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Title: American Negro Slavery - A Survey of the Supply, Employment and Control of Negro Labor as Determined by the Plantation Regime
Author: Phillips, Ulrich Bonnell, 1877-1934
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "American Negro Slavery - A Survey of the Supply, Employment and Control of Negro Labor as Determined by the Plantation Regime" ***




A Survey of the Supply,
Employment and Control
Of Negro Labor
As Determined by the Plantation Regime








The Portuguese began exploring the west coast of Africa shortly before
Christopher Columbus was born; and no sooner did they encounter negroes
than they began to seize and carry them in captivity to Lisbon. The court
chronicler Azurara set himself in 1452, at the command of Prince Henry, to
record the valiant exploits of the negro-catchers. Reflecting the spirit
of the time, he praised them as crusaders bringing savage heathen for
conversion to civilization and christianity. He gently lamented the
massacre and sufferings involved, but thought them infinitely outweighed by
the salvation of souls. This cheerful spirit of solace was destined long to
prevail among white peoples when contemplating the hardships of the colored
races. But Azurara was more than a moralizing annalist. He acutely observed
of the first cargo of captives brought from southward of the Sahara, less
than a decade before his writing, that after coming to Portugal "they never
more tried to fly, but rather in time forgot all about their own country,"
that "they were very loyal and obedient servants, without malice"; and that
"after they began to use clothing they were for the most part very fond of
display, so that they took great delight in robes of showy colors, and such
was their love of finery that they picked up the rags that fell from the
coats of other people of the country and sewed them on their own garments,
taking great pleasure in these, as though it were matter of some greater
perfection."[1] These few broad strokes would portray with equally happy
precision a myriad other black servants born centuries after the writer's
death and dwelling in a continent of whose existence he never dreamed.
Azurara wrote further that while some of the captives were not able to
endure the change and died happily as Christians, the others, dispersed
among Portuguese households, so ingratiated themselves that many were
set free and some were married to men and women of the land and acquired
comfortable estates. This may have been an earnest of future conditions in
Brazil and the Spanish Indies; but in the British settlements it fell out
far otherwise.

[Footnote 1: Gomez Eannes de Azurara _Chronicle of the Discovery and
Conquest of Guinea_, translated by C.R. Beazley and E.P. Prestage, in the
Hakluyt Society _Publications_, XCV, 85.]

As the fifteenth century wore on and fleets explored more of the African
coast with the double purpose of finding a passage to India and exploiting
any incidental opportunities for gain, more and more human cargoes were
brought from Guinea to Portugal and Spain. But as the novelty of the blacks
wore off they were held in smaller esteem and treated with less liberality.
Gangs of them were set to work in fields from which the Moorish occupants
had recently been expelled. The labor demand was not great, however, and
when early in the sixteenth century West Indian settlers wanted negroes
for their sugar fields, Spain willingly parted with some of hers. Thus did
Europe begin the coercion of African assistance in the conquest of the
American wilderness.

Guinea comprises an expanse about a thousand miles wide lying behind
three undulating stretches of coast, the first reaching from Cape Verde
southeastward nine hundred miles to Cape Palmas in four degrees north
latitude, the second running thence almost parallel to the equator a
thousand miles to Old Calabar at the head of "the terrible bight of
Biafra," the third turning abruptly south and extending some fourteen
hundred miles to a short distance below Benguela where the southern desert
begins. The country is commonly divided into Upper Guinea or the Sudan,
lying north and west of the great angle of the coast, and Lower Guinea,
the land of the Bantu, to the southward. Separate zones may also be
distinguished as having different systems of economy: in the jungle belt
along the equator bananas are the staple diet; in the belts bordering this
on the north and south the growing of millet and manioc respectively, in
small clearings, are the characteristic industries; while beyond the edges
of the continental forest cattle contribute much of the food supply. The
banana, millet and manioc zones, and especially their swampy coastal
plains, were of course the chief sources of slaves for the transatlantic

Of all regions of extensive habitation equatorial Africa is the worst. The
climate is not only monotonously hot, but for the greater part of each year
is excessively moist. Periodic rains bring deluge and periodic tornadoes
play havoc. The dry seasons give partial relief, but they bring occasional
blasts from the desert so dry and burning that all nature droops and is
grateful at the return of the rains. The general dank heat stimulates
vegetable growth in every scale from mildew to mahogany trees, and
multiplies the members of the animal kingdom, be they mosquitoes, elephants
or boa constrictors. There would be abundant food but for the superabundant
creatures that struggle for it and prey upon one another. For mankind life
is at once easy and hard. Food of a sort may often be had for the plucking,
and raiment is needless; but aside from the menace of the elements human
life is endangered by beasts and reptiles in the forest, crocodiles and
hippopotami in the rivers, and sharks in the sea, and existence is made a
burden to all but the happy-hearted by plagues of insects and parasites. In
many districts tse-tse flies exterminate the cattle and spread the fatal
sleeping-sickness among men; everywhere swarms of locusts occasionally
destroy the crops; white ants eat timbers and any other useful thing, short
of metal, which may come in their way; giant cockroaches and dwarf
brown ants and other pests in great variety swarm in the dwellings
continuously--except just after a village has been raided by the great
black ants which are appropriately known as "drivers." These drivers march
in solid columns miles on miles until, when they reach food resources to
their fancy, they deploy for action and take things with a rush. To stay
among them is to die; but no human being stays. A cry of "Drivers!" will
depopulate a village instantly, and a missionary who at one moment has been
combing brown ants from his hair will in the next find himself standing
safely in the creek or the water barrel, to stay until the drivers have
taken their leave. Among less spectacular things, mosquitoes fly in crowds
and leave fevers in their wake, gnats and flies are always on hand, chigoes
bore and breed under toe-nails, hook-worms hang themselves to the walls of
the intestines, and other threadlike worms enter the eyeballs and the flesh
of the body. Endurance through generations has given the people large
immunity from the effects of hook-worm and malaria, but not from the
indigenous diseases, kraw-kraw, yaws and elephantiasis, nor of course from
dysentery and smallpox which the Europeans introduced. Yet robust health is
fairly common, and where health prevails there is generally happiness, for
the negroes have that within their nature. They could not thrive in Guinea
without their temperament.

It is probable that no people ever became resident on or near the west
coast except under compulsion. From the more favored easterly regions
successive hordes have been driven after defeat in war. The Fangs on the
Ogowe are an example in the recent past. Thus the inhabitants of Guinea,
and of the coast lands especially, have survived by retreating and
adapting themselves to conditions in which no others wished to dwell. The
requirements of adaptation were peculiar. To live where nature supplies
Turkish baths without the asking necessitates relaxation. But since undue
physical indolence would unfit people for resistance to parasites and
hostile neighbors, the languid would perish. Relaxation of mind, however,
brought no penalties. The climate in fact not only discourages but
prohibits mental effort of severe or sustained character, and the negroes
have submitted to that prohibition as to many others, through countless
generations, with excellent grace. So accustomed were they to interdicts of
nature that they added many of their own through conventional taboo, some
of them intended to prevent the eating of supposedly injurious food, others
calculated to keep the commonalty from infringing upon the preserves of the

[Footnote 2: A convenient sketch of the primitive African régime is J.A.
Tillinghast's _The Negro in Africa and America_, part I. A fuller survey
is Jerome Dowd's _The Negro Races_, which contains a bibliography of the
sources. Among the writings of travelers and sojourners particularly
notable are Mary Kingsley's _Travels in West Africa_ as a vivid picture of
coast life, and her _West African Studies_ for its elaborate and convincing
discussion of fetish, and the works of Sir A.B. Ellis on the Tshi-, Ewe-
and Yoruba-speaking peoples for their analyses of institutions along the
Gold Coast.]

No people is without its philosophy and religion. To the Africans the
forces of nature were often injurious and always impressive. To invest them
with spirits disposed to do evil but capable of being placated was perhaps
an obvious recourse; and this investiture grew into an elaborate system of
superstition. Not only did the wind and the rain have their gods but each
river and precipice, and each tribe and family and person, a tutelary
spirit. These might be kept benevolent by appropriate fetish ceremonies;
they might be used for evil by persons having specially great powers over
them. The proper course for common-place persons at ordinary times was to
follow routine fetish observances; but when beset by witch-work the only
escape lay in the services of witch-doctors or priests. Sacrifices were
called for, and on the greatest occasions nothing short of human sacrifice
was acceptable.

As to diet, vegetable food was generally abundant, but the negroes were not
willingly complete vegetarians. In the jungle game animals were scarce, and
everywhere the men were ill equipped for hunting. In lieu of better they
were often fain to satisfy their craving for flesh by eating locusts and
larvae, as tribes in the interior still do. In such conditions cannibalism
was fairly common. Especially prized was an enemy slain in war, for not
only would his body feed the hungry but fetish taught that his bravery
would pass to those who shared the feast.

In African economy nearly all routine work, including agriculture, was
classed as domestic service and assigned to the women for performance. The
wife, bought with a price at the time of marriage, was virtually a slave;
her husband her master. Now one woman might keep her husband and children
in but moderate comfort. Two or more could perform the family tasks much
better. Thus a man who could pay the customary price would be inclined to
add a second wife, whom the first would probably welcome as a lightener of
her burdens. Polygamy prevailed almost everywhere.

Slavery, too, was generally prevalent except among the few tribes who
gained their chief sustenance from hunting. Along with polygamy, it perhaps
originated, if it ever had a distinct beginning, from the desire to lighten
and improve the domestic service. [3] Persons became slaves through
capture, debt or malfeasance, or through the inheritance of the status.
While the ownership was absolute in the eyes of the law and captives
were often treated with great cruelty, slaves born in the locality were
generally regarded as members of their owner's family and were shown much
consideration. In the millet zone where there was much work to be done the
slaveholdings were in many cases very large and the control relatively
stringent; but in the banana districts an easy-going schedule prevailed for
all. One of the chief hardships of the slaves was the liability of being
put to death at their master's funeral in order that their spirits might
continue in his service. In such case it was customary on the Gold Coast
to give the victim notice of his approaching death by suddenly thrusting a
knife through each cheek with the blades crossing in his mouth so that he
might not curse his master before he died. With his hands tied behind him
he would then be led to the ceremonial slaughter. The Africans were in
general eager traders in slaves as well as other goods, even before the
time when the transatlantic trade, by giving excessive stimulus to raiding
and trading, transformed the native economy and deranged the social order.

[Footnote 3: Slavery among the Africans and other primitive peoples has
been elaborately discussed by H.J. Nieboer, _Slavery as an Industrial
System: Ethnological Researches_ (The Hague, 1900).]

Apart from a few great towns such as Coomassee and Benin, life in Guinea
was wholly on a village basis, each community dwelling in its own clearing
and having very slight intercourse with its neighbors. Politically each
village was governed by its chief and its elders, oftentimes in complete
independence. In occasional instances, however, considerable states of
loose organization were under the rule of central authorities. Such states
were likely to be the creation of invaders from the eastward, the Dahomans
and Ashantees for example; but the kingdom of Benin appears to have arisen
indigenously. In many cases the subordination of conquered villages merely
resulted in their paying annual tribute. As to language, Lower Guinea spoke
multitudinous dialects of the one Bantu tongue, but in Upper Guinea there
were many dialects of many separate languages.

Land was so abundant and so little used industrially that as a rule it
was not owned in severalty; and even the villages and tribes had little
occasion to mark the limits of their domains. For travel by land there were
nothing but narrow, rough and tortuous foot-paths, with makeshift bridges
across the smaller streams. The rivers were highly advantageous both as
avenues and as sources of food, for the negroes were expert at canoeing and

Intertribal wars were occasional, but a crude comity lessened their
frequency. Thus if a man of one village murdered one of another, the
aggrieved village if too weak to procure direct redress might save its
face by killing someone in a third village, whereupon the third must by
intertribal convention make common cause with the second at once, or else
coerce a fourth into the punitive alliance by applying the same sort of
persuasion that it had just felt. These later killings in the series were
not regarded as murders but as diplomatic overtures. The system was hard
upon those who were sacrificed in its operation, but it kept a check upon

A skin stretched over the section of a hollow tree, and usually so
constructed as to have two tones, made an instrument of extraordinary use
in communication as well as in music. By a system long anticipating the
Morse code the Africans employed this "telegraph drum" in sending
messages from village to village for long distances and with great speed.
Differences of speech were no bar, for the tom tom code was interlingual.
The official drummer could explain by the high and low alternations of his
taps that a deed of violence just done was not a crime but a _pourparler_
for the forming of a league. Every week for three months in 1800 the
tom toms doubtless carried the news throughout Ashantee land that King
Quamina's funeral had just been repeated and two hundred more slaves slain
to do him honor. In 1806 they perhaps reported the ending of Mungo Park's
travels by his death on the Niger at the hands of the Boussa people. Again
and again drummers hired as trading auxiliaries would send word along the
coast and into the country that white men's vessels lying at Lagos, Bonny,
Loango or Benguela as the case might be were paying the best rates in
calico, rum or Yankee notions for all slaves that might be brought.

In music the monotony of the tom tom's tone spurred the drummers to
elaborate variations in rhythm. The stroke of the skilled performer could
make it mourn a funeral dirge, voice the nuptial joy, throb the pageant's
march, and roar the ambush alarm. Vocal music might be punctuated by tom
toms and primitive wind or stringed instruments, or might swell in solo
or chorus without accompaniment. Singing, however, appears not so
characteristic of Africans at home as of the negroes in America. On the
other hand garrulous conversation, interspersed with boisterous laughter,
lasted well-nigh the livelong day. Daily life, indeed, was far from dull,
for small things were esteemed great, and every episode was entertaining.
It can hardly be maintained that savage life is idyllic. Yet the question
remains, and may long remain, whether the manner in which the negroes were
brought into touch with civilization resulted in the greater blessing or
the greater curse. That manner was determined in part at least by the
nature of the typical negroes themselves. Impulsive and inconstant,
sociable and amorous, voluble, dilatory, and negligent, but robust,
amiable, obedient and contented, they have been the world's premium slaves.
Prehistoric Pharaohs, mediaeval Pashas and the grandees of Elizabethan
England esteemed them as such; and so great a connoisseur in household
service as the Czar Alexander added to his palace corps in 1810 two free
negroes, one a steward on an American merchant ship and the other a
body-servant whom John Quincy Adams, the American minister, had brought
from Massachusetts to St. Petersburg.[4]

[Footnote 4: _Writings of John Quincy Adams_, Ford ed., III, 471, 472 (New
York, 1914).]

The impulse for the enslavement of negroes by other peoples came from the
Arabs who spread over northern Africa in the eighth century, conquering and
converting as they went, and stimulating the trade across the Sahara until
it attained large dimensions. The northbound caravans carried the peculiar
variety of pepper called "grains of paradise" from the region later known
as Liberia, gold from the Dahomey district, palm oil from the lower Niger,
and ivory and slaves from far and wide. A small quantity of these various
goods was distributed in southern Europe and the Levant. And in the same
general period Arab dhows began to take slave cargoes from the east coast
of Africa as far south as Mozambique, for distribution in Arabia, Persia
and western India. On these northern and eastern flanks of Guinea where the
Mohammedans operated and where the most vigorous of the African peoples
dwelt, the natives lent ready assistance in catching and buying slaves in
the interior and driving them in coffles to within reach of the Moorish and
Arab traders. Their activities, reaching at length the very center of the
continent, constituted without doubt the most cruel of all branches of the
slave-trade. The routes across the burning Sahara sands in particular came
to be strewn with negro skeletons.[5]

[Footnote 5: Jerome Dowd, "The African Slave Trade," in the _Journal of
Negro History_, II (1917), 1-20.]

This overland trade was as costly as it was tedious. Dealers in Timbuctoo
and other centers of supply must be paid their price; camels must be
procured, many of which died on the journey; guards must be hired to
prevent escapes in the early marches and to repel predatory Bedouins in the
later ones; food supplies must be bought; and allowance must be made for
heavy mortality among the slaves on their terrible trudge over the burning
sands and the chilling mountains. But wherever Mohammedanism prevailed,
which gave particular sanction to slavery as well as to polygamy, the
virtues of the negroes as laborers and as eunuch harem guards were so
highly esteemed that the trade was maintained on a heavy scale almost if
not quite to the present day. The demand of the Turks in the Levant and the
Moors in Spain was met by exportations from the various Barbary ports. Part
of this Mediterranean trade was conducted in Turkish and Moorish vessels,
and part of it in the ships of the Italian cities and Marseilles and
Barcelona. Venice for example had treaties with certain Saracen rulers at
the beginning of the fourteenth century authorizing her merchants not only
to frequent the African ports, but to go in caravans to interior points and
stay at will. The principal commodities procured were ivory, gold, honey
and negro slaves.[6]

[Footnote 6: The leading authority upon slavery and the slave-trade in the
Mediterranean countries of Europe is J.A. Saco, _Historia de la Esclavitud
desde los Tiempas mas remotas hasta nuestros Dias_ (Barcelona, 1877), vol.

The states of Christian Europe, though little acquainted with negroes,
had still some trace of slavery as an inheritance from imperial Rome
and barbaric Teutondom. The chattel form of bondage, however, had quite
generally given place to serfdom; and even serfdom was disappearing in
many districts by reason of the growth of towns and the increase of rural
population to the point at which abundant labor could be had at wages
little above the cost of sustaining life. On the other hand so long as
petty wars persisted the enslavement of captives continued to be at least
sporadic, particularly in the south and east of Europe, and a considerable
traffic in white slaves was maintained from east to west on the
Mediterranean. The Venetians for instance, in spite of ecclesiastical
prohibitions, imported frequent cargoes of young girls from the countries
about the Black Sea, most of whom were doomed to concubinage and
prostitution, and the rest to menial service.[7] The occurrence of the
Crusades led to the enslavement of Saracen captives in Christendom as well
as of Christian captives in Islam.

[Footnote 7: W.C. Hazlitt, _The Venetian Republic_(London, 1900), pp. 81,

The waning of the Crusades ended the supply of Saracen slaves, and the
Turkish capture of Constantinople in 1453 destroyed the Italian trade on
the Black Sea. No source of supply now remained, except a trickle from
Africa, to sustain the moribund institution of slavery in any part of
Christian Europe east of the Pyrenees. But in mountain-locked Roussillon
and Asturias remnants of slavery persisted from Visigothic times to the
seventeenth century; and in other parts of the peninsula the intermittent
wars against the Moors of Granada supplied captives and to some extent
reinvigorated slavery among the Christian states from Aragon to Portugal.
Furthermore the conquest of the Canaries at the end of the fourteenth
century and of Teneriffe and other islands in the fifteenth led to the
bringing of many of their natives as slaves to Castille and the neighboring

Occasional documents of this period contain mention of negro slaves at
various places in the Spanish peninsula, but the number was clearly small
and it must have continued so, particularly as long as the supply was drawn
through Moorish channels. The source whence the negroes came was known to
be a region below the Sahara which from its yield of gold and ivory was
called by the Moors the land of wealth, "Bilad Ghana," a name which on the
tongues of European sailors was converted into "Guinea." To open a direct
trade thither was a natural effort when the age of maritime exploration
began. The French are said to have made voyages to the Gold Coast in the
fourteenth century, though apparently without trading in slaves. But in
the absence of records of their activities authentic history must confine
itself to the achievements of the Portuguese.

In 1415 John II of Portugal, partly to give his five sons opportunity to
win knighthood in battle, attacked and captured the Moorish stronghold of
Ceuta, facing Gibraltar across the strait. For several years thereafter the
town was left in charge of the youngest of these princes, Henry, who there
acquired an enduring desire to gain for Portugal and Christianity the
regions whence the northbound caravans were coming. Returning home, he
fixed his residence at the promontory of Sagres, on Cape St. Vincent,
and made his main interest for forty years the promotion of maritime
exploration southward.[8] His perseverance won him fame as "Prince
Henry the Navigator," though he was not himself an active sailor; and
furthermore, after many disappointments, it resulted in exploration as far
as the Gold Coast in his lifetime and the rounding of the Cape of Good Hope
twenty-five years after his death. The first decade of his endeavor brought
little result, for the Sahara shore was forbidding and the sailors timid.
Then in 1434 Gil Eannes doubled Cape Bojador and found its dangers
imaginary. Subsequent voyages added to the extent of coast skirted until
the desert began to give place to inhabited country. The Prince was now
eager for captives to be taken who might inform him of the country, and in
1441 Antam Gonsalvez brought several Moors from the southern edge of the
desert, who, while useful as informants, advanced a new theme of interest
by offering to ransom themselves by delivering on the coast a larger number
of non-Mohammedan negroes, whom the Moors held as slaves. Partly for the
sake of profit, though the chronicler says more largely to increase the
number of souls to be saved, this exchange was effected in the following
year in the case of two of the Moors, while a third took his liberty
without delivering his ransom. After the arrival in Portugal of these
exchanged negroes, ten in number, and several more small parcels of
captives, a company organized at Lagos under the direction of Prince Henry
sent forth a fleet of six caravels in 1444 which promptly returned with 225
captives, the disposal of whom has been recounted at the beginning of this

[Footnote 8: The chief source for the early Portuguese voyages is Azurara's
_Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea_, already cited.]

In the next year the Lagos Company sent a great expedition of twenty-six
vessels which discovered the Senegal River and brought back many natives
taken in raids thereabout; and by 1448 nearly a thousand captives had been
carried to Portugal. Some of these were Moorish Berbers, some negroes,
but most were probably Jolofs from the Senegal, a warlike people of mixed
ancestry. Raiding in the Jolof country proved so hazardous that from about
1454 the Portuguese began to supplement their original methods by planting
"factories" on the coast where slaves from the interior were bought from
their native captors and owners who had brought them down in caravans
and canoes. Thus not only was missionary zeal eclipsed but the desire of
conquest likewise, and the spirit of exploration erelong partly subdued, by
commercial greed. By the time of Prince Henry's death in 1460 Portugal was
importing seven or eight hundred negro slaves each year. From this time
forward the traffic was conducted by a succession of companies and
individual grantees, to whom the government gave the exclusive right for
short terms of years in consideration of money payments and pledges of
adding specified measures of exploration. As new coasts were reached
additional facilities were established for trade in pepper, ivory and gold
as well as in slaves. When the route round Africa to India was opened at
the end of the century the Guinea trade fell to secondary importance, but
it was by no means discontinued.

Of the negroes carried to Portugal in the fifteenth century a large
proportion were set to work as slaves on great estates in the southern
provinces recently vacated by the Moors, and others were employed as
domestic servants in Lisbon and other towns. Some were sold into Spain
where they were similarly employed, and where their numbers were recruited
by a Guinea trade in Spanish vessels in spite of Portugal's claim of
monopoly rights, even though Isabella had recognized these in a treaty of
1479. In short, at the time of the discovery of America Spain as well as
Portugal had quite appreciable numbers of negroes in her population and
both were maintaining a system of slavery for their control.

When Columbus returned from his first voyage in the spring of 1493 and
announced his great landfall, Spain promptly entered upon her career
of American conquest and colonization. So great was the expectation of
adventure and achievement that the problem of the government was not how
to enlist participants but how to restrain a great exodus. Under heavy
penalties emigration was restricted by royal decrees to those who procured
permission to go. In the autumn of the same year fifteen hundred men,
soldiers, courtiers, priests and laborers, accompanied the discoverer
on his second voyage, in radiant hopes. But instead of wealth and high
adventure these Argonauts met hard labor and sickness. Instead of the rich
cities of Japan and China sought for, there were found squalid villages of
Caribs and Lucayans. Of gold there was little, of spices none.

Columbus, when planting his colony at Isabella, on the northern coast
of Hispaniola (Hayti), promptly found need of draught animals and other
equipment. He wrote to his sovereigns in January, 1494, asking for the
supplies needed; and he offered, pending the discovery of more precious
things, to defray expenses by shipping to Spain some of the island natives,
"who are a wild people fit for any work, well proportioned and very
intelligent, and who when they have got rid of their cruel habits to which
they have been accustomed will be better than any other kind of slaves."[9]
Though this project was discouraged by the crown, Columbus actually took a
cargo of Indians for sale in Spain on his return from his third voyage;
but Isabella stopped the sale and ordered the captives taken home and
liberated. Columbus, like most of his generation, regarded the Indians
as infidel foreigners to be exploited at will. But Isabella, and to some
extent her successors, considered them Spanish subjects whose helplessness
called for special protection. Between the benevolence of the distant
monarchs and the rapacity of the present conquerors, however, the fate of
the natives was in little doubt. The crown's officials in the Indies were
the very conquerors themselves, who bent their soft instructions to fit
their own hard wills. A native rebellion in Hispaniola in 1495 was crushed
with such slaughter that within three years the population is said to have
been reduced by two thirds. As terms of peace Columbus required annual
tribute in gold so great that no amount of labor in washing the sands could
furnish it. As a commutation of tribute and as a means of promoting the
conversion of the Indians there was soon inaugurated the encomienda system
which afterward spread throughout Spanish America. To each Spaniard
selected as an encomendero was allotted a certain quota of Indians bound to
cultivate land for his benefit and entitled to receive from him tutelage
in civilization and Christianity. The grantees, however, were not assigned
specified Indians but merely specified numbers of them, with power to seize
new ones to replace any who might die or run away. Thus the encomendero was
given little economic interest in preserving the lives and welfare of his

[Footnote 9: R.H. Major, _Select Letters of Columbus_, 2d. ed., 1890, p.

In the first phase of the system the Indians were secured in the right of
dwelling in their own villages under their own chiefs. But the encomenderos
complained that the aloofness of the natives hampered the work of
conversion and asked that a fuller and more intimate control be authorized.
This was promptly granted and as promptly abused. Such limitations as the
law still imposed upon encomendero power were made of no effect by the lack
of machinery for enforcement. The relationship in short, which the law
declared to be one of guardian and ward, became harsher than if it had been
that of master and slave. Most of the island natives were submissive in
disposition and weak in physique, and they were terribly driven at their
work in the fields, on the roads, and at the mines. With smallpox and other
pestilences added to their hardships, they died so fast that before 1510
Hispaniola was confronted with the prospect of the complete disappearance
of its laboring population.[10] Meanwhile the same régime was being carried
to Porto Rico, Jamaica and Cuba with similar consequences in its train.

[Footnote 10: E. g. Bourne, _Spain in America_ (New York, 1904); Wilhelm
Roscher, _The Spanish Colonial System_, Bourne ed. (New York, 1904); Konrad
Habler, "The Spanish Colonial Empire," in Helmolt, _History of the World_,
vol I.]

As long as mining remained the chief industry the islands failed to
prosper; and the reports of adversity so strongly checked the Spanish
impulse for adventure that special inducements by the government were
required to sustain any flow of emigration. But in 1512-1515 the
introduction of sugar-cane culture brought the beginning of a change in
the industrial situation. The few surviving gangs of Indians began to be
shifted from the mines to the fields, and a demand for a new labor supply
arose which could be met only from across the sea.

Apparently no negroes were brought to the islands before 1501. In that
year, however, a royal decree, while excluding Jews and Moors, authorized
the transportation of negroes born in Christian lands; and some of these
were doubtless carried to Hispaniola in the great fleet of Ovando, the new
governor, in 1502. Ovando's reports of this experiment were conflicting.
In the year following his arrival he advised that no more negroes be sent,
because of their propensity to run away and band with and corrupt the
Indians. But after another year had elapsed he requested that more negroes
be sent. In this interim the humane Isabella died and the more callous
Ferdinand acceded to full control. In consequence a prohibition of the
negro trade in 1504 was rescinded in 1505 and replaced by orders that the
bureau in charge of colonial trade promote the sending of negroes from
Spain in large parcels. For the next twelve years this policy was
maintained--the sending of Christian negroes was encouraged, while the
direct slave trade from Africa to America was prohibited. The number of
negroes who reached the islands under this régime is not ascertainable. It
was clearly almost negligible in comparison with the increasing demand.[11]

[Footnote 11: The chief authority upon the origin and growth of negro
slavery in the Spanish colonies is J.A. Saco, _Historia de la Esclavitud
de la Raza Africana en el Nuevo Mundo y en especial en los Paises
Americo-Hispanos_. (Barcelona, 1879.) This book supplements the same
author's _Historia de la Esclavitud desde los Tiempos remotos_ previously

The policy of excluding negroes fresh from Africa--"bozal negroes" the
Spaniards called them--was of course a product of the characteristic
resolution to keep the colonies free from all influences hostile to
Catholic orthodoxy. But whereas Jews, Mohammedans and Christian heretics
were considered as champions of rival faiths, the pagan blacks came
increasingly to be reckoned as having no religion and therefore as a mere
passive element ready for christianization. As early as 1510, in fact, the
Spanish crown relaxed its discrimination against pagans by ordering the
purchase of above a hundred negro slaves in the Lisbon market for dispatch
to Hispaniola. To quiet its religious scruples the government hit upon
the device of requiring the baptism of all pagan slaves upon their
disembarkation in the colonial ports.

The crown was clearly not prepared to withstand a campaign for supplies
direct from Africa, especially after the accession of the youth Charles I
in 1517. At that very time a clamor from the islands reached its climax.
Not only did many civil officials, voicing public opinion in their island
communities, urge that the supply of negro slaves be greatly increased as
a means of preventing industrial collapse, but a delegation of Jeronimite
friars and the famous Bartholomeo de las Casas, who had formerly been a
Cuban encomendero and was now a Dominican priest, appeared in Spain to
press the same or kindred causes. The Jeronimites, themselves concerned in
industrial enterprises, were mostly interested in the labor supply. But the
well-born and highly talented Las Casas, earnest and full of the milk
of human kindness, was moved entirely by humanitarian and religious
considerations. He pleaded primarily for the abolition of the encomienda
system and the establishment of a great Indian reservation under missionary
control, and he favored the increased transfer of Christian negroes from
Spain as a means of relieving the Indians from their terrible sufferings.
The lay spokesmen and the Jeronimites asked that provision be made for the
sending of thousands of negro slaves, preferably bozal negroes for the sake
of cheapness and plenty; and the supporters of this policy were able to
turn to their use the favorable impression which Las Casas was making, even
though his programme and theirs were different.[12] The outcome was that
while the settling of the encomienda problem was indefinitely postponed,
authorization was promptly given for a supply of bozal negroes.

[Footnote 12: Las Casas, _Historio de las Indias_ (Madrid, 1875, 1876);
Arthur Helps, _Life of Las Casas_ (London, 1873); Saco, _op. cit_., pp.

The crown here had an opportunity to get large revenues, of which it was in
much need, by letting the slave trade under contract or by levying taxes
upon it. The young king, however, freshly arrived from the Netherlands with
a crowd of Flemish favorites in his train, proceeded to issue gratuitously
a license for the trade to one of the Flemings at court, Laurent de
Gouvenot, known in Spain as Garrevod, the governor of Breza. This license
empowered the grantee and his assigns to ship from Guinea to the Spanish
islands four thousand slaves. All the historians until recently have placed
this grant in the year 1517 and have called it a contract (asiento); but
Georges Scelle has now discovered and printed the document itself which
bears the date August 18, 1518, and is clearly a license of grace bearing
none of the distinctive asiento features.[13] Garrevod, who wanted ready
cash rather than a trading privilege, at once divided his license into two
and sold them for 25,000 ducats to certain Genoese merchants domiciled at
Seville, who in turn split them up again and put them on the market where
they became an object of active speculation at rapidly rising prices. The
result was that when slaves finally reached the islands under Garrevod's
grant the prices demanded for them were so exorbitant that the purposes
of the original petitioners were in large measure defeated. Meanwhile the
king, in spite of the nominally exclusive character of the Garrevod grant,
issued various other licenses on a scale ranging from ten to four hundred
slaves each. For a decade the importations were small, however, and the
island clamor increased.

[Footnote 13: Georges Scelle, _Histoire Politique de la Traité Négrière aux
Indes de Castille: Contrats et Traités d'Asíento_ (Paris, 1906), I, 755.
Book I, chapter 2 of the same volume is an elaborate discussion of the
Garrevod grant.]

In 1528 a new exclusive grant was issued to two German courtiers at
Seville, Eynger and Sayller, empowering them to carry four thousand slaves
from Guinea to the Indies within the space of the following four years.
This differed from Garrevod's in that it required a payment of 20,000
ducats to the crown and restricted the price at which the slaves were to
be sold in the islands to forty ducats each. In so far it approached the
asientos of the full type which became the regular recourse of the Spanish
government in the following centuries; but it fell short of the ultimate
plan by failing to bind the grantees to the performance of their
undertaking and by failing to specify the grades and the proportion of the
sexes among the slaves to be delivered. In short the crown's regard was
still directed more to the enrichment of courtiers than to the promotion of
prosperity in the islands.

After the expiration of the Eynger and Sayller grant the king left the
control of the slave trade to the regular imperial administrative boards,
which, rejecting all asiento overtures for half a century, maintained a
policy of granting licenses for competitive trade in return for payments
of eight or ten ducats per head until 1560, and of thirty ducats or more
thereafter. At length, after the Spanish annexation of Portugal in 1580,
the government gradually reverted to monopoly grants, now however in the
definite form of asientos, in which by intent at least the authorities made
the public interest, with combined regard to the revenue and a guaranteed
labor supply, the primary consideration.[14] The high prices charged for
slaves, however, together with the burdensome restrictions constantly
maintained upon trade in general, steadily hampered the growth of Spanish
colonial industry. Furthermore the allurements of Mexico and Peru drained
the older colonies of virtually all their more vigorous white inhabitants,
in spite of severe penalties legally imposed upon emigration but never
effectively enforced.

[Footnote 14: Scelle, I, books 1-3.]

The agricultural régime in the islands was accordingly kept relatively
stagnant as long as Spain preserved her full West Indian domination. The
sugar industry, which by 1542 exported the staple to the amount of 110,000
arrobas of twenty-five pounds each, was standardized in plantations of two
types--the _trapiche_ whose cane was ground by ox power and whose labor
force was generally thirty or forty negroes (each reckoned as capable of
the labor of four Indians); and the _inqenio_, equipped with a water-power
mill and employing about a hundred slaves.[15] Occasional slave revolts
disturbed the Spanish islanders but never for long diminished their
eagerness for slave recruits. The slave laws were relatively mild, the
police administration extremely casual, and the plantation managements
easy-going. In short, after introducing slavery into the new world the
Spaniards maintained it in sluggish fashion, chiefly in the islands, as an
institution which peoples more vigorous industrially might borrow and adapt
to a more energetic plantation régime.

[Footnote 15: Saco, pp. 127, 128, 188; Oviedo, _Historia General de las
Indias_, book 4. chap. 8.]



At the request of a slaver's captain the government of Georgia issued in
1772 a certificate to a certain Fenda Lawrence reciting that she, "a free
black woman and heretofore a considerable trader in the river Gambia on the
coast of Africa, hath voluntarily come to be and remain for some time in
this province," and giving her permission to "pass and repass unmolested
within the said province on her lawfull and necessary occations."[1] This
instance is highly exceptional. The millions of African expatriates went
against their own wills, and their transporters looked upon the business
not as passenger traffic but as trade in goods. Earnings came from selling
in America the cargoes bought in Africa; the transportation was but an item
in the trade.

[Footnote 1: U.B. Phillips, _Plantation and Frontier Documents_, printed
also as vols. I and II of the _Documentary History of American Industrial
Society_ (Cleveland, O., 1909), II, 141, 142. This publication will be
cited hereafter as _Plantation and Frontier_.]

The business bulked so large in the world's commerce in the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries that every important maritime community on the
Atlantic sought a share, generally with the sanction and often with the
active assistance of its respective sovereign. The preliminaries to the
commercial strife occurred in the Elizabethan age. French traders in gold
and ivory found the Portuguese police on the Guinea Coast to be negligible;
but poaching in the slave trade was a harder problem, for Spain held firm
control of her colonies which were then virtually the world's only slave

The test of this was made by Sir John Hawkins who at the beginning of his
career as a great English sea captain had informed himself in the Canary
Islands of the Afro-American opportunity awaiting exploitation. Backed by
certain English financiers, he set forth in 1562 with a hundred men in
three small ships, and after procuring in Sierra Leone, "partly by the
sword and partly by other means," above three hundred negroes he sailed to
Hispaniola where without hindrance from the authorities he exchanged them
for colonial produce. "And so, with prosperous success, and much gain to
himself and the aforesaid adventurers, he came home, and arrived in the
month of September, 1563."[2] Next year with 170 men in four ships Hawkins
again captured as many Sierra Leone natives as he could carry, and
proceeded to peddle them in the Spanish islands. When the authorities
interfered he coerced them by show of arms and seizure of hostages, and
when the planters demurred at his prices he brought them to terms through a
mixture of diplomacy and intimidation. After many adventures by the way he
reached home, as the chronicler concludes, "God be thanked! in safety: with
the loss of twenty persons in all the voyage; as with great profit to the
venturers in the said voyage, so also to the whole realm, in bringing
home both gold, silver, pearls, and other jewels in great store. His name
therefore be praised for evermore! Amen." Before two years more had passed
Hawkins put forth for a third voyage, this time with six ships, two of them
among the largest then afloat. The cargo of slaves, procured by aiding a
Guinea tribe in an attack upon its neighbor, had been duly sold in the
Indies when dearth of supplies and stress of weather drove the fleet into
the Mexican port of San Juan de Ulloa. There a Spanish fleet of thirteen
ships attacked the intruders, capturing their treasure ship and three of
her consorts. Only the _Minion_ under Hawkins and the bark _Judith_ under
the young Francis Drake escaped to carry the harrowing tale to England. One
result of the episode was that it filled Hawkins and Drake with desire for
revenge on Spain, which was wreaked in due time but in European waters.
Another consequence was a discouragement of English slave trading for
nearly a century to follow.

[Footnote 2: Hakluyt, _Voyages_, ed. 1589. This and the accounts of
Hawkins' later exploits in the same line are reprinted with a valuable
introduction in C.R. Beazley, ed., _Voyages and Travels_ (New York, 1903),
I, 29-126.]

The defeat of the Armada in 1588 led the world to suspect the decline of
Spain's maritime power, but only in the lapse of decades did the suspicion
of her helplessness become a certainty. Meantime Portugal was for sixty
years an appanage of the Spanish crown, while the Netherlands were at their
heroic labor for independence. Thus when the Dutch came to prevail at sea
in the early seventeenth century the Portuguese posts in Guinea fell their
prey, and in 1621 the Dutch West India Company was chartered to take them
over. Closely identified with the Dutch government, this company not
only founded the colony of New Netherland and endeavored to foster the
employment of negro slaves there, but in 1634 it seized the Spanish island
of Curaçao near the Venezuelan coast and made it a basis for smuggling
slaves into the Spanish dominions. And now the English, the French and the
Danes began to give systematic attention to the African and West Indian
opportunities, whether in the form of buccaneering, slave trading or

The revolt of Portugal in 1640 brought a turning point. For a
quarter-century thereafter the Spanish government, regarding the Portuguese
as rebels, suspended all trade relations with them, the asiento included.
But the trade alternatives remaining were all distasteful to Spain. The
English were heretics; the Dutch were both heretics and rebels; the French
and the Danes were too weak at sea to handle the great slave trading
contract with security; and Spain had no means of her own for large scale
commerce. The upshot was that the carriage of slaves to the Spanish
colonies was wholly interdicted during the two middle decades of the
century. But this gave the smugglers their highest opportunity. The Spanish
colonial police collapsed under the pressure of the public demand for
slaves, and illicit trading became so general and open as to be pseudo
legitimate. Such a boom came as was never felt before under Protestant
flags in tropical waters. The French, in spite of great exertions, were
not yet able to rival the Dutch and English. These in fact had such an
ascendency that when in 1663 Spain revived the asiento by a contract with
two Genoese, the contractors must needs procure their slaves by arrangement
with Dutch and English who delivered them at Curaçao and Jamaica. Soon
after this contract expired the asiento itself was converted from an item
of Spanish internal policy into a shuttlecock of international politics. It
became in fact the badge of maritime supremacy, possessed now by the Dutch,
now by the French in the greatest years of Louis XIV, and finally by the
English as a trophy in the treaty of Utrecht.

By this time, however, the Spanish dominions were losing their primacy
as slave markets. Jamaica, Barbados and other Windward Islands under the
English; Hayti, Martinique and Guadeloupe under the French, and Guiana
under the Dutch were all more or less thriving as plantation colonies,
while Brazil, Virginia, Maryland and the newly founded Carolina were
beginning to demonstrate that slave labor had an effective calling without
as well as within the Caribbean latitudes. The closing decades of the
seventeenth century were introducing the heyday of the slave trade, and the
English were preparing for their final ascendency therein.

In West African waters in that century no international law prevailed but
that of might. Hence the impulse of any new country to enter the Guinea
trade led to the project of a chartered monopoly company; for without
the resources of share capital sufficient strength could not be had, and
without the monopoly privilege the necessary shares could not be sold. The
first English company of moment, chartered in 1618, confined its trade to
gold and other produce. Richard Jobson while in its service on the Gambia
was offered some slaves by a native trader. "I made answer," Jobson
relates, "we were a people who did not deal in any such commodities;
neither did we buy or sell one another, or any that had our own shapes; at
which he seemed to marvel much, and told us it was the only merchandize
they carried down, and that they were sold to white men, who earnestly
desired them. We answered, they were another kind of people, different from
us; but for our part, if they had no other commodities, we would return
again."[3] This company speedily ending its life, was followed by another
in 1631 with a similarly short career; and in 1651 the African privilege
was granted for a time to the East India Company.

[Footnote 3: Richard Jobson, _The Golden Trade_ (London 1623,), pp. 29, 87,
quoted in James Bandinel, _Some Account of the Trade in Slaves from Africa_
(London, 1842), p. 43.]

Under Charles II activities were resumed vigorously by a company chartered
in 1662; but this promptly fell into such conflict with the Dutch that its
capital of £122,000 vanished. In a drastic reorganization its affairs were
taken over by a new corporation, the Royal African Company, chartered in
1672 with the Duke of York at its head and vested in its turn with monopoly
rights under the English flag from Sallee on the Moroccan coast to the Cape
of Good Hope.[4] For two decades this company prospered greatly, selling
some two thousand slaves a year in Jamaica alone, and paying large cash
dividends on its £100,000 capital and then a stock dividend of 300
per cent. But now came reverses through European war and through the
competition of English and Yankee private traders who shipped slaves
legitimately from Madagascar and illicitly from Guinea. Now came also a
clamor from the colonies, where the company was never popular, and from
England also where oppression and abuses were charged against it by
would-be free traders. After a parliamentary investigation an act of 1697
restricted the monopoly by empowering separate traders to traffic in Guinea
upon paying to the company for the maintenance of its forts ten per cent,
on the value of the cargoes they carried thither and a percentage on
certain minor exports carried thence.

