist in the American acceptation of
the word, for I have hitherto held the emancipation of the slaves to be
exclusively the business and duty of their owners, whose highest moral
interest I thought it was to rid themselves of such a responsibility, in
spite of the manifold worldly interests almost inextricably bound up with
it.

This has been my feeling hitherto with regard to the views of the
abolitionists, which I now, however, heartily embrace, inasmuch as I think
that from the moment the United States Government assumed an attitude of
coercion and supremacy towards the Southern States, it was bound with its
fleets and armies to introduce its polity with respect to slavery, and
wherever it planted the standard of the Union to proclaim the universal
freedom which is the recognised law of the Northern United States. That
they have not done so has been partly owing to a superstitious, but
honourable veneration for the letter of their great charter, the
constitution, and still more to the hope they have never ceased to
entertain of bringing back the South to its allegiance under the former
conditions of the Union, an event which will be rendered impossible by any
attempt to interfere with the existence of slavery.

The North, with the exception of an inconsiderable minority of its
inhabitants, has never been at all desirous of the emancipation of the
slaves. The Democratic party which has ruled the United States for many
years past has always been friendly to the slaveholders, who have, with
few exceptions, been all members of it (for by a strange perversion both
of words and ideas, some of the most Democratic States in the Union are
Southern slave States, and in the part of Georgia where the slave
population is denser than in any other part of the South, a county exists
bearing the satirical title of _Liberty County_). And the support of the
South has been given to the Northern Democratic politicians, upon the
distinct understanding that their 'domestic institution' was to be
guaranteed to them.

The condition of the free blacks in the Northern States has of course been
affected most unfavourably by the slavery of their race throughout the
other half of the Union, and indeed it would have been a difficult matter
for Northern citizens to maintain towards the blacks an attitude of social
and political equality as far as the borders of Delaware, while
immediately beyond they were pledged to consider them as the 'chattels' of
their owners, animals no more noble or human than the cattle in their
masters' fields.

How could peace have been maintained if the Southern slaveholders had been
compelled to endure the sight of negroes rising to wealth and eminence in
the Northern cities, or entering as fellow-members with themselves the
halls of that legislature to which all free-born citizens are eligible?
they would very certainly have declined with fierce scorn, not the
fellowship of the blacks alone, but of those white men who admitted the
despised race of their serfs to a footing of such impartial equality. It
therefore was the instinctive, and became the deliberate policy of the
Northern people, once pledged to maintain slavery in the South, to make
their task easy by degrading the blacks in the Northern States to a
condition contrasting as little as possible with that of the Southern
slaves. The Northern politicians struck hands with the Southern
slaveholders, and the great majority of the most enlightened citizens of
the Northern States, absorbed in the pursuit of wealth and the extension
and consolidation of their admirable and wonderful national prosperity,
abandoned the government of their noble country and the preservation of
its nobler institutions to the slaveholding aristocracy of the South--to a
mob of politicians by trade, the vilest and most venal class of men that
ever disgraced and endangered a country--to foreign emigrants, whose
brutish ignorance did not prevent the Democratic party from seizing upon
them as voters, and bestowing on the Irish and German boors just landed on
their shores the same political privileges as those possessed and
intelligently exercised by the farmers and mechanics of New England, the
most enlightened men of their class to be found in the world.

The gradual encroachment of the Southern politicians upon the liberties of
the North, by their unrelaxing influence in Congress and over successive
cabinets and presidents, was not without its effect in stimulating some
resistance on the part of Northern statesmen of sufficient intelligence to
perceive the inevitable results towards which this preponderance in the
national counsels was steadily tending; and I need not remind you of the
rapidity and force with which General Jackson quelled an incipient
rebellion in South Carolina, when Mr. Calhoun made the tariff question the
pretext for a threatened secession in 1832, of the life-long opposition to
Southern pretensions by John Quincy Adams, of the endeavour of Mr. Clay to
stem the growing evil by the conditions of the Missouri compromise, and
all the occasional attempts of individuals of more conscientious
convictions than their fellow-citizens on the subject of the sin of
slavery, from Dr. Channing's eloquent protest on the annexation of Texas,
to Mr. Charles Sumner's philippic against Mr. Brooks of South Carolina.