[Footnote 4: The financial career of the company is described by W.R.
Scott, "The Constitution and Finances of the Royal African Company of
England till 1720," in the _American Historical Review_, VIII. 241-259.]

The company soon fell upon still more evil times, and met them by evil
practices. To increase its capital it offered new stock for sale at
reduced prices and borrowed money for dividends in order to encourage
subscriptions. The separate traders meanwhile were winning nearly all its
trade. In 1709-1710, for example, forty-four of their vessels made voyages
as compared with but three ships of the company, and Royal African stock
sold as low as 2-1/8 on the £100. A reorganization in 1712 however added
largely to the company's funds, and the treaty of Utrecht brought it new
prosperity. In 1730 at length Parliament relieved the separate traders
of all dues, substituting a public grant of £10,000 a year toward the
maintenance of the company's forts. For twenty years more the company,
managed in the early thirties by James Oglethorpe, kept up the unequal
contest until 1751 when it was dissolved.

The company régime under the several flags was particularly dominant on the
coasts most esteemed in the seventeenth century; and in that century they
reached a comity of their own on the basis of live and let live. The French
were secured in the Senegal sphere of influence and the English on the
Gambia, while on the Gold Coast the Dutch and English divided the trade
between them. Here the two headquarters were in forts lying within sight
of each other: El Mina of the Dutch, and Cape Coast Castle of the English.
Each was commanded by a governor and garrisoned by a score or two of
soldiers; and each with its outlying factories had a staff of perhaps a
dozen factors, as many sub-factors, twice as many assistants, and a few
bookkeepers and auditors, as well as a corps of white artisans and an
abundance of native interpreters, boatmen, carriers and domestic servants.
The Dutch and English stations alternated in a series east and west, often
standing no further than a cannon-shot apart. Here and there one of them
had acquired a slight domination which the other respected; but in the case
of the Coromantees (or Fantyns) William Bosman, a Dutch company factor
about 1700, wrote that both companies had "equal power, that is none at
all. For when these people are inclined to it they shut up the passes so
close that not one merchant can come from the inland country to trade with
us; and sometimes, not content with this, they prevent the bringing of
provisions to us till we have made peace with them." The tribe was in fact
able to exact heavy tribute from both companies; and to stretch the treaty
engagements at will to its own advantage.[5] Further eastward, on the
densely populated Slave Coast, the factories were few and the trade
virtually open to all comers. Here, as was common throughout Upper Guinea,
the traits and the trading practices of adjacent tribes were likely to
be in sharp contrast. The Popo (or Paw Paw) people, for example, were so
notorious for cheating and thieving that few traders would go thither
unless prepared to carry things with a strong hand. The Portuguese alone
bore their grievances without retaliation, Bosman said, because their goods
were too poor to find markets elsewhere.[6]But Fidah (Whydah), next door,
was in Bosman's esteem the most agreeable of all places to trade in. The
people were honest and polite, and the red-tape requirements definite and
reasonable. A ship captain after paying for a license and buying the king's
private stock of slaves at somewhat above the market price would have the
news of his arrival spread afar, and at a given time the trade would be
opened with prices fixed in advance and all the available slaves herded
in an open field. There the captain or factor, with the aid of a surgeon,
would select the young and healthy, who if the purchaser were the Dutch
company were promptly branded to prevent their being confused in the crowd
before being carried on shipboard. The Whydahs were so industrious in the
trade, with such far reaching interior connections, that they could deliver
a thousand slaves each month.[7]

[Footnote 5: Bosman's _Guinea_ (London, 1705), reprinted in Pinkerton's
_Voyages_, XVI, 363.]

[Footnote 6: _Ibid_., XVI, 474-476.]

[Footnote 7: _Ibid_., XVI, 489-491.]

Of the operations on the Gambia an intimate view may be had from the
journal of Francis Moore, a factor of the Royal African Company from 1730
to 1735.[8] Here the Jolofs on the north and the Mandingoes on the south
and west were divided into tribes or kingdoms fronting from five
to twenty-five leagues on the river, while tributary villages of
Arabic-speaking Foulahs were scattered among them. In addition there was
a small independent population of mixed breed, with very slight European
infusion but styling themselves Portuguese and using a "bastard language"
known locally as Creole. Many of these last were busy in the slave trade.
The Royal African headquarters, with a garrison of thirty men, were on an
island in the river some thirty miles from its mouth, while its trading
stations dotted the shores for many leagues upstream, for no native king
was content without a factory near his "palace." The slaves bought were
partly of local origin but were mostly brought from long distances inland.
These came generally in strings or coffles of thirty or forty, tied with
leather thongs about their necks and laden with burdens of ivory and corn
on their heads. Mungo Park when exploring the hinterland of this coast
in 1795-1797, traveling incidentally with a slave coffle on part of
his journey, estimated that in the Niger Valley generally the slaves
outnumbered the free by three to one.[9] But as Moore observed, the
domestic slaves were rarely sold in the trade, mainly for fear it would
cause their fellows to run away. When captured by their master's enemies
however, they were likely to be sent to the coast, for they were seldom

[Footnote 8: Francis Moore, _Travels in Africa_ (London, 1738).]

[Footnote 9: Mungo Park, _Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa_ (4th
ed., London, 1800), pp. 287, 428.]

The diverse goods bartered for slaves were rated by units of value which
varied in the several trade centers. On the Gold Coast it was a certain
length of cowrie shells on a string; at Loango it was a "piece" which had
the value of a common gun or of twenty pounds of iron; at Kakongo it was
twelve- or fifteen-yard lengths of cotton cloth called "goods";[10] while
on the Gambia it was a bar of iron, apparently about forty pounds in
weight. But in the Gambia trade as Moore described it the unit or "bar"
in rum, cloth and most other things became depreciated until in some
commodities it was not above a shilling's value in English money. Iron
itself, on the other hand, and crystal beads, brass pans and spreadeagle
dollars appreciated in comparison. These accordingly became distinguished
as the "heads of goods," and the inclusion of three or four units of them
was required in the forty or fifty bars of miscellaneous goods making up
the price of a prime slave.[11] In previous years grown slaves alone had
brought standard prices; but in Moore's time a specially strong demand for
boys and girls in the markets of Cadiz and Lisbon had raised the prices of
these almost to a parity. All defects were of course discounted. Moore, for
example, in buying a slave with several teeth missing made the seller abate
a bar for each tooth. The company at one time forbade the purchase of
slaves from the self-styled Portuguese because they ran the prices up; but
the factors protested that these dealers would promptly carry their wares
to the separate traders, and the prohibition was at once withdrawn.

[Footnote 10: The Abbé Proyart, _History of Loango_ (1776), in Pinkerton's
_Voyages_, XVI, 584-587.]

[Footnote 11: Francis Moore, _Travels in Africa_, p.45.]

The company and the separate traders faced different problems. The latter
were less easily able to adjust their merchandise to the market. A Rhode
Island captain, for instance, wrote his owners from Anamabo in 1736, "heare
is 7 sails of us rume men, that we are ready to devour one another, for our
case is desprit"; while four years afterward another wrote after trading
at the same port, "I have repented a hundred times ye lying in of them dry
goods", which he had carried in place of the customary rum.[12] Again, a
veteran Rhode Islander wrote from Anamabo in 1752, "on the whole I never
had so much trouble in all my voiges", and particularized as follows: "I
have Gott on bord 61 Slaves and upards of thirty ounces of Goold, and have
Gott 13 or 14 hhds of Rum yet Left on bord, and God noes when I shall Gett
Clear of it ye trade is so very Dull it is actuly a noof to make a man
Creasey my Cheef mate after making foor or five Trips in the boat was taken
Sick and Remains very bad yett then I sent Mr. Taylor, and he got not well,
and three more of my men has [been] sick.... I should be Glad I coold Com
Rite home with my slaves, for my vesiel will not Last to proceed farr
we can see Day Lite al Roond her bow under Deck.... heare Lyes Captains
hamlet, James, Jepson, Carpenter, Butler, Lindsay; Gardner is Due; Ferguson
has Gone to Leward all these is Rum ships."[13]

[Footnote 12: _American Historical Record_, I (1872), 314, 317.]

[Footnote 13: Massachusetts Historical Society _Collections_, LXIX, 59,

The separate traders also had more frequent quarrels with the natives.
In 1732 a Yankee captain was killed in a trade dispute and his crew set
adrift. Soon afterward certain Jolofs took another ship's officers captive
and required the value of twenty slaves as ransom. And in 1733 the natives
at Yamyamacunda, up the Gambia, sought revenge upon Captain Samuel Moore
for having paid them in pewter dollars on his previous voyage, and were
quieted through the good offices of a company factor.[14] The company
suffered far less from native disorders, for a threat of removing its
factory would bring any chief to terms. In 1731, however, the king of
Barsally brought a troop of his kinsmen and subjects to the Joar factory
where Moore was in charge, got drunk, seized the keys and rifled the
stores.[15] But the company's chief trouble was with its own factors.
The climate and conditions were so trying that illness was frequent and
insanity and suicide occasional; and the isolation encouraged fraudulent
practices. It was usually impossible to tell the false from the true in the
reports of the loss of goods by fire and flood, theft and rapine, mildew
and white ants, or the loss of slaves by death or mutiny. The expense
of the salary list, ship hire, provisions and merchandise was heavy and
continuous, while the returns were precarious to a degree. Not often did
such great wars occur as the Dahomey invasion of the Whidah country in
1726[16] and the general fighting of the Gambia peoples in 1733-1734[17] to
glut the outward bound ships with slave cargoes. As a rule the company's
advantage of steady markets and friendly native relations appears to have
been more than offset by the freedom of the separate traders from fixed
charges and the necessity of dependence upon lazy and unfaithful employees.

[Footnote 14: Moore, pp. 112, 164, 182.]

[Footnote 15: _Ibid_., p. 82.]

[Footnote 16: William Snelgrave, _A New Account of Some Parts of Guinea and
the Slave Trade_ (London, 1734), pp. 8-32.]

[Footnote 17: Moore, p. 157.]

Instead of jogging along the coast, as many had been accustomed to do, and
casting anchor here and there upon sighting signal smokes raised by natives
who had slaves to sell,[18] the separate traders began before the close
of the colonial period to get their slaves from white factors at the
"castles," which were then a relic from the company régime. So advantageous
was this that in 1772 a Newport brig owned by Colonel Wanton cleared £500
on her voyage, and next year the sloop _Adventure_, also of Newport,
Christopher and George Champlin owners, made such speedy trade that after
losing by death one slave out of the ninety-five in her cargo she landed
the remainder in prime order at Barbados and sold them immediately in one
lot at £35 per head.[19]

[Footnote 18: Snelgrave, introduction.]

[Footnote 19: Massachusetts Historical Society _Collections_, LXIX, 398,

In Lower Guinea the Portuguese held an advantage, partly through the
influence of the Catholic priests. The Capuchin missionary Merolla, for
example, relates that while he was in service at the mouth of the Congo in
1685 word came that the college of cardinals had commanded the missionaries
in Africa to combat the slave trade. Promptly deciding this to be a
hopeless project, Merolla and his colleagues compromised with their
instructions by attempting to restrict the trade to ships of Catholic
nations and to the Dutch who were then supplying Spain under the asiento.
No sooner had the chiefs in the district agreed to this than a Dutch
trading captain set things awry by spreading Protestant doctrine among the
natives, declaring baptism to be the only sacrament required for salvation,
and confession to be superfluous. The priests then put all the Dutch under
the ban, but the natives raised a tumult saying that the Portuguese, the
only Catholic traders available, not only paid low prices in poor goods but
also aspired to a political domination. The crisis was relieved by a timely
plague of small-pox which the priests declared and the natives agreed was a
divinely sent punishment for their contumacy,--and for the time at least,
the exclusion of heretical traders was made effective.[20] The English
appear never to have excelled the Portuguese on the Congo and southward
except perhaps about the close of the eighteenth century.

[Footnote 20: Jerom Merolla da Sorrente, _Voyage to Congo_ (translated from
the Italian), in Pinkerton's _Voyages_, XVI, 253-260.]

The markets most frequented by the English and American separate traders
lay on the great middle stretches of the coast--Sierra Leone, the Grain
Coast (Liberia), the Ivory, Gold and Slave Coasts, the Oil Rivers as the
Niger Delta was then called, Cameroon, Gaboon and Loango. The swarm of
their ships was particularly great in the Gulf of Guinea upon whose shores
the vast fan-shaped hinterland poured its exiles along converging lines.

The coffles came from distances ranging to a thousand miles or more, on
rivers and paths whose shore ends the European traders could see but
did not find inviting. These paths, always of single-file narrowness,
tortuously winding to avoid fallen trees and bad ground, never straightened
even when obstructions had rotted and gone, branching and crossing in
endless network, penetrating jungles and high-grass prairies, passing
villages that were and villages that had been, skirting the lairs of savage
beasts and the haunts of cannibal men, beset with drought and famine, storm
and flood, were threaded only by negroes, bearing arms or bearing burdens.
Many of the slaves fell exhausted on the paths and were cut out of the
coffles to die. The survivors were sorted by the purchasers on the coast
into the fit and the unfit, the latter to live in local slavery or to meet
either violent or lingering deaths, the former to be taken shackled on
board the strange vessels of the strange white men and carried to an
unknown fate. The only consolations were that the future could hardly be
worse than the recent past, that misery had plenty of company, and that
things were interesting by the way. The combination of resignation and
curiosity was most helpful.

It was reassuring to these victims to see an occasional American negro
serving in the crew of a slaver and to know that a few specially favored
tribesmen had returned home with vivid stories from across the sea. On the
Gambia for example there was Job Ben Solomon who during a brief slavery
in Maryland attracted James Oglethorpe's attention by a letter written in
Arabic, was bought from his master, carried to England, presented at court,
loaded with gifts and sent home as a freeman in 1734 in a Royal African
ship with credentials requiring the governor and factors to show him every
respect. Thereafter, a celebrity on the river, he spread among his fellow
Foulahs and the neighboring Jolofs and Mandingoes his cordial praises of
the English nation.[21] And on the Gold Coast there was Amissa to testify
to British justice, for he had shipped as a hired sailor on a Liverpool
slaver in 1774, had been kidnapped by his employer and sold as a slave in
Jamaica, but had been redeemed by the king of Anamaboe and brought home
with an award by Lord Mansfield's court in London of £500 damages collected
from the slaving captain who had wronged him.[22]

The bursting of the South Sea bubble in 1720 shifted the bulk of the
separate trading from London to the rival city of Bristol. But the removal
of the duties in 1730 brought the previously unimportant port of Liverpool
into the field with such vigor that ere long she had the larger half of
all the English slave trade. Her merchants prospered by their necessary
parsimony. The wages they paid were the lowest, and the commissions and
extra allowances they gave in their early years were nil.[23] By 1753 her
ships in the slave traffic numbered eighty-seven, totaling about eight
thousand tons burthen and rated to carry some twenty-five thousand slaves.
Eight of these vessels were trading on the Gambia, thirty-eight on the Gold
and Slave Coasts, five at Benin, three at New Calabar, twelve at Bonny,
eleven at Old Calabar, and ten in Angola.[24] For the year 1771 the number
of slavers bound from Liverpool was reported at one hundred and seven with
a capacity of 29,250 negroes, while fifty-eight went from London rated
to carry 8,136, twenty-five from Bristol to carry 8,810, and five from
Lancaster with room for 950. Of this total of 195 ships 43 traded in
Senegambia, 29 on the Gold Coast, 56 on the Slave Coast, 63 in the bights
of Benin and Biafra, and 4 in Angola. In addition there were sixty or
seventy slavers from North America and the West Indies, and these were
yearly increasing.[25] By 1801 the Liverpool ships had increased to 150,
with capacity for 52,557 slaves according to the reduced rating of five
slaves to three tons of burthen as required by the parliamentary act of
1788. About half of these traded in the Gulf of Guinea, and half in the
ports of Angola.[26] The trade in American vessels, particularly those of
New England, was also large. The career of the town of Newport in fact was
a small scale replied of Liverpool's. But acceptable statistics of the
American ships are lacking.

[Footnote 21: Francis Moore, _Travels in Africa_, pp. 69, 202-203.]

[Footnote 22: Gomer Williams, _History of the Liverpool Privateers, with an
Account of the Liverpool Slave Trade_ (London, 1897), pp. 563, 564.]

[Footnote 23: _Ibid_., p. 471, quoting _A General and Descriptive History
of Liverpool_ (1795).]

[Footnote 24: _Ibid_., p. 472 and appendix 7.]

[Footnote 25: Edward Long, _History of Jamaica_ (London, 1774), p. 492

[Footnote 26: Corner Williams, Appendix 13.]

The ship captains in addition to their salaries generally received
commissions of "4 in 104," on the gross sales, and also had the privilege
of buying, transporting and selling specified numbers of slaves on their
private account. When surgeons were carried they also were allowed
commissions and privileges at a smaller rate, and "privileges" were often
allowed the mates likewise. The captains generally carried more or less
definite instructions. Ambrose Lace, for example, master of the Liverpool
ship _Marquis of Granby_ bound in 1762 for Old Calabar, was ordered to
combine with any other ships on the river to keep down rates, to buy
550 young and healthy slaves and such ivory as his surplus cargo would
purchase, and to guard against fire, fever and attack. When laden he was
to carry the slaves to agents in the West Indies, and thence bring home
according to opportunity sugar, cotton, coffee, pimento, mahogany and rum,
and the balance of the slave cargo proceeds in bills of exchange.[27]
Simeon Potter, master of a Rhode Island slaver about the same time, was
instructed by his owners: "Make yr Cheaf Trade with The Blacks and little
or none with the white people if possible to be avoided. Worter yr Rum as
much as possible and sell as much by the short mesuer as you can." And
again: "Order them in the Bots to worter thear Rum, as the proof will Rise
by the Rum Standing in ye Son."[28] As to the care of the slave cargo a
Massachusetts captain was instructed in 1785 as follows: "No people require
more kind and tender treatment: to exhilarate their spirits than the
Africans; and while on the one hand you are attentive to this, remember
that on the other hand too much circumspection cannot be observed by
yourself and people to prevent their taking advantage of such treatment
by insurrection, etc. When you consider that on the health of your slaves
almost your whole voyage depends--for all other risques but mortality,
seizures and bad debts the underwriters are accountable for--you will
therefore particularly attend to smoking your vessel, washing her with
vinegar, to the clarifying your water with lime or brimstone, and to
cleanliness among your own people as well as among the slaves."[29]

[Footnote 27: Ibid., pp. 486-489.]

[Footnote 28: W.B. Weeden, _Economic and Social History of New England_
(Boston [1890]), II, 465.]

[Footnote 29: G.H. Moore, _Notes on the History of Slavery in
Massachusetts_ (New York, 1866), pp. 66, 67, citing J.O. Felt, _Annals of
Salem_, 2d ed., II, 289, 290.]

Ships were frequently delayed for many months on the pestilent coast, for
after buying their licenses in one kingdom and finding trade slack there
they could ill afford to sail for another on the uncertain chance of a more
speedy supply. Sometimes when weary of higgling the market, they tried
persuasion by force of arms; but in some instances as at Bonny, in
1757,[30] this resulted in the victory of the natives and the destruction
of the ships. In general the captains and their owners appreciated the
necessity of patience, expensive and even deadly as that might prove to be.

[Footnote 30: Gomer Williams, pp. 481, 482.]

The chiefs were eager to foster trade and cultivate good will, for it
brought them pompous trappings as well as useful goods. "Grandy King
George" of Old Calabar, for example, asked of his friend Captain Lace
a mirror six feet square, an arm chair "for my salf to sat in," a gold
mounted cane, a red and a blue coat with gold lace, a case of razors,
pewter plates, brass flagons, knives and forks, bullet and cannon-ball
molds, and sailcloth for his canoes, along with many other things for use
in trade.[31]

[Footnote 31: _Ibid_., pp. 545-547.]

The typical New England ship for the slave trade was a sloop, schooner or
barkentine of about fifty tons burthen, which when engaged in ordinary
freighting would have but a single deck. For a slaving voyage a second
flooring was laid some three feet below the regular deck, the space between
forming the slave quarters. Such a vessel was handled by a captain, two
mates, and from three to six men and boys. It is curious that a vessel of
this type, with capacity in the hold for from 100 to 120 hogsheads of rum
was reckoned by the Rhode Islanders to be "full bigg for dispatch,"[32]
while among the Liverpool slave traders such a ship when offered for
sale could not find a purchaser.[33] The reason seems to have been that
dry-goods and sundries required much more cargo space for the same value
than did rum.

[Footnote 32: Massachusetts Historical Society, _Collections_, LXIX, 524.]

[Footnote 33: _Ibid_., 500.]

The English vessels were generally twice as great of burthen and with twice
the height in their 'tween decks. But this did not mean that the slaves
could stand erect in their quarters except along the center line; for when
full cargoes were expected platforms of six or eight feet in width were
laid on each side, halving the 'tween deck height and nearly doubling the
floor space on which the slaves were to be stowed. Whatever the size of the
ship, it loaded slaves if it could get them to the limit of its capacity.
Bosnian tersely said, "they lie as close together as it is possible to be
crowded."[34] The women's room was divided from the men's by a bulkhead,
and in time of need the captain's cabin might be converted into a hospital.

[Footnote 34: Bosnian's _Guinea_, in Pinkerton's _Voyages_, XVI, 490.]

While the ship was taking on slaves and African provisions and water the
negroes were generally kept in a temporary stockade on deck for the sake
of fresh air. But on departure for the "middle passage," as the trip to
America was called by reason of its being the second leg of the ship's
triangular voyage in the trade, the slaves were kept below at night and in
foul weather, and were allowed above only in daylight for food, air and
exercise while the crew and some of the slaves cleaned the quarters and
swabbed the floors with vinegar as a disinfectant. The negro men were
usually kept shackled for the first part of the passage until the chances
of mutiny and return to Africa dwindled and the captain's fears gave place
to confidence. On various occasions when attacks of privateers were to be
repelled weapons were issued and used by the slaves in loyal defense of
the vessel.[35] Systematic villainy in the handling of the human cargo
was perhaps not so characteristic in this trade as in the transport of
poverty-stricken white emigrants. Henry Laurens, after withdrawing from
African factorage at Charleston because of the barbarities inflicted by
some of the participants in the trade, wrote in 1768: "Yet I never saw an
instance of cruelty in ten or twelve years' experience in that branch equal
to the cruelty exercised upon those poor Irish.... Self interest prompted
the baptized heathen to take some care of their wretched slaves for a
market, but no other care was taken of those poor Protestant Christians
from Ireland but to deliver as many as possible alive on shoar upon the
cheapest terms, no matter how they fared upon the voyage nor in what
condition they were landed."[36]

[Footnote 35: _E. g_., Gomer Williams, pp. 560, 561.]

[Footnote 36: D.D. Wallace, _Life of Henry Laurens_ (New York, 1915), pp.
67, 68. For the tragic sufferings of an English convict shipment in 1768
see _Plantation and Frontier_, I, 372-373]

William Snelgrave, long a ship captain in the trade, relates that he was
accustomed when he had taken slaves on board to acquaint them through his
interpreter that they were destined to till the ground in America and not
to be eaten; that if any person on board abused them they were to complain
to the interpreter and the captain would give them redress, but if they
struck one of the crew or made any disturbance they must expect to be
severely punished. Snelgrave nevertheless had experience of three mutinies
in his career; and Coromantees figured so prominently in these that he
never felt secure when men of that stock were in his vessel, for, he said,
"I knew many of these Cormantine negroes despised punishment and even death
itself." In one case when a Coromantee had brained a sentry he was notified
by Snelgrave that he was to die in the sight of his fellows at the end of
an hour's time. "He answered, 'He must confess it was a rash action in him
to kill him; but he desired me to consider that if I put him to death I
should lose all the money I had paid for him.'" When the captain professed
himself unmoved by this argument the negro spent his last moments assuring
his fellows that his life was safe.[37]

[Footnote 37: Snelgrave, _Guinea and the Slave Trade_ (London, 1734), pp.
162-185. Snelgrave's book also contains vivid accounts of tribal wars,
human sacrifices, traders' negotiations and pirate captures on the Grain
and Slave Coasts.]

The discomfort in the densely packed quarters of the slave ships may be
imagined by any who have sailed on tropic seas. With seasickness added it
was wretched; when dysentery prevailed it became frightful; if water or
food ran short the suffering was almost or quite beyond endurance; and in
epidemics of scurvy, small-pox or ophthalmia the misery reached the limit
of human experience. The average voyage however was rapid and smooth
by virtue of the steadily blowing trade winds, the food if coarse was
generally plenteous and wholesome, and the sanitation fairly adequate. In
a word, under stern and often brutal discipline, and with the poorest
accommodations, the slaves encountered the then customary dangers and
hardships of the sea.[38]

[Footnote 38: Voluminous testimony in regard to conditions on the middle
passage was published by Parliament and the Privy Council in 1789-1791.
Summaries from it may be found in T.F. Buxton, _The African Slave Trade and
the Remedy_ (London, 1840), part I, chap. 2; and in W.O. Blake, _History of
Slavery and the Slave Trade_ (Columbus, Ohio, 1859), chaps, 9, 10.]

Among the disastrous voyages an example was that of the Dutch West India
Company's ship _St. John_ in 1659. After buying slaves at Bonny in April
and May she beat about the coast in search of provisions but found barely
enough for daily consumption until at the middle of August on the island of
Amebo she was able to buy hogs, beans, cocoanuts and oranges. Meanwhile bad
food had brought dysentery, the surgeon, the cooper and a sailor had died,
and the slave cargo was daily diminishing. Five weeks of sailing then
carried the ship across the Atlantic, where she put into Tobago to refill
her leaking water casks. Sailing thence she struck a reef near her
destination at Curaçao and was abandoned by her officers and crew. Finally
a sloop sent by the Curaçao governor to remove the surviving slaves was
captured by a privateer with them on board. Of the 195 negroes comprising
the cargo on June 30, from one to five died nearly every day, and one
leaped overboard to his death. At the end of the record on October 29 the
slave loss had reached 110, with the mortality rate nearly twice as high
among the men as among the women.[39] About the same time, on the other
hand, Captain John Newton of Liverpool, who afterwards turned preacher,
made a voyage without losing a sailor or a slave.[40] The mortality on the
average ship may be roughly conjectured from the available data at eight or
ten per cent.

[Footnote 39: E.B. O'Callaghan ed., _Voyages of the Slavers St. John and
Arms of Amsterdam_ (Albany, N.Y., 1867), pp. 1-13.]

[Footnote 40: Corner Williams, p. 515.]

Details of characteristic outfit, cargo, and expectations in the New
England branch of trade may be had from an estimate made in 1752 for a
projected voyage.[41] A sloop of sixty tons, valued at £300 sterling, was
to be overhauled and refitted, armed, furnished with handcuffs, medicines
and miscellaneous chandlery at a cost of £65, and provisioned for £50 more.
Its officers and crew, seven hands all told, were to draw aggregate wages
of £10 per month for an estimated period of one year. Laden with eight
thousand gallons of rum at 1_s. 8_d_. per gallon and with forty-five
barrels, tierces and hogsheads of bread, flour, beef, pork, tar, tobacco,
tallow and sugar--all at an estimated cost of £775--it was to sail for the
Gold Coast. There, after paying the local charges from the cargo, some
35 slave men were to be bought at 100 gallons per head, 15 women at 85
gallons, and 15 boys and girls at 65 gallons; and the residue of the rum
and miscellaneous cargo was expected to bring some seventy ounces of gold
in exchange as well as to procure food supplies for the westward voyage.
Recrossing the Atlantic, with an estimated death loss of a man, a woman and
two children, the surviving slaves were to be sold in Jamaica at about £21,
£18, and £14 for the respective classes. Of these proceeds about one-third
was to be spent for a cargo of 105 hogsheads of molasses at 8_d_. per
gallon, and the rest of the money remitted to London, whither the gold dust
was also to be sent. The molasses upon reaching Newport was expected to
bring twice as much as it had cost in the tropics. After deducting factor's
commissions of from 2-1/2 to 5 per cent. on all sales and purchases, and of
"4 in 104" on the slave sales as the captain's allowance, after providing
for insurance at four per cent. on ship and cargo for each leg of the
voyage, and for leakage of ten per cent. of the rum and five per cent. of
the molasses, and after charging off the whole cost of the ship's outfit
and one-third of her original value, there remained the sum of £357, 8s.
2d. as the expected profits of the voyage.

[Footnote 41: "An estimate of a voyage from Rhode Island to the Coast of
Guinea and from thence to Jamaica and so back to Rhode Island for a sloop
of 60 Tons." The authorities of Yale University, which possesses the
manuscript, have kindly permitted the publication of these data. The
estimates in Rhode Island and Jamaica currencies, which were then
depreciated, as stated in the document, to twelve for one and seven for
five sterling respectively, are here changed into their approximate
sterling equivalents.]

As to the gross volume of the trade, there are few statistics. As early as
1734 one of the captains engaged in it estimated that a maximum of seventy
thousand slaves a year had already been attained.[42] For the next half
century and more each passing year probably saw between fifty thousand and
a hundred thousand shipped. The total transportation from first to last may
well have numbered more than five million souls. Prior to the nineteenth
century far more negro than white colonists crossed the seas, though less
than one tenth of all the blacks brought to the western world appear to
have been landed on the North American continent. Indeed, a statistician
has reckoned, though not convincingly, that in the whole period before 1810
these did not exceed 385,500[43]

[Footnote 42: Snelgrave, _Guinea and the Slave Trade_, p. 159.]

[Footnote 43: H.C. Carey, _The Slave Trade, Domestic and Foreign_
(Philadelphia, 1853), chap. 3.]

In selling the slave cargoes in colonial ports the traders of course wanted
minimum delay and maximum prices. But as a rule quickness and high returns
were not mutually compatible. The Royal African Company tended to lay chief
stress upon promptness of sale. Thus at the end of 1672 it announced that
if persons would contract to receive whole cargoes upon their arrival and
to accept all slaves between twelve and forty years of age who were able to
go over the ship's side unaided they would be supplied at the rate of
£15 per head in Barbados, £16 in Nevis, £17 in Jamaica, and £18 in
Virginia.[44] The colonists were for a time disposed to accept this
arrangement where they could. For example Charles Calvert, governor of
Maryland, had already written Lord Baltimore in 1664: "I have endeavored to
see if I could find as many responsible men that would engage to take 100
or 200 neigros every year from the Royall Company at that rate mentioned
in your lordship's letter; but I find that we are nott men of estates good
enough to undertake such a buisnesse, but could wish we were for we are
naturally inclined to love neigros if our purses could endure it."[45] But
soon complaints arose that the slaves delivered on contract were of the
poorest quality, while the better grades were withheld for other means of
sale at higher prices. Quarrels also developed between the company on the
one hand and the colonists and their legislatures on the other over the
rating of colonial moneys and the obstructions placed by law about the
collection of debts; and the colonists proceeded to give all possible
encouragement to the separate traders, legal or illegal as their traffic
might be.[46]

[Footnote 44: E.D. Collins, "Studies in the Colonial Policy of England,
1672-1680," in the American Historical Association _Report_ for 1901, I,

[Footnote 45: Maryland Historical Society _Fund Publications_ no. 28, p.

[Footnote 46: G.L. Beer, _The Old Colonial System_ (New York, 1912), part
I, vol. I, chap. 5.]

Most of the sales, in the later period at least, were without previous
contract. A practice often followed in the British West Indian ports was to
advertise that the cargo of a vessel just arrived would be sold on board at
an hour scheduled and at a uniform price announced in the notice. At the
time set there would occur a great scramble of planters and dealers to grab
the choicest slaves. A variant from this method was reported in 1670 from
Guadeloupe, where a cargo brought in by the French African company was
first sorted into grades of prime men, (_pièces d'Inde_), prime women, boys
and girls rated at two-thirds of prime, and children rated at one-half. To
each slave was attached a ticket bearing a number, while a corresponding
ticket was deposited in one of four boxes according to the grade. At prices
then announced for the several grades, the planters bought the privilege of
drawing tickets from the appropriate boxes and acquiring thereby title to
the slaves to which the numbers they drew were attached.[47]

[Footnote 47: Lucien Peytraud, _L'Esclavage aux Antilles Françaises avant
1789_ (Paris, 1897), pp. 122, 123.]

In the chief ports of the British continental colonies the maritime
transporters usually engaged merchants on shore to sell the slaves as
occasion permitted, whether by private sale or at auction. At Charleston
these merchants charged a ten per cent commission on slave sales, though
their factorage rate was but five per cent. on other sorts of merchandise;
and they had credits of one and two years for the remittance of the
proceeds.[48] The following advertisement, published at Charleston in 1785
jointly by Ball, Jennings and Company, and Smiths, DeSaussure and Darrell
is typical of the factors' announcements: "GOLD COAST NEGROES. On Thursday,
the 17th of March instant, will be exposed to public sale near the Exchange
(if not before disposed of by private contract) the remainder of the cargo
of negroes imported in the ship _Success_, Captain John Conner, consisting
chiefly of likely young boys and girls in good health, and having been
here through the winter may be considered in some degree seasoned to this
climate. The conditions of the sale will be credit to the first of January,
1786, on giving bond with approved security where required--the negroes not
to be delivered till the terms are complied with."[49] But in such colonies
as Virginia where there was no concentration of trade in ports, the ships
generally sailed from place to place peddling their slaves, with notice
published in advance when practicable. The diseased or otherwise unfit
negroes were sold for whatever price they would bring. In some of the ports
it appears that certain physicians made a practise of buying these to sell
the survivors at a profit upon their restoration to health.[50]

[Footnote 48: D.D. Wallace, _Life of Henry Laurens_, p. 75.]

[Footnote 49: _The Gazette of the State of South Carolina_, Mch. 10, 1785.]

[Footnote 50: C. C. Robin, _Voyages_ (Paris, 1806), II, 170.]

That by no means all the negroes took their enslavement grievously is
suggested by a traveler's note at Columbia, South Carolina, in 1806: "We
met ... a number of new negroes, some of whom had been in the country long
enough to talk intelligibly. Their likely looks induced us to enter into
a talk with them. One of them, a very bright, handsome youth of about
sixteen, could talk well. He told us the circumstances of his being caught
and enslaved, with as much composure as he would any common occurrence,
not seeming to think of the injustice of the thing nor to speak of it with
indignation.... He spoke of his master and his work as though all were
right, and seemed not to know he had a right to be anything but a

[Footnote 51: "Diary of Edward Hooker," in the American Historical
Association _Report_ for 1906, p. 882.]

In the principal importing colonies careful study was given to the
comparative qualities of the several African stocks. The consensus
of opinion in the premises may be gathered from several contemporary
publications, the chief ones of which were written in Jamaica.[52] The
Senegalese, who had a strong Arabic strain in their ancestry, were
considered the most intelligent of Africans and were especially esteemed
for domestic service, the handicrafts and responsible positions. "They are
good commanders over other negroes, having a high spirit and a tolerable
share of fidelity; but they are unfit for hard work; their bodies are not
robust nor their constitutions vigorous." The Mandingoes were reputed to be
especially gentle in demeanor but peculiarly prone to theft. They easily
sank under fatigue, but might be employed with advantage in the distillery
and the boiling house or as watchmen against fire and the depredations of
cattle. The Coromantees of the Gold Coast stand salient in all accounts as
hardy and stalwart of mind and body. Long calls them haughty, ferocious and
stubborn; Edwards relates examples of their Spartan fortitude; and it
was generally agreed that they were frequently instigators of slave
conspiracies and insurrections. Yet their spirit of loyalty made them the
most highly prized of servants by those who could call it forth. Of them
Christopher Codrington, governor of the Leeward Islands, wrote in 1701 to
the English Board of Trade: "The Corramantes are not only the best and
most faithful of our slaves, but are really all born heroes. There is a
differance between them and all other negroes beyond what 'tis possible
for your Lordships to conceive. There never was a raskal or coward of that
nation. Intrepid to the last degree, not a man of them but will stand to
be cut to pieces without a sigh or groan, grateful and obedient to a kind
master, but implacably revengeful when ill-treated. My father, who had
studied the genius and temper of all kinds of negroes forty-five years with
a very nice observation, would say, noe man deserved a Corramante that
would not treat him like a friend rather than a slave."[53]

[Footnote 52: Edward Long, _History of Jamaica_ (London, 1774), II, 403,
404; Bryan Edwards, _History of the British Colonies in the West Indies_,
various editions, book IV, chap. 3; and "A Professional Planter,"
_Practical Rules for the Management and Medical Treatment of Negro Slaves
in the Sugar Colonies_ (London, 1803), pp. 39-48. The pertinent portion of
this last is reprinted in _Plantation and Frontier_, II, 127-133. For the
similar views of the French planters in the West Indies see Peytraud,
_L'Esclavage aux Antilles Françaises_, pp. 87-90.]

[Footnote 53: _Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, America and West
Indies_, 1701, pp. 720, 721.]

The Whydahs, Nagoes and Pawpaws of the Slave Coast were generally the most
highly esteemed of all. They were lusty and industrious, cheerful and
submissive. "That punishment which excites the Koromantyn to rebel,
and drives the Ebo negro to suicide, is received by the Pawpaws as the
chastisement of legal authority to which it is their duty to submit
patiently." As to the Eboes or Mocoes, described as having a sickly yellow
tinge in their complection, jaundiced eyes, and prognathous faces like
baboons, the women were said to be diligent but the men lazy, despondent
and prone to suicide. "They require therefore the gentlest and mildest
treatment to reconcile them to their situation; but if their confidence be
once obtained they manifest as great fidelity, affection and gratitude as
can reasonably be expected from men in a state of slavery."

The "kingdom of Gaboon," which straddled the equator, was the worst reputed
of all. "From thence a good negro was scarcely ever brought. They are
purchased so cheaply on the coast as to tempt many captains to freight with
them; but they generally die either on the passage or soon after
their arrival in the islands. The debility of their constitutions is
astonishing." From this it would appear that most of the so-called Gaboons
must have been in reality Pygmies caught in the inland equatorial forests,
for Bosman, who traded among the Gaboons, merely inveighed against their
garrulity, their indecision, their gullibility and their fondness for
strong drink, while as to their physique he observed: "they are mostly
large, robust well shaped men."[54] Of the Congoes and Angolas the Jamaican
writers had little to say except that in their glossy black they
were slender and sightly, mild in disposition, unusually honest, but
exceptionally stupid.

[Footnote 54: Bosman in Pinkerton's _Voyages_, XVI, 509, 510.]

In the South Carolina market Gambia negroes, mainly Mandingoes, were the
favorites, and Angolas also found ready sale; but cargoes from Calabar,
which were doubtless comprised mostly of Eboes, were shunned because of
their suicidal proclivity. Henry Laurens, who was then a commission dealer
at Charleston, wrote in 1755 that the sale of a shipload from Calabar then
in port would be successful only if no other Guinea ships arrived before
its quarantine was ended, for the people would not buy negroes of that
stock if any others were to be had.[55]

[Footnote 55: D.D. Wallace, _Life of Henry Laurens_, pp. 76, 77.]

It would appear that the Congoes, Angolas and Eboes were especially prone
to run away, or perhaps particularly easy to capture when fugitive, for
among the 1046 native Africans advertised as runaways held in the Jamaica
workhouses in 1803 there were 284 Eboes and Mocoes, 185 Congoes and 259
Angolas as compared with 101 Mandingoes, 60 Chambas (from Sierra Leone), 70
Coromantees, 57 Nagoes and Pawpaws, and 30 scattering, along with a total
of 488 American-born negroes and mulattoes, and 187 unclassified.[56]

[Footnote 56: These data were generously assembled for me by Professor
Chauncey S. Boucher of Washington University, St. Louis, from a file of the
_Royal Gazette_ of Kingston, Jamaica, for the year 1803, which is preserved
in the Charleston, S.C. Library.]

This huge maritime slave traffic had great consequences for all the
countries concerned. In Liverpool it made millionaires,[57] and elsewhere
in England, Europe and New England it brought prosperity not only to ship
owners but to the distillers of rum and manufacturers of other trade goods.
In the American plantation districts it immensely stimulated the production
of the staple crops. On the other hand it kept the planters constantly
in debt for their dearly bought labor, and it left a permanent and
increasingly complex problem of racial adjustments. In Africa, it largely
transformed the primitive scheme of life, and for the worse. It created new
and often unwholesome wants; it destroyed old industries and it corrupted
tribal institutions. The rum, the guns, the utensils and the gewgaws were
irresistible temptations. Every chief and every tribesman acquired
a potential interest in slave getting and slave selling. Charges of
witchcraft, adultery, theft and other crimes were trumped up that the
number of convicts for sale might be swelled; debtors were pressed that
they might be adjudged insolvent and their persons delivered to the
creditors; the sufferings of famine were left unrelieved that parents might
be forced to sell their children or themselves; kidnapping increased until
no man or woman and especially no child was safe outside a village; and
wars and raids were multiplied until towns by hundreds were swept from the
earth and great zones lay void of their former teeming population.[58]

[Footnote 57: Gomer Williams, chap. 6.]

[Footnote 58: C.B. Wadstrom, _Observations on the Slave Trade_ (London,
1789); Lord Muncaster, _Historical Sketches of the Slave Trade and of its
Effects in Africa_ (London, 1792); Jerome Dowd, _The Negro Races_, vol. 3,
chap. 2 (MS).]

The slave trade has well been called the systematic plunder of a continent.
But in the irony of fate those Africans who lent their hands to the looting
got nothing but deceptive rewards, while the victims of the rapine were
quite possibly better off on the American plantations than the captors
who remained in the African jungle. The only participants who got
unquestionable profit were the English, European and Yankee traders and



As regards negro slavery the history of the West Indies is inseparable from
that of North America. In them the plantation system originated and reached
its greatest scale, and from them the institution of slavery was extended
to the continent. The industrial system on the islands, and particularly
on those occupied by the British, is accordingly instructive as an
introduction and a parallel to the continental régime.