The disorganisation of the Democratic party, after a cohesion of so many
years, at length changed the aspect of affairs; and the North appeared to
be about to arouse itself from its apathetic consent to Southern
domination. The Republican party, headed by Colonel Fremont, who was known
to be an anti-slavery man, nearly carried the presidential election six
years ago, and then every preparation had been made in the South for the
process of secession, which was only averted by the election of Mr.
Buchanan, a pro-slavery Southern sympathiser, though born in Pennsylvania.
Under his presidency, the Southern statesmen, resuming their attitude of
apparent friendliness with the North, kept in abeyance, maturing and
perfecting by every treasonable practice, for which their preponderating
share in the cabinet afforded them fatal facilities, the plan of the
violent disruption of the Union, upon which they had determined whenever
the Republican party should have acquired sufficient strength, to elect a
president with Northern views. Before, however, this event occurred, the
war in Kansas rang a prophetic peal of warning through the land; and the
struggle there begun between New England emigrants bent on founding a free
state, and Missouri border ruffians determined to make the new territory a
slaveholding addition to the South, might have roused the whole North and
West to the imminence of the peril, by which the safety of the Union was
threatened.

But neither the struggle in Kansas, nor the strange and piteous episode
which grew out of it, of John Brown's attempt to excite an insurrection in
Virginia, and his execution by the government of that State, did more than
startle the North with a nine days' wonder out of its apathetic
indifference. The Republican party, it is true, gained adherents, and
acquired strength by degrees; and Mr. Buchanan's term of office
approaching its expiration, it became apparent that the Democratic party
was about to lose its supremacy, and the slaveholders their dominion; and
no sooner was this evident than the latter threw off the mask, and
renounced their allegiance to the Union. In a day--in an hour
almost--those stood face to face as mortal enemies who were citizens of
the same country, subjects of the same government, children of the same
soil; and the North, incredulous and amazed, found itself suddenly
summoned to retrieve its lost power and influence, and assert the dignity
of the insulted Union against the rebellious attempt of the South to
overthrow it.

But it was late for them to take that task in hand. For years the conduct
of the government of the United States had been becoming a more desperate
and degraded _jobbery_, one from which day by day the Northern gentlemen
of intelligence, influence, and education withdrew themselves in greater
disgust, devoting their energies to schemes of mere personal advantage,
and leaving the commonweal with selfish and contemptuous indifference to
the guidance of any hands less nice and less busy than their own.

Nor would the Southern planters--a prouder and more aristocratic race than
the Northern merchants--have relished the companionship of their
fellow-politicians more than the latter, but _their_ personal interests
were at stake, and immediately concerned in their maintaining their
predominant influence over the government; and while the Boston men wrote
and talked transcendentalism, and became the most accomplished of
_aestetische_ cotton spinners and railroad speculators, and made the shoes
and cow-hides of the Southerners, the latter made their laws; (I believe
New Jersey is really the great cow-hide factory); and the New York men,
owners of the fastest horses and finest houses in the land, having made a
sort of Brummagem Paris of their city, were the bankers and brokers of the
Southerners, while the latter were their legislators.

The grip the slaveholders had fastened on the helm of the State had been
tightening for nearly half a century, till the government of the nation
had become literally theirs, and the idea of their relinquishing it was
one which the North did not contemplate, and they would not tolerate.

If I have said nothing of the grievances which the South has alleged
against the North--its tariff, made chiefly in the interest of the
north-eastern manufacturing States, or its inconsiderable but enthusiastic
Massachusetts and Pennsylvania Abolition party--it is because I do not
believe these causes of complaint would have had the same effect upon any
but a community of slaveholders, men made impatient (by the life-long
habit of despotism), not only of all control, but of any opposition.
Thirty years ago Andrew Jackson--a man of keen sagacity as well as
determined energy--wrote of them that they were bent upon destroying the
Union, and that, whatever was the pretext of their discontent, that was
their aim and purpose. 'To-day,' he wrote, 'it is the tariff, by and by it
will be slavery.' The event has proved how true a prophet he was. My own
conviction is that the national character produced and fostered by
slaveholding is incompatible with free institutions, and that the
Southern aristocracy, thanks to the pernicious influences by which they
are surrounded, are unfit to be members of a Christian republic. It is
slavery that has made the Southerners rebels to their government, traitors
to their country, and the originators of the bloodiest civil war that ever
disgraced humanity and civilisation. It is for their sinful complicity in
slavery, and their shameful abandonment of all their duties as citizens,
that the Northerners are paying in the blood of their men, the tears of
their women, and the treasure which they have till now held more precious
than their birthright. They must now not merely impose a wise restriction
upon slavery, they must be prepared to extinguish it. They neglected and
despised the task of moderating its conditions and checking its growth;
they must now suddenly, in the midst of unparalleled difficulties and
dangers, be ready to deal summarily with its entire existence. They have
loved the pursuit of personal prosperity and pleasure more than their
country; and now they must spend life and living to reconquer their great
inheritance, and win back at the sword's point what Heaven had forbidden
them to lose. Nor are we, here in England, without part in this tremendous
sin and sorrow; we have persisted in feeding our looms, and the huge
wealth they coin, with the produce of slavery. In vain our vast Indian
territory has solicited the advantage of becoming our free cotton
plantation; neither our manufacturers nor our government would venture,
would wait, would spend or lose, for that purpose; the slave-grown harvest
was ready, was abundant, was cheap--and now the thousand arms of our great
national industry are folded in deplorable inactivity; the countless hands
that wrought from morn till night the wealth that was a world's wonder are
stretched unwillingly to beg their bread; and England has never seen a
sadder sight than the enforced idleness of her poor operatives, or a
nobler one than their patient and heroic endurance.

And now you ask me what plan, what scheme, what project the government of
the United States has formed for the safe and successful emancipation of
four millions of slaves, in the midst of a country distracted with all the
horrors of war, and the male population of which is engaged in military
service at a distance from their homes? Most assuredly none. Precipitated
headlong from a state of apparent profound security and prosperity into a
series of calamitous events which have brought the country to the verge of
ruin, neither the nation or its governors have had leisure to prepare
themselves for any of the disastrous circumstances they have had to
encounter, least of all for the momentous change which the President's
proclamation announces as imminent: a measure of supreme importance, not
deliberately adopted as the result of philanthropic conviction or
far-sighted policy, but (if not a mere feint of party politics) the last
effort of the incensed spirit of endurance in the North--a punishment
threatened against rebels, whom they cannot otherwise subdue, and which a
year ago half the Northern population would have condemned upon principle,
and more than half revolted from on instinct.

The country being in a state of war necessarily complicates everything,
and renders the most plausible suggestions for the settlement of the
question of emancipation futile: because from first to last now it will be
one tremendous chapter of accidents, instead of a carefully considered and
wisely prepared measure of government. But supposing the war to have
ceased, either by the success of the Northern arms or by the consent of
both belligerents, the question of manumission in the Southern States when
reduced to the condition of territories or restored to the sway of their
own elected governors and legislatures, though difficult, is by no means
one of insuperable difficulty; and I do not believe that a great nation of
Englishmen, having once the will to rid itself of a danger and a disgrace,
will fail to find a way. The thing, therefore, most to be desired now is,
that Americans may unanimously embrace the purpose of emancipation, and,
though they have been reluctantly driven by the irresistible force of
circumstances to contemplate the measure, may henceforward never avert
their eyes from it till it is accomplished.