The early career of the island of Barbados gives a striking instance of
a farming colony captured by the plantation system. Founded in 1624 by a
group of unprosperous English emigrants, it pursued an even and commonplace
tenor until the Civil War in England sent a crowd of royalist refugees
thither, together with some thousands of Scottish and Irish prisoners
converted into indentured servants. Negro slaves were also imported to work
alongside the redemptioners in the tobacco, cotton, ginger, and indigo
crops, and soon proved their superiority in that climate, especially when
yellow fever, to which the Africans are largely immune, decimated the white
population. In 1643, as compared with some five thousand negroes of all
sorts, there were about eighteen thousand white men capable of bearing
arms; and in the little island's area of 166 square miles there were nearly
ten thousand separate landholdings. Then came the introduction of
sugar culture, which brought the beginning of the end of the island's
transformation. A fairly typical plantation in the transition period was
described by a contemporary. Of its five hundred acres about two hundred
were planted in sugar-cane, twenty in tobacco, five in cotton, five in
ginger and seventy in provision crops; several acres were devoted to
pineapples, bananas, oranges and the like; eighty acres were in pasturage,
and one hundred and twenty in woodland. There were a sugar mill, a boiling
house, a curing house, a distillery, the master's residence, laborers'
cabins, and barns and stables. The livestock numbered forty-five oxen,
eight cows, twelve horses and sixteen asses; and the labor force comprised
ninety-eight "Christians," ninety-six negroes and three Indian women
with their children. In general, this writer said, "The slaves and their
posterity, being subject to their masters forever, are kept and preserved
with greater care than the (Christian) servants, who are theirs for but
five years according to the laws of the island.[1] So that for the time
being the servants have the worser lives, for they are put to very hard
labor, ill lodging and their dyet very light."

[Footnote 1: Richard Ligon, _History of Barbados_ (London, 1657).]

As early as 1645 George Downing, then a young Puritan preacher recently
graduated from Harvard College but later a distinguished English diplomat,
wrote to his cousin John Winthrop, Jr., after a voyage in the West Indies:
"If you go to Barbados, you shal see a flourishing Iland, many able men. I
beleive they have bought this year no lesse than a thousand Negroes, and
the more they buie the better they are able to buye, for in a yeare and
halfe they will earne (with God's blessing) as much as they cost."[2]
Ten years later, with bonanza prices prevailing in the sugar market, the
Barbadian planters declared their colony to be "the most envyed of the
world" and estimated the value of its annual crops at a million pounds
sterling.[3] But in the early sixties a severe fall in sugar prices put an
end to the boom period and brought the realization that while sugar was the
rich man's opportunity it was the poor man's ruin. By 1666 emigration to
other colonies had halved the white population; but the slave trade had
increased the negroes to forty thousand, most of whom were employed on the
eight hundred sugar estates.[4] For the rest of the century Barbados held
her place as the leading producer of British sugar and the most esteemed
of the British colonies; but as the decades passed the fertility of her
limited fields became depleted, and her importance gradually fell secondary
to that of the growing Jamaica.

[Footnote 2: Massachusetts Historical Society _Collections_, series 4, vol.
6, p. 536.]

[Footnote 3: G.L. Beer, _Origins of the British Colonial System_ (New York,
1908), P. 413.]

[Footnote 4: G.L. Beer, _The Old Colonial System_, part I, vol. 2, pp. 9,

The Barbadian estates were generally much smaller than those of Jamaica
came to be. The planters nevertheless not only controlled their community
wholly in their interest but long maintained a unique "planters' committee"
at London to make representations to the English government on behalf of
their class. They pleaded for the colony's freedom of trade, for example,
with no more vigor than they insisted that England should not interfere
with the Barbadian law to prohibit Quakers from admitting negroes to their
meetings. An item significant of their attitude upon race relations is
the following from the journal of the Crown's committee of trade and
plantations, Oct. 8, 1680: "The gentlemen of Barbados attend, ... who
declare that the conversion of their slaves to Christianity would not only
destroy their property but endanger the island, inasmuch as converted
negroes grow more perverse and intractable than others, and hence of less
value for labour or sale. The disproportion of blacks to white being great,
the whites have no greater security than the diversity of the negroes'
languages, which would be destroyed by conversion in that it would be
necessary to teach them all English. The negroes are a sort of people so
averse to learning that they will rather hang themselves or run away than
submit to it." The Lords of Trade were enough impressed by this argument to
resolve that the question be left to the Barbadian government.[5]

[Footnote 5: _Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, America and West
Indies_, 1677-1680, p. 611.]

As illustrating the plantation régime in the island in the period of its
full industrial development, elaborate instructions are extant which were
issued about 1690 to Richard Harwood, manager or overseer of the Drax Hall
and Hope plantations belonging to the Codrington family. These included
directions for planting, fertilizing and cultivating the cane, for the
operation of the wind-driven sugar mill, the boiling and curing houses and
the distillery, and for the care of the live stock; but the main concern
was with the slaves. The number in the gangs was not stated, but the
expectation was expressed that in ordinary years from ten to twenty new
negroes would have to be bought to keep the ranks full, and it was advised
that Coromantees be preferred, since they had been found best for the work
on these estates. Plenty was urged in provision crops with emphasis upon
plantains and cassava,--the latter because of the certainty of its
harvest, the former because of the abundance of their yield in years of no
hurricanes and because the negroes especially delighted in them and
found them particularly wholesome as a dysentery diet. The services of a
physician had been arranged for, but the manager was directed to take great
care of the negroes' health and pay special attention to the sick. The
clothing was not definitely stated as to periods. For food each was
to receive weekly a pound of fish and two quarts of molasses, tobacco
occasionally, salt as needed, palm oil once a year, and home-grown
provisions in abundance. Offenses committed by the slaves were to be
punished immediately, "many of them being of the houmer of avoiding
punishment when threatened: to hang themselves." For drunkenness the stocks
were recommended. As to theft, recognized as especially hard to repress,
the manager was directed to let hunger give no occasion for it.[6]

[Footnote 6: Original MS. in the Bodleian Library, A. 248, 3. Copy used
through the courtesy of Dr. F.W. Pitman of Yale University.]

Jamaica, which lies a thousand miles west of Barbados and has twenty-five
times her area, was captured by the English in 1655 when its few hundreds
of Spaniards had developed nothing but cacao and cattle raising. English
settlement began after the Restoration, with Roundhead exiles supplemented
by immigrants from the Lesser Antilles and by buccaneers turned farmers.
Lands were granted on a lavish scale on the south side of the island where
an abundance of savannahs facilitated tillage; but the development of
sugar culture proved slow by reason of the paucity of slaves and the
unfamiliarity of the settlers with the peculiarities of the soil and
climate. With the increase of prosperity, and by the aid of managers
brought from Barbados, sugar plantations gradually came to prevail
all round the coast and in favorable mountain valleys, while smaller
establishments here and there throve more moderately in the production of
cotton, pimento, ginger, provisions and live stock. For many years the
legislature, prodded by occasional slave revolts, tried to stimulate the
increase of whites by requiring the planters to keep a fixed proportion of
indentured servants; but in the early eighteenth century this policy proved
futile, and thereafter the whites numbered barely one-tenth as many as
the negroes. The slaves were reported at 86,546 in 1734; 112,428 in 1744;
166,914 in 1768; and 210,894 in 1787. In addition there were at the last
date some 10,000 negroes legally free, and 1400 maroons or escaped slaves
dwelling permanently in the mountain fastnesses. The number of sugar
plantations was 651 in 1768, and 767 in 1791; and they contained about
three-fifths of all the slaves on the island. Throughout this latter part
of the century the average holding on the sugar estates was about 180
slaves of all ages.[7]

[Footnote 7: Edward Long, _History of Jamaica_, I, 494, Bryan Edwards,
_History of the British Colonies in the West Indies_, book II, appendix.]

When the final enumeration of slaves in the British possessions was made
in the eighteen-thirties there were no single Jamaica holdings reported as
large as that of 1598 slaves held by James Blair in Guiana; but occasional
items were of a scale ranging from five to eight hundred each, and hundreds
numbered above one hundred each. In many of these instances the same
persons are listed as possessing several holdings, with Sir Edward Hyde
East particularly notable for the large number of his great squads. The
degree of absenteeism is indicated by the frequency of English nobles,
knights and gentlemen among the large proprietors. Thus the Earl of
Balcarres had 474 slaves; the Earl of Harwood 232; the Earl and Countess of
Airlie 59; Earl Talbot and Lord Shelborne jointly 79; Lord Seaford 70; Lord
Hatherton jointly with Francis Downing, John Benbow and the Right Reverend
H. Philpots, Lord Bishop of Exeter, two holdings of 304 and 236 slaves
each; and the three Gladstones, Thomas, William and Robert 468 slaves

[Footnote 8: "Accounts of Slave Compensation Claims," in the British
official _Account: and Papers, 1837-1838_, vol. XLVIII.]

Such an average scale and such a prevalence of absenteeism never prevailed
in any other Anglo-American plantation community, largely because none of
the other staples required so much manufacturing as sugar did in preparing
the crops for market. As Bryan Edwards wrote in 1793: "the business of
sugar planting is a sort of adventure in which the man that engages must
engage deeply.... It requires a capital of no less than thirty thousand
pounds sterling to embark in this employment with a fair prospect of
success." Such an investment, he particularized, would procure and
establish as a going concern a plantation of 300 acres in cane and 100
acres each in provision crops, forage and woodland, together with the
appropriate buildings and apparatus, and a working force of 80 steers, 60
mules and 250 slaves, at the current price for these last of £50 sterling
a head.[9] So distinctly were the plantations regarded as capitalistic
ventures that they came to be among the chief speculations of their time
for absentee investors.

[Footnote 9: Bryan Edwards, _History of the West Indies_, book 5, chap. 3.]

When Lord Chesterfield tried in 1767 to buy his son a seat in Parliament he
learned "that there was no such thing as a borough to be had now, for that
the rich East and West Indians had secured them all at the rate of three
thousand pounds at the least."[10] And an Englishman after traveling in the
French and British Antilles in 1825 wrote: "The French colonists, whether
Creoles or Europeans, consider the West Indies as their country; they cast
no wistful looks toward France.... In our colonies it is quite different;
... every one regards the colony as a temporary lodging place where they
must sojourn in sugar and molasses till their mortgages will let them live
elsewhere. They call England their home though many of them have never
been there.... The French colonist deliberately expatriates himself; the
Englishman never."[11] Absenteeism was throughout a serious detriment. Many
and perhaps most of the Jamaica proprietors were living luxuriously in
England instead of industriously on their estates. One of them, the
talented author "Monk" Lewis, when he visited his own plantation in
1815-1817, near the end of his life, found as much novelty in the doings of
his slaves as if he had been drawing his income from shares in the Banc of
England; but even he, while noting their clamorous good nature was chiefly
impressed by their indolence and perversity.[12] It was left for an invalid
traveling for his health to remark most vividly the human equation: "The
negroes cannot be silent; they talk in spite of themselves. Every passion
acts upon them with strange intensity, their anger is sudden and furious,
their mirth clamorous and excessive, their curiosity audacious, and their
love the sheer demand for gratification of an ardent animal desire. Yet
by their nature they are good-humored in the highest degree, and I know
nothing more delightful than to be met by a group of negro girls and to be
saluted with their kind 'How d'ye massa? how d'ye massa?'"[13]

[Footnote 10: Lord Chesterfield, _Letters to his Son_ (London, 1774), II,

[Footnote 11: H.N. Coleridge, _Six Months in the West Indies_, 4th ed.
(London, 1832), pp. 131, 132.]

[Footnote 12: Matthew G. Lewis, _Journal of a West Indian Proprietor, kept
during a Residence in the Island of Jamaica_ (London, 1834).]

[Footnote 13: H.N. Coleridge, p. 76.]

On the generality of the plantations the tone of the management was too
much like that in most modern factories. The laborers were considered more
as work-units than as men, women and children. Kindliness and comfort,
cruelty and hardship, were rated at balance-sheet value; births and deaths
were reckoned in profit and loss, and the expense of rearing children was
balanced against the cost of new Africans. These things were true in some
degree in the North American slaveholding communities, but in the West
Indies they excelled.

In buying new negroes a practical planter having a preference for those of
some particular tribal stock might make sure of getting them only by taking
with him to the slave ships or the "Guinea yards" in the island ports a
slave of the stock wanted and having him interrogate those for sale in
his native language to learn whether they were in fact what the dealers
declared them to be. Shrewdness was even more necessary to circumvent other
tricks of the trade, especially that of fattening up, shaving and oiling
the skins of adult slaves to pass them off as youthful. The ages most
desired in purchasing were between fifteen and twenty-five years. If these
were not to be had well grown children were preferable to the middle-aged,
since they were much less apt to die in the "seasoning," they would learn
English readily, and their service would increase instead of decreasing
after the lapse of the first few years.

The conversion of new negroes into plantation laborers, a process called
"breaking in," required always a mingling of delicacy and firmness. Some
planters distributed their new purchases among the seasoned households,
thus delegating the task largely to the veteran slaves. Others housed and
tended them separately under the charge of a select staff of nurses and
guardians and with frequent inspection from headquarters. The mortality
rate was generally high under either plan, ranging usually from twenty to
thirty per cent, in the seasoning period of three or four years. The deaths
came from diseases brought from Africa, such as the yaws which was similar
to syphilis; from debilities and maladies acquired on the voyage; from the
change of climate and food; from exposure incurred in running away; from
morbid habits such as dirt-eating; and from accident, manslaughter and

[Footnote 14: Long, _Jamaica_, II, 435; Edwards, _West Indies_, book
4, chap. 5; A Professional Planter, _Rules_, chap. 2; Thomas Roughley,
_Jamaica Planter's Guide_ (London, 1823), pp. 118-120.]

The seasoned slaves were housed by families in separate huts grouped into
"quarters," and were generally assigned small tracts on the outskirts of
the plantation on which to raise their own provision crops. Allowances of
clothing, dried fish, molasses, rum, salt, etc., were issued them from the
commissary, together with any other provisions needed to supplement their
own produce. The field force of men and women, boys and girls was generally
divided according to strength into three gangs, with special details for
the mill, the coppers and the still when needed; and permanent corps were
assigned to the handicrafts, to domestic service and to various incidental
functions. The larger the plantation, of course, the greater the
opportunity of differentiating tasks and assigning individual slaves to
employments fitted to their special aptitudes.

The planters put such emphasis upon the regularity and vigor of the routine
that they generally neglected other equally vital things. They ignored the
value of labor-saving devices, most of them even shunning so obviously
desirable an implement as the plough and using the hoe alone in breaking
the land and cultivating the crops. But still more serious was the passive
acquiescence in the depletion of their slaves by excess of deaths over
births. This decrease amounted to a veritable decimation, requiring the
frequent importation of recruits to keep the ranks full. Long estimated
this loss at about two per cent. annually, while Edwards reckoned that in
his day there were surviving in Jamaica little more than one-third as many
negroes as had been imported in the preceding career of the colony.[15] The
staggering mortality rate among the new negroes goes far toward accounting
for this; but even the seasoned groups generally failed to keep up their
numbers. The birth rate was notoriously small; but the chief secret of the
situation appears to have lain in the poor care of the newborn children. A
surgeon of long experience said that a third of the babies died in their
first month, and that few of the imported women bore children; and another
veteran resident said that commonly more than a quarter of the babies died
within the first nine days, of "jaw-fall," and nearly another fourth before
they passed their second year.[16] At least one public-spirited planter
advocated in 1801 the heroic measure of closing the slave trade in order
to raise the price of labor and coerce the planters into saving it both by
improving their apparatus and by diminishing the death rate.[17] But his
fellows would have none of his policy.

[Footnote 15: Long, III, 432; Edwards, book 4, chap. 2.]

[Footnote 16: _Abridgement of the evidence taken before a committee of the
whole House: The Slave Trade_, no. 2 (London, 1790), pp. 48, 80.]

[Footnote 17: Clement Caines, _Letters on the Cultivation of the Otaheite
Cane_ (London, 1801), pp. 274-281.]

While in the other plantation staples the crop was planted and reaped in
a single year, sugar cane had a cycle extending through several years. A
typical field in southside Jamaica would be "holed" or laid off in furrows
between March and June, planted in the height of the rainy season between
July and September, cultivated for fifteen months, and harvested in the
first half of the second year after its planting. Then when the rains
returned new shoots, "rattoons," would sprout from the old roots to yield
a second though diminished harvest in the following spring, and so on for
several years more until the rattoon or "stubble" yield became too small to
be worth while. The period of profitable rattooning ran in some specially
favorable districts as high as fourteen years, but in general a field was
replanted after the fourth crop. In such case the cycles of the several
fields were so arranged on any well managed estate that one-fifth of the
area in cane was replanted each year and four-fifths harvested.

This coördination of cycles brought it about that oftentimes almost every
sort of work on the plantation was going on simultaneously. Thus on the
Lodge and Grange plantations which were apparently operated as a single
unit, the extant journal of work during the harvest month of May, 1801,[18]
shows a distribution of the total of 314 slaves as follows: ninety of the
"big gang" and fourteen of the "big gang feeble" together with fifty of
the "little gang" were stumping a new clearing, "holing" or laying off a
stubble field for replanting, weeding and filling the gaps in the field of
young first-year or "plant" cane, and heaping the manure in the ox-lot;
ten slaves were cutting, ten tying and ten more hauling the cane from
the fields in harvest; fifteen were in a "top heap" squad whose work was
conjecturally the saving of the green cane tops for forage and fertilizer;
nine were tending the cane mill, seven were in the boiling house, producing
a hogshead and a half of sugar daily, and two were at the two stills making
a puncheon of rum every four days; six watchmen and fence menders, twelve
artisans, eight stockminders, two hunters, four domestics, and two sick
nurses were at their appointed tasks; and eighteen invalids and pregnant
women, four disabled with sores, forty infants and one runaway were doing
no work. There were listed thirty horses, forty mules and a hundred oxen
and other cattle; but no item indicates that a single plow was in use.

[Footnote 18: Printed by Clement Caines in a table facing p. 246 of his

The cane-mill in the eighteenth century consisted merely of three
iron-sheathed cylinders, two of them set against the third, turned by
wind, water or cattle. The canes, tied into small bundles for greater
compression, were given a double squeezing while passing through the mill.
The juice expressed found its way through a trough into the boiling house
while the flattened stalks, called mill trash or megass in the British
colonies and bagasse in Louisiana, were carried to sheds and left to dry
for later use as fuel under the coppers and stills.

In the boiling house the cane-juice flowed first into a large receptacle,
the clarifier, where by treatment with lime and moderate heat it was
separated from its grosser impurities. It then passed into the first
or great copper, where evaporation by boiling began and some further
impurities, rising in scum, were taken off. After further evaporation in
smaller coppers the thickened fluid was ladled into a final copper, the
teache, for a last boiling and concentration; and when the product of the
teache was ready for crystallization it was carried away for the curing. In
Louisiana the successive caldrons were called the grande, the propre, the
flambeau and the batterie, the last of these corresponding to the Jamaican

The curing house was merely a timber framework with a roof above and a
great shallow sloping vat below. The sugary syrup from the teache was
generally potted directly into hogsheads resting on the timbers, and
allowed to cool with occasional stirrings. Most of the sugar stayed in the
hogsheads, while some of it trickled with the mother liquor, molasses,
through perforations in the bottoms into the vat beneath. When the
hogsheads were full of the crudely cured, moist, and impure "muscovado"
sugar, they were headed up and sent to port. The molasses, the scum, and
the juice of the canes tainted by damage from rats and hurricanes were
carried to vats in the distillery where, with yeast and water added, the
mixture fermented and when distilled yielded rum.

The harvest was a time of special activity, of good feeling, and even of a
certain degree of pageantry. Lafcadio Hearn, many years after the slaves
were freed, described the scene in Martinique as viewed from the slopes
of Mont Pélée: "We look back over the upreaching yellow fan-spread of
cane-fields, and winding of tortuous valleys, and the sea expanding
beyond an opening to the west.... Far down we can distinguish a line of
field-hands--the whole _atelier_, as it is called, of a plantation--slowly
descending a slope, hewing the canes as they go. There is a woman to every
two men, a binder (amarreuse): she gathers the canes as they are cut down,
binds them with their own tough long leaves into a sort of sheaf,
and carries them away on her head;--the men wield their cutlasses so
beautifully that it is a delight to watch them. One cannot often enjoy such
a spectacle nowadays; for the introduction of the piece-work system has
destroyed the picturesqueness of plantation labor throughout the islands,
with rare exceptions. Formerly the work of cane-cutting resembled the march
of an army;--first advanced the cutlassers in line, naked to the waist;
then the amarreuses, the women who tied and carried; and behind these the
_ka_, the drum,--with a paid _crieur_ or _crieuse_ to lead the song;--and
lastly the black Commandeur, for general."[19]

[Footnote 19: Lafcadio Hearn, _Two Years in the French West Indies_ (New
York, 1890), p. 275.]

After this bit of rhapsody the steadying effect of statistics may be
abundantly had from the records of the great Worthy Park plantation,
elaborated expressly for posterity's information. This estate, lying in
St. John's parish on the southern slope of the Jamaica mountain chain,
comprised not only the plantation proper, which had some 560 acres in sugar
cane and smaller fields in food and forage crops, but also Spring Garden, a
nearby cattle ranch, and Mickleton which was presumably a relay station for
the teams hauling the sugar and rum to Port Henderson. The records, which
are available for the years from 1792 to 1796 inclusive, treat the three
properties as one establishment.[20]

[Footnote 20: These records have been analyzed in U.B. Phillips, "A Jamaica
Slave Plantation," in the _American Historical Review_, XIX, 543-558.]

The slaves of the estate at the beginning of 1792 numbered 355, apparently
all seasoned negroes, of whom 150 were in the main field gang. But this
force was inadequate for the full routine, and in that year "jobbing gangs"
from outside were employed at rates from _2s. 6d_. to _3s_. per head per
day and at a total cost of £1832, reckoned probably in Jamaican currency
which stood at thirty per cent, discount. In order to relieve the need of
this outside labor the management began that year to buy new Africans on a
scale considered reckless by all the island authorities. In March five men
and five women were bought; and in October 25 men, 27 women, 16 boys, 16
girls and 6 children, all new Congoes; and in the next year 51 males and 30
females, part Congoes and part Coromantees and nearly all of them eighteen
to twenty years old. Thirty new huts were built; special cooks and nurses
were detailed; and quantities of special foodstuffs were bought--yams,
plantains, flour, fresh and salt fish, and fresh beef heads, tongues,
hearts and bellies; but it is not surprising to find that the next outlay
for equipment was for a large new hospital in 1794, costing £341 for
building its brick walls alone. Yaws became serious, but that was a trifle
as compared with dysentery; and pleurisy, pneumonia, fever and dropsy had
also to be reckoned with. About fifty of the new negroes were quartered
for several years in a sort of hospital camp at Spring Garden, where the
routine even for the able-bodied was much lighter than on Worthy Park.

One of the new negroes died in 1792, and another in the next year. Then in
the spring of 1794 the heavy mortality began. In that year at least 31 of
the newcomers died, nearly all of them from the "bloody flux" (dysentery)
except two who were thought to have committed suicide. By 1795, however,
the epidemic had passed. Of the five deaths of the new negroes that year,
two were attributed to dirt-eating,[21] one to yaws, and two to ulcers,
probably caused by yaws. The three years of the seasoning period were now
ended, with about three-fourths of the number imported still alive. The
loss was perhaps less than usual where such large batches were bought; but
it demonstrates the strength of the shock involved in the transplantation
from Africa, even after the severities of the middle passage had been
survived and after the weaklings among the survivors had been culled out at
the ports. The outlay for jobbing gangs on Worthy Park rapidly diminished.

[Footnote 21: The "fatal habit of eating dirt" is described by Thomas
Roughley in his _Planter's Guide_ (London. 1823) pp. 118-120.]

The list of slaves at the beginning of 1794 is the only one giving full
data as to ages, colors and health as well as occupations. The ages were of
course in many cases mere approximations. The "great house negroes" head
the list, fourteen in number. They comprised four housekeepers, one of
whom however was but eight years old, three waiting boys, a cook, two
washerwomen, two gardeners and a grass carrier, and included nominally
Quadroon Lizette who after having been hired out for several years to Peter
Douglass, the owner of a jobbing gang, was this year manumitted.

The overseer's house had its proportionate staff of nine domestics with two
seamstresses added, and it was also headquarters both for the nursing corps
and a group engaged in minor industrial pursuits. The former, with a "black
doctor" named Will Morris at its head, included a midwife, two nurses for
the hospital, four (one of them blind) for the new negroes, two for the
children in the day nursery, and one for the suckling babies of the women
in the gangs. The latter comprised three cooks to the gangs, one of whom
had lost a hand; a groom, three hog tenders, of whom one was ruptured,
another "distempered" and the third a ten-year-old boy, and ten aged idlers
including Quashy Prapra and Abba's Moll to mend pads, Yellow's Cuba and
Peg's Nancy to tend the poultry house, and the rest to gather grass and hog

Next were listed the watchmen, thirty-one in number, to guard against
depredations of men, cattle and rats and against conflagrations which might
sweep the ripening cane-fields and the buildings. All of these were black
but the mulatto foreman, and only six were described as able-bodied. The
disabilities noted were a bad sore leg, a broken back, lameness, partial
blindness, distemper, weakness, and cocobees which was a malady of the

A considerable number of the slaves already mentioned were in such
condition that little work might be expected of them. Those completely laid
off were nine superannuated ranging from seventy to eighty-five years old,
three invalids, and three women relieved of work as by law required for
having reared six children each.

Among the tradesmen, virtually all the blacks were stated to be fit for
field work, but the five mulattoes and the one quadroon, though mostly
youthful and healthy, were described as not fit for the field. There were
eleven carpenters, eight coopers, four sawyers, three masons and twelve
cattlemen, each squad with a foreman; and there were two ratcatchers whose
work was highly important, for the rats swarmed in incredible numbers and
spoiled the cane if left to work their will. A Jamaican author wrote, for
example, that in five or six months on one plantation "not less than nine
and thirty thousand were caught."[22]

[Footnote 22: William Beckford, _A Discriptive Account of Jamaica_ (London,
1790), I. 55, 56.]

In the "weeding gang," in which most of the children from five to eight
years old were kept as much for control as for achievement, there were
twenty pickaninnies, all black, under Mirtilla as "driveress," who had
borne and lost seven children of her own. Thirty-nine other children were
too young for the weeding gang, at least six of whom were quadroons. Two of
these last, the children of Joanny, a washerwoman at the overseer's house,
were manumitted in 1795.

Fifty-five, all new negroes except Darby the foreman, and including Blossom
the infant daughter of one of the women, comprised the Spring Garden squad.
Nearly all of these were twenty or twenty-one years old. The men included
Washington, Franklin, Hamilton, Burke, Fox, Milton, Spencer, Hume and
Sheridan; the women Spring, Summer, July, Bashfull, Virtue, Frolic,
Gamesome, Lady, Madame, Dutchess, Mirtle and Cowslip. Seventeen of this
distinguished company died within the year.

The "big gang" on Worthy Park numbered 137, comprising 64 men from nineteen
to sixty years old and 73 women from nineteen to fifty years, though but
four of the women and nine of the men, including Quashy the "head driver"
or foreman, were past forty years. The gang included a "head home wainman,"
a "head road wainman," who appears to have been also the sole slave plowman
on the place, a head muleman, three distillers, a boiler, two sugar
potters, and two "sugar guards" for the wagons carrying the crop to port.
All of the gang were described as healthy, able-bodied and black. A
considerable number in it were new negroes, but only seven of the whole
died in this year of heaviest mortality.

The "second gang," employed in a somewhat lighter routine under Sharper as
foreman, comprised 40 women and 27 men ranging from fifteen to sixty years,
all black. While most of them were healthy, five were consumptive, four
were ulcerated, one was "inclined to be bloated," one was "very weak," and
Pheba was "healthy but worthless."

Finally in the third or "small gang," for yet lighter work under Baddy as
driveress with Old Robin as assistant, there were 68 boys and girls, all
black, mostly between twelve and fifteen years old. The draught animals
comprised about 80 mules and 140 oxen.

Among the 528 slaves all told--284 males and 244 females--74, equally
divided between the sexes, were fifty years old and upwards. If the new
negroes, virtually all of whom were doubtless in early life, be subtracted
from the gross, it appears that one-fifth of the seasoned stock had reached
the half century, and one-eighth were sixty years old and over. This is a
good showing of longevity.

About eighty of the seasoned women were within the age limits of
childbearing. The births recorded were on an average of nine for each of
the five years covered, which was hardly half as many as might have been
expected under favorable conditions. Special entry was made in 1795 of the
number of children each woman had borne during her life, the number
of these living at the time this record was made, and the number of
miscarriages each woman had had. The total of births thus recorded was 345;
of children then living 159; of miscarriages 75. Old Quasheba and Betty
Madge had each borne fifteen children, and sixteen other women had borne
from six to eleven each. On the other hand, seventeen women of thirty years
and upwards had had no children and no miscarriages. The childbearing
records of the women past middle age ran higher than those of the younger
ones to a surprising degree. Perhaps conditions on Worthy Park had been
more favorable at an earlier period, when the owner and his family may
possibly have been resident there. The fact that more than half of the
children whom these women had borne were dead at the time of the record
comports with the reputation of the sugar colonies for heavy infant
mortality. With births so infrequent and infant deaths so many it may well
appear that the notorious failure of the island-bred stock to maintain its
numbers was not due to the working of the slaves to death. The poor care
of the young children may be attributed largely to the absence of a white
mistress, an absence characteristic of Jamaica plantations. There appears
to have been no white woman resident on Worthy Park during the time of this
record. In 1795 and perhaps in other years the plantation had a contract
for medical service at the rate of £140 a year.

"Robert Price of Penzance in the Kingdom of Great Britain Esquire" was the
absentee owner of Worthy Park. His kinsman Rose Price Esquire who was in
active charge was not salaried but may have received a manager's commission
of six per cent, on gross crop sales as contemplated in the laws of the
colony. In addition there were an overseer at £200, later £300, a year,
four bookkeepers at £50 to £60, a white carpenter at £120, and a white
plowman at £56. The overseer was changed three times during the five years
of the record, and the bookkeepers were generally replaced annually. The
bachelor staff was most probably responsible for the mulatto and quadroon
offspring and was doubtless responsible also for the occasional manumission
of a woman or child.

Rewards for zeal in service were given chiefly to the "drivers" or gang
foremen. Each of these had for example every year a "doubled milled cloth
colored great coat" costing 11$. 6_d_ and a "fine bound hat with girdle and
buckle" costing 10$. 6_d_.As a more direct and frequent stimulus a quart
of rum was served weekly to each of three drivers, three carpenters, four
boilers, two head cattlemen, two head mulemen, the "stoke-hole boatswain,"
and the black doctor, and to the foremen respectively of the sawyers,
coopers, blacksmiths, watchmen, and road wainmen, and a pint weekly to the
head home wainman, the potter, the midwife, and the young children's field
nurse. These allowances totaled about three hundred gallons yearly. But
a considerably greater quantity than this was distributed, mostly at
Christmas perhaps, for in 1796 for example 922 gallons were recorded of
"rum used for the negroes on the estate." Upon the birth of each child the
mother was given a Scotch rug and a silver dollar.

No record of whippings appears to have been kept, nor of any offenses
except absconding. Of the runaways, reports were made to the parish vestry
of those lying out at the end of each quarter. At the beginning of the
record there were no runaways and at the end there were only four; but
during 1794 and 1795 there were eight or nine listed in each report, most
of whom were out for but a few months each, but several for a year or two;
and several furthermore absconded a second or third time after returning.
The runaways were heterogeneous in age and occupation, with more old
negroes among them than might have been expected. Most of them were men;
but the women Ann, Strumpet and Christian Grace made two flights each, and
the old pad-mender Abba's Moll stayed out for a year and a quarter. A
few of those recovered were returned through the public agency of the
workhouse. Some of the rest may have come back of their own accord.

In the summer of 1795, when absconding had for some time been too common,
the recaptured runaways and a few other offenders were put for disgrace and
better surveillance into a special "vagabond gang." This comprised Billy
Scott, who was usually a mason and sugar guard, Oxford who as head cooper
had enjoyed a weekly quart of rum, Cesar a sawyer, and Moll the old
pad-mender, along with three men and two women from the main gangs, and
three half-grown boys. The vagabond gang was so wretchedly assorted for
industrial purposes that it was probably soon disbanded and its members
distributed to their customary tasks. For use in marking slaves a branding
iron was inventoried, but in the way of arms there were merely two muskets,
a fowling piece and twenty-four old guns without locks. Evidently no
turbulence was anticipated. Worthy Park bought nearly all of its hardware,
dry goods, drugs and sundries in London, and its herrings for the negroes
and salt pork and beef for the white staff in Cork. Corn was cultivated
between the rows in some of the cane fields on the plantation, and some
guinea-corn was bought from neighbors. The negroes raised their own yams
and other vegetables, and doubtless pigs and poultry as well; and plantains
were likely to be plentiful.

Every October cloth was issued at the rate of seven yards of osnaburgs,
three of checks, and three of baize for each adult and proportionately for
children. The first was to be made into coats, trousers and frocks, the
second into shirts and waists, the third into bedclothes. The cutting and
sewing were done in the cabins. A hat and a cap were also issued to each
negro old enough to go into the field, and a clasp-knife to each one above
the age of the third gang. From the large purchases of Scotch rugs recorded
it seems probable that these were issued on other occasions than those of
childbirth. As to shoes, however, the record is silent.

The Irish provisions cost annually about £300, and the English supplies
about £1000, not including such extra outlays as that of £1355 in 1793 for
new stills, worms, and coppers. Local expenditures were probably reckoned
in currency. Converted into sterling, the salary list amounted to about
£500, and the local outlay for medical services, wharfage, and petty
supplies came to a like amount. Taxes, manager's commissions, and the
depreciation of apparatus must have amounted collectively to £800. The
net death-loss of slaves, not including that from the breaking-in of new
negroes, averaged about two and a quarter per cent.; that of the mules and
oxen ten per cent. When reckoned upon the numbers on hand in 1796 when the
plantation with 470 slaves was operating with very little outside help,
these losses, which must be replaced by new purchases if the scale of
output was to be maintained, amounted to about £900. Thus a total of £4000
sterling is reached as the average current expense in years when no mishaps

The crops during the years of the record averaged 311 hogsheads of sugar,
sixteen hundredweight each, and 133 puncheons of rum, 110 gallons each.
This was about the common average on the island, of two-thirds as many
hogsheads as there were slaves of all ages on a plantation.[23] If the
prices had been those current in the middle of the eighteenth century these
crops would have yielded the proprietor great profits. But at £15 per
hogshead and £10 per puncheon, the prices generally current in the island
in the seventeen-nineties, the gross return was but about £6000 sterling,
and the net earnings of the establishment accordingly not above £2000. The
investment in slaves, mules and oxen was about £28,000, and that in land,
buildings and equipment according to the island authorities, would reach a
like sum.[24] The net earnings in good years were thus less than four per
cent. on the investment; but the liability to hurricanes, earthquakes,
fires, epidemics and mutinies would bring the safe expectations
considerably lower. A mere pestilence which carried off about sixty mules
and two hundred oxen on Worthy Park in 1793-1794 wiped out more than a
year's earnings.

[Footnote 23: Long, _Jamaica_, II, 433, 439.]

[Footnote 24: Edwards, _West Indies_, book 5, chap. 3.]

In the twenty years prior to the beginning of the Worthy Park record more
than one-third of all the sugar plantations in Jamaica had gone through
bankruptcy. It was generally agreed that, within the limits of efficient
operation, the larger an estate was, the better its prospect for net
earnings. But though Worthy Park had more than twice the number of slaves
that the average plantation employed, it was barely paying its way.

In the West Indies as a whole there was a remarkable repetition of
developments and experiences in island after island, similar to that
which occurred in the North American plantation regions, but even more
pronounced. The career of Barbados was followed rapidly by the other Lesser
Antilles under the English and French flags; these were all exceeded by the
greater scale of Jamaica; she in turn yielded the primacy in sugar to Hayti
only to have that French possession, when overwhelmed by its great negro
insurrection, give the paramount place to the Spanish Porto Rico and Cuba.
In each case the opening of a fresh area under imperial encouragement would
promote rapid immigration and vigorous industry on every scale; the land
would be taken up first in relatively small holdings; the prosperity of the
pioneers would prompt a more systematic husbandry and the consolidation of
estates, involving the replacement of the free small proprietors by slave
gangs; but diminishing fertility and intensifying competition would in the
course of years more than offset the improvement of system. Meanwhile more
pioneers, including perhaps some of those whom the planters had bought out
in the original colonies, would found new settlements; and as these in turn
developed, the older colonies would decline and decay in spite of desperate
efforts by their plantation proprietors to hold their own through the
increase of investments and the improvement of routine.[25]

[Footnote 25: Herman Merivale, _Colonisation and Colonies_ (London, 1841),
PP. 92,93.]



The purposes of the Virginia Company of London and of the English public
which gave it sanction were profit for the investors and aggrandizement
for the nation, along with the reduction of pauperism at home and the
conversion of the heathen abroad. For income the original promoters looked
mainly toward a South Sea passage, gold mines, fisheries, Indian trade, and
the production of silk, wine and naval stores. But from the first they were
on the alert for unexpected opportunities to be exploited. The following of
the line of least resistance led before long to the dominance of tobacco
culture, then of the plantation system, and eventually of negro slavery. At
the outset, however, these developments were utterly unforeseen. In short,
Virginia was launched with varied hopes and vague expectations. The project
was on the knees of the gods, which for a time proved a place of extreme
discomfort and peril.

The first comers in the spring of 1607, numbering a bare hundred men and
no women, were moved by the spirit of adventure. With a cumbrous and
oppressive government over them, and with no private ownership of land nor
other encouragement for steadygoing thrift, the only chance for personal
gain was through a stroke of discovery. No wonder the loss of time and
strength in futile excursions. No wonder the disheartening reaction in the
malaria-stricken camp of Jamestown.

A second hundred men arriving early in 1608 found but forty of the first
alive. The combined forces after lading the ships with "gilded dirt" and
cedar logs, were left facing the battle with Indians and disease. The dirt
when it reached London proved valueless, and the cedar, of course, worth
little. The company that summer sent further recruits including two women
and several Poles and Germans to make soap-ashes, glass and pitch--"skilled
workmen from foraine parts which may teach and set ours in the way where we
may set thousands a work in these such like services."[1] At the same time
it instructed the captain of the ship to explore and find either a lump of
gold, the South Sea passage, or some of Raleigh's lost colonists, and it
sent the officials at Jamestown peremptory notice that unless the £2000
spent on the present supply be met by the proceeds of the ship's return
cargo, the settlers need expect no further aid. The shrewd and redoubtable
Captain John Smith, now president in the colony, opposed the vain
explorings, and sent the council in London a characteristic "rude letter."
The ship, said he, kept nearly all the victuals for its crew, while the
settlers, "the one halfe sicke, the other little better," had as their diet
"a little meale and water, and not sufficient of that." The foreign experts
had been set at their assigned labors; but "it were better to give five
hundred pound a tun for those grosse commodities in Denmarke than send for
them hither till more necessary things be provided. For in over-toyling our
weake and unskilfull bodies to satisfie this desire of present profit we
can scarce ever recover ourselves from one supply to another.... As yet you
must not looke for any profitable returnes."[2]

[Footnote 1: Alexander Brown, _The First Republic in America_ (Boston,
1898), p. 68.]

[Footnote 2: Capt. John Smith, _Works_, Arber ed. (Birmingham, 1884), pp.
442-445. Smith's book, it should be said, is the sole source for this

This unwelcome advice while daunting all mercenary promoters gave spur to
strong-hearted patriots. The prospect of profits was gone; the hope of
an overseas empire survived. The London Company, with a greatly improved
charter, appealed to the public through sermons, broadsides, pamphlets,
and personal canvassing, with such success that subscriptions to its stock
poured in from "lords, knights, gentlemen and others," including the trade
guilds and the town corporations. In lieu of cash dividends the company
promised that after a period of seven years, during which the settlers were
to work on the company's account and any surplus earnings were to be spent
on the colony or funded, a dividend in land would be issued. In this the
settlers were to be embraced as if instead of emigrating each of them had
invested £12 10s. in a share of stock. Several hundred recruits were sent
in 1609, and many more in the following years; but from the successive
governors at Jamestown came continued reports of disease, famine and
prostration, and pleas ever for more men and supplies. The company, bravely
keeping up its race with the death rate, met all demands as best it could.

To establish a firmer control, Sir Thomas Dale was sent out in 1611 as high
marshal along with Sir Thomas Gates as governor. Both of these were men
of military training, and they carried with them a set of stringent
regulations quite in keeping with their personal proclivities. These rulers
properly regarded their functions as more industrial than political. They
for the first time distributed the colonists into a series of settlements
up and down the river for farming and live-stock tending; they spurred the
willing workers by assigning them three-acre private gardens; and they
mercilessly coerced the laggard. They transformed the colony from a
distraught camp into a group of severely disciplined farms, owned by the
London Company, administered by its officials, and operated partly by its
servants, partly by its tenants who paid rent in the form of labor. That is
to say, Virginia was put upon a schedule of plantation routine, producing
its own food supply and wanting for the beginning of prosperity only a
marketable crop. This was promptly supplied through John Rolfe's experiment
in 1612 in raising tobacco. The English people were then buying annually
some £200,000 worth of that commodity, mainly from the Spanish West Indies,
at prices which might be halved or quartered and yet pay the freight and
yield substantial earnings; and so rapid was the resort to the staple in
Virginia that soon the very market place in Jamestown was planted in it.
The government in fact had to safeguard the food supply by forbidding
anyone to plant tobacco until he had put two acres in grain.

When the Gates-Dale administration ended, the seven year period from 1609
was on the point of expiry; but the temptation of earnings from tobacco
persuaded the authorities to delay the land dividend. Samuel Argall, the
new governor, while continuing the stringent discipline, robbed the company
for his own profit; and the news of his misdeeds reaching London in 1618
discredited the faction in the company which had supported his régime. The
capture of control by the liberal element among the stockholders, led
by Edwin Sandys and the Earl of Southampton, was promptly signalized by
measures for converting Virginia into a commonwealth. A land distribution
was provided on a generous scale, and Sir George Yeardley was dispatched as
governor with instructions to call a representative assembly of the people
to share in the making of laws. The land warrants were issued at the rate
of a hundred acres on each share of stock and a similar amount to each
colonist of the time, to be followed in either case by the grant of a
second hundred acres upon proof that the first had been improved; and fifty
acres additional in reward for the future importation of every laborer.

While the company continued as before to send colonists on its own account,
notably craftsmen, indigent London children, and young women to become
wives for the bachelor settlers, it now offered special stimulus to its
members to supplement its exertions. To this end it provided that groups
of its stockholders upon organizing themselves into sub-companies or
partnerships might consolidate their several grants into large units called
particular plantations; and it ordered that "such captaines or leaders of
perticulerr plantations that shall goe there to inhabite by vertue of their
graunts and plant themselves, their tenants and servants in Virginia,
shall have liberty till a forme of government be here settled for them,
associatinge unto them divers of the gravest and discreetes of their
companies, to make orders, ordinances and constitutions for the better
orderinge and dyrectinge of their servants and buisines, provided they be
not repugnant to the lawes of England."[3]

[Footnote 3: _Records of the Virginia Company of London_, Kingsbury ed.
(Washington, 1906), I, 303.]

To embrace this opportunity some fifty grants for particular plantations
were taken out during the remaining life of the London Company. Among them
were Southampton Hundred and Martin's Hundred, to each of which two or
three hundred settlers were sent prior to 1620,[4] and Berkeley Hundred
whose records alone are available. The grant for this last was issued
in February, 1619, to a missionary enthusiast, George Thorpe, and his
partners, whose collective holdings of London Company stock amounted to
thirty-five shares. To them was given and promised land in proportion to
stock and settlers, together with a bonus of 1500 acres in view of their
project for converting the Indians. Their agent in residence was as usual
vested with public authority over the dwellers on the domain, limited
only by the control of the Virginia government in military matters and in
judicial cases on appeal.[5] After delays from bad weather, the initial
expedition set sail in September comprising John Woodleaf as captain and
thirty-four other men of diverse trades bound to service for terms ranging
from three to eight years at varying rates of compensation. Several of
these were designated respectively as officers of the guard, keeper of the
stores, caretaker of arms and implements, usher of the hall, and clerk
of the kitchen. Supplies of provisions and equipment were carried, and
instructions in detail for the building of houses, the fencing of land,
the keeping of watch, and the observances of religion. Next spring the
settlement, which had been planted near the mouth of the Appomattox River,
was joined by Thorpe himself, and in the following autumn by William Tracy
who had entered the partnership and now carried his own family together
with a preacher and some forty servants. Among these were nine women and
the two children of a man who had gone over the year before. As giving
light upon indented servitude in the period it may be noted that many of
those sent to Berkeley Hundred were described as "gentlemen," and that five
of them within the first year besought their masters to send them each
two indented servants for their use and at their expense. Tracy's vessel
however was too small to carry all whom it was desired to send. It was in
fact so crowded with plantation supplies that Tracy wrote on the eve of
sailing: "I have throw out mani things of my own yet is ye midill and upper
extre[m]li pestered so that ouer men will not lie like men and ye mareners
hath not rome to stir God is abel in ye gretest weknes to helpe we will
trust to marsi for he must help be yond hope." Fair winds appear to have
carried the vessel to port, whereupon Tracy and Thorpe jointly took
charge of the plantation, displacing Woodleaf whose services had given
dissatisfaction. Beyond this point the records are extremely scant; but
it may be gathered that the plantation was wrecked and most of its
inhabitants, including Thorpe, slain in the great Indian massacre of 1622.
The restoration of the enterprise was contemplated in an after year, but
eventually the land was sold to other persons.

[Footnote 4: _Records of the Virginia Company of London_, Kingsbury ed.
(Washington, 1906), I, 350.]

[Footnote 5: The records of this enterprise (the Smyth of Nibley papers)
have been printed in the New York Public Library _Bulletin_, III, 160-171,
208-233, 248-258, 276-295.]

The fate of Berkeley Hundred was at the same time the fate of most others
of the same sort; and the extinction of the London Company in 1624 ended
the granting of patents on that plan. The owners of the few surviving
particular plantations, furthermore, found before long that ownership by
groups of absentees was poorly suited to the needs of the case, and that
the exercise of public jurisdiction was of more trouble than it was worth.
The particular plantation system proved accordingly but an episode, yet it
furnished a transition, which otherwise might not readily have been found,
from Virginia the plantation of the London Company, to Virginia the colony
of private plantations and farms. When settlement expanded afresh after the
Indians were driven away many private estates gradually arose to follow the
industrial routine of those which had been called particular.

The private plantations were hampered in their development by dearth of
capital and labor and by the extremely low prices of tobacco which began at
the end of the sixteen-twenties as a consequence of overproduction. But
by dint of good management and the diversification of their industry the
exceptional men led the way to prosperity and the dignity which it carried.
Of Captain Samuel Matthews, for example, "an old Planter of above thirty
years standing," whose establishment was at Blunt Point on the lower James,
it was written in 1648: "He hath a fine house and all things answerable to
it; he sowes yeerly store of hempe and flax, and causes it to be spun; he
keeps weavers, and hath a tan-house, causes leather to be dressed, hath
eight shoemakers employed in this trade, hath forty negroe servants, brings
them up to trades in his house: he yeerly sowes abundance of wheat, barley,
etc. The wheat he selleth at four shillings the bushell; kills store of
beeves, and sells them to victuall the ships when they come thither; hath
abundance of kine, a brave dairy, swine great store, and poltery. He
married the daughter of Sir Tho. Hinton, and in a word, keeps a good
house, lives bravely, and a true lover of Virginia. He is worthy of much
honour."[6] Many other planters were thriving more modestly, most of them
giving nearly all their attention to the one crop. The tobacco output was
of course increasing prodigiously. The export from Virginia in 1619 had
amounted to twenty thousand pounds; that from Virginia and Maryland in 1664
aggregated fifty thousand hogsheads of about five hundred pounds each.[7]

[Footnote 6: _A Perfect Description of Virginia_ (London, 1649), reprinted
in Peter Force _Tracts_, vol. II.]

[Footnote 7: Bruce, _Economic History of Virginia in the Seventeenth
Century_ (New York, 1896), I, 391.]

The labor problem was almost wholly that of getting and managing bondsmen.
Land in the colony was virtually to be had for the taking; and in general
no freemen arriving in the colony would engage for such wages as employers
could afford to pay. Workers must be imported. Many in England were willing
to come, and more could be persuaded or coerced, if their passage were paid
and employment assured. To this end indentured servitude had already been
inaugurated by the London Company as a modification of the long used system
of apprenticeship. And following that plan, ship captains brought hundreds,
then thousands of laborers a year and sold their indentures to the planters
either directly or through dealers in such merchandize. The courts took
the occasion to lessen the work of the hangman by sentencing convicts to
deportation in servitude; the government rid itself of political prisoners
during the civil war by the same method; and when servant prices rose the
supply was further swelled by the agency of professional kidnappers.

The bondage varied as to its terms, with two years apparently the minimum.
The compensation varied also from mere transportation and sustenance to a
payment in advance and a stipulation for outfit in clothing, foodstuffs
and diverse equipment at the end of service. The quality of redemptioners
varied from the very dregs of society to well-to-do apprentice planters;
but the general run was doubtless fairly representative of the English
working classes. Even the convicts under the terrible laws of that century
were far from all being depraved. This labor in all its grades, however,
had serious drawbacks. Its first cost was fairly heavy; it was liable to an
acclimating fever with a high death rate; its term generally expired not
long after its adjustment and training were completed; and no sooner was
its service over than it set up for itself, often in tobacco production, to
compete with its former employers and depress the price of produce. If the
plantation system were to be perpetuated an entirely different labor supply
must be had.

"About the last of August came in a Dutch man of warre that sold us twenty
negars." Thus wrote John Rolfe in a report of happenings in 1619;[8] and
thus, after much antiquarian dispute, the matter seems to stand as to the
first bringing of negroes to Virginia. The man-of-war, or more accurately
the privateer, had taken them from a captured slaver, and it seems to have
sold them to the colonial government itself, which in turn sold them to
private settlers. At the beginning of 1625, when a census of the colony was
made,[9] the negroes, then increased to twenty-three in a total population
of 1232 of which about one-half were white servants, were distributed in
seven localities along the James River. In 1630 a second captured cargo was
sold in the colony, and from 1635 onward small lots were imported nearly
every year.[10] Part of these came from England, part from New Netherland
and most of the remainder doubtless from the West Indies. In 1649 Virginia
was reckoned to have some three hundred negroes mingled with its fifteen
thousand whites.[11] After two decades of a somewhat more rapid importation
Governor Berkeley estimated the gross population in 1671 at forty thousand,
including six thousand white servants and two thousand negro slaves.[12]
Ere this there was also a small number of free negroes. But not until
near the end of the century, when the English government had restricted
kidnapping, when the Virginia assembly had forbidden the bringing in of
convicts, and when the direct trade from Guinea had reached considerable
dimensions, did the negroes begin to form the bulk of the Virginia
plantation gangs.

[Footnote 8: John Smith _Works_, Arber ed., p. 541.]

[Footnote 9: Tabulated in the _Virginia Magazine_, VII, 364-367.]

[Footnote 10: Bruce, _Economic History of Virginia_, II, 72-77.]

[Footnote 11: _A New Description of Virginia_ (London, 1649).]

[Footnote 12: W.W. Hening, _Statutes at Large of Virginia_, II, 515.]

Thus for two generations the negroes were few, they were employed alongside
the white servants, and in many cases were members of their masters'
households. They had by far the best opportunity which any of their race
had been given in America to learn the white men's ways and to adjust
the lines of their bondage into as pleasant places as might be. Their
importation was, for the time, on but an experimental scale, and even their
legal status was during the early decades indefinite.

The first comers were slaves in the hands of their maritime sellers; but
they were not fully slaves in the hands of their Virginian buyers, for
there was neither law nor custom then establishing the institution of
slavery in the colony. The documents of the times point clearly to a vague
tenure. In the county court records prior to 1661 the negroes are called
negro servants or merely negroes--never, it appears, definitely slaves. A
few were expressly described as servants for terms of years, and others
were conceded property rights of a sort incompatible with the institution
of slavery as elaborated in later times. Some of the blacks were in fact
liberated by the courts as having served out the terms fixed either by
their indentures or by the custom of the country. By the middle of the
century several had become free landowners, and at least one of them owned
a negro servant who went to court for his freedom but was denied it because
he could not produce the indenture which he claimed to have possessed.
Nevertheless as early as the sixteen-forties the holders of negroes were
falling into the custom of considering them, and on occasion selling them
along with the issue of the females, as servants for life and perpetuity.
The fact that negroes not bound for a term were coming to be appraised as
high as £30, while the most valuable white redemptioners were worth not
above £15 shows also the tendency toward the crystallization of slavery
before any statutory enactments declared its existence.[13]

[Footnote 13: The substance of this paragraph is drawn mainly from the
illuminating discussion of J.H. Russell, _The Free Negro in Virginia_
(Johns Hopkins University _Studies_, XXXI, no. 3, Baltimore, 1913), pp.

Until after the middle of the century the laws did not discriminate in any
way between the races. The tax laws were an index of the situation. The
act of 1649, for example, confined the poll tax to male inhabitants of all
sorts above sixteen years old. But the act of 1658 added imported female
negroes, along with Indian female servants; and this rating of negro
women as men for tax purposes was continued thenceforward as a permanent
practice. A special act of 1668, indeed, gave sharp assertion to the policy
of using taxation as a token of race distinction: "Whereas some doubts have
arisen whether negro women set free were still to be accompted tithable
according to a former act, it is declared by this grand assembly that
negro women, though permitted to enjoy their freedome yet ought not in all
respects to be admitted to a full fruition of the exemptions and impunities
of the English, and are still liable to the payment of taxes."[14]

[Footnote 14: W.W. Hening, _Statutes at Large of Virginia_, I, 361, 454;
II, 267.]

As to slavery itself, the earliest laws giving it mention did not establish
the institution but merely recognized it, first indirectly then directly,
as in existence by force of custom. The initial act of this series, passed
in 1656, promised the Indian tribes that when they sent hostages the
Virginians would not "use them as slaves."[15] The next, an act of
1660, removing impediments to trade by the Dutch and other foreigners,
contemplated specifically their bringing in of "negro slaves."[16] The
third, in the following year, enacted that if any white servants ran away
in company with "any negroes who are incapable of making satisfaction by
addition of time," the white fugitives must serve for the time of the
negroes' absence in addition to suffering the usual penalties on their own
score.[17] A negro whose time of service could not be extended must needs
have been a servant for life--in other words a slave. Then in 1662 it was
enacted that "whereas some doubts have arrisen whether children got by any
Englishman upon a negro woman shall be slave or free, ... all children born
in this colony shall be bond or free only according to the condition of the
mother."[18] Thus within six years from the first mention of slaves in the
Virginia laws, slavery was definitely recognized and established as the
hereditary legal status of such negroes and mulattoes as might be held
therein. Eighteen years more elapsed before a distinctive police law for
slaves was enacted; but from 1680 onward the laws for their control were as
definite and for the time being virtually as stringent as those which in
the same period were being enacted in Barbados and Jamaica.

[Footnote 15: _Ibid_., I, 396.]

[Footnote 16: _Ibid_., 540.]

[Footnote 17: T Hening, II, 26.]

[Footnote 18: _Ibid_., 170.]

In the first decade or two after the London Company's end the plantation
and farm clearings broke the Virginian wilderness only in a narrow line on
either bank of the James River from its mouth to near the present site of
Richmond, and in a small district on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake.
Virtually all the settlers were then raising tobacco, all dwelt at the
edge of navigable water, and all were neighbors to the Indians. As further
decades passed the similar shores of the parallel rivers to the northward,
the York, then the Rappahannock and the Potomac, were occupied in a similar
way, though with an increasing predominance of large landholdings. This
broadened the colony and gave it a shape conducive to more easy frontier
defence. It also led the way to an eventual segregation of industrial
pursuits, for the tidewater peninsulas were gradually occupied more or less
completely by the planters; while the farmers of less estate, weaned from
tobacco by its fall in price, tended to move west and south to new areas on
the mainland, where they dwelt in self-sufficing democratic neighborhoods,
and formed incidentally a buffer between the plantations on the seaboard
and the Indians round about.

With the lapse of years the number of planters increased, partly through
the division of estates, partly through the immigration of propertied
Englishmen, and partly through the rise of exceptional yeomen to the
planting estate. The farmers increased with still greater speed; for the
planters in recruiting their gangs of indented laborers were serving
constantly as immigration agents and as constantly the redemptioners upon
completing their terms were becoming yeomen, marrying and multiplying.
Meanwhile the expansion of Maryland was extending an identical régime of
planters and farmers from the northern bank of the Potomac round the head
of the Chesapeake all the way to the eastern shore settlements of Virginia.

In Maryland the personal proprietorship of Lord Baltimore and his desire to
found a Catholic haven had no lasting effect upon the industrial and social
development. The geographical conditions were so like those in Virginia and
the adoption of her system so obviously the road to success that no other
plans were long considered. Even the few variations attempted assimilated
themselves more or less promptly to the régime of the older colony. The
career of the manor system is typical. The introduction of that medieval
régime was authorized by the charter for Maryland and was provided for in
turn by the Lord Proprietor's instructions to the governor. Every grant of
one thousand, later two thousand acres, was to be made a manor, with its
appropriate court to settle differences between lord and tenant, to adjudge
civil cases between tenants where the issues involved did not exceed the
value of two pounds sterling, and to have cognizance of misdemeanors
committed on the manor. The fines and other profits were to go to the
manorial lord.

Many of these grants were made, and in a few instances the manorial courts
duly held their sessions. For St. Clement's Manor, near the mouth of the
Potomac, for example, court records between 1659 and 1672 are extant. John
Ryves, steward of Thomas Gerard the proprietor, presided; Richard
Foster assisted as the elected bailiff; and the classified freeholders,
lease-holders, "essoines" and residents served as the "jury and homages."
Characteristic findings were "that Samuell Harris broke the peace with a
stick"; that John Mansell illegally entertained strangers; that land lines
"are at this present unperfect and very obscure"; that a Cheptico Indian
had stolen a shirt from Edward Turner's house, for which he is duly fined
"if he can be knowne"; "that the lord of the mannor hath not provided a
paire of stocks, pillory and ducking stoole--Ordered that these instruments
of justice be provided by the next court by a general contribution
throughout the manor"; that certain freeholders had failed to appear, "to
do their suit at the lord's court, wherefore they are amerced each man 50l.
of tobacco to the lord"; that Joshua Lee had injured "Jno. Hoskins his
hoggs by setting his doggs on them and tearing their eares and other hurts,
for which he is fined 100l. of tobacco and caske"; "that upon the death of
Mr. Robte Sly there is a reliefe due to the lord and that Mr. Gerard Sly is
his next heire, who hath sworne fealty accordingly,"[19]

[Footnote 19: John Johnson, _Old Maryland Manors_ (Johns Hopkins University
_Studies_, I, no, 7, Baltimore, 1883), pp. 31-38.]

St. Clement's was probably almost unique in its perseverance as a true
manor; and it probably discarded its medieval machinery not long after the
end of the existing record. In general, since public land was to be had
virtually free in reward for immigration whether in freedom or service,
most of the so-called manors doubtless procured neither leaseholders nor
essoines nor any other sort of tenants, and those of them which survived as
estates found their salvation in becoming private plantations with servant
and slave gangs tilling their tobacco fields. In short, the Maryland manors
began and ended much as the Virginia particular plantations had done before
them. Maryland on the whole assumed the features of her elder sister. Her
tobacco was of lower grade, partly because of her long delay in providing
public inspection; her people in consequence were generally less
prosperous, her plantations fewer in proportion to her farms, and her
labor supply more largely of convicts and other white servants and
correspondingly less of negroes. But aside from these variations in degree
the developments and tendencies in the one were virtually those of the

Before the end of the seventeenth century William Fitzhugh of Virginia
wrote that his plantations were being worked by "fine crews" of negroes,
the majority of whom were natives of the colony. Mrs. Elizabeth Digges
owned 108 slaves, John Carter 106, Ralph Wormeley 91, Robert Beverly 42,
Nathaniel Bacon, Sr., 40, and various other proprietors proportionate
numbers.[20] The conquest of the wilderness was wellnigh complete on
tidewater, and the plantation system had reached its full type for
the Chesapeake latitudes. Broad forest stretches divided most of the
plantations from one another and often separated the several fields on
the same estate; but the cause of this was not so much the paucity of
population as the character of the land and the prevalent industry. The
sandy expanses, and the occasional belts of clay likewise, had but a
surface fertility, and the cheapness of land prevented the conservation of
the soil. Hence the fields when rapidly exhausted by successive cropping in
tobacco were as a rule abandoned to broomsedge and scrub timber while new
and still newer grounds were cleared and cropped. Each estate therefore, if
its owner expected it to last a lifetime, must comprise an area in forestry
much larger than that at any one time in tillage. The great reaches of the
bay and the deep tidal rivers, furthermore, afforded such multitudinous
places of landing for ocean-going ships that all efforts to modify the
wholly rural condition of the tobacco colonies by concentrating settlement
were thwarted. It is true that Norfolk and Baltimore grew into consequence
during the eighteenth century; but the one throve mainly on the trade of
landlocked North Carolina, and the other on that of Pennsylvania. Not
until the plantation area had spread well into the piedmont hinterland did
Richmond and her sister towns near the falls on the rivers begin to focus
Virginia and Maryland trade; and even they had little influence upon life
on the tidewater peninsulas.

[Footnote 20: Bruce, _Economic History of Virginia_, II, 88.]

The third tobacco-producing colony, North Carolina, was the product of
secondary colonization. Virginia's expansion happened to send some of
her people across the boundary, where upon finding themselves under the
jurisdiction of the Lord Proprietors of Carolina they took pains to keep
that authority upon a strictly nominal basis. The first comers, about 1660,
and most of those who followed, were and continued to be small farmers; but
in the course of decades a considerable number of plantations arose in the
fertile districts about Albemarle Sound. Nearly everywhere in the lowlands,
however, the land was too barren for any distinct prosperity. The
settlements were quite isolated, the communications very poor, and the
social tone mostly that of the backwoods frontier. An Anglican missionary
when describing his own plight there in 1711 discussed the industrial
régime about him: "Men are generally of all trades and women the like
within their spheres, except some who are the posterity of old planters
and have great numbers of slaves who understand most handicraft. Men are
generally carpenters, joiners, wheelwrights, coopers, butchers, tanners,
shoemakers, tallow-chandlers, watermen and what not; women, soap-makers,
starch-makers, dyers, etc. He or she that cannot do all these things, or
hath not slaves that can, over and above all the common occupations of both
sexes, will have but a bad time of it; for help is not to be had at any
rate, every one having business enough of his own. This makes tradesmen
turn planters, and these become tradesmen. No society one with another, but
all study to live by their own hands, of their own produce; and what they
can spare goes for foreign goods. Nay, many live on a slender diet to buy
rum, sugar and molasses, with other such like necessaries, which are sold
at such a rate that the planter here is but a slave to raise a provision
for other colonies, and dare not allow himself to partake of his own
creatures, except it be the corn of the country in hominy bread."[21] Some
of the farmers and probably all the planters raised tobacco according to
the methods prevalent in Virginia. Some also made tar for sale from the
abounding pine timber; but with most of the families intercourse with
markets must have been at an irreducible minimum.

[Footnote 21: Letter of Rev. John Urmstone, July 7, 1711, to the secretary
of the Society for Propagating the Gospel, printed in F.L. Hawks, _History
of North Carolina_ (Fayetteville, N.C., 1857, 1858), II, 215, 216.]

Tobacco culture, while requiring severe exertion only at a few crises,
involved a long painstaking routine because of the delicacy of the plant
and the difficulty of producing leaf of good quality, whether of the
original varieties, oronoko and sweet-scented, or of the many others later
developed. The seed must be sown in late winter or early spring in a
special bed of deep forest mold dressed with wood ashes; and the fields
must be broken and laid off by shallow furrows into hills three or four
feet apart by the time the seedlings were grown to a finger's length. Then
came the first crisis. During or just after an April, May or June rain the
young plants must be drawn carefully from their beds, distributed in the
fields, and each plant set in its hill. Able-bodied, expert hands could set
them at the rate of thousands a day; and every nerve must be strained for
the task's completion before the ground became dry enough to endanger the
seedlings' lives. Then began a steady repetition of hoeings and plowings,
broken by the rush after a rain to replant the hills whose first plants had
died or grown twisted. Then came also several operations of special tedium.
Each plant at the time of forming its flower bud must be topped at a height
to leave a specified number of leaves growing on the stalk, and each stalk
must have the suckers growing at the base of the leaf-stems pulled off;
and the under side of every leaf must be examined twice at least for the
destruction of the horn-worms. These came each year in two successive
armies or "gluts," the one when the plants were half grown, the other when
they were nearly ready for harvest. When the crop began to turn yellow the
stalks must be cut off close to the ground, and after wilting carried to
a well ventilated tobacco house and there hung speedily for curing. Each
stalk must hang at a proper distance from its neighbor, attached to laths
laid in tiers on the joists. There the crop must stay for some months,
with the windows open in dry weather and closed in wet. Finally came the
striking, sorting and prizing in weather moist enough to make the leaves
pliable. Part of the gang would lower the stalks to the floor, where the
rest working in trios would strip them, the first stripper taking the
culls, the second the bright leaves, the third the remaining ones of dull
color. Each would bind his takings into "hands" of about a quarter of a
pound each and throw them into assorted piles. In the packing or "prizing"
a barefoot man inside the hogshead would lay the bundles in courses,
tramping them cautiously but heavily. Then a second hogshead, without a
bottom, would be set atop the first and likewise filled, and then perhaps
a third, when the whole stack would be put under blocks and levers
compressing the contents into the one hogshead at the bottom, which when
headed up was ready for market. Oftentimes a crop was not cured enough for
prizing until the next crop had been planted. Meanwhile the spare time of
the gang was employed in clearing new fields, tending the subsidiary crops,
mending fences, and performing many other incidental tasks. With some
exaggeration an essayist wrote, "The whole circle of the year is one
scene of bustle and toil, in which tobacco claims a constant and chief

[Footnote 22: C.W. Gooch, "Prize Essay on Agriculture in Virginia," in the
_Lynchburg Virginian_, July 14, 1833. More detailed is W.W. Bowie, "Prize
Essay on the Cultivation and Management of Tobacco," in the U.S. Patent
Office _Report_, 1849-1850, pp. 318-324. E.R. Billings, _Tobacco_
(Hartford, 1875) is a good general treatise.]

The general scale of slaveholdings in the tobacco districts cannot
be determined prior to the close of the American Revolution; but the
statistics then available may be taken as fairly representative for the
eighteenth century at large. A state census taken in certain Virginia
counties in 1782-1783[23] permits the following analysis for eight of them
selected for their large proportions of slaves. These counties, Amelia,
Hanover, Lancaster, Middlesex, New Kent, Richmond, Surry and Warwick, are
scattered through the Tidewater and the lower Piedmont. For each one of
their citizens, fifteen altogether, who held upwards of one hundred slaves,
there were approximately three who had from 50 to 99; seven with from 30 to
49; thirteen with from 20 to 29; forty with from 10 to 19; forty with from
5 to 9; seventy with from 1 to 4; and sixty who had none. In the three
chief plantation counties of Maryland, viz. Ann Arundel, Charles, and
Prince George, the ratios among the slaveholdings of the several scales,
according to the United States census of 1790, were almost identical
with those just noted in the selected Virginia counties, but the
non-slaveholders were nearly twice as numerous in proportion. In all these
Virginia and Maryland counties the average holding ranged between 8.5
and 13 slaves. In the other districts in both commonwealths, where the
plantation system was not so dominant, the average slaveholding was
smaller, of course, and the non-slaveholders more abounding.

[Footnote 23: Printed in lieu of the missing returns of the first U.S.
census, in _Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States:
Virginia_ (Washington, 1908).]

The largest slaveholding in Maryland returned in the census of 1790 was
that of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, comprising 316 slaves. Among the
largest reported in Virginia in 1782-1783 were those of John Tabb, Amelia
County, 257; William Allen, Sussex County, 241; George Chewning, 224, and
Thomas Nelson, 208, in Hanover County; Wilson N. Gary, Fluvanna County,
200; and George Washington, Fairfax County, 188. Since the great planters
occasionally owned several scattered plantations it may be that the
censuses reported some of the slaves under the names of the overseers
rather than under those of the owners; but that such instances were
probably few is indicated by the fact that the holdings of Chewning and
Nelson above noted were each listed by the census takers in several
parcels, with the names of owners and overseers both given.

The great properties were usually divided, even where the lands lay in
single tracts, into several plantations for more convenient operation, each
under a separate overseer or in some cases under a slave foreman. If the
working squads of even the major proprietors were of but moderate scale,
those in the multitude of minor holdings were of course lesser still. On
the whole, indeed, slave industry was organized in smaller units by far
than most writers, whether of romance or history, would have us believe.



The impulse for the formal colonization of Carolina came from Barbados,
which by the time of the Restoration was both overcrowded and torn with
dissension. Sir John Colleton, one of the leading planters in that little
island, proposed to several of his powerful Cavalier friends in England
that they join him in applying for a proprietary charter to the vacant
region between Virginia and Florida, with a view of attracting Barbadians
and any others who might come. In 1663 accordingly the "Merry Monarch"
issued the desired charter to the eight applicants as Lords Proprietors.
They were the Duke of Albemarle, the Earl of Clarendon, Earl Craven, Lord
Ashley (afterward the Earl of Shaftesbury), Lord Berkeley, Sir George
Carteret, Sir William Berkeley, and Sir John Colleton. Most of these had no
acquaintance with America, and none of them had knowledge of Carolina or
purpose of going thither. They expected that the mere throwing open of the
region under their distinguished patronage would bring settlers in a rush;
and to this end they published proposals in England and Barbados offering
lands on liberal terms and providing for a large degree of popular
self-government. A group of Barbadians promptly made a tentative settlement
at the mouth of the Cape Fear River; but finding the soil exceedingly
barren, they almost as promptly scattered to the four winds. Meanwhile in
the more southerly region nothing was done beyond exploring the shore.

Finding their passive policy of no avail, the Lords Proprietors bestirred
themselves in 1669 to the extent of contributing several hundred pounds
each toward planting a colony on their southward coast. At the same time
they adopted the "fundamental constitutions" which John Locke had framed
for the province. These contemplated land grants in huge parcels to a
provincial nobility, and a cumbrous oligarchical government with a minimum
participation of popular representatives. The grandiloquent feudalism of
the scheme appealed so strongly to the aristocratic Lords Proprietors
that in spite of their usual acumen in politics they were blinded to its
conflicts with their charter and to its utter top-heaviness. They rewarded
Locke with the first patent of Carolina nobility, which carried with it
a grant of forty-eight thousand acres. For forty years they clung to the
fundamental constitutions, notwithstanding repeated rejections of them by
the colonists.

The fund of 1669 was used in planting what proved a permanent settlement of
English and Barbadians on the shores of Charleston Harbor. Thereafter the
Lords Proprietors relapsed into passiveness, commissioning a new governor
now and then and occasionally scolding the colonists for disobedience. The
progress of settlement was allowed to take what course it might.

The fundamental constitutions recognized the institution of negro slavery,
and some of the first Barbadians may have carried slaves with them
to Carolina. But in the early decades Indian trading, lumbering and
miscellaneous farming were the only means of livelihood, none of which gave
distinct occasion for employing negroes. The inhabitants, furthermore, had
no surplus income with which to buy slaves. The recruits who continued to
come from the West Indies doubtless brought some blacks for their service;
but the Huguenot exiles from France, who comprised the chief other
streamlet of immigration, had no slaves and little money. Most of the
people were earning their bread by the sweat of their brows. The Huguenots
in particular, settling mainly in the interior on the Cooper and Santee
Rivers, labored with extraordinary diligence and overcame the severest
handicaps. That many of the settlers whether from France or the West Indies
were of talented and sturdy stock is witnessed by the mention of the family
names of Legaré, Laurens, Marion and Ravenel among the Huguenots, Drayton,
Elliot, Gibbes and Middleton among the Barbadians, Lowndes and Rawlins
from St. Christopher's, and Pinckney from Jamaica. Some of the people were
sluggards, of course, but the rest, heterogeneous as they were, were living
and laboring as best they might, trying such new projects as they could,
building a free government in spite of the Lords Proprietors, and awaiting
the discovery of some staple resource from which prosperity might be won.

Among the crops tried was rice, introduced from Madagascar by Landgrave
Thomas Smith about 1694, which after some preliminary failures proved so
great a success that from about the end of the seventeenth century its
production became the absorbing concern. Now slaves began to be imported
rapidly. An official account of the colony in 1708[1] reckoned the
population at about 3500 whites, of whom 120 were indentured servants, 4100
negro slaves, and 1400 Indians captured in recent wars and held for the
time being in a sort of slavery. Within the preceding five years, while the
whites had been diminished by an epidemic, the negroes had increased by
about 1,100. The negroes were governed under laws modeled quite closely
upon the slave code of Barbados, with the striking exception that in this
period of danger from Spanish invasion most of the slave men were required
by law to be trained in the use of arms and listed as an auxiliary militia.

[Footnote 1: Text printed in Edward McCrady, _South Carolina under the
Proprietary Government_ (New York, 1897). pp. 477-481.]

During the rest of the colonial period the production of rice advanced at
an accelerating rate and the slave population increased in proportion,
while the whites multiplied somewhat more slowly. Thus in 1724 the whites
were estimated at 14,000, the slaves at 32,000, and the rice export was
about 4000 tons; in 1749 the whites were said to be nearly 25,000, the
slaves at least 39,000, and the rice export some 14,000 tons, valued at
nearly £100,000 sterling;[2] and in 1765 the whites were about 40,000, the
slaves about 90,000, and the rice export about 32,000 tons, worth some
£225,000.[3] Meanwhile the rule of the Lords Proprietors had been replaced
for the better by that of the crown, with South Carolina politically
separated from her northern sister; and indigo had been introduced as a
supplementary staple. The Charleston district was for several decades
perhaps the most prosperous area on the continent.

[Footnote 2: Governor Glen, in B.R. Carroll, _Historical Collections of
South Carolina_ (New York, 1836), II, 218, 234, 266.]

[Footnote 3: McCrady, _South Carolina under the Royal Government_ (New
York, 1899), pp. 389, 390, 807.]

While rice culture did not positively require inundation, it was
facilitated by the periodical flooding of the fields, a practice which was
introduced into the colony about 1724. The best lands for this purpose were
level bottoms with a readily controllable water supply adjacent. During
most of the colonial period the main recourse was to the inland swamps,
which could be flooded only from reservoirs of impounded rain or brooks.
The frequent shortage of water in this régime made the flooding irregular
and necessitated many hoeings of the crop. Furthermore, the dearth of
watersheds within reach of the great cypress swamps on the river borders
hampered the use of these which were the most fertile lands in the colony.
Beginning about 1783 there was accordingly a general replacement of the
reservoir system by the new one of tide-flowing.[4] For this method tracts
were chosen on the flood-plains of streams whose water was fresh but whose
height was controlled by the tide. The land lying between the levels of
high and low tide was cleared, banked along the river front and on the
sides, elaborately ditched for drainage, and equipped with "trunks" or
sluices piercing the front embankment. On a frame above either end of each
trunk a door was hung on a horizontal pivot and provided with a ratchet.
When the outer door was raised above the mouth of the trunk and the inner
door was lowered, the water in the stream at high tide would sluice through
and flood the field, whereas at low tide the water pressure from the land
side would shut the door and keep the flood in. But when the elevation of
the doors was reversed the tide would be kept out and at low tide any water
collected in the ditches from rain or seepage was automatically drained
into the river. Occasional cross embankments divided the fields for greater
convenience of control. The tide-flow system had its own limitations and
handicaps. Many of the available tracts were so narrow that the cost of
embankment was very high in proportion to the area secured; and hurricanes
from oceanward sometimes raised the streams until they over-topped the
banks and broke them. If these invading waters were briny the standing crop
would be killed and the soil perhaps made useless for several years until
fresh water had leached out the salt. At many places, in fact, the water
for the routine flowing of the crop had to be inspected and the time
awaited when the stream was not brackish.

[Footnote 4: David Ramsay, _History of South Carolina_ (Charleston, 1809),
II, 201-206.]

Economy of operation required cultivation in fairly large units. Governor
Glen wrote about 1760, "They reckon thirty slaves a proper number for a
rice plantation, and to be tended by one overseer."[5] Upon the resort to
tide-flowing the scale began to increase. For example, Sir James Wright,
governor of Georgia, had in 1771 eleven plantations on the Savannah,
Ogeechee and Canoochee Rivers, employing from 33 to 72 slaves each,
the great majority of whom were working hands.[6] At the middle of the
nineteenth century the single plantation of Governor Aiken on Jehossee
Island, South Carolina, of which more will be said in another chapter, had
some seven hundred slaves of all ages.

[Footnote 5: Carroll, _Historical Collections of South Carolina_, II, 202.]

[Footnote 6: American Historical Association _Report_ for 1903, p. 445.]

In spite of many variations in the details of cultivation, the tide-flow
system led to a fairly general standard of routine. After perhaps a
preliminary breaking of the soil in the preceding fall, operations began in
the early spring with smoothing the fields and trenching them with narrow
hoes into shallow drills about three inches wide at the bottom and twelve
or fourteen inches apart. In these between March and May the seed rice was
carefully strewn and the water at once let on for the "sprout flow." About
a week later the land was drained and kept so until the plants appeared
plentifully above ground. Then a week of "point flow" was followed by a
fortnight of dry culture in which the spaces between the rows were lightly
hoed and the weeds amidst the rice pulled up. Then came the "long flow"
for two or three weeks, followed by more vigorous hoeing, and finally
the "lay-by flow" extending for two or three months until the crop, then
standing shoulder high and thick with bending heads, was ready for harvest.
The flowings served a triple purpose in checking the weeds and grass,
stimulating the rice, and saving the delicate stalks from breakage and
matting by storms.

A curious item in the routine just before the grain was ripe was the
guarding of the crop from destruction by rice birds. These bobolinks timed
their southward migration so as to descend upon the fields in myriads when
the grain was "in the milk." At that stage the birds, clinging to the
stalks, could squeeze the substance from within each husk by pressure of
the beak. Negroes armed with guns were stationed about the fields with
instructions to fire whenever a drove of the birds alighted nearby. This
fusillade checked but could not wholly prevent the bobolink ravages. To
keep the gunners from shattering the crop itself they were generally given
charges of powder only; but sufficient shot was issued to enable the guards
to kill enough birds for the daily consumption of the plantation. When
dressed and broiled they were such fat and toothsome morsels that in their
season other sorts of meat were little used.

For the rice harvest, beginning early in September, as soon as a field was
drained the negroes would be turned in with sickles, each laborer cutting
a swath of three or four rows, leaving the stubble about a foot high to
sustain the cut stalks carefully laid upon it in handfuls for a day's
drying. Next day the crop would be bound in sheaves and stacked for a brief
curing. When the reaping was done the threshing began, and then followed
the tedious labor of separating the grain from its tightly adhering husk.
In colonial times the work was mostly done by hand, first the flail for
threshing, then the heavy fat-pine pestle and mortar for breaking off the
husk. Finally the rice was winnowed of its chaff, screened of the "rice
flour" and broken grain, and barreled for market.[7]

[Footnote 7: The best descriptions of the rice industry are Edmund Ruffin,
_Agricultural Survey of South Carolina_ (Columbia, S.C. 1843); and R.F.W.
Allston, _Essay on Sea Coast Crops_ (Charleston, 1854), which latter is
printed also in _DeBow's Review_, XVI, 589-615.]

The ditches and pools in and about the fields of course bred swarms of
mosquitoes which carried malaria to all people subject. Most of the whites
were afflicted by that disease in the warmer half of the year, but the
Africans were generally immune. Negro labor was therefore at such a premium
that whites were virtually never employed on the plantations except as
overseers and occasionally as artisans. In colonial times the planters,
except the few quite wealthy ones who had town houses in Charleston, lived
on their places the year round; but at the close of the eighteenth century
they began to resort in summer to "pine land" villages within an hour or
two's riding distance from their plantations. In any case the intercourse
between the whites and blacks was notably less than in the tobacco region,
and the progress of the negroes in civilization correspondingly
slighter. The plantations were less of homesteads and more of business
establishments; the race relations, while often cordial, were seldom

The introduction of indigo culture was achieved by one of America's
greatest women, Eliza Lucas, afterward the wife of Charles Pinckney
(chief-justice of the province) and mother of the two patriot statesmen
Thomas and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. Her father, the governor of the
British island of Antigua, had been prompted by his wife's ill health
to settle his family in South Carolina, where the three plantations he
acquired near Charleston were for several years under his daughter's
management. This girl while attending her father's business found time to
keep up her music and her social activities, to teach a class of young
negroes to read, and to carry on various undertakings in economic botany.
In 1741 her experiments with cotton, guinea-corn and ginger were defeated
by frost, and alfalfa proved unsuited to her soil; but in spite of two
preliminary failures that year she raised some indigo plants with success.
Next year her father sent a West Indian expert named Cromwell to manage her
indigo crop and prepare its commercial product. But Cromwell, in fear of
injuring the prosperity of his own community, purposely mishandled the
manufacturing. With the aid of a neighbor, nevertheless, Eliza not only
detected Cromwell's treachery but in the next year worked out the true
process. She and her father now distributed indigo seed to a number of
planters; and from 1744 the crop began to reach the rank of a staple.[8]
The arrival of Carolina indigo at London was welcomed so warmly that in
1748 Parliament established a bounty of sixpence a pound on indigo produced
in the British dominions. The Carolina output remained of mediocre quality
until in 1756 Moses Lindo, after a career in the indigo trade in London,
emigrated to Charleston and began to teach the planters to distinguish the
grades and manufacture the best.[9] At excellent prices, ranging generally
from four to six shillings a pound, the indigo crop during the rest of the
colonial period, reaching a maximum output of somewhat more than a million
pounds from some twenty thousand acres in the crop, yielded the community
about half as much gross income as did its rice. The net earnings of the
planters were increased in a still greater proportion than this, for the
work-seasons in the two crops could be so dovetailed that a single gang
might cultivate both staples.

[Footnote 8: _Journal and Letters of Eliza Lucas_ (Wormesloe, Ga., 1850);
Mrs. St. Julien Ravenel, _Eliza Pinckney_ (New York, 1896); _Plantation and
Frontier_, I, 265, 266.]

[Footnote 9: B.A. Elzas, _The Jews of South Carolina_ (Philadelphia, 1905),
chap. 3.]

Indigo grew best in the light, dry soil so common on the coastal plain.
From seed sown in the early spring the plant would reach its full growth,
from three to six feet high, and begin to bloom in June or early July. At
that stage the plants were cut off near the ground and laid under water in
a shallow vat for a fermentation which in the course of some twelve hours
took the dye-stuff out of the leaves. The solution then drawn into another
vat was vigorously beaten with paddles for several hours to renew and
complete the foaming fermentation. Samples were taken at frequent intervals
during the latter part of this process, and so soon as a blue tinge became
apparent lime water, in carefully determined proportions, was gently
stirred in to stop all further action and precipitate the "blueing." When
this had settled, the water was drawn off, the paste on the floor was
collected, drained in bags, kneaded, pressed, cut into cubes, dried in the
shade and packed for market.[10] A second crop usually sprang from the
roots of the first and was harvested in August or September.

[Footnote 10: B.R. Carroll, _Historical Collections of South Carolina_, II,

Indigo production was troublesome and uncertain of results. Not only did
the furrows have to be carefully weeded and the caterpillars kept off the
plants, but when the stalks were being cut and carried to the vats great
pains were necessary to keep the bluish bloom on the leaves from being
rubbed off and lost, and the fermentation required precise control for
the sake of quality in the product.[11] The production of the blue staple
virtually ended with the colonial period. The War of Independence not only
cut off the market for the time being but ended permanently, of course, the
receipt of the British bounty. When peace returned the culture was revived
in a struggling way; but its vexations and vicissitudes made it promptly
give place to sea-island cotton.[12]

[Footnote 11: Johann David Schoepf, _Travels in the Confederation,
1783-1784_, A.J. Morrison tr. (Philadelphia, 1911), pp. 187-189.]

[Footnote 12: David Ramsay, _History of South Carolina_, II, 212; D.D.
Wallace, _Life of Henry Laurens_, p. 132.]