When I was in the South many years ago I conversed frequently with two
highly intelligent men, both of whom agreed in saying that the immense
value of the slaves as property was the only real obstacle to their
manumission, and that whenever the Southerners became convinced that it
was their interest to free them they would very soon find the means to do
it. In some respects the conditions are more favourable than those we had
to encounter in freeing our West India slaves. Though the soil and climate
of the Southern States are fertile and favourable, they are not tropical,
and there is no profuse natural growth of fruits or vegetables to render
subsistence possible without labour; the winter temperature is like that
of the Roman States; and even as far south as Georgia and the borders of
Florida, frosts severe enough to kill the orange trees are sometimes
experienced. The inhabitants of the Southern States, throughout by far the
largest portion of their extent, must labour to live, and will undoubtedly
obey the beneficent law of necessity whenever they are made to feel that
their existence depends upon their own exertions. The plan of a gradual
emancipation, preceded by a limited apprenticeship of the negroes to white
masters, is of course often suggested as less dangerous than their entire
and immediate enfranchisement. But when years ago I lived on a Southern
plantation, and had opportunities of observing the miserable results of
the system on everything connected with it--the souls, minds, bodies, and
estates of both races of men, and the very soil on which they existed
together--I came to the conclusion that immediate and entire emancipation
was not only an act of imperative right, but would be the safest and most
profitable course for the interests of both parties. The gradual and
inevitable process of ruin which exhibits itself in the long run on every
property involving slavery, naturally suggests some element of decay
inherent in the system; the reckless habits of extravagance and
prodigality in the masters, the ruinous wastefulness and ignorant
incapacity of the slaves, the deterioration of the land under the
exhausting and thriftless cultivation to which it is subjected, made it
evident to me that there were but two means of maintaining a prosperous
ownership in Southern plantations: either the possession of considerable
capital wherewith to recruit the gradual waste of the energies of the
soil, and supply by all the improved and costly methods of modern
agriculture the means of profitable cultivation (a process demanding, as
English farmers know, an enormous and incessant outlay of both money and
skill), or an unlimited command of fresh soil, to which the slaves might
be transferred as soon as that already under culture exhibited signs of
exhaustion. Now the Southerners are for the most part men whose only
wealth is in their land and labourers--a large force of slaves is their
most profitable investment. The great capitalists and monied men of the
country are Northern men; the planters are men of large estates but
restricted means--many of them are deeply involved in debt, and there are
very few who do not depend from year to year for their subsistence on the
harvest of their fields and the chances of the cotton and rice crops of
each season.

This makes it of vital importance to them to command an unrestricted
extent of territory. The man who can move a 'gang' of able-bodied negroes
to a tract of virgin soil is sure of an immense return of wealth; as sure
as that he who is circumscribed in this respect, and limited to the
cultivation of certain lands with cotton or tobacco by slaves, will in the
course of a few years see his estate gradually exhausted and unproductive,
refusing its increase, while its black population propagating and
multiplying will compel him eventually, under penalty of starvation, to
make _them_ his crop, and substitute, as the Virginians have been
constrained to do, a traffic in human cattle for the cultivation of
vegetable harvests.

The steady decrease of the value of the cotton crop, even on the famous
sea island plantations of Georgia, often suggested to me the inevitable
ruin of the owners within a certain calculable space of time, as the land
became worn out, and the negroes continued to increase in number; and had
the estate on which I lived been mine, and the laws of Georgia not made
such an experiment impossible, I would have emancipated the slaves on it
immediately, and turned them into a free tenantry, as the first means of
saving my property from impending destruction. I would have paid them
wages, and they should have paid me rent. I would have relinquished the
charge of feeding and clothing them, and the burthen of their old, young,
and infirm; in short, I would have put them at once upon the footing of
free hired labourers. Of course such a process would have involved
temporary loss, and for a year or two the income of the estate would, I
dare say, have suffered considerably; but, in all such diversions of
labour or capital from old into new channels and modes of operation, there
must be an immediate sacrifice of present to future profit, and I do not
doubt that the estate would have recovered from the momentary necessary
interruption of its productiveness, to resume it with an upward instead of
a downward tendency, and a vigorous impulse towards progress and
improvement substituted for the present slow but sure drifting to
stagnation and decay.