The plantation of the rice-coast type had clearly shown its tendency to
spread into all the suitable areas from Winyah Bay to St. John's River,
when its southward progress was halted for a time by the erection of
the peculiar province of Georgia. The launching of this colony was the
beginning of modern philanthropy. Upon procuring a charter in 1732
constituting them trustees of Georgia, James Oglethorpe and his colleagues
began to raise funds from private donations and parliamentary grants for
use in colonizing English debtor-prisoners and other unfortunates. The
beneficiaries, chosen because of their indigence, were transported at the
expense of the trust and given fifty-acre homesteads with equipment and
supplies. Instruction in agriculture was provided for them at Savannah, and
various regulations were established for making them soberly industrious on
a small-farming basis. The land could not be alienated, and neither slaves
nor rum could be imported. Persons immigrating at their own expense might
procure larger land grants, but no one could own more than five hundred
acres; and all settlers must plant specified numbers of grape vines and
mulberry trees with a view to establishing wine and silk as the staples of
the colony.

In the first few years, while Oglethorpe was in personal charge at Savannah
and supplies from England were abundant, there was an appearance of
success, which soon proved illusory. Not only were the conditions unfit
for silk and wine, but the fertile tracts were malarial and the healthy
districts barren, and every industry suited to the climate had to meet the
competition of the South Carolinians with their slave labor and plantation
system. The ne'er-do-weels from England proved ne'er-do-weels again. They
complained of the soil, the climate, and the paternalistic regulations
under which they lived. They protested against the requirements of silk and
wine culture; they begged for the removal of all peculiar restrictions and
for the institution of self-government They bombarded the trustees with
petitions saying "rum punch is very wholesome in this climate," asking
fee-simple title to their lands, and demanding most vigorously the right of
importing slaves. But the trustees were deaf to complaints. They maintained
that the one thing lacking for prosperity from silk and wine was
perseverance, that the restriction on land tenure was necessary on the one
hand to keep an arms-bearing population in the colony and on the other
hand to prevent the settlers from contracting debts by mortgage, that the
prohibitions of rum and slaves were essential safeguards of sobriety and
industry, and that discontent under the benevolent care of the trustees
evidenced a perversity on the part of the complainants which would
disqualify them for self-government. Affairs thus reached an impasse.
Contributions stopped; Parliament gave merely enough money for routine
expenses; the trustees lost their zeal but not their crotchets; the colony
went from bad to worse. Out of perhaps five thousand souls in Georgia about
1737 so many departed to South Carolina and other free settlements that in
1741 there were barely more than five hundred left. This extreme depression
at length forced even the staunchest of the trustees to relax. First the
exclusion of rum was repealed, then the introduction of slaves on lease
was winked at, then in 1749 and 1750 the overt importation of slaves was
authorized and all restrictions on land tenure were canceled. Finally the
stoppage of the parliamentary subvention in 1751 forced the trustees in the
following year to resign their charter.

Slaveholders had already crossed the Savannah River in appreciable
numbers to erect plantations on favorable tracts. The lapse of a few
more transition years brought Georgia to the status on the one hand of a
self-governing royal province and on the other of a plantation community
prospering, modestly for the time being, in the production of rice and
indigo. Her peculiarities under the trustee régime were gone but not
forgotten. The rigidity of paternalism, well meant though it had been, was
a lesson against future submission to outward control in any form; and
their failure as a peasantry in competition with planters across the river
persuaded the Georgians and their neighbors that slave labor was essential
for prosperity.

It is curious, by the way, that the tender-hearted, philanthropic
Oglethorpe at the very time of his founding Georgia was the manager of the
great slave-trading corporation, the Royal African Company. The conflict of
the two functions cannot be relieved except by one of the greatest of all
reconciling considerations, the spirit of the time. Whatever else the
radicals of that period might wish to reform or abolish, the slave trade
was held either as a matter of course or as a positive benefit to the
people who constituted its merchandise.

The narrow limits of the rice and indigo régime in the two colonies
made the plantation system the more dominant in its own area. Detailed
statistics are lacking until the first federal census, when indigo was
rapidly giving place to sea-island cotton; but the requirements of the new
staple differed so little from those of the old that the plantations near
the end of the century were without doubt on much the same scale as before
the Revolution. In the four South Carolina parishes of St. Andrew's, St.
John's Colleton, St. Paul's and St. Stephen's the census-takers of 1790
found 393 slaveholders with an average of 33.7 slaves each, as compared
with a total of 28 non-slaveholding families. In these and seven more
parishes, comprising together the rural portion of the area known
politically as the Charleston District, there were among the 1643 heads of
families 1318 slaveholders owning 42,949 slaves. William Blake had 695;
Ralph Izard had 594 distributed on eight plantations in three parishes,
and ten more at his Charleston house; Nathaniel Heyward had 420 on his
plantations and 13 in Charleston; William Washington had 380 in the country
and 13 in town; and three members of the Horry family had 340, 229 and 222
respectively in a single neighborhood. Altogether there were 79 separate
parcels of a hundred slaves or more, 156 of between fifty and ninety-nine,
318 of between twenty and forty-nine, 251 of between ten and nineteen, 206
of from five to nine, and 209 of from two to four, 96 of one slave each,
and 3 whose returns in the slave column are illegible.[13] The statistics
of the Georgetown and Beaufort districts, which comprised the rest of the
South Carolina coast, show a like analysis except for a somewhat larger
proportion of non-slaveholders and very small slaveholders, who were,
of course, located mostly in the towns and on the sandy stretches of
pine-barren. The detailed returns for Georgia in that census have been
lost. Were those for her coastal area available they would surely show a
similar tendency toward slaveholding concentration.

[Footnote 13: _Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States,
1790: State of South Carolina_ (Washington, 1908); _A Century of Population
Growth_ (Washington, 1909), pp. 190, 191, 197, 198.]

Avenues of transportation abundantly penetrated the whole district in the
form of rivers, inlets and meandering tidal creeks. Navigation on them was
so easy that watermen to the manner born could float rafts or barges for
scores of miles in any desired direction, without either sails or oars, by
catching the strong ebb and flow of the tides at the proper points. But
unlike the Chesapeake estuaries, the waterways of the rice coast were
generally too shallow for ocean-going vessels. This caused a notable
growth of seaports on the available harbors. Of those in South Carolina,
Charleston stood alone in the first rank, flanked by Georgetown and
Beaufort. In the lesser province of Georgia, Savannah found supplement in
Darien and Sunbury. The two leading ports were also the seats of government
in their respective colonies. Charleston was in fact so complete a focus
of commerce, politics and society that South Carolina was in a sense a

The towns were in sentiment and interest virtually a part of the plantation
community. The merchants were plantation factors; the lawyers and doctors
had country patrons; the wealthiest planters were town residents from time
to time; and many prospering townsmen looked toward plantation retirement,
carrying as it did in some degree the badge of gentility, as the crown of
their careers. Furthermore the urban negroes, more numerous proportionately
than anywhere else on the continent, kept the citizens as keenly alive
as the planters to the intricacies of racial adjustments. For example
Charleston, which in 1790 had 8089 whites, 7864 slaves and 586 free
negroes, felt as great anxiety as did the rural parishes at rumors of
slave conspiracies, and on the other hand she had a like interest in the
improvement of negro efficiency, morality and good will.

The rice coast community was a small one. Even as measured in its number
of slaves it bulked only one-fourth as large, say in 1790, as the group of
tobacco commonwealths or the single sugar island of Jamaica. Nevertheless
it was a community to be reckoned with. Its people were awake to their
peculiar conditions and problems; it had plenty of talented citizens to
formulate policies; and it had excellent machinery for uniting public
opinion. In colonial times, plying its trade mainly with England and the
West Indies, it was in little touch with its continental neighbors, and it
developed a sense of separateness. As part of a loosely administered
empire its people were content in prosperity and self-government. But in a
consolidated nation of diverse and conflicting interests it would be likely
on occasion to assert its own will and resist unitedly anything savoring of
coercion. In a double sense it was of the _southern_ South.



Had any American colony been kept wholly out of touch with both Indians
and negroes, the history of slavery therein would quite surely have been
a blank. But this was the case nowhere. A certain number of Indians were
enslaved in nearly every settlement as a means of disposing of captives
taken in war; and negro slaves were imported into every prosperous colony
as a mere incident of its prosperity. Among the Quakers the extent of
slaveholding was kept small partly, or perhaps mainly, by scruples of
conscience; in virtually all other cases the scale was determined by
industrial conditions. Here the plantation system flourished and slaves
were many; there the climate prevented profits from crude gang labor in
farming, and slaves were few.

The nature and causes of the contrast will appear from comparing the
careers of two Puritan colonies launched at the same time but separated by
some thirty degrees of north latitude. The one was planted on the island
of Old Providence lying off the coast of Nicaragua, the other was on the
shores of Massachusetts bay. The founders of Old Providence were a score of
Puritan dignitaries, including the Earl of Warwick, Lord Saye and Sele, and
John Pym, incorporated into the Westminster Company in 1630 with a
combined purpose of erecting a Puritanic haven and gaining profits for
the investors. The soil of the island was known to be fertile, the nearby
Spanish Main would yield booty to privateers, and a Puritan government
would maintain orthodoxy. These enticements were laid before John Winthrop
and his companions; and when they proved steadfast in the choice of New
England, several hundred others of their general sort embraced the tropical
Providence alternative. Equipped as it was with all the apparatus of a "New
England Canaan," the founders anticipated a far greater career than seemed
likely of achievement in Massachusetts. Prosperity came at once in the form
of good crops and rich prizes taken at sea. Some of the latter contained
cargoes of negro slaves, as was of course expected, who were distributed
among the settlers to aid in raising tobacco; and when a certain Samuel
Rishworth undertook to spread ideas of liberty among them he was officially
admonished that religion had no concern with negro slavery and that
his indiscretions must stop. Slaves were imported so rapidly that the
outnumbered whites became apprehensive of rebellion. In the hope of
promoting the importation of white labor, so greatly preferable from the
public point of view, heavy impositions were laid upon the employment
of negroes, but with no avail. The apprehension of evils was promptly
justified. A number of the blacks escaped to the mountains where they dwelt
as maroons; and in 1638 a concerted uprising proved so formidable that the
suppression of it strained every resource of the government and the white
inhabitants. Three years afterward the weakened settlement was captured
by a Spanish fleet; and this was the end of the one Puritan colony in the

[Footnote 1: A.P. Newton, _The Colonizing Activities of the English
Puritans_ (New Haven, 1914).]

Massachusetts was likewise inaugurated by a corporation of Puritans, which
at the outset endorsed the institution of unfree labor, in a sense, by
sending over from England 180 indentured servants to labor on the company's
account. A food shortage soon made it clear that in the company's service
they could not earn their keep; and in 1630 the survivors of them were set
free.[2] Whether freedom brought them bread or whether they died of famine,
the records fail to tell. At any rate the loss of the investment in their
transportation, and the chagrin of the officials, materially hastened the
conversion of the colony from a company enterprise into an industrial
democracy. The use of unfree labor nevertheless continued on a private
basis and on a relatively small scale. Until 1642 the tide of Puritan
immigration continued, some of the newcomers of good estate bringing
servants in their train. The authorities not only countenanced this but
forbade the freeing of servants before the ends of their terms, and in at
least one instance the court fined a citizen for such a manumission.[3]
Meanwhile the war against the Pequots in 1637 yielded a number of
captives, whereupon the squaws and girls were distributed in the towns of
Massachusetts and Connecticut, and a parcel of the boys was shipped off
to the tropics in the Salem ship _Desire_. On its return voyage this
thoroughly Puritan vessel brought from Old Providence a cargo of tobacco,
cotton, and negroes.[4] About this time the courts began to take notice
of Indians as runaways; and in 1641 a "blackmore," Mincarry, procured the
inscription of his name upon the public records by drawing upon himself
an admonition from the magistrates.[5] This negro, it may safely be
conjectured, was not a freeman. That there were at least several other
blacks in the colony, one of whom proved unamenable to her master's
improper command, is told in the account of a contemporary traveler.[6] In
the same period, furthermore, the central court of the colony condemned
certain white criminals to become slaves to masters whom the court
appointed.[7] In the light of these things the pro-slavery inclination of
the much-disputed paragraph in the Body of Liberties, adopted in 1641,
admits of no doubt. The passage reads: "There shall never be any bond
slaverie, villinage or captivitie amongst us unles it be lawfull captives
taken in just warres, and such strangers as willingly selle themselves or
are sold to us. And these shall have all the liberties and Christian usages
which the law of God established in Israell concerning such persons doeth
morally require. This exempts none from servitude who shall be judged
thereto by authoritie."[8]

[Footnote 2: Thomas Dudley, _Letter_ to the Countess of Lincoln, in Alex.
Young, _Chronicles of the First Planters of Massachusetts Boy_ (Boston,
1846), p. 312.]

[Footnote 3: _Records of the Court of Assistants of the Colony of
Massachusetts Bay, 1630-1692_ (Boston, 1904), pp. 135, 136.]

[Footnote 4: Letter of John Winthrop to William Bradford, Massachusetts
Historical Society _Collections_, XXXIII, 360; Winthrop, _Journal_
(Original Narratives edition, New York, 1908), I, 260.]

[Footnote 5: _Records of the Court of Assistants_, p. 118.]

[Footnote 6: John Josslyn, "Two Voyages to New England," in Massachusetts
Historical Society _Collections_, XXIII, 231.]

[Footnote 7: _Records of the Court of Assistants_, pp. 78, 79, 86.]

[Footnote 8: Massachusetts Historical Society _Collections_, XXVIII, 231.]

On the whole it seems that the views expressed a few years later by Emanuel
Downing in a letter to his brother-in-law John Winthrop were not seriously
out of harmony with the prevailing sentiment. Downing was in hopes of a war
with the Narragansetts for two reasons, first to stop their "worship of the
devill," and "2lie, If upon a just warre the Lord should deliver them into
our hands, we might easily have men, women and children enough to exchange
for Moores,[9] which wil be more gaynful pilladge for us than wee conceive,
for I doe not see how wee can thrive untill wee get into a stock of slaves
sufficient to doe all our buisines, for our children's children will hardly
see this great continent filled with people, soe that our servants will
still desire freedome to plant for themselves, and not stay but for verie
great wages.[10] And I suppose you know verie well how we shall mayntayne
20 Moores cheaper than one Englishe servant."

[Footnote 9: I. e. negroes.]

[Footnote 10: Massachusetts Historical Society _Collections_, XXXVI. 65.]

When the four colonies, Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connecticut and New Haven,
created the New England Confederation in 1643 for joint and reciprocal
action in matters of common concern, they provided not only for the
intercolonial rendition of runaway servants, including slaves of course,
but also for the division of the spoils of Indian wars, "whether it be in
lands, goods or persons," among the participating colonies.[11] But perhaps
the most striking action taken by the Confederation in these regards was
a resolution adopted by its commissioners in 1646, in time of peace
and professedly in the interests of peace, authorizing reprisals for
depredations. This provided that if any citizen's property suffered injury
at the hands of an Indian, the offender's village or any other which
had harbored him might be raided and any inhabitants thereof seized in
satisfaction "either to serve or to be shipped out and exchanged for
negroes as the cause will justly beare."[12] Many of these captives were in
fact exported as merchandise, whether as private property or on the public
account of the several colonies.[13] The value of Indians for export was
greater than for local employment by reason of their facility in escaping
to their tribal kinsmen. Toward the end of the seventeenth century,
however, there was some importation of "Spanish Indians" as slaves.[14]

[Footnote 11: _New Haven Colonial Records_, 1653-1665, pp. 562-566.]

[Footnote 12: _Plymouth Records_, IX, 71.]

[Footnote 13: G.H. Moore, _Notes on the History of Slavery in
Massachusetts_ (New York, 1866), pp. 30-48.]

[Footnote 14: Cotton Mather, "Diary," in Massachusetts Historical Society
_Collections_, LXVII, 22, 203.]

An early realization that the price of negroes also was greater than the
worth of their labor under ordinary circumstances in New England led the
Yankee participants in the African trade to market their slave cargoes in
the plantation colonies instead of bringing them home. Thus John Winthrop
entered in his journal in 1645: "One of our ships which went to the
Canaries with pipestaves in the beginning of November last returned now
and brought wine and sugar and salt, and some tobacco, which she had at
Barbadoes in exchange for Africoes which she carried from the Isle of
Maio."[15] In their domestic industry the Massachusetts people found
by experience that "many hands make light work, many hands make a full
fraught, but many mouths eat up all";[16] and they were shrewd enough to
apply the adage in keeping the scale of their industrial units within the
frugal requirements of their lives.

[Footnote 15: Winthrop, _Journal_, II, 227.]

[Footnote 16: John Josslyn, "Two Voyages to New England," in Massachusetts
Historical Society _Collections_, XXIII, 332.]

That the laws of Massachusetts were enforced with special severity against
the blacks is indicated by two cases before the central court in 1681, both
of them prosecutions for arson. Maria, a negress belonging to Joshua Lamb
of Roxbury, having confessed the burning of two dwellings, was sentenced by
the Governor "yt she should goe from the barr to the prison whence she
came and thence to the place of execution and there be burnt.--ye Lord be
mercifull to thy soule, sd ye Govr." The other was Jack, a negro belonging
to Samuel Wolcott of Weathersfield, who upon conviction of having set fire
to a residence by waving a fire brand about in search of victuals, was
condemned to be hanged until dead and then burned to ashes in the fire with
the negress Maria.[17]

[Footnote 17: _Records of the Court of Assistants, 1630-1692_ (Boston,
1901), p. 198.]

In this period it seems that Indian slaves had almost disappeared, and
the number of negroes was not great enough to call for special police
legislation. Governor Bradstreet, for example, estimated the "blacks or
slaves" in the colony in 1680 at "about one hundred or one hundred and
twenty."[18] But in 1708 Governor Dudley reckoned the number in Boston at
four hundred, one-half of whom he said had been born there, and those in
the rest of the colony at one hundred and fifty; and in the following
decades their number steadily mounted, as a concomitant of the colony's
increasing prosperity, until on the eve of the American Revolution they
were reckoned at well above five thousand. Although they never exceeded two
per cent. of the gross population, their presence prompted characteristic
legislation dating from about the beginning of the eighteenth century.
This on one hand taxed the importation of negros unless they were promptly
exported again on the other hand it forbade trading with slaves, restrained
manumission, established a curfew, provided for the whipping of any
negro or mulatto who should strike a "Christian," and prohibited the
intermarriage of the races. On the other hand it gave the slaves the
privilege of legal marriage with persons of their own race, though it did
not attempt to prevent the breaking up of such a union by the sale and
removal of the husband or wife.[19] Regarding the status of children there
was no law enacted, and custom ruled. The children born of Indian slave
mothers appear generally to have been liberated, for as willingly would a
man nurse a viper in his bosom as keep an aggrieved and able-bodied redskin
in his household. But as to negro children, although they were valued so
slightly that occasionally it is said they were given to any one who would
take them, there can be no reasonable doubt that by force of custom they
were the property of the owners of their mothers.[20]

[Footnote 18: Massachusetts Historical Society _Collections_, XXVIII, 337.]

[Footnote 19: Moore, _Slavery in Massachusetts_, pp. 52-55.]

[Footnote 20: _Ibid_., pp. 20-27.]

The New Englanders were "a plain people struggling for existence in a
poor wilderness.... Their lives were to the last degree matter of
fact, realistic, hard." [21] Shrewd in consequence of their poverty,
self-righteous in consequence of their religion, they took their
slave-trading and their slaveholding as part of their day's work and as
part of God's goodness to His elect. In practical effect the policy of
colonial Massachusetts toward the backward races merits neither praise nor
censure; it was merely commonplace.

[Footnote 21: C.F. Adams, _Massachusetts, its Historians and its History_
(Boston, 1893), p. 106.]

What has been said in general of Massachusetts will apply with almost equal
fidelity to Connecticut.[22] The number of negroes in that colony was
hardly appreciable before 1720. In that year Governor Leete when replying
to queries from the English committee on trade and plantations took
occasion to emphasize the poverty of his people, and said as to bond labor:
"There are but fewe servants amongst us, and less slaves; not above 30, as
we judge, in the colony. For English, Scotts and Irish, there are so few
come in that we cannot give a certain acco[un]t. Some yeares come none;
sometimes a famaly or two in a year. And for Blacks, there comes sometimes
3 or 4 in a year from Barbadoes; and they are sold usually at the rate of
22l a piece, sometimes more and sometimes less, according as men can agree
with the master of vessels or merchants that bring them hither." Few
negroes had been born in the colony, "and but two blacks christened, as we
know of."[23] A decade later the development of a black code was begun by
an enactment declaring that any negro, mulatto, or Indian servant wandering
outside his proper town without a pass would be accounted a runaway and
might be seized by any person and carried before a magistrate for return to
his master. A free negro so apprehended without a pass must pay the court
costs. An act of 1702 discouraged manumission by ordering that if any
freed negroes should come to want, their former owners were to be held
responsible for their maintenance. Then came legislation forbidding the
sale of liquors to slaves without special orders from their masters,
prohibiting the purchase of goods from slaves without such orders, and
providing a penalty of not more than thirty lashes for any negro who should
offer to strike a white person; and finally a curfew law, in 1723, ordering
not above ten lashes for the negro, and a fine of ten shillings upon the
master, for every slave without a pass apprehended for being out of doors
after nine o'clock at night.[24] These acts, which remained in effect
throughout the colonial period, constituted a code of slave police which
differed only in degree and fullness from those enacted by the more
southerly colonies in the same generation. A somewhat unusual note,
however, was struck in an act of 1730 which while penalizing with stripes
the speaking by a slave of such words as would be actionable if uttered by
a free person provided that in his defence the slave might make the same
pleas and offer the same evidence as a freeman. The number of negroes in
the colony rose to some 6500 at the eve of the American Revolution. Most
of them were held in very small parcels, but at least one citizen, Captain
John Perkins of Norwich, listed fifteen slaves in his will.

[Footnote 22: The scanty materials available are summarized in B.C.
Steiner, _History of Slavery in Connecticut_ (Johns Hopkins University
_Studies_, XI, nos. 9, 10, Baltimore, 1893), pp. 9-23, 84. See also W.C.
Fowler, "The Historical Status of the Negro in Connecticut," in the
_Historical Magazine and Notes and Queries_, III, 12-18, 81-85, 148-153,

[Footnote 23: _Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut_, III, 298.]

[Footnote 24: _Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut_, IV, 40, 376;
V, 52, 53; VI, 390, 391.]

Rhode Island was distinguished from her neighbors by her diversity and
liberalism in religion, by her great activity in the African slave trade,
and by the possession of a tract of unusually fertile soil. This last,
commonly known as the Narragansett district and comprised in the two
so-called towns of North and South Kingstown, lay on the western shore of
the bay, in the southern corner of the colony. Prosperity from tillage,
and especially from dairying and horse-breeding, caused the rise in that
neighborhood of landholdings and slaveholdings on a scale more commensurate
with those in Virginia than with those elsewhere in New England. The
Hazards, Champlins, Robinsons, and some others accumulated estates ranging
from five to ten thousand acres in extent, each with a corps of bondsmen
somewhat in proportion. In 1730, for example, South Kingstown had a
population of 965 whites, 333 negroes and 233 Indians; and for a number
of years afterward those who may safely be assumed to have been bondsmen,
white, red and black, continued to be from a third to a half as many as the
free inhabitants.[25] It may be noted that the prevalent husbandry was not
such as generally attracted unfree labor in other districts, and that the
climate was poorly suited to a negro population. The question then arises,
Why was there so large a recourse to negro slave labor? The answer probably
lies in the proximity of Newport, the main focus of African trading in
American ships. James Browne wrote in 1737 from Providence, which was also
busy in the trade, to his brother Obadiah who was then in Southern waters
with an African cargo and who had reported poor markets: "If you cannot
sell all your slaves to your mind, bring some of them home; I believe they
will sell well." [26] This bringing of remainders home doubtless enabled
the nearby townsmen and farmers to get slaves from time to time at bargain
prices. The whole colony indeed came to have a relatively large proportion
of blacks. In 1749 there were 33,773 whites and 3077 negroes; in 1756 there
were 35,939 and 4697 respectively; and in 1774, 59,707 and 3668. Of this
last number Newport contained 1246, South Kingstown 440, Providence 303,
Portsmouth 122, and Bristol 114.[27]

[Footnote 25: Edward Channing, _The Narragansett Planters_ (Johns Hopkins
University _Studies_, IV, no. 3, Baltimore, 1886).]

[Footnote 26: Gertrude S. Kimball, _Providence in Colonial Times_ (Boston,
1912), p. 247.]

[Footnote 27: W.D. Johnston, "Slavery in Rhode Island, 1755-1776," in Rhode
Island Historical Society _Publications_, new series, II, 126, 127.]

The earliest piece of legislation in Rhode Island concerning negroes was of
an anti-slavery character. This was an act adopted by the joint government
of Providence and Warwick in 1652, when for the time being those towns were
independent of the rest. It required, under a penalty of £40, that all
negroes be freed after having rendered ten years of service.[28] This
act may be attributed partly perhaps to the liberal influence of Roger
Williams, and partly to the virtual absence of negroes in the towns near
the head of the bay. It long stood unrepealed, but it was probably never
enforced, for no sooner did negroes become numerous than a conservative
reaction set in which deprived this peculiar law of any public sanction it
may have had at the time of enactment. When in the early eighteenth century
legislation was resumed in regard to negroes, it took the form of a slave
code much like that of Connecticut but with an added act, borrowed perhaps
from a Southern colony, providing that slaves charged with theft be tried
by impromptu courts consisting of two or more justices of the peace or town
officers, and that appeal might be taken to a court of regular session only
at the master's request and upon his giving bond for its prosecution. Some
of the towns, furthermore, added by-laws of their own for more thorough
police. South Kingstown for instance adopted an order that if any slave
were found in the house of a free negro, both guest and host were to be
whipped.[29] The Rhode Island Quakers in annual meeting began as early as
1717 to question the propriety of importing slaves, and other persons from
time to time echoed their sentiments; but it was not until just before the
American Revolution that legislation began to interfere with the trade or
the institution.

[Footnote 28: _Rhode Island Colonial Records_, I, 243.]

[Footnote 29: Channing, _The Narragansett Planters_, p. 11.]

The colonies of Plymouth and New Haven in the period of their separate
existence, and the colonies of Maine and New Hampshire throughout their
careers, are negligible in a general account of negro slavery because
their climate and their industrial requirements, along with their poverty,
prevented them from importing any appreciable number of negroes.

New Netherland had the distinction of being founded and governed by a great
slave-trading corporation--the Dutch West India Company--which endeavored
to extend the market for its human merchandise whithersoever its influence
reached. This pro-slavery policy was not wholly selfish, for the directors
appear to have believed that the surest way to promote a colony's welfare
was to make slaves easy to buy. In the infancy of New Netherland, when it
consisted merely of two trading posts, the company delivered its first
batch of negroes at New Amsterdam. But to its chagrin, the settlers would
buy very few; and even the company's grant of great patroonship estates
failed to promote a plantation régime. Devoting their energies more to the
Indian trade than to agriculture, the people had little use for farm hands,
while in domestic service, if the opinion of the Reverend Jonas Michaelius
be a true index, the negroes were found "thievish, lazy and useless trash."
It might perhaps be surmised that the Dutch were too easy-going for success
in slave management, were it not that those who settled in Guiana became
reputed the severest of all plantation masters. The bulk of the slaves in
New Netherland, left on the company's hands, were employed now in building
fortifications, now in tillage. But the company, having no adequate means
of supervising them in routine, changed the status of some of the older
ones in 1644 from slavery to tribute-paying. That is to say, it gave eleven
of them their freedom on condition that each pay the company every year
some twenty-two bushels of grain and a hog of a certain value. At the same
time it provided, curiously, that their children already born or yet to be
born were to be the company's slaves. It was proposed at one time by some
of the inhabitants, and again by Governor Stuyvesant, that negroes be armed
with tomahawks and sent in punitive expeditions against the Indians, but
nothing seems to have come of that.

The Dutch settlers were few, and the Dutch farmers fewer. But as years went
on a slender stream of immigration entered the province from New England,
settling mainly on Long Island and in Westchester; and these came to be
among the company's best customers for slaves. The villagers of Gravesend,
indeed, petitioned in 1651 that the slave supply might be increased. Soon
afterward the company opened the trade to private ships, and then sent
additional supplies on its own account to be sold at auction. It developed
hopes, even, that New Amsterdam might be made a slave market for the
neighboring English colonies. A parcel sold at public outcry in 1661
brought an average price of 440 florins,[30] which so encouraged the
authorities that larger shipments were ordered. Of a parcel arriving in
the spring of 1664 and described by Stuyvesant as on the average old and
inferior, six men were reserved for the company's use in cutting timber,
five women were set aside as unsalable, and the remaining twenty-nine, of
both sexes, were sold at auction at prices ranging from 255 to 615 florins.
But a great cargo of two or three hundred slaves which followed in the same
year reached port only in time for the vessel to be captured by the English
fleet which took possession of New Netherland and converted it into the
province of New York.[31]

[Footnote 30: The florin has a value of forty cents.]

[Footnote 31: This account is mainly drawn from A.J. Northrup, "Slavery in
New York," in the New York State Library _Report_ for 1900, pp. 246-254,
and from E.B. O'Callaghan ed., _Voyages of the Slavers St. John and Arms of
Amsterdam, with additional papers illustrative of the slave trade under the
Dutch_ (Albany, 1867), pp. 99-213.]

The change of the flag was very slow in bringing any pronounced change in
the colony's general régime. The Duke of York's government was autocratic
and pro-slavery and the inhabitants, though for some decades they bought
few slaves, were nothing averse to the institution. After the colony was
converted into a royal province by the accession of James II to the English
throne popular self-government was gradually introduced and a light import
duty was laid upon slaves. But increasing prosperity caused the rise of
slave importations to an average of about one hundred a year in the first
quarter of the eighteenth century;[32] and in spite of the rapid increase
of the whites during the rest of the colonial period the proportion of the
negroes was steadily maintained at about one-seventh of the whole. They
became fairly numerous in all districts except the extreme frontier, but in
the counties fronting New York Harbor their ratio was somewhat above the
average.[33] In 1755 a special census was taken of slaves older than
fourteen years, and a large part of its detailed returns has been
preserved. These reports from some two-score scattered localities enumerate
2456 slaves, about one-third of the total negro population of the
specified age; and they yield unusually definite data as to the scale of
slaveholdings. Lewis Morris of Morrisania had twenty-nine slaves above
fourteen years old; Peter DeLancy of Westchester Borough had twelve; and
the following had ten each: Thomas Dongan of Staten Island, Martinus
Hoffman of Dutchess County, David Jones of Oyster Bay, Rutgert Van Brunt of
New Utrecht, and Isaac Willett of Westchester Borough. Seventy-two others
had from five to nine each, and 1048 had still smaller holdings.[34] The
average quota was two slaves of working age, and presumably the same number
of slave children. That is to say, the typical slaveholding family had a
single small family of slaves in its service. From available data it may be
confidently surmised, furthermore, that at least one household in every ten
among the eighty-three thousand white inhabitants of the colony held one or
more slaves. These two features--the multiplicity of slaveholdings and the
virtually uniform pettiness of their scale--constituted a régime never
paralleled in equal volume elsewhere. The economic interest in slave
property, nowhere great, was widely diffused. The petty masters, however,
maintained so little system in the management of their slaves that the
public problem of social control was relatively intense. It was a state
of affairs conducing to severe legislation, and to hysterical action in

[Footnote 32: _Documentary History of New York_ (Albany, 1850), I, 482.]

[Footnote 33: _Ibid_., I, 467-474.]

[Footnote 34: _Documentary History of New York_, III, 505-521.]

The first important law, enacted in 1702, repeated an earlier prohibition
against trading with slaves; authorized masters to chastise their slaves at
discretion; forbade the meeting of more than three slaves at any time or
place unless in their masters' service or by their consent; penalized with
imprisonment and lashes the striking of a "Christian" by a slave; made the
seductor or harborer of a runaway slave liable for heavy damages to the
owner; and excluded slave testimony from the courts except as against other
slaves charged with conspiracy. In order, however, that undue loss to
masters might be averted, it provided that if by theft or other trespass a
slave injured any person to the extent of not more than five pounds, the
slave was not to be sentenced to death as in some cases a freeman might
have been under the laws of England then current, but his master was to be
liable for pecuniary satisfaction and the slave was merely to be whipped.
Three years afterward a special act to check the fleeing to Canada provided
a death penalty for any slave from the city and county of Albany found
traveling more than forty miles north of that city, the master to be
compensated from a special tax on slave property in the district. And in
1706 an act, passed mainly to quiet any fears as to the legal consequences
of Christianization, declared that baptism had no liberating effect, and
that every negro or mulatto child should inherit the status of its mother.

The murder of a white family by a quartet of slaves in conspiracy not only
led to their execution, by burning in one case, but prompted an enactment
in 1708 that slaves charged with the murder of whites might be tried
summarily by three justices of the peace and be put to death in such manner
as the enormity of their crimes might be deemed to merit, and that slaves
executed under this act should be paid for by the public. Thus stood the
law when a negro uprising in the city of New York in 1712 and a reputed
conspiracy there in 1741 brought atrociously numerous and severe
punishments, as will be related in another chapter.[35] On the former of
these occasions the royally appointed governor intervened in several cases
to prevent judicial murder. The assembly on the other hand set to work
at once on a more elaborate negro law which restricted manumissions,
prohibited free negroes from holding real estate, and increased the rigor
of slave control. Though some of the more drastic provisions were afterward
relaxed in response to the more sober sense of the community, the negro
code continued for the rest of the colonial period to be substantially as
elaborated between 1702 and 1712.[36] The disturbance of 1741 prompted
little new legislation and left little permanent impress upon the
community. When the panic passed the petty masters resumed their customary
indolence of control and the police officers, justly incredulous of public
danger, let the rigors of the law relapse into desuetude.

[Footnote 35: Below, pp. 470, 471.]

[Footnote 36: The laws are summarized and quoted in A.J. Northrup "Slavery
in New York," in the New York State Library _Report_ for 1900, pp. 254-272.
_See also_ E.V. Morgan, "Slavery in New York," in the American Historical
Association _Papers_ (New York, 1891), V, 335-350.]

As to New Jersey, the eastern half, settled largely from New England, was
like in conditions and close in touch with New York, while the western
half, peopled considerably by Quakers, had a much smaller proportion of
negroes and was in sentiment akin to Pennsylvania. As was generally the
case in such contrast of circumstances, that portion of the province which
faced the greater problem of control determined the legislation for
the whole. New Jersey, indeed, borrowed the New York slave code in all
essentials. The administration of the law, furthermore, was about as it was
in New York, in the eastern counties at least. An alleged conspiracy near
Somerville in 1734 while it cost the reputed ringleader his life, cost his
supposed colleagues their ears only. On the other hand sentences to burning
at the stake were more frequent as punishment for ordinary crimes; and on
such occasions the citizens of the neighborhood turned honest shillings
by providing faggots for the fire. For the western counties the published
annals concerning slavery are brief wellnigh to blankness.[37]

[Footnote 37: H.S. Cooley, _A Study of Slavery in New Jersey_ (Johns
Hopkins University _Studios_, XIV, nos. 9, 10, Baltimore, 1896).]

Pennsylvania's place in the colonial slaveholding sisterhood was a little
unusual in that negroes formed a smaller proportion of the population than
her location between New York and Maryland might well have warranted.
This was due not to her laws nor to the type of her industry but to the
disrelish of slaveholding felt by many of her Quaker and German inhabitants
and to the greater abundance of white immigrant labor whether wage-earning
or indentured. Negroes were present in the region before Penn's colony was
founded. The new government recognized slavery as already instituted. Penn
himself acquired a few slaves; and in the first quarter of the eighteenth
century the assembly legislated much as New York was doing, though somewhat
more mildly, for the fuller control of the negroes both slave and free. The
number of blacks and mulattoes reached at the middle of the century
about eleven thousand, the great majority of them slaves. They were most
numerous, of course, in the older counties which lay in the southeastern
corner of the province, and particularly in the city of Philadelphia.
Occasional owners had as many as twenty or thirty slaves, employed either
on country estates or in iron-works, but the typical holding was on a petty
scale. There were no slave insurrections in the colony, no plots of any
moment, and no panics of dread. The police was apparently a little more
thorough than in New York, partly because of legislation, which the white
mechanics procured, lessening negro competition by forbidding masters to
hire out their slaves. From travelers' accounts it would appear that the
relation of master and slave in Pennsylvania was in general more kindly
than anywhere else on the continent; but from the abundance of newspaper
advertisements for runaways it would seem to have been of about average
character. The truth probably lies as usual in the middle ground, that
Pennsylvania masters were somewhat unusually considerate. The assembly
attempted at various times to check slave importations by levying
prohibitive duties, which were invariably disallowed by the English crown.
On the other hand, in spite of the endeavors of Sandiford, Lay, Woolman
and Benezet, all of them Pennsylvanians, it took no steps toward relaxing
racial control until the end of the colonial period.[38]

[Footnote 38: E.R. Turner, _The Negro in Pennsylvania_ (Washington, 1911);
R.R. Wright, Jr., _The Negro in Pennsylvania_ (Philadelphia, 1912).]

In the Northern colonies at large the slaves imported were more generally
drawn from the West Indies than directly from Africa. The reasons were
several. Small parcels, better suited to the retail demand, might be
brought more profitably from the sugar islands whither New England, New
York and Pennsylvania ships were frequently plying than from Guinea whence
special voyages must be made. Familiarity with the English language and
the rudiments of civilization at the outset were more essential to petty
masters than to the owners of plantation gangs who had means for breaking
in fresh Africans by deputy. But most important of all, a sojourn in the
West Indies would lessen the shock of acclimatization, severe enough under
the best of circumstances. The number of negroes who died from it was
probably not small, and of those who survived some were incapacitated and
bedridden with each recurrence of winter.

Slavery did not, and perhaps could not, become an important industrial
institution in any Northern community; and the problem of racial
adjustments was never as acute as it was generally thought to be. In not
more than two or three counties do the negroes appear to have numbered more
than one fifth of the population; and by reason of being distributed
in detail they were more nearly assimilated to the civilization of the
dominant race than in southerly latitudes where they were held in gross.
They nevertheless continued to be regarded as strangers within the gates,
by some welcomed because they were slaves, by others not welcomed even
though they were in bondage. By many they were somewhat unreasonably
feared; by few were they even reasonably loved. The spirit not of love but
of justice and the public advantage was destined to bring the end of their



After the whole group of colonies had long been left in salutary neglect
by the British authorities, George III and his ministers undertook the
creation of an imperial control; and Parliament was too much at the king's
command for opposing statesmen to stop the project. The Americans wakened
resentfully to the new conditions. The revived navigation laws, the stamp
act, the tea duty, and the dispatch of redcoats to coerce Massachusetts
were a cumulation of grievances not to be borne by high-spirited people.
For some years the colonial spokesmen tried to persuade the British
government that it was violating historic and constitutional rights; but
these efforts had little success. To the argument that the empire was
composed of parts mutually independent in legislation, it was replied that
Parliament had legislated imperially ever since the empire's beginning, and
that the colonial assemblies possessed only such powers as Parliament might
allow. The plea of no taxation without representation was answered by the
doctrine that all elements in the empire were virtually represented in
Parliament. The stress laid by the colonials upon their rights as Britons
met the administration's emphasis upon the duty of all British subjects
to obey British laws. This countering of pleas of exemption with
pronouncements of authority drove the complainants at length from proposals
of reform to projects of revolution. For this the solidarity of the
continent was essential, and that was to be gained only by the most
vigorous agitation with the aid of the most effective campaign cries. The
claim of historic immunities was largely discarded in favor of the more
glittering doctrines current in the philosophy of the time. The demands for
local self-government or for national independence, one or both of which
were the genuine issues at stake, were subordinated to the claim of the
inherent and inalienable rights of man. Hence the culminating formulation
in the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be
self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by
their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life,
liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The cause of the community was to be
won under the guise of the cause of individuals.

In Jefferson's original draft of the great declaration there was a
paragraph indicting the king for having kept open the African slave trade
against colonial efforts to close it, and for having violated thereby the
"most sacred rights of life and liberty of a distant people, who never
offended him, captivating them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to
incur miserable death in their transportation thither." This passage,
according to Jefferson's account, "was struck out in complaisance to South
Carolina and Georgia, who had never attempted to restrain the importation
of slaves and who on the contrary still wished to continue it. Our Northern
brethren also I believe," Jefferson continued, "felt a little tender under
these censures, for though their people have very few slaves themselves,
yet they have been pretty considerable carriers of them to others."[1] By
reason of the general stress upon the inherent liberty of all men, however,
the question of negro status, despite its omission from the Declaration,
was an inevitable corollary to that of American independence.

[Footnote 1: Herbert Friedenwald, _The Declaration of Independence_ (New
York, 1904), pp. 130, 272.]

Negroes had a barely appreciable share in precipitating the Revolution
and in waging the war. The "Boston Massacre" was occasioned in part by an
insult offered by a slave to a British soldier two days before; and in that
celebrated affray itself, Crispus Attucks, a mulatto slave, was one of the
five inhabitants of Boston slain. During the course of the war free negro
and slave enlistments were encouraged by law in the states where racial
control was not reckoned vital, and they were informally permitted in the
rest. The British also utilized this resource in some degree. As early as
November 7, 1775, Lord Dunmore, the ousted royal governor of Virginia,
issued a proclamation offering freedom to all slaves "appertaining to
rebels" who would join him "for the more speedy reducing this colony to a
proper sense of their duty to his Majesty's crown and dignity."[2] In reply
the Virginia press warned the negroes against British perfidy; and the
revolutionary government, while announcing the penalties for servile
revolt, promised freedom to such as would promptly desert the British
standard. Some hundreds of negroes appear to have joined Dunmore, but they
did not save him from being driven away.[3]

[Footnote 2: _American Archives_, Force ed., fourth series, III, 1385.]

[Footnote 3: _Ibid_., III, 1387; IV, 84, 85; V, 160, 162.]

When several years afterward military operations were transferred to the
extreme South, where the whites were few and the blacks many, the problem
of negro enlistments became at once more pressing and more delicate. Henry
Laurens of South Carolina proposed to General Washington in March, 1779,
the enrollment of three thousand blacks in the Southern department.
Hamilton warmly endorsed the project, and Washington and Madison more
guardedly. Congress recommended it to the states concerned, and pledged
itself to reimburse the masters and to set the slaves free with a payment
of fifty dollars to each of these at the end of the war. Eventually Colonel
John Laurens, the son of Henry, went South as an enthusiastic emissary of
the scheme, only to meet rebuff and failure.[4] Had the negroes in general
possessed any means of concerted action, they might conceivably have played
off the British and American belligerents to their own advantage. In
actuality, however, they were a passive element whose fate was affected
only so far as the master race determined.

[Footnote 4: G.W. Williams, _History of the Negro Race in America_ (New
York [1882]), I, 353-362.]

Some of the politicians who championed the doctrine of liberty inherent and
universal used it merely as a means to a specific and somewhat unrelated
end. Others endorsed it literally and with resolve to apply it wherever
consistency might require. How could they justly continue to hold men in
bondage when in vindication of their own cause they were asserting the
right of all men to be free? Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Edmund
Randolph and many less prominent slaveholders were disquieted by the
question. Instances of private manumission became frequent, and memorials
were fairly numerous advocating anti-slavery legislation. Indeed Samuel
Hopkins of Rhode Island in a pamphlet of 1776 declared that slavery in
Anglo-America was "without the express sanction of civil government," and
censured the colonial authorities and citizens for having connived in the
maintenance of the wrongful institution.

As to public acts, the Vermont convention of 1777 when claiming statehood
for its community framed a constitution with a bill of rights asserting the
inherent freedom of all men and attaching to it an express prohibition of
slavery. The opposition of New York delayed Vermont's recognition until
1791 when she was admitted as a state with this provision unchanged.
Similar inherent-liberty clauses but without the expressed anti-slavery
application were incorporated into the bills of rights adopted severally by
Virginia in 1776, Massachusetts in 1780, and New Hampshire in 1784. In the
first of these the holding of slaves persisted undisturbed by this action;
and in New Hampshire the custom died from the dearth of slaves rather than
from the natural-rights clause. In Massachusetts likewise it is plain
from copious contemporary evidence that abolition was not intended by the
framers of the bill of rights nor thought by the people or the officials to
have been accomplished thereby.[5] One citizen, indeed, who wanted to keep
his woman slave but to be rid of her child soon to be born, advertised in
the _Independent Chronicle_ of Boston at the close of 1780: "A negro child,
soon expected, of a good breed, may be owned by any person inclining to
take it, and money with it."[6] The courts of the commonwealth, however,
soon began to reflect anti-slavery sentiment, as Lord Mansfield had done in
the preceding decade in England,[7] and to make use of the bill of rights
to destroy the masters' dominion. The decisive case was the prosecution of
Nathaniel Jennison of Worcester County for assault and imprisonment alleged
to have been committed upon his absconded slave Quork Walker in the process
of his recovery. On the trial in 1783 the jury responded to a strong
anti-slavery charge from Chief Justice Cushing by returning a verdict
against Jennison, and the court fined him £50 and costs.

[Footnote 5: G.H. Moore, _Notes on the History of Slavery in
Massachusetts_, pp. 181-209.]

[Footnote 6: _Ibid_., p. 208. So far as the present writer's knowledge
extends, this item is without parallel at any other time or place.]

[Footnote 7: The case of James Somerset on _habeas corpus_, in Howell's
_State Trials_, XX, §548.]

This action prompted the negroes generally to leave their masters, though
some were deterred "on account of their age and infirmities, or because
they did not know how to provide for themselves, or for some pecuniary
consideration."[8] The former slaveholders now felt a double grievance:
they were deprived of their able-bodied negroes but were not relieved of
the legal obligation to support such others as remained on their hands.
Petitions for their relief were considered by the legislature but never
acted upon. The legal situation continued vague, for although an act of
1788 forbade citizens to trade in slaves and another penalized the sojourn
for more than two months in Massachusetts of negroes from other states,[9]
no legislation defined the status of colored residents. In the federal
census of 1790, however, this was the only state in which no slaves were

[Footnote 8: Massachusetts Historical Society _Collections_, XLIII, 386.]

[Footnote 9: Moore, pp. 227-229.]

Racial antipathy and class antagonism among the whites appear to
have contributed to this result. John Adams wrote in 1795, with some
exaggeration and incoherence: "Argument might have [had] some weight in
the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts, but the real cause was the
multiplication of labouring white people, who would no longer suffer the
rich to employ these sable rivals so much to their injury ... If the
gentlemen had been permitted by law to hold slaves, the common white people
would have put the negroes to death, and their masters too, perhaps ...
The common white people, or rather the labouring people, were the cause of
rendering negroes unprofitable servants. Their scoffs and insults, their
continual insinuations, filled the negroes with discontent, made them lazy,
idle, proud, vicious, and at length wholly useless to their masters,
to such a degree that the abolition of slavery became a measure of

[Footnote 10: Massachusetts Historical Society _Collections_, XLIII, 402.]

Slavery in the rest of the Northern states was as a rule not abolished, but
rather put in process of gradual extinction by legislation of a peculiar
sort enacted in response to agitations characteristic of the times.
Pennsylvania set the pattern in an act of 1780 providing that all children
born thereafter of slave mothers in the state were to be the servants of
their mothers' owners until reaching twenty-eight years of age, and then to
become free. Connecticut followed in 1784 with an act of similar purport
but with a specification of twenty-five years, afterward reduced to
twenty-one, as the age for freedom; and in 1840 she abolished her remnant
of slavery outright. In Rhode Island an act of the same year, 1784, enacted
that the children thereafter born of slave mothers were to be free at the
ages of twenty-one for males and eighteen for females, and that these
children were meanwhile to be supported and instructed at public expense;
but an amendment of the following year transferred to the mothers' owners
the burden of supporting the children, and ignored the matter of their
education. New York lagged until 1799, and then provided freedom for the
after-born only at twenty-eight and twenty-five years for males and females
respectively; but a further act of 1817 set the Fourth of July in 1827 as a
time for the emancipation for all remaining slaves in the state. New
Jersey fell into line last of all by an act of 1804 giving freedom to the
after-born at the ages of twenty-five for males and twenty-one for females;
and in 1846 she converted the surviving slaves nominally into apprentices
but without materially changing their condition. Supplementary legislation
here and there in these states bestowed freedom upon slaves in military
service, restrained the import and export of slaves, and forbade the
citizens to ply the slave trade by land or sea.[11]

[Footnote 11: E.R. Turner, _The Negro in Pennsylvania_, pp. 77-85; B.C.
Steiner, _Slavery in Connecticut_, pp. 30-32; _Rhode Island Colonial
Records_, X, 132, 133; A.J. Northrup, "Slavery in New York," in the New
York State Library _Report_ for 1900, pp. 286-298; H.S. Cooley, "Slavery
in New Jersey" (Johns Hopkins University _Studies_, XIV, nos. 9, 10), pp.
47-50; F.B. Lee, _New Jersey as a Colony and as a State_ (New York, 1912),
IV, 25-48.]

Thus from Pennsylvania eastward the riddance of slavery was procured or put
in train, generally by the device of emancipating the _post nati_; and in
consequence the slave population in that quarter dwindled before the middle
of the nineteenth century to a negligible residue. To the southward the
tobacco states, whose industry had reached a somewhat stationary condition,
found it a simple matter to prohibit the further importation of slaves from
Africa. Delaware did this in 1776, Virginia in 1778, Maryland in 1783 and
North Carolina in 1794. But in these commonwealths as well as in their more
southerly neighbors, the contemplation of the great social and economic
problems involved in disestablishing slavery daunted the bulk of the
citizens and impelled their representatives to conservatism. The advocacy
of abolition, whether sudden or gradual, was little more than sporadic.
The people were not to be stampeded in the cause of inherent rights or
any other abstract philosophy. It was a condition and not a theory which
confronted them.

In Delaware, however, the problem was hardly formidable, for at the time of
the first federal census there were hardly nine thousand slaves and a third
as many colored freemen in her gross population of some sixty thousand
souls. Nevertheless a bill for gradual abolition considered by the
legislature in 1786 appears not to have been brought to a vote,[12] and no
action in the premises was taken thereafter. The retention of slavery seems
to have been mainly due to mere public inertia and to the pressure of
political sympathy with the more distinctively Southern states. Because of
her border position and her dearth of plantation industry, the slaves in
Delaware steadily decreased to less than eighteen hundred in 1860, while
the free negroes grew to more than ten times as many.

[Footnote 12: J.R. Brackett, "The Status of the Slave, 1775-1789," in J.F.
Jameson ed., _Essays in the Constitutional History of the United States,
1775-1789_ (Boston, 1889), pp. 300-302.]

In Maryland various projects for abolition, presented by the Quakers
between 1785 and 1791 and supported by William Pinckney and Charles
Carroll, were successively defeated in the legislature; and efforts
to remove the legal restraints on private manumission were likewise
thwarted.[13] These restrictions, which applied merely to the freeing of
slaves above middle age, were in fact very slight. The manumissions indeed
were so frequent and the conditions of life in Maryland were so attractive
to free negroes, or at least so much less oppressive than in most other
states, that while the slave population decreased between 1790 and 1860
from 103,036 to 87,189 souls the colored freemen multiplied from 8046 to
83,942, a number greater by twenty-five thousand than that in any other

[Footnote 13: J.R. Brackett, _The Negro in Maryland_ (Baltimore, 1899), pp.
52-64, 148-155.]

Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1785 that anti-slavery men were as scarce to the
southward of Chesapeake Bay as they were common to the north of it, while
in Maryland, and still more in Virginia, the bulk of the people approved
the doctrine and a respectable minority were ready to adopt it in practice,
"a minority which for weight and worth of character preponderates against
the greater number who have not the courage to divest their families of
a property which, however, keeps their conscience unquiet." Virginia,
he continued, "is the next state to which we may turn our eyes for the
interesting spectacle of justice in conflict with avarice and oppression, a
conflict in which the sacred side is gaining daily recruits from the influx
into office of young men grown and growing up. These have sucked in the
principles of liberty as it were with their mother's milk, and it is to
them that I look with anxiety to turn the fate of the question."[14]
Jefferson had already tried to raise the issue by having a committee for
revising the Virginia laws, appointed in 1776 with himself a member, frame
a special amendment for disestablishing slavery. This contemplated a
gradual emancipation of the after-born children, their tutelage by the
state, their colonization at maturity, and their replacement in Virginia
by white immigrants.[15] But a knowledge that such a project would raise
a storm caused even its framers to lay it aside. The abolition of
primogeniture and the severance of church from state absorbed reformers'
energies at the expense of the slavery question.

[Footnote 14: Jefferson, _Writings_, P.L. Ford ed., IV, 82-83.]

[Footnote 15: Jefferson, _Notes on Virginia_, various editions, query 14.]

When writing his _Notes on Virginia_ in 1781 Jefferson denounced the
slaveholding system in phrases afterward classic among abolitionists: "With
what execration should the statesman be loaded who, permitting one-half of
the citizens thus to trample on the rights of the other, transforms those
into despots and these into enemies ... And can the liberties of a nation
be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction
in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That
they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my
country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep
forever."[16] In the course of the same work, however, he deprecated
abolition unless it were to be accompanied with deportation: "Why not
retain and incorporate the blacks into the state...? Deep rooted prejudices
entertained by the whites, ten thousand recollections by the blacks of the
injuries they have sustained, new provocations, the real distinctions which
nature has made, and many other circumstances, will divide us into
parties and produce convulsions which will probably never end but in the
extermination of the one or the other race ... This unfortunate difference
of colour, and perhaps of faculty, is a powerful obstacle to the
emancipation of these people. Many of their advocates while they wish to
vindicate the liberty of human nature are anxious also to preserve its
dignity and beauty. Some of these, embarrassed by the question 'What
further is to be done with them?' join themselves in opposition with those
who are actuated by sordid avarice only. Among the Romans, emancipation
required but one effort. The slave when made free might mix without
staining the blood of his master. But with us a second is necessary
unknown to history. When freed, he is to be removed beyond the reach of

[Footnote 16: Jefferson, _Notes on Virginia_, query 18.]

[Footnote 17: _Ibid_., query 14.]

George Washington wrote in 1786 that one of his chief wishes was that some
plan might be adopted "by which slavery may be abolished by slow, sure and
imperceptible degrees." But he noted in the same year that some abolition
petitions presented to the Virginia legislature had barely been given a

[Footnote 18: Washington, _Writings_, W.C. Ford ed., XI, 20, 62.]

Seeking to revive the issue, Judge St. George Tucker, professor of law in
William and Mary College, inquired of leading citizens of Massachusetts in
1795 for data and advice, and undaunted by discouraging reports received in
reply or by the specific dissuasion of John Adams, he framed an intricate
plan for extremely gradual emancipation and for expelling the freedmen
without expense to the state by merely making their conditions of life
unbearable. This was presented to the legislature in a pamphlet of 1796
at the height of the party strife between the Federalists and
Democratic-Republicans; and it was impatiently dismissed from
consideration.[19] Tucker, still nursing his project, reprinted his
"dissertation" as an appendix to his edition of Blackstone in 1803, where
the people and the politicians let it remain buried. In public opinion, the
problem as to the freedmen remained unsolved and insoluble.

[Footnote 19: St. George Tucker, _A Dissertation on Slavery, with a
proposal for the gradual abolition of it in the State of Virginia_
(Philadelphia, 1796, reprinted New York, 1860). Tucker's Massachusetts
correspondence is printed in the Massachusetts Historical Society
_Collections_, XLIII (Belknap papers), 379-431.]

Meanwhile the Virginia black code had been considerably moderated during
and after the Revolution; and in particular the previous almost iron-clad
prohibition of private manumission had been wholly removed in effect by an
act of 1782. In spite of restrictions afterward imposed upon manumission
and upon the residence of new freedmen in the state, the free negroes
increased on a scale comparable to that in Maryland. As compared with an
estimate of less than two thousand in 1782, there were 12,866 in 1790,
20,124 in 1800, and 30,570 in 1810. Thereafter the number advanced more
slowly until it reached 58,042, about one-eighth as many as the slaves
numbered, in 1860.

In the more southerly states condemnation of slavery was rare. Among
the people of Georgia, the depressing experience of the colony under a
prohibition of it was too fresh in memory for them to contemplate with
favor a fresh deprivation. In South Carolina Christopher Gadsden had
written in 1766 likening slavery to a crime, and a decade afterward Henry
Laurens wrote: "You know, my dear son, I abhor slavery.... The day, I hope
is approaching when from principles of gratitude as well as justice every
man will strive to be foremost in showing his readiness to comply with the
golden rule. Not less than twenty thousand pounds sterling would all my
negroes produce if sold at public auction tomorrow.... Nevertheless I am
devising means for manumitting many of them, and for cutting off the entail
of slavery. Great powers oppose me--the laws and customs of my country,
my own and the avarice of my countrymen. What will my children say if
I deprive them of so much estate? These are difficulties, but not
insuperable. I will do as much as I can in my time, and leave the rest to
a better hand. I am not one of those ... who dare trust in Providence for
defence and security of their own liberty while they enslave and wish
to continue in slavery thousands who are as well entitled to freedom as
themselves. I perceive the work before me is great. I shall appear to many
as a promoter not only of strange but of dangerous doctrines; it will
therefore be necessary to proceed with caution."[20] Had either Gadsden
or Laurens entertained thoughts of launching an anti-slavery campaign,
however, the palpable hopelessness of such a project in their community
must have dissuaded them. The negroes of the rice coast were so
outnumbering and so crude that an agitation applying the doctrine of
inherent liberty and equality to them could only have had the effect of
discrediting the doctrine itself. Furthermore, the industrial prospect,
the swamps and forests calling for conversion into prosperous plantations,
suggested an increase rather than a diminution of the slave labor supply.
Georgia and South Carolina, in fact, were more inclined to keep open the
African slave trade than to relinquish control of the negro population.
Revolutionary liberalism had but the slightest of echoes there.

[Footnote 20: Frank Moore ed., _Correspondence of Henry Laurens_ (New York,
1861), pp. 20, 21. The version of this letter given by Professor Wallace in
his _Life of Henry Laurens_, p. 446, which varies from the present one, was
derived from a paraphrase by John Laurens to whom the original was written.
Cf. _South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine_, X. 49. For
related items in the Laurens correspondence _see_ D.D. Wallace, _Life of
Henry Laurens_, pp. 445, 447-455.]

In North Carolina the prevailing lack of enterprise in public affairs had
no exception in regard to slavery. The Quakers alone condemned it. When in
1797 Nathaniel Macon, a pronounced individualist and the chief spokesman of
his state in Congress, discussed the general subject he said "there was not
a gentleman in North Carolina who did not wish there were no blacks in the
country. It was a misfortune--he considered it a curse; but there was no
way of getting rid of them." Macon put his emphasis upon the negro problem
rather than upon the question of slavery, and in so doing he doubtless
reflected the thought of his community.[21] The legislation of North
Carolina regarding racial control, like that of the period in South
Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky, was more conservative than

[Footnote 21: _Annals of Congress_, VII, 661. American historians, through
preoccupation or inadvertence, have often confused anti-negro with
anti-slavery expressions. In reciting the speech of Macon here quoted
McMaster has replaced "blacks" with "slaves"; and incidentally he has made
the whole discussion apply to Georgia instead of North Carolina. Rhodes
in turn has implicitly followed McMaster in both errors. J.B. McMaster,
_History of the People of the United States_, II, 359; J.F. Rhodes,
_History of the United States_, I, 19.]

The central government of the United States during the Revolution and the
Confederation was little concerned with slavery problems except in its
diplomatic affairs, where the question was merely the adjustment of
property in slaves, and except in regard to the western territories.
Proposals for the prohibition of slavery in these wilderness regions were
included in the first projects for establishing governments in them.
Timothy Pickering and certain military colleagues framed a plan in 1780 for
a state beyond the Ohio River with slavery excluded; but it was allowed
to drop out of consideration. In the next year an ordinance drafted by
Jefferson was introduced into Congress for erecting territorial governments
over the whole area ceded or to be ceded by the states, from the
Alleghanies to the Mississippi and from Canada to West Florida; and one of
its features was a prohibition of slavery after the year 1800 throughout
the region concerned. Under the Articles of Confederation, the Congress
could enact legislation only by the affirmative votes of seven state
delegations. When the ballot was taken on the anti-slavery clause the six
states from Pennsylvania eastward voted aye: Maryland, Virginia and South
Carolina voted no; and the other states were absent. Jefferson was not
alone in feeling chagrin at the defeat and in resolving to persevere.
Pickering expressed his own views in a letter to Rufus King: "To suffer the
continuance of slaves till they can be gradually emancipated, in states
already overrun with them, may be pardonable because unavoidable without
hazarding greater evils; but to introduce them into countries where none
already exist ... can never be forgiven." King in his turn introduced a
resolution virtually restoring the stricken clause, but was unable to bring
it to a vote. After being variously amended, the ordinance without this
clause was adopted. It was, however, temporary in its provision and
ineffectual in character; and soon the drafting of one adequate for
permanent purposes was begun. The adoption of this was hastened in July,
1787, by the offer of a New England company to buy from Congress a huge
tract of Ohio land. When the bill was put to the final vote it was
supported by every member with the sole exception of the New Yorker,
Abraham Yates. Delegations from all of the Southern states but Maryland
were present, and all of them voted aye. Its enactment gave to the country
a basic law for the territories in phrasing and in substance comparable to
the Declaration of Independence and the Federal Constitution. Applying
only to the region north of the Ohio River, the ordinance provided for
the erection of territories later to be admitted as states, guaranteed in
republican government, secured in the freedom of religion, jury trial and
all concomitant rights, endowed with public land for the support of schools
and universities, and while obligated to render fugitive slaves on claim
of their masters in the original states, shut out from the régime of
slaveholding itself.[22] "There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary
servitude in the said territory," it prescribed, "otherwise than in
punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted." The
first Congress under the new constitution reënacted the ordinance, which
was the first and last antislavery achievement by the central government in
the period.

[Footnote 22: A.C. McLaughlin, _The Confederation and the Constitution_
(New York [1905]), chap. 7; B.A. Hinsdale, _The Old Northwest_ (New York,
1888), chap. 15.]

By this time radicalism in general had spent much of its force. The
excessive stress which the Revolution had laid upon the liberty of
individuals had threatened for a time to break the community's grasp upon
the essentials of order and self-restraint. Social conventions of many
sorts were flouted; local factions resorted to terrorism against their
opponents; legislatures abused their power by confiscating loyalist
property and enacting laws for the dishonest promotion of debtor-class
interests, and the central government, made pitiably weak by the prevailing
jealousy of control, was kept wholly incompetent through the shirking
of burdens by states pledged to its financial support. But populism and
particularism brought their own cure. The paralysis of government now
enabled sober statesmen to point the prospect of ruin through chaos and
get a hearing in their advocacy of sound system. Exalted theorising on the
principles of liberty had merely destroyed the old régime: matter-of-fact
reckoning on principles of law and responsibility must build the new. The
plan of organization, furthermore, must be enough in keeping with the
popular will to procure a general ratification.

Negro slavery in the colonial period had been of continental extent but
under local control. At the close of the Revolution, as we have seen,
its area began to be sectionally confined while the jurisdiction over it
continued to lie in the several state governments. The great convention
at Philadelphia in 1787 might conceivably have undertaken the transfer of
authority over the whole matter to the central government; but on the one
hand the beginnings of sectional jealousy made the subject a delicate
one, and on the other hand the members were glad enough to lay aside all
problems not regarded as essential in their main task. Conscious ignorance
by even the best informed delegates from one section as to affairs in
another was a dissuasion from the centralizing of doubtful issues; and the
secrecy of the convention's proceedings exempted it from any pressure of
anti-slavery sentiment from outside.

On the whole the permanence of any critical problem in the premises was
discredited. Roger Sherman of Connecticut "observed that the abolition of
slavery seemed to be going on in the United States, and that the good sense
of the people of the several states would by degrees compleat it." His
colleague Oliver Ellsworth said, "The morality or wisdom of slavery are
considerations belonging to the states themselves"; and again, "Let us not
intermeddle. As population increases poor laborers will be so plenty as to
render slaves useless. Slavery in time will not be a speck in our country."
And Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts "thought we had nothing to do with the
conduct of states as to slaves, but ought to be careful not to give any
sanction to it." The agreement was general that the convention keep its
hands off so far as might be; but positive action was required upon
incidental phases which involved some degree of sanction for the
institution itself. These issues concerned the apportionment of
representation, the regulation of the African trade, and the rendition of
fugitives. This last was readily adjusted by the unanimous adoption of a
clause introduced by Pierce Butler of South Carolina and afterward changed
in its phrasing to read: "No person held to service or labour in one state
under the laws thereof escaping into another shall in consequence of any
law or regulation therein be discharged from such service or labour, but
shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labour
may be due." After some jockeying, the other two questions were settled by
compromise. Representation in the lower house of Congress was apportioned
among the states "according to their several members, which shall be
determined by adding to the whole number of free persons ... three fifths
of all other persons." As to the foreign slave trade, Congress was
forbidden to prohibit it prior to the year 1808, and was merely permitted
meanwhile to levy an import duty upon slaves at a rate of not more than ten
dollars each. [23]

[Footnote 23: Max Farrand ed., _The Records of the Federal Convention_ (New
Haven, 1911), _passim_]

In the state conventions to which the Constitution was referred for
ratification the debates bore out a remark of Madison's at Philadelphia
that the real difference of interests lay not between the large and small
states but between those within and without the slaveholding influence. The
opponents of the Constitution at the North censured it as a pro-slavery
instrument, while its advocates apologized for its pertinent clauses on the
ground that nothing more hostile to the institution could have been carried
and that if the Constitution were rejected there would be no prospect of
a federal stoppage of importations at any time. But at the South the
opposition, except in Maryland and Virginia where the continuance of the
African trade was deprecated, declared the slavery concessions inadequate,
while the champions of the Constitution maintained that the utmost
practicable advantages for their sectional interest had been achieved.
Among the many amendments to the Constitution proposed by the ratifying
conventions the only one dealing with any phase of slavery was offered,
strange to say, by Rhode Island, whose inhabitants had been and still
were so active in the African trade. It reads: "As a traffic tending to
establish and continue the slavery of the human species is disgraceful to
the cause of liberty and humanity, Congress shall as soon as may be promote
and establish such laws as may effectually prevent the importation of
slaves of every description."[24] The proposal seems to have received no
further attention at the time.

[Footnote 24: This was dated May 29, 1790. H.V. Ames, "Proposed Amendment
to the Constitution of the United States," in the American Historical
Association _Report_ for 1896, p. 208]

In the early sessions of Congress under the new Constitution most of the
few debates on slavery topics arose incidentally and ended without positive
action. The taxation of slave imports was proposed in 1789, but was never
enacted: sundry petitions of anti-slavery tenor, presented mostly by
Quakers, were given brief consideration in 1790 and again at the close
of the century but with no favorable results; and when, in 1797, a more
concrete issue was raised by memorials asking intervention on behalf of
some negroes whom Quakers had manumitted in North Carolina in disregard of
legal restraints and who had again been reduced to slavery, a committee
reported that the matter fell within the scope of judicial cognizance
alone, and the House dismissed the subject. For more than a decade, indeed,
the only legislation enacted by Congress concerned at all with slavery was
the act of 1793 empowering the master of an interstate fugitive to seize
him wherever found, carry him before any federal or state magistrate in the
vicinage, and procure a certificate warranting his removal to the state
from which he had fled. Proposals to supplement this rendition act on the
one hand by safeguarding free negroes from being kidnapped under fraudulent
claims and on the other hand by requiring employers of strange negroes to
publish descriptions of them and thus facilitate the recovery of runaways,
were each defeated in the House.

On the whole the glamor of revolutionary doctrines was passing, and self
interest was regaining its wonted supremacy. While the rising cotton
industry was giving the blacks in the South new value as slaves, Northern
spokesmen were frankly stating an antipathy of their people toward negroes
in any capacity whatever.[25] The succession of disasters in San Domingo,
meanwhile, gave warning against the upsetting of racial adjustments in the
black belts, and the Gabriel revolt of 1800 in Virginia drove the lesson
home. On slavery questions for a period of several decades the policy
of each of the two sections was merely to prevent itself from being
overreached. The conservative trend, however, could not wholly remove the
Revolution's impress of philosophical liberalism from the minds of men.
Slavery was always a thing of appreciable disrelish in many quarters; and
the slave trade especially, whether foreign or domestic, bore a permanent

[Footnote 25: _E. g., Annals of Congress_, 1799-1801, pp. 230-246.]



The many attempts of the several colonies to restrict or prohibit the
importation of slaves were uniformly thwarted, as we have seen, by the
British government. The desire for prohibition, however, had been far from
constant or universal.[1] The first Continental Congress when declaring the
Association, on October 18, 1774, resolved: "We will neither import, nor
purchase any slave imported, after the first day of December next; after
which time we will wholly discontinue the slave trade, and will neither
be concerned in it ourselves nor will we hire our vessels nor sell our
commodities or manufactures to those who are concerned in it."[2] But even
this was mainly a political stroke against the British government; and the
general effect of the restraint lasted not more than two or three years.[3]
The ensuing war, of course, hampered the trade, and the legislatures of
several Northern states, along with Delaware and Virginia, took occasion
to prohibit slave importations. The return of peace, although followed by
industrial depression, revived the demand for slave labor. Nevertheless,
Maryland prohibited the import by an act of 1783; North Carolina laid a
prohibitive duty in 1787; and South Carolina in the spring of that year
enacted the first of a series of temporary laws which maintained a
continuous prohibition for sixteen years. Thus at the time when the framers
of the Federal Constitution were stopping congressional action for twenty
years, the trade was legitimate only in a few of the Northern states, all
of which soon enacted prohibitions, and in Georgia alone at the South.
The San Domingan cataclysm prompted the Georgia legislature in an act
of December 19, 1793, to forbid the importation of slaves from the West
Indies, the Bahamas and Florida, as well as to require free negroes to
procure magisterial certificates of industriousness and probity.[4] The
African trade was left open by that state until 1798, when it was closed
both by legislative enactment and by constitutional provision.

[Footnote 1: The slave trade enactments by the colonies, the states and
the federal government are listed and summarized in W.E.B. DuBois, _The
Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States, 1638-1870_
(New York, 1904), appendices.]

[Footnote 2: W.C. Ford, ed., _Journals of the Continental Congress_
(Washington, 1904), I, 75, 77.]

[Footnote 3: DuBois, pp. 44-48.]

[Footnote 4: The text of the act, which appears never to have been printed,
is in the Georgia archives. For a transcript I am indebted to the Hon.
Philip Cook, Secretary of State of Georgia.]

The scale of the importation in the period when Georgia alone permitted
them appears to have been small. For the year 1796, for example, the
imports at Savannah were officially reported at 2084, including some who
had been brought coastwise from the northward for sale.[5] A foreign
traveler who visited Savannah in the period noted that the demand was light
because of the dearth of money and credit, that the prices were about three
hundred dollars per head, that the carriers were mainly from New England,
and that one third of each year's imports were generally smuggled into
South Carolina.[6]

[Footnote 5: American Historical Association _Report_ for 1903, pp. 459,

[Footnote 6: LaRochefoucauld-Liancourt, _Travels in the United States_
(London, 1799), p. 605.]

In the impulse toward the prohibitory acts the humanitarian motive was
obvious but not isolated. At the North it was supplemented, often in
the same breasts, by the inhumane feeling of personal repugnance toward
negroes. The anti-slave-trade agitation in England also had a contributing
influence; and there were no economic interests opposing the exclusion.
At the South racial repugnance was fainter, and humanitarianism though of
positive weight was but one of several factors. The distinctively Southern
considerations against the trade were that its continuance would lower the
prices of slaves already on hand, or at least prevent those prices from
rising; that it would so increase the staple exports as to spoil the
world's market for them; that it would drain out money and keep the
community in debt; that it would retard the civilization of the negroes
already on hand; and that by raising the proportion of blacks in the
population it would intensify the danger of slave insurrections. The
several arguments had varying degrees of influence in the several areas.
In the older settlements where the planters had relaxed into easy-going
comfort, the fear of revolt was keenest; in the newer districts the
settlers were more confident in their own alertness. Again, where
prosperity was declining the planters were fairly sure to favor anything
calculated to raise the prices of slaves which they might wish in future to
sell, while on the other hand the people in districts of rising industry
were tempted by programmes tending to cheapen the labor they needed.

The arguments used in South Carolina for and against exclusion may be
gathered from scattering reports in the newspapers. In September, 1785, the
lower house of the legislature upon receiving a message from the governor
on the distressing condition of commerce and credit, appointed a committee
of fifteen on the state of the republic. In this committee there was a
vigorous debate on a motion by Ralph Izard to report a bill prohibiting
slave importations for three years. John Rutledge opposed it. Since the
peace with Great Britain, said he, not more than seven thousand slaves
had been imported, which at £50 each would be trifling as a cause of the
existing stringency; and the closing of the ports would therefore fail to
relieve the distress[7] Thomas Pinckney supported Rutledge with an argument
that the exclusion of the trade from Charleston would at once drive
commerce in general to the ports of Georgia and North Carolina, and that
the advantage of low prices, which he said had fallen from a level of £90
in 1783, would be lost to the planters. Judge Pendleton, on the other hand,
stressed the need of retrenchment. Planters, he said, no longer enjoyed the
long loans which in colonial times had protected them from distress; and
the short credits now alone available put borrowers in peril of bankruptcy
from a single season of short crops and low prices.[8] The committee
reported Izard's bill; but it was defeated in the House by a vote of 47 to
51, and an act was passed instead for an emission of bills of credit by the
state. The advocacy of the trade by Thomas Pinckney indicates that at this
time there was no unanimity of conservatives against it.

[Footnote 7: Charleston _Evening Gazette_, Sept. 26 and 28, 1785.]

[Footnote 8: _Ibid_., Oct. 1, 1785.]

When two years later the stringency persisted, the radicals in the
legislature demanded a law to stay the execution of debts, while the now
unified conservatives proposed again the stoppage of the slave trade. In
the course of the debate David Ramsay "made a jocose remark that every
man who went to church last Sunday and said his prayers was bound by a
spiritual obligation to refuse the importation of slaves. They had devoutly
prayed not to be led into temptation, and negroes were a temptation too
great to be resisted."[9] The issue was at length adjusted by combining
the two projects of a stay-law and a prohibition of slave importations for
three years in a single bill. This was approved on March 28, 1787; and a
further act of the same day added a penalty of fine to that of forfeiture
for the illegal introduction of slaves. The exclusion applied to slaves
from every source, except those whose masters should bring them when
entering the state as residents.[10]

[Footnote 9: Charleston _Morning Post_, March 23, 1787.]

[Footnote 10: _Ibid_., March 29, 1787; Cooper and McCord, _Statutes at
Large of South Carolina_, VII, 430.]

Early in the next year an attempt was made to repeal the prohibition. Its
leading advocate was Alexander Gillon, a populistic Charleston merchant
who had been made a commodore by the State of South Carolina but had never
sailed a ship. The opposition was voiced so vigorously by Edward Rutledge,
Charles Pinckney, Chancellor Matthews, Dr. Ramsay, Mr. Lowndes, and others
that the project was crushed by 93 votes to 40. The strongest weapon in
the hands of its opponents appears to have been a threat of repealing the
stay-law in retaliation.[11] At the end of the year the prohibitory act
had its life prolonged until the beginning of 1793; and continuation acts
adopted every two or three years thereafter extended the régime until the
end of 1803. The constitutionality of the prohibition was tested before the
judiciary of the state in January, 1802, when the five assembled judges
unanimously pronounced it valid.[12]

[Footnote 11: _Georgia State Gazette_ (Savannah), Feb. 17, 1788.]

[Footnote 12: Augusta, Ga., _Chronicle_, Jan. 30, 1802.]

But at last the advocates of the open trade had their innings. The governor
in a message of November 24, 1803, recited that his best exertions to
enforce the law had been of no avail. Inhabitants of the coast and the
frontier, said he, were smuggling in slaves abundantly, while the people of
the central districts were suffering an unfair competition in having to
pay high prices for their labor. He mentioned a recently enacted law of
Congress reinforcing the prohibitory acts of the several states only to
pronounce it already nullified by the absence of public sanction; and he
dismissed any thought of providing the emancipation of smuggled slaves
as "a remedy more mischievous than their introduction in servitude."[13]
Having thus described the problem as insoluble by prohibitions, he left the
solution to the legislature.

[Footnote 13: Charleston _Courier_, Dec. 5, 1803.]

In spite of the governor's assertion, supported soon afterward by a
statement of William Lowndes in Congress,[14] there is reason to believe
that violations of the law had not been committed on a great scale. Slave
prices could not have become nearly doubled, as they did during the period
of legal prohibition, if African imports had been at all freely made. The
governor may quite possibly have exaggerated the facts with a view to
bringing the system of exclusion to an end.

[Footnote 14: _Annals of Congress_, 1803-1804, p. 992.]

However this may have been, a bill was promptly introduced in the Senate
to repeal all acts against importations. Mr. Barnwell opposed this on
the ground that the immense influx of slaves which might be expected in
consequence would cut in half the value of slave property, and that the
increase in the cotton output would lower the already falling prices of
cotton to disastrous levels. The resumption of the great war in Europe,
said he, had already diminished the supply of manufactured goods and raised
their prices. "Was it under these circumstances that we ought to lay
out the savings of our industry, the funds accumulated in many years of
prosperity and peace, to increase that produce whose value had already
fallen so much? He thought not. The permission given by the bill would lead
to ruinous speculations. Everyone would purchase negroes. It was well known
that those who dealt in this property would sell it at a very long credit.
Our citizens would purchase at all hazards and trust to fortunate crops and
favorable markets for making their payments; and it would be found that
South Carolina would in a few years, if this trade continued open, be in
the same situation of debt, and subject to all misfortunes which that
situation had produced, as at the close of the Revolutionary war." The
newspaper closed its report of the speech by a concealment of its further
burden: "The Hon. member adduced in support of his opinion various other
arguments, still more cogent and impressive, which from reasons very
obvious we decline making public."[15] It may be surmised that the
suppressed remarks dealt with the danger of slave revolts. In the further
course of the debate, "Mr. Smith said he would agree to put a stop to the
importation of slaves, but he believed it impossible. For this reason he
would vote for the bill." The measure soon passed the Senate.

[Footnote 15: Charleston _Courier_, Dec. 26, 1803.]

Meanwhile the lower house had resolved on December 8, in committee of the
whole, "that the laws prohibiting the importation of negroes and other
persons of colour in this state can be so amended as to prevent their
introduction amongst us," and had recommended that a select committee be
appointed to draft a bill accordingly.[16] Within the following week,
however, the sentiment of the House was swung to the policy of repeal, and
the Senate bill was passed. On the test vote the ayes were 55 and the
noes 46.[17] The act continued the exclusion of West Indian negroes, and
provided that slaves brought in from sister states of the Union must have
official certificates of good character; but as to the African trade it
removed all restrictions. In 1805 a bill to prohibit imports again was
introduced into the legislature, but after debate it was defeated.[18]

[Footnote 16: _Ibid_., Dec. 20, 1803.]

[Footnote 17: Charleston _City Gazette_, Dec. 22, 1803.]

[Footnote 18: "Diary of Edward Hooker" in the American Historical
Association _Report_ for 1896, p. 878.]

The local effect of the repeal is indicated in the experience of E.S.
Thomas, a Charleston bookseller of the time who in high prosperity had just
opened a new importation of fifty thousand volumes. As he wrote in after
years, the news that the legislature had reopened the slave trade "had not
been five hours in the city, before two large British Guineamen, that had
been lying on and off the port for several days expecting it, came up to
town; and from that day my business began to decline.... A great change at
once took place in everything. Vessels were fitted out in numbers for the
coast of Africa, and as fast as they returned their cargoes were bought
up with avidity, not only consuming the large funds that had been
accumulating, but all that could be procured, and finally exhausting credit
and mortgaging the slaves for payment.... For myself, I was upwards of five
years disposing of my large stock, at a sacrifice of more than a half, in
all the principal towns from Augusta in Georgia to Boston."[19]

[Footnote 19: E.S. Thomas, _Reminiscences_, II, 35, 36.]

As reported at the end of the period, the importations amounted to 5386
slaves in 1804; 6790 in 1805; 11,458 in 1806; and 15,676 in 1807.[20]
Senator William Smith of South Carolina upon examining the records at a
later time placed the total at 39,310, and analysed the statistics as
follows: slaves brought by British vessels, 19,449; by French vessels,
1078; by American vessels, operated mostly for the account of Rhode
Islanders and foreigners, 18,048.[21] If an influx no greater than this
could produce the effect which Thomas described, notwithstanding that many
of the slaves were immediately reshipped to New Orleans and many more
were almost as promptly sold into the distant interior, the scale of
the preceding illicit trade must have been far less than the official
statements and the apologies in Congress would indicate.

[Footnote 20: _Virginia Argus_, Jan. 19, 1808.]

[Footnote 21: _Annals of Congress_, 1821-1822, pp. 73-77.]

South Carolina's opening of the trade promptly spread dismay in other
states. The North Carolina legislature, by a vote afterwards described as
virtually unanimous in both houses, adopted resolutions in December, 1804,
instructing the Senators from North Carolina and requesting her Congressmen
to use their utmost exertions at the earliest possible time to procure
an amendment to the Federal Constitution empowering Congress at once to
prohibit the further importation of slaves and other persons of color
from Africa and the West Indies. Copies were ordered sent not only to the
state's delegation in Congress but to the governors of the other states for
transmission to the legislatures with a view to their concurrence.[22] In
the next year similar resolutions were adopted by the legislatures of New
Hampshire, Vermont, Maryland and Tennessee;[23] but the approach of the
time when Congress would acquire the authority without a change of the
Constitution caused a shifting of popular concern from the scheme of
amendment to the expected legislation of Congress. Meanwhile, a bill for
the temporary government of the Louisiana purchase raised the question of
African importations there which occasioned a debate in the Senate at the
beginning of 1804[24] nearly as vigorous as those to come on the general
question three years afterward.

[Footnote 22: Broadside copy of the resolution, accompanied by a letter of
Governor James Turner of North Carolina to the governor of Connecticut, in
the possession of the Pennsylvania Historical Society.]

[Footnote 23: H.V. Ames, _Proposed Amendments to the Constitution_, in the
American Historical Association _Report_ for 1896, pp. 208, 209.]

[Footnote 24: Printed from Senator Plumer's notes, in the _American
Historical Review_, XXII, 340-364.]

In the winter of 1804-1805 bills were introduced in both Senate and House
to prohibit slave importations at large; but the one was postponed for a
year and the other was rejected,[25] doubtless because the time was not
near enough when they could take effect. At last the matter was formally
presented by President Jefferson. "I congratulate you, fellow-citizens,"
he said in his annual message of December 2, 1806, "on the approach of
the period at which you may interpose your authority constitutionally to
withdraw the citizens of the United States from all further participation
in those violations of human rights which have been so long continued
on the unoffending inhabitants of Africa, and which the morality, the
reputation, and the best interests of our country have long been eager to
proscribe. Although no law you can pass can take effect until the day of
the year one thousand eight hundred and eight, yet the intervening period
is not too long to prevent, by timely notice, expeditions which cannot be
completed before that day."[26] Next day Senator Bradley of Vermont gave
notice of a bill which was shortly afterward introduced and which, after
an unreported discussion, was passed by the Senate on January 27. Its
conspicuous provisions were that after the close of the year 1807 the
importation of slaves was to be a felony punishable with death, and that
the interstate coasting trade in slaves should be illegal.

[Footnote 25: W.E.B. DuBois, _Suppression of the African Slave Trade_, p.

The report of proceedings in the House was now full, now scant. The
paragraph of the President's message was referred on December 3 to a
committee of seven with Peter Early of Georgia as chairman and three other
Southerners in the membership. The committee's bill reported on December
15, proposed to prohibit slave importations, to penalize the fitting out of
vessels for the trade by fine and forfeiture, to lay fines and forfeitures
likewise upon the owners and masters found within the jurisdictional waters
of the United States with slaves from abroad on board, and empowered the
President to use armed vessels in enforcement. It further provided that if
slaves illegally introduced should be found within the United States they
should be forfeited, and any person wittingly concerned in buying or
selling them should be fined; it laid the burden of proof upon defendants
when charged on reasonable grounds of presumption with having violated the
act; and it prescribed that the slaves forfeited should, like other
goods in the same status, be sold at public outcry by the proper federal

[Footnote 26: _Annals of Congress_, 1806-1807, p. 14.]

[Footnote 27 _Ibid_., pp. 167, 168.]