As I have told you, the land affords no spontaneous produce which will
sustain life without labour. The negroes therefore must work to eat; they
are used to the soil and climate, and accustomed to the agriculture, and
there is no reason at all to apprehend--as has been suggested--that a race
of people singularly attached to the place of their birth and residence
would abandon in any large numbers their own country, just as the
conditions of their existence in it were made more favourable, to try the
unknown and (to absolute ignorance) forbidding risks of emigration to the
sterner climate and harder soil of the Northern States.

Of course, in freeing the slaves, it would be necessary to contemplate the
possibility of their becoming eventual proprietors of the soil to some
extent themselves. There is as little doubt that many of them would soon
acquire the means of doing so (men who amass, during hours of daily extra
labour, through years of unpaid toil, the means of buying themselves from
their masters, would soon justify their freedom by the intelligent
improvement of their condition), as that many of the present landholders
would be ready and glad to alienate their impoverished estates by parcels,
and sell the land which has become comparatively unprofitable to them, to
its enfranchised cultivators. This, the future ownership of land by
negroes, as well as their admission to those rights of citizenship which
everywhere in America such ownership involves, would necessarily be future
subjects of legislation; and either or both privileges might be withheld
temporarily, indefinitely, or permanently, as might seem expedient, and
the progress in civilisation which might justify such an extension of
rights. These, and any other modifications of the state of the black
population in the South, would require great wisdom to deal with, but
their immediate transformation from bondsmen to free might, I think, be
accomplished with little danger or difficulty, and with certain increase
of prosperity to the Southern States.

On the other hand, it is not impossible that, left to the unimpeded action
of the natural laws that govern the existence of various races, the black
population, no longer directly preserved and propagated for the purposes
of slavery, might gradually decrease and dwindle, as it does at the
North--where, besides the unfavourable influence of a cold climate on a
race originally African, it suffers from its admixture with the whites,
and the amalgamation of the two races, as far as it goes, tends evidently
to the destruction of the weaker. The Northern mulattoes are an unhealthy
feeble population, and it might yet appear that even under the more
favourable influence of a Southern climate, whenever the direct stimulus
afforded by slavery to the increase of the negroes was removed, their
gradual extinction or absorption by the predominant white race would
follow in the course of time.