Mr. Sloan of New Jersey instantly moved to amend by providing that the
forfeited slaves be entitled to freedom. Mr. Early replied that this would
rob the bill of all effect by depriving it of public sanction in the
districts whither slaves were likely to be brought. Those communities, he
said, would never tolerate the enforcement of a law which would set fresh
Africans at large in their midst. Mr. Smilie, voicing the sentiment and
indicating the dilemma of most of his fellow Pennsylvanians, declared
his unconquerable aversion to any measure which would make the federal
government a dealer in slaves, but confessed that he had no programme of
his own. Nathaniel Macon, the Speaker, saying that he thought the desire
to enact an effective law was universal, agreed with Early that Sloan's
amendment would defeat the purpose. Early himself waxed vehement,
prophesying the prompt extermination of any smuggled slaves emancipated in
the Southern states. The amendment was defeated by a heavy majority.

Next day, however, Mr. Bidwell of Massachusetts renewed Sloan's attack by
moving to strike out the provision for the forfeiture of the slaves; but
his colleague Josiah Quincy, supported by the equally sagacious Timothy
Pitkin of Connecticut, insisted upon the necessity of forfeiture; and Early
contended that this was particularly essential to prevent the smuggling of
slaves across the Florida border where the ships which had brought them
would keep beyond the reach of congressional laws. The House finding itself
in an impasse referred the bill back to the same committee, which soon
reported it in a new form declaring the illegal importation of slaves
a felony punishable with death. Upon Early's motion this provision was
promptly stricken out in committee of the whole by a vote of 60 to 41;
whereupon Bidwell renewed his proposal to strike out the forfeiture of
slaves. He was numerously supported in speeches whose main burden was that
the United States government must not become the receiver of stolen goods.
The speeches in reply stressed afresh the pivotal quality of forfeiture in
an effective law; and Bidwell when pressed for an alternative plan could
only say that he might if necessary be willing to leave them to the
disposal of the several states, but was at any rate "opposed to disgracing
our statute book with a recognition of the principle of slavery." Quincy
replied that he wished Bidwell and his fellows "would descend from their
high abstract ground to the level of things in their own state--such
as have, do and will exist after your laws, and in spite of them." The
Southern members, said he, were anxious for nothing so much as a total
prohibition, and for that reason were insistent upon forfeiture. For the
sake of enforcing the law, and for the sake of controlling the future
condition of the smuggled slaves, forfeiture was imperative. Such a
provision would not necessarily admit that the importers had had a title
in the slaves before capture, but it and it alone would effectively divest
them of any color of title to which they might pretend. The amendment was
defeated by a vote of 36 to 63.

When the bill with amendments was reported to the House by the committee of
the whole, on December 31, there was vigorous debate upon the question of
substituting imprisonment of from five to ten years in place of the death
penalty. Mr. Talmadge of Connecticut supported the provision of death with
a biblical citation; and Mr. Smilie said he considered it the very marrow
of the bill. Mr. Lloyd of Maryland thought the death penalty would be
out of proportion to the crime, and considered the extract from Exodus
inapplicable since few of the negroes imported had been stolen in Africa.
But Mr. Olin of Vermont announced that the man-stealing argument had
persuaded him in favor of the extreme penalty. Early now became furious,
and in his fury, frank. In a preceding speech he had pronounced slavery
"an evil regretted by every man in the country."[28] He now said: "A large
majority of the people in the Southern states do not ... believe it immoral
to hold human flesh in bondage. Many deprecate slavery as an evil; as a
political evil; but not as a crime. Reflecting men apprehend, at some
future day, evils, incalculable evils, from it; but it is a fact that
few, very few, consider it as a crime. It is best to be candid on this
subject.... I will tell the truth. A large majority of people in the
Southern states do not consider slavery as an evil. Let the gentleman go
and travel in that quarter of the Union; let him go from neighborhood to
neighborhood, and he will find that this is the fact. Some gentlemen appear
to legislate for the sake of appearances.... I should like to know what
honor you will derive from a law that will be broken every day of your
lives."[29] Mr. Stanton said with an air of deprecation on behalf of his
state of Rhode Island: "I wish the law made so strong as to prevent this
trade in future; but I cannot believe that a man ought to be hung for only
stealing a negro. Those who buy them are as bad as those who import them,
and deserve hanging quite as much." The yeas and nays recorded at the end
of the exhausting day showed 63 in favor and 53 against the substitution of
imprisonment. The North was divided, 29 to 37, with the nays coming mostly
from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Connecticut; the South, although South
Carolina as well as Kentucky was evenly divided, cast 34 yeas to 16 nays.
Virginia and Maryland, which might have been expected to be doubtful,
virtually settled the question by casting 17 yeas against 6 nays.

[Footnote 28: _Annals of Congress_, 1806-1807, p. 174.]

[Footnote 29: _Ibid_., pp. 238, 239.]

When the consideration of the bill was resumed on January 7, Mr. Bidwell
renewed his original attack by moving to strike out the confiscation of
slaves; and when this was defeated by 39 to 77, he attempted to reach the
same end by a proviso "That no person shall be sold as a slave by virtue of
this act," This was defeated only by the casting vote of the Speaker. Those
voting aye were all from Northern states, except Archer of Maryland, Broom
of Delaware, Bedinger of Kentucky and Williams of North Carolina. The noes
were all from the South except one from New Hampshire, ten from New York,
and one from Pennsylvania. The outcome was evidently unsatisfactory to the
bulk of the members, for on the next day a motion to recommit the bill to
a new committee of seventeen prevailed by a vote of 76 to 46. Among the
members who shifted their position over night were six of the ten from New
York, four from Maryland, three from Virginia, and two from North Carolina.
In the new committee Bedinger of Kentucky, who was regularly on the
Northern side, was chairman, and Early was not included.

This committee reported in February a bill providing, as a compromise, that
forfeited negroes should be carried to some place in the United States
where slavery was either not permitted or was in course of gradual
extinction, and there be indentured or otherwise employed as the President
might deem best for them and the country. Early moved that for this there
be substituted a provision that the slaves be delivered to the several
states in which the captures were made, to be disposed of at discretion;
and he said that the Southern people would resist the indenture provision
with their lives. This reckless assertion suggests that Early was either
set against the framing of an effective law, or that he spoke in mere blind

Before further progress was made the House laid aside its bill in favor of
the one which the Senate had now passed. An amendment to this, striking out
the death penalty, was adopted on February 12 by a vote of 67 to 48. The
North gave 31 ayes and 36 noes, quite evenly distributed among the states.
The South cast 37 ayes to 11 noes, five of the latter coming from Virginia,
two from North Carolina, and one each from Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and
South Carolina. A considerable shifting of votes appeared since the ballot
on the same question six weeks before. Knight of Rhode Island, Sailly and
Williams of New York, Helms of New Jersey and Wynns of North Carolina
changed in favor of the extreme penalty; but they were more than offset by
the opposite change of Bidwell of Massachusetts, Van Cortlandt of New York,
Lambert of New Jersey, Clay and Gray of Virginia and McFarland of North
Carolina. Numerous members from all quarters who voted on one of these
roll-calls were silent at the other, and this variation also had a net
result against the infliction of death. The House then filled the blank
it had made in the bill by defining the offense as a high misdemeanor and
providing a penalty of imprisonment of not less than five nor more than
ten years. John Randolph opposed even this as excessive, but found himself
unsupported. The House then struck out the prohibition of the coasting
trade in slaves, and returned the bill as amended to the Senate. The latter
concurred in all the changes except that as to the coastwise trade, and
sent the bill back to the House.

John Randolph now led in the insistence that the House stand firm. If the
bill should pass without the amendment, said he, the Southern people would
set the law at defiance, and he himself would begin the violation of so
unconstitutional an infringement of the rights of property. The House voted
to insist upon its amendment, and sent the bill to conference where in
compromise the prohibition as to the coastwise carriage of slaves for sale
was made to apply only to vessels of less than forty tons burthen. The
Senate agreed to this. In the House Mr. Early opposed it as improper in law
and so easy of evasion that it would be perfectly futile for the prevention
of smuggling from Florida. John Randolph said: "The provision of the bill
touched the right of private property. He feared lest at a future period it
might be made the pretext of universal emancipation. He had rather lose the
bill, he had rather lose all the bills of the session, he had rather lose
every bill passed since the establishment of the government, than agree
to the provision contained in this slave bill. It went to blow up the
Constitution in ruins."[30] Concurrence was carried, nevertheless, by a
vote of 63 to 49, in which the North cast 51 ayes to 12 noes, and the South
12 ayes to 37 noes. The Southern ayes were four from Maryland, four
from North Carolina, two from Tennessee, and one each from Virginia and
Kentucky. The Northern noes were five from New York, two each from New
Hampshire and Vermont, and one each from Massachusetts, Connecticut and

[Footnote 30: _Annals of Congress_, 1806-1807, p. 626.]

The bill then passed the House. Its variance from the original House bill
was considerable, for it made the importation of slaves from abroad a high
misdemeanor punishable with imprisonment; it prohibited the coastwise trade
by sea in vessels of less than forty tons, and required the masters of
larger vessels transporting negroes coastwise to deliver to the port
officials classified manifests of the negroes and certificates that to the
best of their knowledge and belief the slaves had not been imported since
the beginning of 1808; and instead of forfeiture to the United States it
provided that all smuggled slaves seized under the act should be subject to
such disposal as the laws of the state or territory in which the seizure
might be made should prescribe.[31] Randolph, still unreconciled, offered
an explanatory act, February 27, that nothing in the preceding act should
be construed to affect in any manner the absolute property right of masters
in their slaves not imported contrary to the law, and that such masters
should not be liable to any penalty for the coastwise transportation of
slaves in vessels of less than forty tons. In attempting to force this
measure through, he said that if it did not pass the House at once he hoped
the Virginia delegation would wait on the President and remonstrate against
his approving the act which had passed.[32] By a vote of 60 to 49 this bill
was made the order for the next day; but its further consideration was
crowded out by the rush of business at the session's close. The President
signed the prohibitory bill on March 2, without having received the
threatened Virginia visitation.

[Footnote 31: _Ibid_., pp. 1266-1270.]

[Footnote 32: _Annals of Congress_, 1806-1807, p. 637.]

Among the votes in the House on which the yeas and nays were recorded in
the course of these complex proceedings, six may be taken as tests. They
were on striking out the death penalty, December 31; on striking out the
forfeiture of slaves, January 7; on the proviso that no person should
be sold by virtue of the act, January 7; on referring the bill to a new
committee, January 8; on striking out the death penalty from the Senate
bill, February 12; and on the prohibition of the coasting trade in slaves
in vessels of under forty tons, February 26. In each case a majority of
the Northern members voted on one side of the question, and a yet larger
majority of Southerners voted on the other. Twenty-two members voted in
every case on the side which the North tended to adopt. These comprised
seven from Massachusetts, six from Pennsylvania, three from Connecticut,
and one or two from each of the other Northern states except Rhode Island
and Ohio. They comprised also Broom of Delaware, Bedinger of Kentucky, and
Morrow of Virginia; while Williams of North Carolina was almost equally
constant in opposing the policies advocated by the bulk of his fellow
Southerners. On the other hand the regulars on the Southern side comprised
not only ten Virginians, all of the six South Carolinians, except three of
their number on the punishment questions, all of the four Georgians, three
North Carolinians, two Marylanders and one Kentuckian, but in addition
Tenney of New Hampshire, Schuneman, Van Rensselaer and Verplanck of New
York on all but the punishment questions.

On the whole, sectional divergence was fairly pronounced, but only on
matters of detail. The expressions from all quarters of a common desire
to make the prohibition of importations effective were probably sincere
without material exception. As regards the Virginia group of states, their
economic interest in high prices for slaves vouches for the genuine purpose
of their representatives, while that of the Georgians and South Carolinians
may at the most be doubted and not disproved. The South in general
wished to prevent any action which might by implication stigmatize the
slaveholding régime, and was on guard also against precedents tending to
infringe state rights. The North, on the other hand, was largely divided
between a resolve to stop the sanction of slavery and a desire to enact
an effective law in the premises directly at issue. The outcome was a law
which might be evaded with relative ease wherever public sanction was weak,
but which nevertheless proved fairly effective in operation.

When slave prices rose to high levels after the war of 1812 systematic
smuggling began to prevail from Amelia Island on the Florida border, and on
a smaller scale on the bayous of the Barataria district below New Orleans;
but these operations were checked upon the passage of a congressional act
in 1818 increasing the rewards to informers. Another act in the following
year directed the President to employ armed vessels for police in both
African and American waters, and incidentally made provisions contemplating
the return of captured slaves to Africa. Finally Congress by an act of 1820
declared the maritime slave trade to be piracy.[33] Smuggling thereafter
diminished though it never completely ceased.

[Footnote 33: DuBois, _Suppression of the Slave Trade_, pp. 118-123.]

As to the dimensions of the illicit importations between 1808 and 1860,
conjectures have placed the gross as high as two hundred and seventy
thousand.[34] Most of the documents in the premises, however, bear palpable
marks of unreliability. It may suffice to say that these importations were
never great enough to affect the labor supply in appreciable degree. So far
as the general economic régime was concerned, the foreign slave trade was
effectually closed in 1808.

[Footnote 34: W.H. Collins, _The Domestic Slave Trade of the Southern
States_ (New York [1904], pp. 12-20). _See also_ W.E.B. DuBois,
"Enforcement of the Slave Trade Laws," in the American Historical
Association _Report_ for 1891, p. 173.]

At that time, however, there were already in the United States about one
million slaves to serve as a stock from which other millions were to be
born to replenish the plantations in the east and to aid in the peopling of
the west. These were ample to maintain a chronic racial problem, and had no
man invented a cotton gin their natural increase might well have glutted
the market for plantation labor. Had the African source been kept freely
open, the bringing of great numbers to meet the demand in prosperous times
would quite possibly have so burdened the country with surplus slaves in
subsequent periods of severe depression that slave prices would have fallen
virtually to zero, and the slaveholding community would have been driven
to emancipate them wholesale as a means of relieving the masters from the
burden of the slaves' support. The foes of slavery had long reckoned that
the abolition of the foreign trade would be a fatal blow to slavery
itself. The event exposed their fallacy. Thomas Clarkson expressed the
disappointment of the English abolitionists in a letter of 1830: "We
certainly have been deceived in our first expectations relative to the
fruit of our exertions. We supposed that when by the abolition of the slave
trade the planters could get no more slaves, they would not only treat
better those whom they then had in their power, but that they would
gradually find it to their advantage to emancipate them. A part of our
expectations have been realized; ... but, alas! where the heart has been
desperately wicked, we have found no change. We did not sufficiently take
into account the effect of unlimited power on the human mind. No man likes
to part with power, and the more unbounded it is, the less he likes to
part with it. Neither did we sufficiently take into account the ignominy
attached to a black skin as the badge of slavery, and how difficult it
would be to make men look with a favourable eye upon what they had looked
[upon] formerly as a disgrace. Neither did we take sufficiently into
account the belief which every planter has, that such an unnatural state
as that of slavery can be kept up only by a system of rigour, and how
difficult therefore it would be to procure a relaxation from the ordinary
discipline of a slave estate."[35]

[Footnote 35: MS. in private possession.]

If such was the failure in the British West Indies, the change in
conditions in the United States was even greater; for the rise of the
cotton industry concurred with the prohibition of the African trade to
enhance immensely the preciousness of slaves and to increase in similar
degree the financial obstacle to a sweeping abolition.



The decade following the peace of 1783 brought depression in all the
plantation districts. The tobacco industry, upon which half of the Southern
people depended in greater or less degree, was entering upon a half century
of such wellnigh constant low prices that the opening of each new tract for
its culture was offset by the abandonment of an old one, and the export
remained stationary at a little less than half a million hogsheads. Indigo
production was decadent; and rice culture was in painful transition to the
new tide-flow system. Slave prices everywhere, like those of most other
investments, were declining in so disquieting a manner that as late as the
end of 1794 George Washington advised a friend to convert his slaves into
other forms of property, and said on his own account: "Were it not that I
am principled against selling negroes, as you would cattle in a market, I
would not in twelve months hence be possessed of a single one as a slave.
I shall be happily mistaken if they are not found to be a very troublesome
species of property ere many years have passed over our heads."[1] But at
that very time the addition of cotton and sugar to the American staples was
on the point of transforming the slaveholders' prospects.

[Footnote 1: New York Public Library _Bulletin_, 1898, pp. 14, 15.]

For centuries cotton had been among the world's materials for cloth,
though the dearth of supply kept it in smaller use than wool or flax. This
continued to be the case even when the original sources in the Orient were
considerably supplemented from the island of Bourbon and from the colonies
of Demarara, Berbice and Surinam which dotted the tropical South American
coast now known as Guiana. Then, in the latter half of the eighteenth
century, the great English inventions of spinning and Weaving machinery so
cheapened the manufacturing process that the world's demand for textiles
was immensely stimulated. Europe was eagerly inquiring for new fiber
supplies at the very time when the plantation states of America were under
the strongest pressure for a new source of income.

The green-seed, short-staple variety of cotton had long been cultivated
for domestic use in the colonies from New Jersey to Georgia, but on such a
petty scale that spinners occasionally procured supplies from abroad. Thus
George Washington, who amid his many activities conducted a considerable
cloth-making establishment, wrote to his factor in 1773 that a bale of
cotton received from England had been damaged in transit.[2] The cutting
off of the foreign trade during the war for independence forced the
Americans to increase their cotton production to supply their necessities
for apparel. A little of it was even exported at the end of the war, eight
bags of which are said to have been seized by the customs officers at
Liverpool in 1784 on the ground that since America could not produce so
great a quantity the invoice must be fraudulent. But cotton was as yet kept
far from staple rank by one great obstacle, the lack of a gin. The fibers
of the only variety at hand clung to the seed as fast as the wool to the
sheep's back. It had to be cut or torn away; and because the seed-tufts
were so small, this operation when performed by hand was exceedingly slow
and correspondingly expensive. The preparation of a pound or two of lint a
day was all that a laborer could accomplish.

[Footnote 2: MS. in the Library of Congress, Washington letter-books, XVII,

The problem of the time had two possible solutions; the invention of a
machine for cleaning the lint from the seed of the sort already at hand,
or the introduction of some different variety whose lint was more lightly
attached. Both solutions were applied, and the latter first in point of
time though not in point of importance.

About 1786 seed of several strains was imported from as many quarters
by planters on the Georgia-Carolina coast. Experiments with the Bourbon
variety, which yielded the finest lint then in the market, showed that
the growing season was too short for the ripening of its pods; but seed
procured from the Bahama Islands, of the sort which has ever since been
known as sea-island, not only made crops but yielded a finer fiber than
they had in their previous home. This introduction was accomplished by
the simultaneous experiments of several planters on the Georgia coast. Of
these, Thomas Spaulding and Alexander Bissett planted the seed in 1786 but
saw their plants fail to ripen any pods that year. But the ensuing winter
happened to be so mild that, although the cotton is not commonly a
perennial outside the tropics, new shoots grew from the old roots in the
following spring and yielded their crop in the fall.[3] Among those who
promptly adopted the staple was Richard Leake, who wrote from Savannah at
the end of 1788 to Tench Coxe: "I have been this year an adventurer, and
the first that has attempted on a large scale, in the article of cotton.
Several here as well as in Carolina have followed me and tried the
experiment. I shall raise about 5000 pounds in the seed from about eight
acres of land, and the next year I expect to plant from fifty to one
hundred acres."[4]

[Footnote 3: Letter of Thomas Spaulding, Sapelo Island, Georgia, Jan. 20,
1844, to W.B. Scabrook, in J.A. Turner, ed., _The Cotton Planter's Manual_
(New York, 1857), pp. 280-286.]

[Footnote 4: E.J. Donnell, _Chronological and Statistical History of
Cotton_ (New York, 1872), p. 45.]

The first success in South Carolina appears to have been attained by
William Elliott, on Hilton Head near Beaufort, in 1790. He bought five and
a half bushels of seed in Charleston at 14s per bushel, and sold his crop
at 10-1/2d per pound. In the next year John Screven of St. Luke's parish
planted thirty or forty acres, and sold his yield at from 1s. 2d. to 1s.
6d. sterling per pound. Many other planters on the islands and the adjacent
mainland now joined the movement. Some of them encountered failure, among
them General Moultrie of Revolutionary fame who planted one hundred and
fifty acres in St. John's Berkeley in 1793 and reaped virtually nothing.[5]

[Footnote 5: Whitemarsh B. Seabrook, _Memoir on the Origin, Cultivation and
Uses of Cotton_ (Charleston, 1844), pp. 19, 20.]

The English market came promptly to esteem the long, strong, silky
sea-island fiber as the finest of all cottons; and the prices at Liverpool
rose before the end of the century to as high as five shillings a pound.
This brought fortunes in South Carolina. Captain James Sinkler from a crop
of three hundred acres on his plantation, "Belvedere," in 1794 gathered
216 pounds to the acre, which at prices ranging from fifty to seventy-five
cents a pound brought him a gross return of $509 per laborer employed.[6]
Peter Gaillard of St. John's Berkeley received for his crop of the same
year an average of $340 per hand; and William Brisbane of St. Paul's earned
so much in the three years from 1796 to 1798 that he found himself rich
enough to retire from work and spend several years in travel at the North
and abroad. He sold his plantation to William Seabrook at a price which the
neighbors thought ruinously high, but Seabrook recouped the whole of it
from the proceeds of two years' crops.[7]

[Footnote 6: Samuel DuBose, _Address delivered before the Black Oak
Agricultural Society, April 28, 1858_, in T.G. Thomas, _The Huguenots of
South Carolina_ (New York, 1887).]

[Footnote 7: W.B. Seabrook, _Memoir on Cotton_, p. 20.]

The methods of tillage were quickly systematized. Instead of being planted,
as at first, in separate holes, the seed came to be drilled and plants
grown at intervals of one or two feet on ridges five or six feet apart;
and the number of hoeings was increased. But the thinner fruiting of this
variety prevented the planters from attaining generally more than about
half the output per acre which their upland colleagues came to reap from
their crops of the shorter staple. A hundred and fifty pounds to the acre
and three or four acres to the hand was esteemed a reasonable crop on the
seaboard.[8] The exports of the sea-island staple rose by 1805 to nearly
nine million pounds, but no further expansion occurred until 1819 when an
increase carried the exports for a decade to about eleven million pounds a
year. In the course of the twenties Kinsey Burden and Hugh Wilson, both of
St. John's Colleton, began breeding superfine fiber through seed selection,
with such success that the latter sold two of his bales in 1828 at the
unequaled price of two dollars a pound. The practice of raising fancy
grades became fairly common after 1830, with the result, however, that for
the following decade the exports fell again to about eight million pounds a

[Footnote 8: John Drayton, _View of South Carolina_ (Charleston, 1802), p.
132; J.A. Turner, ed., _Cotton Planter's Manual_, pp. 129, 131.]

[Footnote 9: Seabrook, pp. 35-37, 53.]

Sea-island cotton, with its fibers often measuring more than two inches in
length, had the advantages of easy detachment from its glossy black seed by
squeezing it between a pair of simple rollers, and of a price for even its
common grades ranging usually more than twice that of the upland staple.
The disadvantages were the slowness of the harvesting, caused by the
failure of the bolls to open wide; the smallness of the yield; and the
necessity of careful handling at all stages in preparing the lint for
market. Climatic requirements, furthermore, confined its culture within
a strip thirty or forty miles wide along the coast of South Carolina and
Georgia. In the first flush of the movement some of the rice fields were
converted to cotton;[10] but experience taught the community ere long that
the labor expense in the new industry absorbed too much of the gross return
for it to displace rice from its primacy in the district.

[Footnote 10: F.A. Michaux, _Travels_, in R.G. Thwaites, ed., _Early
Western Travels_, III, 303.]

In the Carolina-Georgia uplands the industrial and social developments
of the eighteenth century had been in marked contrast with those on the
seaboard. These uplands, locally known as the Piedmont, were separated from
the tide-water tract by a flat and sandy region, the "pine barrens," a
hundred miles or more in breadth, where the soil was generally too light
for prosperous agriculture before the time when commercial fertilizers came
into use. The Piedmont itself is a rolling country, extending without a
break from Virginia to Alabama and from the mountains of the Blue Ridge to
the line of the lowest falls on the rivers. The soil of mingled clay
and sand was originally covered with rich forest mold. The climate was
moderately suited to a great variety of crops; but nothing was found for
which it had a marked superiority until short-staple cotton was made

In the second half of the eighteenth century this region had come to
be occupied in scattered homesteads by migrants moving overland from
Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, extending their régime of frontier
farms until the stubborn Creek and Cherokee Indian tribes barred further
progress. Later comers from the same northeastward sources, some of them
bringing a few slaves, had gradually thickened the settlement without
changing materially its primitive system of life. Not many recruits had
entered from the rice coast in colonial times, for the régime there was not
such as to produce pioneers for the interior. The planters, unlike those of
Maryland and Virginia, had never imported appreciable numbers of indentured
servants to become in after years yeomen and fathers of yeomen; the slaves
begat slaves alone to continue at their masters' bidding; and the planters
themselves had for the time being little inducement to forsake the
lowlands. The coast and the Piedmont were unassociated except by a trickle
of trade by wagon and primitive river-boat across the barrens. The capture
of Savannah and Charleston by the British during the War for Independence,
however, doubtless caused a number of the nearby inhabitants to move into
the Piedmont as refugees, carrying their slaves with them.

The commercial demands of the early settlers embraced hardly anything
beyond salt, ammunition and a little hardware. The forest and their
half-cleared fields furnished meat and bread; workers in the households
provided rude furniture and homespun; and luxuries, except home-made
liquors, were unknown. But the time soon came when zealous industry yielded
more grain and cattle than each family needed for its own supply. The
surplus required a market, which the seaboard was glad to furnish. The road
and river traffic increased, and the procurement of miscellaneous goods
from the ports removed the need of extreme diversity in each family's work.
This treeing of energy led in turn to a search for more profitable market
crops. Flax and hemp were tried, and tobacco with some success. Several new
villages were founded, indeed, on the upper courses of the rivers to serve
as stations for the inspection and shipment of tobacco; but their budding
hopes of prosperity from that staple were promptly blighted. The product
was of inferior grade, the price was low, and the cost of freightage high.
The export from Charleston rose from 2680 hogsheads in 1784 to 9646 in
1799, but rapidly declined thereafter. Tobacco, never more than a makeshift
staple, was gladly abandoned for cotton at the first opportunity.[11]

[Footnote 11: U.B. Phillips, _History of Transportation in the Eastern
Cotton Belt to 1860_ (New York, 1908), pp. 46-55.]

At the time of the federal census of 1790 there were in the main group of
upland counties of South Carolina, comprised then in the two "districts" of
Camden and Ninety-six, a total of 91,704 white inhabitants, divided into
15,652 families. Of these 3787 held slaves to the number of 19,934--an
average of 5-1/4 slaves in each holding. No more than five of these parcels
comprised as many as one hundred slaves each, and only 156 masters, about
four per cent, of the whole, had as many as twenty each. These larger
holdings, along with the 335 other parcels ranging from ten to nineteen
slaves each, were of course grouped mainly in the river counties in the
lower part of the Piedmont, while the smallest holdings were scattered far
and wide. That is to say, there was already discoverable a tendency toward
a plantation régime in the localities most accessible to market, while
among the farmers about one in four had one or more slaves to aid in the
family's work. The Georgia Piedmont, for which the returns of the early
censuses have been lost, probably had a somewhat smaller proportion of
slaves by reason of its closer proximity to the Indian frontier.

A sprinkling of slaves was enough to whet the community's appetite for
opportunities to employ them with effect and to buy more slaves with the
proceeds. It is said that in 1792 some two or three million pounds
of short-staple cotton was gathered in the Piedmont,[12] perhaps in
anticipation of a practicable gin, and that the state of Georgia had
appointed a commission to promote the desired invention.[13] It is certain
that many of the citizens were discussing the problem when in the spring of
1793 young Eli Whitney, after graduating at Yale College, left his home in
Massachusetts intending to teach school in the South. While making a visit
at the home of General Greene's widow, near Savannah, he listened to a
conversation on the subject by visitors from upland Georgia, and he was
urged by Phineas Miller, the manager of the Greene estate, to apply his
Yankee ingenuity to the solution. When Miller offered to bear the expenses
of the project, Whitney set to work, and within ten days made a model which
met the essential requirements. This comprised a box with a slatted side
against which a wooden cylinder studded with wire points was made to play.
When seed cotton was fed into the box and the cylinder was revolved, the
sharp wires passing between the slats would engage the lint and pull it
through as they passed out in the further revolution of the cylinder. The
seed, which were too large to pass through the grating, would stay within
the hopper until virtually all the wool was torn off, whereupon they would
fall through a crevice on the further side. The minor problem which now
remained of freeing the cylinder's teeth from their congestion of lint
found a solution in Mrs. Greene's stroke with a hearth-broom. Whitney,
seizing the principle, equipped his machine with a second cylinder studded
with brushes, set parallel to the first but revolving in an opposite
direction and at a greater speed. This would sweep the teeth clean as fast
as they emerged lint-laden from the hopper. Thus was the famous cotton-gin

[Footnote 12: Letter of Phineas Miller to the Comptroller of South
Carolina, in the _American Historical Review_, III, 115.]

[Footnote 13: M.B. Hammond, _The Cotton Industry_ (New York, 1807), p. 23.]

[Footnote 14: Denison Olmstead, _Memoir of Eli Whitney, Esq_. (New Haven,
1846), reprinted in J.A. Turner, ed., _Cotton Planter's Manual_, pp.
297-320. M.B. Hammond, _The Cotton Industry_, pp. 25, 26.]

Miller, who now married Mrs. Greene, promptly entered into partnership with
Whitney not only to manufacture gins but also to monopolize the business
of operating them, charging one-third of the cotton as toll. They even
ventured into the buying and selling of the staple on a large scale. Miller
wrote Whitney in 1797, for example, that he was trying to raise money for
the purchase of thirty or forty thousand pounds of seed cotton at the
prevailing price of three cents, and was projecting a trade in the lint to
far-off Tennessee.[15] By this time the partners had as many as thirty gins
in operation at various points in Georgia; but misfortune had already begun
to pursue them. Their shop on the Greene plantation had been forced by a
mob even before their patent was procured in 1793, and Jesse Bull, Charles
M. Lin and Edward Lyons, collaborating near Wrightsboro, soon put forth an
improved gin in which saw-toothed iron discs replaced the wire points of
the Whitney model.[16] Whitney had now returned to New Haven to establish
a gin factory, and Miller wrote him in 1794 urging prompt shipments and
saying: "The people of the country are running mad for them, and much can
be said to justify their importunity. When the present crop is harvested
there will be a real property of at least fifty thousand dollars lying
useless unless we can enable the holders to bring it to market," But an
epidemic prostrated Whitney's workmen that year, and a fire destroyed his
factory in 1795. Meanwhile rival machines were appearing in the market, and
Whitney and Miller were beginning their long involvement in lawsuits. Their
overreaching policy of monopolizing the operation of their gins turned
public sentiment against them and inclined the juries, particularly in
Georgia, to decide in favor of their opponents. Not until 1807, when their
patent was on the point of expiring did they procure a vindication in the
Georgia courts. Meanwhile a grant of $50,000 from the legislature of South
Carolina to extinguish the patent right in that state, and smaller grants
from North Carolina and Tennessee did little more than counterbalance
expenses.[17] A petition which Whitney presented to Congress in 1812 for a
renewal of his expired patent was denied, and Whitney turned his talents to
the manufacture of muskets.

[Footnote 15: _American Historical Review_. Ill, 104.]

[Footnote 16: J.A. Turner, ed., _Cotton Planter's Manual_, pp. 289, 290,

[Footnote 17: M.B. Hammond, "Correspondence of Eli Whitney relating to the
Invention of the Cotton Gin," in the _American Historical Review_, III,

In Georgia the contest of lawyers in the courts was paralleled by a battle
of advertisers in the newspapers. Thomas Spaulding offered to supply Joseph
Eve's gins from the Bahama Islands at fifty guineas each;[18] and Eve
himself shortly immigrated to Augusta to contend for his patent rights on
roller-gins, for some of his workmen had changed his model in such a way as
to increase the speed, and had put their rival gins upon the market.[19]
Among these may have been John Currie, who offered exclusive county rights
at $100 each for the making, using and vending of his type of gins,[20]
also William Longstreet of Augusta who offered to sell gins of his own
devising at $150 each,[21] and Robert Watkins of the short-lived town of
Petersburg, Georgia, who denounced Longstreet as an infringer of his patent
and advertised local non-exclusive rights for making and using his own
style of gins at the bargain rate of sixty dollars.[22] All of these were
described as roller gins; but all were warranted to gin upland as well as
sea-island cotton.[23] By the year 1800 Miller and Whitney had also
adopted the practice of selling licenses in Georgia, as is indicated by an
advertisement from their agent at Augusta. Meanwhile ginners were calling
for negro boys and girls ten or twelve years old on hire to help at the
machines;[24] and were offering to gin for a toll of one-fifth of the
cotton.[25] As years passed the rates were still further lowered. At
Augusta in 1809, for example, cotton was ginned and packed in square bales
of 350 pounds at a cost of $1.50 per hundredweight.[26]

[Footnote 18: _Columbian Museum_ (Savannah, Ga.), April 26, 1796.]

[Footnote 19: J.A. Turner, ed., _Cotton Planter's Manual_, p. 281.]

[Footnote 20: Augusta, Ga., _Chronicle_, Dec. 10, 1796.]

[Footnote 21: _Southern Sentinel_ (Augusta, Ga.), July 14, 1796.]

[Footnote 22: _Ibid_., Feb. 7, 1797; Augusta _Chronicle_, June 10, 1797.]

[Footnote 23: Augusta _Chronicle_, Dec. 13, 1800.]

[Footnote 24: _Southern Sentinel_, April 23, 1795.]

[Footnote 25: Augusta _Chronicle_, Jan. 16, 1796.]

[Footnote 26: _Ibid_., Sept. 9, 1809.]

The upland people of Georgia and the two Carolinas made prompt response to
the new opportunity. By 1800 even Tennessee had joined the movement, and
a gin of such excellence was erected near Nashville that the proprietors
exacted fees from visitors wishing to view it;[27] and by 1802 not only
were consignments being shipped to New Orleans for the European market, but
part of the crop was beginning to be peddled in wagons to Kentucky and in
pole-boats on the Ohio as far as Pittsburg, for the domestic making of
homespun.[28] In 1805 John Baird advertised at Nashville that, having
received a commission from correspondents at Baltimore, he was ready to
buy as much as one hundred thousand pounds of lint at fifteen cents a
pound.[29] In the settlements about Vicksburg in the Mississippi Territory,
cotton was not only the staple product by 1809, but was also for the time
being the medium of exchange, while in Arkansas the squatters were debarred
from the new venture only by the poverty which precluded them from getting
gins.[30] In Virginia also, in such of the southerly counties as had
summers long enough for the crop to ripen in moderate security, cotton
growing became popular. But for the time being these were merely an
out-lying fringe of cotton's principality. The great rush to cotton growing
prior to the war of 1812 occurred in the Carolina-Georgia Piedmont, with
its trend of intensity soon pointing south-westward.

[Footnote 27: _Tennessee Gazette_ (Nashville, Tenn.), April 9, 1800.]

[Footnote 28: F.A. Michaux in Thwaites, ed., _Early Western Travels_, III,

[Footnote 29: _Tennessee Gazette_, March 27, 1805.]

[Footnote 30: F. Cuming, _Tour to the Western Country_ (Pittsburg, 1810),
in Thwaites, ed., _Early Western Travels_, IV, 272, 280, 298.]

A shrewd contemporary observer found special reason to rejoice that the new
staple required no large capital and involved no exposure to disease. Rice
and indigo, said he, had offered the poorer whites, except the few employed
as overseers, no livelihood "without the degradation of working with
slaves"; but cotton, stimulating and elevating these people into the rank
of substantial farmers, tended "to fill the country with an independent
industrious yeomanry."[31] True as this was, it did not mean that producers
on a plantation scale were at a disadvantage. Settlers of every type,
in fact, adopted the crop as rapidly as they could get seed and ginning
facilities, and newcomers poured in apace to share the prosperity.

[Footnote 31: David Ramsay, _History of South Carolina_ (Charleston, 1808),
II, 448-9.]

The exports mounted swiftly, but the world's market readily absorbed them
at rising prices until 1801 when the short-staple output was about forty
million pounds and the price at the ports about forty-four cents a pound.
A trade in slaves promptly arose to meet the eager demand for labor; and
migrants coming from the northward and the rice coast brought additional
slaves in their train. General Wade Hampton was the first conspicuous one
of these. With the masterful resolution which always characterized him, he
carried his great gang from the seaboard to the neighborhood of Columbia
and there in 1799 raised six hundred of the relatively light weight bales
of that day on as many acres.[32] His crop was reckoned to have a value of
some ninety thousand dollars.[33]

[Footnote 32: Seabrook, pp. 16, 17.]

[Footnote 33: Note made by L. C Draper from the Louisville, Ga., _Gazette_,
Draper MSS., series VV, vol. XVI, p. 84, Wisconsin Historical Society.]

The general run of the upland cultivators, however, continued as always to
operate on a minor scale; and the high cost of transportation caused them
generally to continue producing miscellaneous goods to meet their domestic
needs. The diversified régime is pictured in Michaux's description of a
North Carolina plantation in 1802: "In eight hundred acres of which it is
composed, a hundred and fifty are cultivated in cotton, Indian corn, wheat
and oats, and dunged annually, which is a great degree of perfection in the
present state of agriculture in this part of the country. Independent of
this [the proprietor] has built in his yard several machines that the same
current of water puts in motion; they consist of a corn mill, a saw mill,
another to separate the cotton seeds, a tan-house, a tan-mill, a distillery
to make peach brandy, and a small forge where the inhabitants of the
country go to have their horses shod. Seven or eight negro slaves are
employed in the different departments, some of which are only occupied at
certain periods of the year. Their wives are employed under the direction
of the mistress in manufacturing cotton and linen for the use of the

[Footnote 34: F.A. Michaux in Thwaites, ed., _Early Western Travels_, III,

The speed of the change to a general slaveholding régime in the uplands may
easily be exaggerated. In those counties of South Carolina which lay wholly
within the Piedmont the fifteen thousand slaves on hand in 1790 formed
slightly less than one-fifth of the gross population there. By 1800
the number of slaves increased by seventy per cent., and formed nearly
one-fourth of the gross; in the following decade they increased by ninety
per cent., until they comprised one-third of the whole; from 1810 to 1820
their number grew at the smaller rate of fifty per cent, and reached
two-fifths of the whole; and by 1830, with a further increase of forty per
cent., the number of slaves almost overtook that of the whites. The slaves
were then counted at 101,982, the whites at 115,318, and the free negroes
at 2,115. In Georgia the slave proportion grew more rapidly than this
because it was much smaller at the outset; in North Carolina, on the
other hand, the rise was less marked because cotton never throve there so

In its industrial requirements cotton was much closer to tobacco than to
rice or sugar. There was no vital need for large units of production. On
soils of the same quality the farmer with a single plow, if his family did
the hoeing and picking, was on a similar footing with the greatest planter
as to the output per hand, and in similar case as to cost of production per
bale. The scale of cotton-belt slaveholdings rose not because free labor
was unsuited to the industry but because slaveholders from the outside
moved in to share the opportunity and because every prospering
non-slaveholder and small slaveholder was eager to enlarge his personal
scale of operations. Those who could save generally bought slaves with
their savings; those who could not, generally continued to raise cotton

The gross cotton output, in which the upland crop greatly and increasingly
outweighed that of the sea-island staple, rapidly advanced from about
forty-eight million pounds in 1801 to about eighty million in 1806; then it
was kept stationary by the embargo and the war of 1812, until the return
of peace and open trade sent it up by leaps and bounds again. The price
dropped abruptly from an average of forty-four cents in the New York market
in 1801 to nineteen cents in 1802, but there was no further decline until
the beginning of the war with Great Britain.[35]

[Footnote 35: M.B. Hammond, _The Cotton Industry_, table following p. 357.]

Cotton's absorption of the people's energies already tended to become
excessive. In 1790 South Carolina had sent abroad a surplus of corn from
the back country measuring well over a hundred thousand bushels. But by
1804 corn brought in brigs was being advertised in Savannah to meet the
local deficit;[36] and in the spring of 1807 there seems to have been a
dearth of grain in the Piedmont itself. At that time an editorial in the
_Augusta Chronicle_ ran as follows: "A correspondent would recommend to the
planters of Georgia, now the season is opening, to raise more corn and less
cotton ... The dear bought experience of the present season should teach us
to be more provident for the future." [37] Under the conditions of the time
this excess at the expense of grain was likely to correct itself at once,
for men and their draught animals must eat to work, and in the prevailing
lack of transportation facilities food could not be brought from a
distance at a price within reach. The systematic basis of industry was the
production, whether by planters or farmers, of such food as was locally
needed and such supplies of cloth together with such other outfit as it was
economical to make at home, and the devotion of all further efforts to the
making of cotton.

[Footnote 36: Savannah _Museum_, April n, 1804.]

[Footnote 37: Reprinted in the _Farmer's Gazette_ (Sparta, Ga.), April 11,

Coincident with the rise of cotton culture in the Atlantic states was that
of sugar in the delta lands of southeastern Louisiana. In this triangular
district, whose apex is the junction of the Red and Mississippi rivers, the
country is even more amphibious than the rice coast. Everywhere in fact the
soil is too waterlogged for tillage except close along the Father of Waters
himself and his present or aforetime outlets. Settlement must, therefore,
take the form of strings of plantations and farms on these elevated
riparian strips, with the homesteads fronting the streams and the fields
stretching a few hundred or at most a few thousand yards to the rear; and
every new establishment required its own levee against the flood. So long
as there were great areas of unrestricted flood-plain above Vicksburg to
impound the freshets and lower their crests, the levees below required no
great height or strength; but the tasks of reclamation were at best arduous
enough to make rapid expansion depend upon the spur of great expectations.