But the daily course of events appears to be rendering more and more
unlikely the immediate effectual enfranchisement of the slaves: the
President's proclamation will reach with but little efficacy beyond the
mere borders of the Southern States. The war is assuming an aspect of
indefinite duration; and it is difficult to conceive what will be the
condition of the blacks, freed _de jure_ but by no means _de facto_, in
the vast interior regions of the Southern States, as long as the struggle
raging all round their confines does not penetrate within them. Each of
the combatants is far too busily absorbed in the furious strife to afford
thought, leisure, or means, either effectually to free the slaves or
effectually to replace them in bondage; and in the meantime their
condition is the worst possible for the future success of either
operation. If the North succeeds in subjugating the South, its earliest
business will be to make the freedom of the slaves real as well as
nominal, and as little injurious to themselves as possible. If, on the
other hand, the South makes good its pretensions to a separate national
existence, no sooner will the disseverment of the Union be an established
fact than the slaveholders will have to consolidate once more the system
of their 'peculiar institution,' to reconstruct the prison which has half
crumbled to the ground, and rivet afresh the chains which have been all
but struck off. This will be difficult: the determination of the North to
restrict the area of slavery by forbidding its ingress into future
territories and States has been considered by the slaveholders a wrong,
and a danger justifying a bloody civil war; inasmuch as, if under those
circumstances they did not abolish slavery themselves in a given number of
years, it would infallibly abolish them by the increase of the negro
population, hemmed with them into a restricted space by this _cordon
sanitaire_ drawn round them. But, bad as this prospect has seemed to
slaveholders (determined to continue such), and justifying--as it may be
conceded that it does from their point of view--not a ferocious civil war,
but a peaceable separation from States whose interests were declared
absolutely irreconcileable with theirs, the position in which they will
find themselves if the contest terminates in favour of Secession will be
undoubtedly more difficult and terrible than the one the mere anticipation
of which has driven them to the dire resort of civil war. All round the
Southern coast, and all along the course of the great Mississippi, and all
across the northern frontier of the Slave States, the negroes have already
thrown off the trammels of slavery. Whatever their condition may be--and
doubtless in many respects it is miserable enough--they are to all intents
and purposes free. Vast numbers of them have joined the Northern invading
armies, and considerable bodies of them have become organised as soldiers
and labourers, under the supervision of Northern officers and employers;
most of them have learned the use of arms, and possess them; all of them
have exchanged the insufficient slave diet of grits and rice for the
abundant supplies of animal food, which the poorest labourer in that
favoured land of cheap provisions and high wages indulges in to an extent
unknown in any other country. None of these slaves of yesterday will be
the same slaves to-morrow. Little essential difference as may yet have
been effected by the President's proclamation in the interior of the
South in the condition of the blacks, it is undoubtedly known to them, and
they are waiting in ominous suspense its accomplishment or defeat by the
fortune of the war; they are watching the issue of the contest of which
they well know themselves to be the theme, and at its conclusion, end how
it will, they must be emancipated or exterminated. With the North not only
not friendly to slavery, but henceforward bitterly hostile to
slaveholders, and no more to be reckoned upon as heretofore, it might have
been infallibly by the Southern white population in any difficulty with
the blacks (a fact of which the negroes will be as well aware as their
former masters)--with an invisible boundary stretching from ocean to
ocean, over which they may fly without fear of a master's claim following
them a single inch--with the hope and expectation of liberty suddenly
snatched from them at the moment it seemed within their grasp--with the
door of their dungeon once more barred between them and the light into
which they were in the act of emerging--is it to be conceived, that these
four millions of people, many thousands of whom are already free and
armed, will submit without a struggle to be again thrust down into the
hell of slavery? Hitherto there has been no insurrection among the
negroes, and observers friendly and inimical to them have alike drawn from
that fact conclusions unfavourable to their appreciation of the freedom
apparently within their grasp; but they are waiting to see what the North
will really achieve for them. The liberty offered them is hitherto
anomalous, and uncertain enough in its conditions; they probably trust it
as little as they know it: but slavery they _do_ know--and when once they
find themselves again delivered over to _that_ experience, there will not
be ONE insurrection in the South; there will be an insurrection in every
State, in every county, on every plantation--a struggle as fierce as it
will be futile--a hopeless effort of hopeless men, which will baptise in
blood the new American nation, and inaugurate its birth among the
civilised societies of the earth, not by the manumission but the massacre
of every slave within its borders.

Perhaps, however, Mr. Jefferson Davis means to free the negroes. Whenever
that consummation is attained, the root of bitterness will have perished
from the land; and when a few years shall have passed blunting the hatred
which has been excited by this fratricidal strife, the Americans of both
the Northern and Southern States will perceive that the selfish policy of
other nations would not have so rejoiced over their division, had it not
seemed, to those who loved them not, the proof of past failure and the
prophecy of future weakness.

Admonished by its terrible experiences, I believe the nation will reunite
itself under one government, remodel its constitution, and again address
itself to fulfill its glorious destiny. I believe that the country sprung
from ours--of all our just subjects of national pride the greatest--will
resume its career of prosperity and power, and become the noblest as well
as the mightiest that has existed among the nations of the earth.





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