The original colony of the French, whose descendants called themselves
Creoles, was clustered about the town of New Orleans. A short distance up
stream the river banks in the parishes of St. Charles and St. John the
Baptist were settled at an early period by German immigrants; thence the
settlements were extended after the middle of the eighteenth century, first
by French exiles from Acadia, next by Creole planters, and finally by
Anglo-Americans who took their locations mostly above Baton Rouge. As to
the westerly bayous, the initial settlers were in general Acadian small
farmers. Negro slaves were gradually introduced into all these districts,
though the Creoles, who were the most vigorous of the Latin elements, were
the chief importers of them. Their numbers at the close of the colonial
period equalled those of the whites, and more than a tenth of them had been

The people in the later eighteenth century were drawing their livelihoods
variously from hunting, fishing, cattle raising and Indian trading, from
the growing of grain and vegetables for sale to the boatmen and townsmen,
and from the production of indigo on a somewhat narrow margin of profit as
the principal export crop. Attempts at sugar production had been made in
1725 and again in 1762, but the occurrence of winter frosts before the cane
was fully ripe discouraged the enterprise; and in most years no more cane
was raised than would meet the local demand for sirup and rum. In the
closing decades of the century, however, worm pests devoured the indigo
leaves with such thoroughness as to make harvesting futile; and thereby the
planters were driven to seek an alternative staple. Projects of cotton were
baffled by the lack of a gin, and recourse was once more had to sugar. A
Spaniard named Solis had built a small mill below New Orleans in 1791 and
was making sugar with indifferent success when, in 1794-1795, Etienne de
Boré, a prominent Creole whose estate lay just above the town, bought a
supply of seed cane from Solis, planted a large field with it, engaged a
professional sugar maker, and installed grinding and boiling apparatus
against the time of harvest. The day set for the test brought a throng of
onlookers whose joy broke forth at the sight of crystals in the cooling
fluid--for the good fortune of Boré, who received some $12,000 for his crop
of 1796, was an earnest of general prosperity.

Other men of enterprise followed the resort to sugar when opportunity
permitted them to get seed cane, mills and cauldrons. In spite of a dearth
of both capital and labor and in spite of wartime restrictions on maritime
commerce, the sugar estates within nine years reached the number of
eighty-one, a good many of which were doubtless the property of San
Domingan refugees who were now pouring into the province with whatever
slaves and other movables they had been able to snatch from the black
revolution. Some of these had fled first to Cuba and after a sojourn there,
during which they found the Spanish government oppressive, removed afresh
to Louisiana. As late as 1809 the year's immigration from the two islands
was reported by the mayor of New Orleans to the governor of Louisiana at
2,731 whites and 3,102 free persons of color, together with 3,226 slaves
warranted as the property of the free immigrants.[38] The volume of the
San Domingan influx from first to last was great enough to double the
French-speaking population. The newcomers settled mainly in the New Orleans
neighborhood, the whites among them promptly merging themselves with the
original Creole population. By reason of their previous familiarity with
sugar culture they gave additional stimulus to that industry.

[Footnote 38: _Moniteur de la Louisiane_ (New Orleans), Jan. 27 and Mch.
24, 1810.]

Meanwhile the purchase of Louisiana by the United States in 1803 had
transformed the political destinies of the community and considerably
changed its economic prospects. After prohibiting in 1804 the importation
into the territory of any slaves who had been brought from Africa since
1798, Congress passed a new act in 1805 which, though probably intended to
continue the prohibition, was interpreted by the attorney-general to permit
the inhabitants to bring in any slaves whatever from any place within the
United States.[39] This news was published with delight by the New Orleans
newspapers at the end of February, 1806;[40] and from that time until the
end of the following year their columns bristled with advertisements of
slaves from African cargoes "just arrived from Charleston." Of these the
following, issued by the firm of Kenner and Henderson, June 24, 1806, is
an example: "The subscribers offer for sale 74 prime slaves of the Fantee
nation on board the schooner _Reliance_, I. Potter master, from Charleston,
now lying opposite this city. The sales will commence on the 25th. inst.
at 9 o'clock A.M., and will continue from day to day until the whole is
sold.[41] Good endorsed notes will be taken in payment, payable the 1st.
of January, 1807. Also [for sale] the above mentioned schooner _Reliance_,
burthen about 60 tons, completely fitted for an African voyage."

[Footnote 39: W.E.B. DuBois, _Suppression of the African Slave Trade_, pp.
87-90. The acts of 1804 and 1805 are printed in B.P. Poore, _Charters and
Constitutions_ (Washington, 1877), I, 691-697.]

[Footnote 40: _Louisiana Gazette_, Feb. 28, 1806.]

[Footnote 41: _Louisiana Gazette_, July 4, 1806.]

Upon the prohibition of the African trade at large in 1808, the slave
demand of the sugar parishes was diverted to the Atlantic plantation states
where it served to advertise the Louisiana boom. Wade Hampton of South
Carolina responded in 1811 by carrying a large force of his slaves to
establish a sugar estate of his own at the head of Bayou Lafourche, and a
few others followed his example. The radical difference of the industrial
methods in sugar from those in the other staples, however, together with
the predominance of the French language, the Catholic religion and a
Creole social régime in the district most favorable for sugar, made
Anglo-Americans chary of the enterprise; and the revival of cotton prices
after 1815 strengthened the tendency of migrating planters to stay within
the cotton latitudes. Many of those who settled about Baton Rouge and on
the Red River with cotton as their initial concern shifted to sugar at the
end of the 'twenties, however, in response to the tariff of 1828 which
heightened sugar prices at a time when the cotton market was depressed.
This was in response, also, to the introduction of ribbon cane which
matured earlier than the previously used Malabar and Otaheite varieties and
could accordingly be grown in a somewhat higher latitude.

The territorial spread was mainly responsible for the sudden advance of the
number of sugar estates from 308 operating in 1827, estimated as employing
21,000 able-bodied slaves and having a gross value of $34,000,000, to 691
plantations in 1830,[42] with some 36,000 working slaves and a gross value
of $50,000,000. At this time the output was at the rate of about 75,000
hogsheads containing 1,000 pounds of sugar each, together with some forty
or fifty gallons of molasses per hogshead as a by-product. Louisiana was at
this time supplying about half of the whole country's consumption of sugar
and bade fair to meet the whole demand ere long.[43] The reduction of
protective tariff rates, coming simultaneously with a rise of cotton
prices, then checked the spread of the sugar industry, and the substitution
of steam engines for horse power in grinding the cane caused some
consolidation of estates. In 1842 accordingly, when the slaves numbered
50,740 and the sugar crop filled 140,000 hogsheads, the plantations were
but 668.[44] The raising of the tariff anew in that year increased the
plantations to 762 in 1845 and they reached their maximum number of 1,536
in 1849, when more than half of their mills were driven by steam[45] and
their slaves numbered probably somewhat more than a hundred thousand of
all ages.[46] Thereafter the recovery of the cotton market from the severe
depression of the early 'forties caused a strong advance in slave prices
which again checked the sugar spread, while the introduction of vacuum pans
and other improvements in apparatus[47] promoted further consolidations.
The number of estates accordingly diminished to 1,298 in 1859, on 987 of
which the mills were steam driven, and on 52 of which the extraction and
evaporation of the sugar was done by one sort or another of the newly
invented devices. The gross number of slaves in the sugar parishes was
nearly doubled between 1830 and 1850, but in the final ante-bellum decade
it advanced only at about the rate of natural increase.[48] The sugar
output advanced to 200,000 hogsheads in 1844 and to 450,000 in 1853. Bad
seasons then reduced it to 74,000 in 1856; and the previous maximum was not
equaled in the remaining ante-bellum years.[49] The liability of the
crop to damage from drought and early frost, and to destruction from the
outpouring of the Mississippi through crevasses in the levees, explains the
fluctuations in the yield. Outside of Louisiana the industry took no grip
except on the Brazos River in Texas, where in 1858 thirty-seven plantations
produced about six thousand hogsheads.[50]

[Footnote 42: _DeBow's Review_, I, 55.]

[Footnote 43: V. Debouchel, _Histoire de la Louisiane_ (New Orleans, 1851),
pp. 151 ff.]

[Footnote 44: E.J. Forstall, _Agricultural Productions of Louisiana_ (New
Orleans, 1845).]

[Footnote 45: P.A. Champonier, _Statement of the Sugar Crop Made in
Louisiana_ (New Orleans, annual, 1848-1859).]

[Footnote 46: DeBow, in the _Compendium of the Seventh Census_, p. 94,
estimated the sugar plantation slaves at 150,000; but this is clearly an

[Footnote 47: Some of these are described by Judah P. Benjamin in _DeBow's
Review_, II, 322-345.]

[Footnote 48: _I. e_. from 150,000 to 180,000.]

[Footnote 49: The crop of 1853, indeed, was not exceeded until near the
close of the nineteenth century.]

[Footnote 50: P.A. Champonier, _Statement of the Sugar Crop ... in
1858-1859_, p. 40.]

In Louisiana in the banner year 1853, with perfect weather and no
crevasses, each of some 50,000 able-bodied field hands cultivated, besides
the incidental food crops, about five acres of cane on the average and
produced about nine hogsheads of sugar and three hundred gallons of
molasses per head. On certain specially favored estates, indeed, the
product reached as much as fifteen hogsheads per hand[51]. In the total of
1407 fully equipped plantations 103 made less than one hundred hogsheads
each, while forty produced a thousand hogsheads or more. That year's
output, however, was nearly twice the size of the average crop in the
period. A dozen or more proprietors owned two or more estates each, some of
which were on the largest scale, while at the other extreme several dozen
farmers who had no mills of their own sent cane from their few acres to be
worked up in the spare time of some obliging neighbor's mill. In general
the bulk of the crop was made on plantations with cane fields ranging from
rather more than a hundred to somewhat less than a thousand acres, and with
each acre producing in an ordinary year somewhat more than a hogshead of

[Footnote 51: _DeBow's Review_, XIV, 199, 200.]

Until about 1850 the sugar district as well as the cotton belt was calling
for labor from whatever source it might be had; but whereas the uplands had
work for people of both races and all conditions, the demand of the delta
lands, to which the sugar crop was confined, was almost wholly for negro
slaves. The only notable increase in the rural white population of the
district came through the fecundity of the small-farming Acadians who had
little to do with sugar culture.



The flow of population into the distant interior followed the lines of
least resistance and greatest opportunity. In the earlier decades these lay
chiefly in the Virginia latitudes. The Indians there were yielding, the
mountains afforded passes thither, and the climate permitted the familiar
tobacco industry. The Shenandoah Valley had been occupied mainly by
Scotch-Irish and German small farmers from Pennsylvania; but the glowing
reports, which the long hunters brought and the land speculators spread
from beyond the further mountains, made Virginians to the manner born
resolve to compete with the men of the backwoods for a share of the
Kentucky lands. During and after the war for independence they threaded
the gorges, some with slaves but most without. Here and there one found a
mountain glade so fertile that he made it his permanent home, while his
fellows pushed on to the greater promised land. Some of these emerging upon
a country of low and uniform hills, closely packed and rounded like the
backs of well-fed pigs crowding to the trough, staked out their claims, set
up their cabins, deadened their trees, and planted wheat. Others went on
to the gently rolling country about Lexington, let the luxuriant native
bluegrass wean them from thoughts of tobacco, and became breeders of horses
for evermore. A few, settling on the southerly edge of the bluegrass,
mainly in and about Garrard County, raised hemp on a plantation scale. The
rest, resisting all these allurements, pressed on still further to the
pennyroyal country where tobacco would have no rival. While thousands made
the whole journey overland, still more made use of the Ohio River for
the later stages. The adjutant at Fort Harmar counted in seven months of
1786-1787, 177 boats descending the Ohio, carrying 2,689 persons, 1,333
horses, 766 cattle, 102 wagons and one phaëton, while still others passed
by night uncounted.[1] The family establishments in Kentucky were always
on a smaller scale, on an average, than those in Virginia. Yet the people
migrating to the more fertile districts tended to maintain and even to
heighten the spirit of gentility and the pride of type which they carried
as part of their heritage. The laws erected by the community were favorable
to the slaveholding régime; but after the first decades of the migration
period, the superior attractions of the more southerly latitudes for
plantation industry checked Kentucky's receipt of slaves.

[Footnote 1: _Massachusetts Centinel_ (Boston), July 21, 1787.]

The wilderness between the Ohio and the Great Lakes, meanwhile, was
attracting Virginia and Carolina emigrants as well as those from the
northerly states. The soil there was excellent, and some districts were
suited to tobacco culture. The Ordinance of 1787, however, though it was
not strictly enforced, made slaveholdings north of the Ohio negligible from
any but an antiquarian point of view.

The settlement of Tennessee was parallel, though subsequent, to that of the
Shenandoah and Kentucky. The eastern intramontane valley, broad and fertile
but unsuited to the staple crops, gave homes to thousands of small farmers,
while the Nashville basin drew planters of both tobacco and cotton, and the
counties along the western and southern borders of the state made cotton
their one staple. The scale of slaveholdings in middle and western
Tennessee, while superior to that in Kentucky, was never so great as those
which prevailed in Virginia and the lower South.

Missouri, whose adaptation to the southern staples was much poorer, came
to be colonized in due time partly by planters from Kentucky but mostly
by farmers from many quarters, including after the first decades a large
number of Germans, some of whom entered through the eastern ports and
others through New Orleans.

This great central region as a whole acquired an agricultural régime
blending the features of the two national extremes. The staples were
prominent but never quite paramount. Corn and wheat, cattle and hogs were
produced regularly nearly everywhere, not on a mere home consumption basis,
but for sale in the cotton belt and abroad. This diversification caused
the region to wane in the esteem of the migrating planters as soon as the
Alabama-Mississippi country was opened for settlement.

Preliminaries of the movement into the Gulf region had begun as early as
1768, when a resident of Pensacola noted that a group of Virginians had
been prospecting thereabouts with such favorable results that five of them
had applied for a large grant of lands, pledging themselves to bring in a
hundred slaves and a large number of cattle.[2] In 1777 William Bartram met
a group of migrants journeying from Georgia to settle on the lower course
of the Alabama River;[3] and in 1785 a citizen of Augusta wrote that "a
vast number" of the upland settlers were removing toward the Mississippi in
consequence of the relinquishment of Natchez by the Spaniards.[4] But these
were merely forerunners. Alabama in particular, which comprises for the
most part the basin draining into Mobile Bay, could have no safe market
for its produce until Spain was dispossessed of the outlet. The taking
of Mobile by the United States as an episode of the war of 1812, and the
simultaneous breaking of the Indian strength, removed the obstacles. The
influx then rose to immense proportions. The roads and rivers became
thronged, and the federal agents began to sell homesteads on a scale which
made the "land office business" proverbial.[5]

[Footnote 2: Boston, Mass, _Chronicle_, Aug. 1-7, 1768.]

[Footnote 3: William Bartram, _Travels_ (London, 1792), p. 441.]

[Footnote 4: _South Carolina Gazette_, May 26, 1785.]

[Footnote 5: C.F. Emerick, "The Credit System and the Public Domain,"
in the Vanderbilt University _Southern History Publications_, no. 3
(Nashville, Tenn., 1899).]

The Alabama-Mississippi population rose from 40,000 in round numbers in
1810 to 200,000 in 1820, 445,000 in 1830, 965,000 in 1840, 1,377,000 in
1850, and 1,660,000 in 1860, while the proportion of slaves advanced from
forty to forty-seven per cent. In the same period the tide flowed on into
the cotton lands of Arkansas and Louisiana and eventually into Texas.
Florida alone of the newer southern areas was left in relative neglect
by reason of the barrenness of her soil. The states and territories from
Alabama and Tennessee westward increased their proportion of the whole
country's cotton output from one-sixteenth in 1811 to one-third in 1820,
one-half before 1830, nearly two-thirds in 1840, and quite three-fourths in
1860; and all this was in spite of continued and substantial enlargements
of the eastern output.

In the western cotton belt the lands most highly esteemed in the
ante-bellum period lay in two main areas, both of which had soils far more
fertile and lasting than any in the interior of the Atlantic states. One of
these formed a crescent across south-central Alabama, with its western horn
reaching up the Tombigbee River into northeastern Mississippi. Its soil of
loose black loam was partly forested, partly open, and densely matted with
grass and weeds except where limestone cropped out on the hill crests and
where prodigious cane brakes choked the valleys. The area was locally
known as the prairies or the black belt.[6] The process of opening it for
settlement was begun by Andrew Jackson's defeat of the Creeks in 1814 but
was not completed until some twenty years afterward. The other and greater
tract extended along both sides of the Mississippi River from northern
Tennessee and Arkansas to the mouth of the Red River. It comprised the
broad alluvial bottoms, together with occasional hill districts of rich
loam, especially notable among the latter of which were those lying about
Natchez and Vicksburg. The southern end of this area was made available
first, and the hills preceded the delta in popularity for cotton culture.
It was not until the middle thirties that the broadest expanse of the
bottoms, the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta, began to receive its great influx.
The rest of the western cotton belt had soils varying through much the same
range as those of Georgia and the Carolinas. Except in the bottoms, where
the planters themselves did most of the pioneering, the choicer lands of
the whole district were entered by a pellmell throng of great planters,
lesser planters and small farmers, with the farmers usually a little in
the lead and the planters ready to buy them out of specially rich lands.
Farmers refusing to sell might by their own thrift shortly rise into the
planter class; or if they sold their homesteads at high prices they might
buy slaves with the proceeds and remove to become planters in still newer

[Footnote 6: This use of the term "black belt" is not to be confused with
the other and more general application of it to such areas in the South at
large as have a majority of negroes in their population.]

The process was that which had already been exemplified abundantly in the
eastern cotton belt. A family arriving perhaps in the early spring with a
few implements and a small supply of food and seed, would build in a few
days a cabin of rough logs with an earthen floor and a roof of bark or of
riven clapboards. To clear a field they would girdle the larger trees and
clear away the underbrush. Corn planted in April would furnish roasting
ears in three months and ripe grain in six weeks more. Game was plenty;
lightwood was a substitute for candles; and housewifely skill furnished
homespun garments. Shelter, food and clothing and possibly a small cotton
crop or other surplus were thus had the first year. Some rested with this;
but the more thrifty would soon replace their cabins with hewn log or frame
houses, plant kitchen gardens and watermelon patches, set out orchards and
increase the cotton acreage. The further earnings of a year or two would
supply window glass, table ware, coffee, tea and sugar, a stock of poultry,
a few hogs and even perhaps a slave or two. The pioneer hardships decreased
and the homely comforts grew with every passing year of thrift. But the
orchard yield of stuff for the still, and the cotton field's furnishing
the wherewithal to buy more slaves, brought temptations. Distilleries and
slaves, a contemporary said, were blessings or curses according as they
were used or abused; for drunkenness and idleness were the gates of the
road to retrogression.[7]

[Footnote 7: David Ramsay _History of South Carolina_, II, pp. 246 ff.]

The pathetic hardships which some of the poorer migrants underwent in their
labors to reach the western opportunity are exemplified in a local item
from an Augusta newspaper in 1819: "Passed through this place from
Greenville District [South Carolina] bound for Chatahouchie, a man and his
wife, his son and his wife, with a cart but no horse. The man had a belt
over his shoulders and he drew in the shafts; the son worked by traces tied
to the end of the shafts and assisted his father to draw the cart; the
son's wife rode in the cart, and the old woman was walking, carrying
a rifle, and driving a cow."[8] This example, while extreme, was not

[Footnote 8: Augusta, Ga., _Chronicle_, Sept. 24, 1819, reprinted in
_Plantation and Frontier_, II, 196.]

[Footnote 9: _Niles' Register_, XX, 320.]

The call of the west was carried in promoters' publications,[10] in
private letters, in newspaper reports, and by word of mouth. A typical
communication was sent home in 1817 by a Marylander who had moved to
Louisiana: "In your states a planter with ten negroes with difficulty
supports a family genteelly; here well managed they would be a fortune to
him. With you the seasons are so irregular your crops often fail; here the
crops are certain, and want of the necessaries of life never for a moment
causes the heart to ache--abundance spreads the table of the poor man, and
contentment smiles on every countenance."[11] Other accounts told glowingly
of quick fortunes made and to be made by getting lands cheaply in the early
stages of settlement and selling them at greatly enhanced prices when the
tide of migration arrived in force.[12] Such ebullient expressions were
taken at face value by thousands of the unwary; and other thousands of the
more cautious followed in the trek when personal inquiries had reinforced
the tug of the west. The larger planters generally removed only after
somewhat thorough investigation and after procuring more or less
acquiescence from their slaves; the smaller planters and farmers, with
lighter stake in their homes and better opportunity to sell them, with
lighter impedimenta for the journey, with less to lose by misadventure,
and with poorer facilities for inquiry, responded more readily to the

[Footnote 10: _E. g_., the Washington, Ky., _Mirror_, Sept. 30, 1797.]

[Footnote 11: _Niles' Register_, XIII, 38.]

[Footnote 12: _E. g., Federal Union_ (Milledgeville, Ga.), March 11, 1836.]

The fever of migration produced in some of the people an unconquerable
restlessness. An extraordinary illustration of this is given in the career
of Gideon Lincecum as written by himself. In 1802, when Gideon was ten
years old, his father, after farming successfully for some years in the
Georgia uplands was lured by letters from relatives in Tennessee to sell
out and remove thither. Taking the roundabout road through the Carolinas to
avoid the Cherokee country, he set forth with a wagon and four horses to
carry a bed, four chests, four white and four negro children, and his
mother who was eighty-eight years old. When but a few days on the road an
illness of the old woman caused a halt, whereupon Lincecum rented a nearby
farm and spent a year on a cotton crop. The journey was then resumed, but
barely had the Savannah River been crossed when another farm was rented and
another crop begun. Next year they returned to Georgia and worked a farm
near Athens. Then they set out again for Tennessee; but on the road in
South Carolina the wreck of the wagon and its ancient occupant gave
abundant excuse for the purchase of a farm there. After another crop,
successful as usual, the family moved back to Georgia and cropped still
another farm. Young Gideon now attended school until his father moved
again, this time southward, for a crop near Eatonton. Gideon then left his
father after a quarrel and spent several years as a clerk in stores here
and there, as a county tax collector and as a farmer, and began to read
medicine in odd moments. He now married, about the beginning of the year
1815, and rejoined his father who was about to cross the Indian country to
settle in Alabama. But they had barely begun this journey when the father,
while tipsy, bought a farm on the Georgia frontier, where the two families
settled and Gideon interspersed deer hunting with his medical reading. Next
spring the cavalcade crossed the five hundred miles of wilderness in six
weeks, and reached the log cabin village of Tuscaloosa, where Gideon built
a house. But provisions were excessively dear, and his hospitality to other
land seekers from Georgia soon consumed his savings. He began whipsawing
lumber, but after disablement from a gunpowder explosion he found lighter
employment in keeping a billiard room. He then set out westward again,
breaking a road for his wagon as he went. Upon reaching the Tombigbee River
he built a clapboard house in five days, cleared land from its canebrake,
planted corn with a sharpened stick, and in spite of ravages from bears and
raccoons gathered a hundred and fifty bushels from six acres. When the town
of Columbus, Mississippi, was founded nearby in 1819 he sawed boards to
build a house on speculation. From this he was diverted to the Indian
trade, bartering whiskey, cloth and miscellaneous goods for peltries. He
then became a justice of the peace and school commissioner at Columbus,
surveyed and sold town lots on public account, and built two school houses
with the proceeds. He then moved up the river to engage anew in the Indian
trade with a partner who soon proved a drunkard. He and his wife there
took a fever which after baffling the physicians was cured by his own
prescription. He then moved to Cotton Gin Port to take charge of a store,
but was invalided for three years by a sunstroke. Gradually recovering,
he lived in the woods on light diet until the thought occurred to him of
carrying a company of Choctaw ball players on a tour of the United States.
The tour was made, but the receipts barely covered expenses. Then in 1830,
Lincecum set himself up as a physician at Columbus. No sooner had he built
up a practice, however, than he became dissatisfied with allopathy and
went to study herb remedies among the Indians; and thereafter he practiced
botanic medicine. In 1834 he went as surgeon with an exploring party to
Texas and found that country so attractive that after some years further
at Columbus he spent the rest of his long life in Texas as a planter,
physician and student of natural history. He died there in 1873 at the age
of eighty years.[13]

[Footnote 13: F.L. Riley, ed., "The Autobiography of Gideon Lincecum," in
the Mississippi Historical Society _Publications_, VIII, 443-519.]

The descriptions and advice which prospectors in the west sent home are
exemplified in a letter of F.X. Martin, written in New Orleans in 1911,
to a friend in eastern North Carolina. The lands, he said, were the most
remunerative in the whole country; a planter near Natchez was earning $270
per hand each year. The Opelousas and Attakapas districts for sugar,
and the Red River bottoms for cotton, he thought, offered the best
opportunities because of the cheapness of their lands. As to the journey
from North Carolina, he advised that the start be made about the first of
September and the course be laid through Knoxville to Nashville. Traveling
thence through the Indian country, safety would be assured by a junction
with other migrants. Speed would be greater on horseback, but the route was
feasible for vehicles, and a traveler would find a tent and a keg of
water conducive to his comfort. The Indians, who were generally short of
provisions in spring and summer, would have supplies to spare in autumn;
and the prevailing dryness of that season would make the streams and swamps
in the path less formidable. An alternative route lay through Georgia;
but its saving of distance was offset by the greater expanse of Indian
territory to be crossed, the roughness of the road and the frequency of
rivers. The viewing of the delta country, he thought, would require three
or four months of inspection before a choice of location could safely be

[Footnote 14: _Plantation and Frontier_, II, 197-200.]

The procedure of planters embarking upon long distance migration may be
gathered from the letters which General Leonard Covington of Calvert
County, Maryland, wrote to his brother and friends who had preceded him to
the Natchez district. In August, 1808, finding a prospect of selling
his Maryland lands, he formed a project of carrying his sixty slaves to
Mississippi and hiring out some of them there until a new plantation should
be ready for routine operation. He further contemplated taking with him ten
or fifteen families of non-slaveholding whites who were eager to migrate
under his guidance and wished employment by him for a season while they
cast about for farms of their own. Covington accordingly sent inquiries as
to the prevailing rates of hire and the customary feeding and treatment of
slaves. He asked whether they were commonly worked only from "sun to sun,"
and explained his thought by saying, "It is possible that so much labor
may be required of hirelings and so little regard may be had for their
constitutions as to render them in a few years not only unprofitable but
expensive." He asked further whether the slaves there were contented,
whether they as universally took wives and husbands and as easily reared
children as in Maryland, whether cotton was of more certain yield and
sale than tobacco, what was the cost of clearing land and erecting rough
buildings, what the abundance and quality of fruit, and what the nature of
the climate.

The replies he received were quite satisfactory, but a failure to sell part
of his Maryland lands caused him to leave twenty-six of his slaves in the
east. The rest he sent forward with a neighbor's gang. Three white men were
in charge, but one of the negroes escaped at Pittsburg and was apparently
not recaptured. Covington after detention by the delicacy of his wife's
health and by duties in the military service of the United States, set
out at the beginning of October, 1809, with his wife and five children,
a neighbor named Waters and his family, several other white persons, and
eleven slaves. He described his outfit as "the damnedest cavalcade that
ever man was burdened with; not less than seven horses compose my troop;
they convey a close carriage (Jersey stage), a gig and horse cart, so
that my family are transported with comfort and convenience, though at
considerable expense. All these odd matters and contrivances I design to
take with me to Mississippi if possible. Mr. Waters will also take down
his waggon and team." Upon learning that the Ohio was in low water he
contemplated journeying by land as far as Louisville; but he embarked at
Wheeling instead, and after tedious dragging "through shoals, sandbars and
ripples" he reached Cincinnati late in November. When the last letter on
the journey was written he was on the point of embarking afresh on a
boat so crowded, that in spite of his desire to carry a large stock of
provisions he could find room for but a few hundredweight of pork and a few
barrels of flour. He apparently reached his destination at the end of the
year and established a plantation with part of his negroes, leaving the
rest on hire. The approach of the war of 1812 brought distress; cotton was
low, bacon was high, and the sale of a slave or two was required in making
ends meet. Covington himself was now ordered by the Department of War to
take the field in command of dragoons, and in 1813 was killed in a battle
beyond the Canadian border. The fate of his family and plantation does not
appear in the records.[15]

[Footnote 15: _Plantation and Frontier_, II, 201-208.]

A more successful migration was that of Col. Thomas S. Dabney in 1835.
After spending the years of his early manhood on his ancestral tide-water
estate, Elmington, in Gloucester County, Virginia, he was prompted to
remove by the prospective needs of his rapidly growing family. The justice
of his anticipations appears from the fact that his second wife bore him
eventually sixteen children, ten of whom survived her. After a land-looking
tour through Alabama and Louisiana, Dabney chose a tract in Hinds County,
Mississippi, some forty miles east of Vicksburg, where he bought the
property of several farmers as the beginning of a plantation which finally
engrossed some four thousand acres. Returning to Virginia, he was given a
great farewell dinner at Richmond, at which Governor Tyler presided and
many speakers congratulated Mississippi upon her gain of such a citizen
at Virginia's expense.[16] Several relatives and neighbors resolved to
accompany him in the migration. His brother-in-law, Charles Hill, took
charge of the carriages and the white families, while Dabney himself had
the care of the wagons and the many scores of negroes. The journey was
accomplished without mishap in two months of perfect autumn weather. Upon
arriving at the new location most of the log houses were found in ruins
from a recent hurricane; but new shelters were quickly provided, and in a
few months the great plantation, with its force of two hundred slaves, was
in routine operation. In the following years Dabney made it a practice to
clear about a hundred acres of new ground annually. The land, rich and
rolling, was so varied in its qualities and requirements that a general
failure of crops was never experienced--the bottoms would thrive in dry
seasons, the hill crops in wet, and moderation in rainfall would prosper
them all. The small farmers who continued to dwell nearby included Dabney
at first in their rustic social functions; but when he carried twenty of
his slaves to a house-raising and kept his own hands gloved while directing
their work, the beneficiary and his fellows were less grateful for the
service than offended at the undemocratic manner of its rendering. When
Dabney, furthermore, made no return calls for assistance, the restraint was
increased. The rich might patronize the poor in the stratified society
of old Virginia; in young Mississippi such patronage was an unpleasant
suggestion that stratification was beginning.[17] With the passage of years
and the continued influx of planters ready to buy their lands at good
prices, such fanners as did not thrive tended to vacate the richer soils.
The Natchez-Vicksburg district became largely consolidated into great
plantations,[18] and the tract extending thence to Tuscaloosa, as likewise
the district about Montgomery, Alabama, became occupied mostly by smaller
plantations on a scale of a dozen or two slaves each,[19] while the
non-slaveholders drifted to the southward pine-barrens or the western or
northwestern frontiers.

[Footnote 16: _Richmond Enquirer_, Sept. 22, 1835, reprinted in Susan D.
Smedes, _Memorials of a Southern Planter_ (2d. ed., Baltimore, 1888), pp.

[Footnote 17: Smedes, _Memorials of a Southern Planter_, pp. 42-68.]

[Footnote 18: F.L. Olmsted, _A Journey in the Back Country_ (New York,
1860), pp. 20, 28]

[Footnote 19: _Ibid_., pp. 160, 161; Robert Russell, _North America_
(Edinburgh, 1857), p. 207.]

The caravans of migrating planters were occasionally described by travelers
in the period. Basil Hall wrote of one which he overtook in South Carolina
in 1828: "It ... did not consist of above thirty persons in all, of whom
five-and-twenty at least were slaves. The women and children were stowed
away in wagons, moving slowly up a steep, sandy hill; but the curtains
being let down we could see nothing of them except an occasional glance of
an eye, or a row of teeth as white as snow. In the rear of all came a light
covered vehicle, with the master and mistress of the party. Along the
roadside, scattered at intervals, we observed the male slaves trudging in
front. At the top of all, against the sky line, two men walked together,
apparently hand in hand pacing along very sociably. There was something,
however, in their attitude, which seemed unusual and constrained. When
we came nearer, accordingly, we discovered that this couple were bolted
together by a short chain or bar riveted to broad iron clasps secured in
like manner round the wrists. 'What have you been doing, my boys,' said our
coachman in passing, 'to entitle you to these ruffles?' 'Oh, sir,' cried
one of them quite gaily, 'they are the best things in the world to travel
with.' The other man said nothing. I stopped the carriage and asked one of
the slave drivers why these men were chained, and how they came to take the
matter so differently. The answer explained the mystery. One of them, it
appeared, was married, but his wife belonged to a neighboring planter, not
to his master. When the general move was made the proprieter of the female
not choosing to part with her, she was necessarily left behind. The
wretched husband was therefore shackled to a young unmarried man who
having no such tie to draw him back might be more safely trusted on the

[Footnote 20: Basil Hall, _Travels in North America_ (Edinburgh, 1829),
III, 128, 129. _See also_ for similar scenes, Adam Hodgson, _Letters from
North America_ (London, 1854), I, 113.]

Timothy Flint wrote after observing many of these caravans: "The slaves
generally seem fond of their masters, and as much delighted and interested
in their migration as their masters. It is to me a very pleasing and
patriarchal sight."[21] But Edwin L. Godkin, who in his transit of a
Mississippi swamp in 1856 saw a company in distress, used the episode as a
peg on which to hang an anti-slavery sentiment: "I fell in with an emigrant
party on their way to Texas. Their mules had sunk in the mud, ... the
wagons were already embedded as far as the axles. The women of the party,
lightly clad in cotton, had walked for miles, knee-deep in water, through
the brake, exposed to the pitiless pelting of the storm, and were now
crouching forlorn and woebegone under the shelter of a tree.... The men
were making feeble attempts to light a fire.... 'Colonel,' said one of them
as I rode past, 'this is the gate of hell, ain't it?' ... The hardships the
negroes go through who are attached to one of these emigrant parties baffle
description.... They trudge on foot all day through mud and thicket without
rest or respite.... Thousands of miles are traversed by these weary
wayfarers without their knowing or caring why, urged on by the whip and in
the full assurance that no change of place can bring any change to them....
Hard work, coarse food, merciless floggings, are all that await them, and
all that they can look to. I have never passed them, staggering along in
the rear of the wagons at the close of a long day's march, the weakest
furthest in the rear, the strongest already utterly spent, without
wondering how Christendom, which eight centuries ago rose in arms for a
sentiment, can look so calmly on at so foul and monstrous a wrong as this
American slavery."[22] If instead of crossing the Mississippi bottoms and
ascribing to slavery the hardships he observed, Godkin had been crossing
the Nevada desert that year and had come upon, as many others did, a train
of emigrants with its oxen dead, its women and children perishing
of thirst, and its men with despairing eyes turned still toward the
gold-fields of California, would he have inveighed against freedom as the
cause? Between Flint's impression of pleasure and Godkin's of gloom no
choice need be made, for either description was often exemplified. In
general the slaves took the fatigues and the diversions of the route merely
as the day's work and the day's play.

[Footnote 21: Timothy Flint, _History and Geography of the Western States_
(Cincinnati, 1828), p. 11.]

[Footnote 22: Letter of E.L. Godkin to the _London News_, reprinted in the
_North American Review_, CLXXXV (1907), 46, 47.]

Many planters whose points of departure and of destination were accessible
to deep water made their transit by sea. Thus on the brig _Calypso_ sailing
from Norfolk to New Orleans in April, 1819, Benjamin Ballard and Samuel T.
Barnes, both of Halifax County, North Carolina, carrying 30 and 196 slaves
respectively, wrote on the margins of their manifests, the one "The owner
of these slaves is moving to the parish of St. Landry near Opelousas where
he has purchased land and intends settling, and is not a dealer in human
flesh," the other, "The owner of these slaves is moving to Louisiana to
settle, and is not a dealer in human flesh." On the same voyage Augustin
Pugh of the adjoining Bertie County carried seventy slaves whose manifest,
though it bears no such asseveration, gives evidence that they likewise
were not a trader's lot; for some of the negroes were sixty years old, and
there were as many children as adults in the parcel. Lots of such sizes
as these were of course exceptional. In the packages of manifests now
preserved in the Library of Congress the lists of from one to a dozen
slaves outnumbered those of fifty or more by perhaps a hundred fold.

The western cotton belt not only had a greater expanse and richer lands
than the eastern, but its cotton tended to have a longer fiber, ranging,
particularly in the district of the "bends" of the Mississippi north of
Vicksburg, as much as an inch and a quarter in length and commanding a
premium in the market. Its far reaching waterways, furthermore, made
freighting easy and permitted the planters to devote themselves the more
fully to their staple. The people in the main made their own food supplies;
yet the market demand of the western cotton belt and the sugar bowl for
grain and meat contributed much toward the calling of the northwestern
settlements into prosperous existence.[23]

[Footnote 23: G.S. Callender in the _Quarterly Journal of Economics_, XVII,

This thriving of the West, however, was largely at the expense of the older
plantation states.[24] In 1813 John Randolph wrote: "The whole country
watered by the rivers which fall into the Chesapeake is in a state of
paralysis...The distress is general and heavy, and I do not see how the
people can pay their taxes." And again: "In a few years more, those of us
who are alive will move off to Kaintuck or the Massissippi, where corn can
be had for sixpence a bushel and pork for a penny a pound. I do not wonder
at the rage for emigration. What do the bulk of the people get here that
they cannot have there for one fifth the labor in the western country?"
Next year, after a visit to his birthplace, he exclaimed: "What a spectacle
does our lower country present! Deserted and dismantled country-houses once
the seats of cheerfulness and plenty, and the temples of the Most High
ruinous and desolate, 'frowning in portentous silence upon the land,'" And
in 1819 he wrote from Richmond: "You have no conception of the gloom and
distress that pervade this place. There has been nothing like it since 1785
when from the same causes (paper money and a general peace) there was a
general depression of everything."[25]

[Footnote 24: Edmund Quincy, _Life of Josiah Quincy_ (Boston, 1869), p.

[Footnote 25: H.A. Garland, _Life of John Randolph_ (Philadelphia, 1851),
II, 15; I, 2; II, 105.]

The extreme depression passed, but the conditions prompting emigration were
persistent and widespread. News items from here and there continued for
decades to tell of movement in large volume from Tide-water and Piedmont,
from the tobacco states and the eastern cotton-belt, and even from Alabama
in its turn, for destinations as distant and divergent as Michigan,
Missouri and Texas. The communities which suffered cast about for both
solace and remedy. An editor in the South Carolina uplands remarked at the
beginning of 1833 that if emigration should continue at the rate of the
past year the state would become a wilderness; but he noted with grim
satisfaction that it was chiefly the "fire-eaters" that were moving
out.[26] In 1836 another South Carolinian wrote: "The spirit of emigration
is still rife in our community. From this cause we have lost many, and we
are destined, we fear, to lose more, of our worthiest citizens." Though
efforts to check it were commonly thought futile, he addressed himself to
suasion. The movement, said he, is a mistaken one; South Carolina planters
should let well enough alone. The West is without doubt the place for
wealth, but prosperity is a trial to character. In the West money is
everything. Its pursuit, accompanied as it is by baneful speculation,
lawlessness, gambling, sabbath-breaking, brawls and violence, prevents
moral attainment and mental cultivation. Substantial people should stay in
South Carolina to preserve their pristine purity, hospitality, freedom of
thought, fearlessness and nobility.[27]

[Footnote 26: Sumterville, S.C., _Whig_, Jan. 5, 1833.]

[Footnote 27: "The Spirit of Emigration," signed "A South Carolinian," in
the _Southern Literary Journal_, II, 259-262 (June, 1836).]

An Alabama spokesman rejoiced in the manual industry of the white people in
his state, and said if the negroes were only thinned off it would become a
great and prosperous commonwealth.[28] But another Alabamian, A.B. Meek,
found reason to eulogize both emigration and slavery. He said the
roughness of manners prevalent in the haphazard western aggregation of
New Englanders, Virginians, Carolinians and Georgians would prove but
a temporary phase. Slavery would be of benefit through its tendency to
stratify society, ennoble the upper classes, and give even the poorer
whites a stimulating pride of race. "In a few years," said he, "owing to
the operation of this institution upon our unparalleled natural advantages,
we shall be the richest people beneath the bend of the rainbow; and then
the arts and the sciences, which always follow in the train of wealth, will
flourish to an extent hitherto unknown on this side of the Atlantic." [29]

[Footnote 28: Portland, Ala., _Evening Advertiser_, April 12, 1833.]

[Footnote 29: _Southern Ladies' Book_ (Macon, Ga.), April, 1840.]

As a practical measure to relieve the stress of the older districts a
beginning was made in seed selection, manuring and crop rotation to
enhance the harvests; horses were largely replaced by mules, whose earlier
maturity, greater hardihood and longer lives made their use more economical
for plow and wagon work;[30] the straight furrows of earlier times gave
place in the Piedmont to curving ones which followed the hill contours
and when supplemented with occasional grass balks and ditches checked the
scouring of the rains and conserved in some degree the thin soils of the
region; a few textile factories were built to better the local market for
cotton and lower the cost of cloth as well as to yield profits to their
proprietors; the home production of grain and meat supplies was in some
measure increased; and river and highway improvements and railroad
construction were undertaken to lessen the expenses of distant
marketing.[31] Some of these recourses were promptly adopted in the newer
settlements also; and others proved of little avail for the time being. The
net effect of the betterments, however, was an appreciable offsetting
of the western advantage; and this, when added to the love of home, the
disrelish of primitive travel and pioneer life, and the dread of the costs
and risks involved in removal, dissuaded multitudes from the project of
migration. The actual depopulation of the Atlantic states was less than the
plaints of the time would suggest. The volume of emigration was undoubtedly
great, and few newcomers came in to fill the gaps. But the birth rate alone
in those generations of ample families more than replaced the losses year
by year in most localities. The sense of loss was in general the product
not of actual depletion but of disappointment in the expectation of

[Footnote 30: H.T. Cook, _The Life and Legacy of David R. Williams_ (New
York, 1916), pp. 166-168.]

[Footnote 31: U.B. Phillips, _History of Transportation in the Eastern
Cotton Belt to 1860_.]

The non-slaveholding backwoodsmen formed the vanguard of settlement on
each frontier in turn; the small slaveholders followed on their heels and
crowded each fertile district until the men who lived by hunting as well as
by farming had to push further westward; finally the larger planters with
their crowded carriages, their lumbering wagons and their trudging slaves
arrived to consolidate the fields of such earlier settlers as would sell.
It often seemed to the wayfarer that all the world was on the move. But in
the districts of durable soil thousands of men, clinging to their homes,
repelled every attack of the western fever.



In the New England town of Plymouth in November, 1729, a certain Thompson
Phillips who was about to sail for Jamaica exchanged a half interest in his
one-legged negro man for a similar share in Isaac Lathrop's negro boy who
was to sail with Phillips and be sold on the voyage. Lathrop was meanwhile
to teach the man the trade of cordwaining, and was to resell his share
to Phillips at the end of a year at a price of £40 sterling.[1] This
transaction, which was duly concluded in the following year, suggests the
existence of a trade in slaves on a small scale from north to south in
colonial times. Another item in the same connection is an advertisement in
the _Boston Gazette_ of August 17, 1761, offering for sale young slaves
just from Africa and proposing to take in exchange "any negro men, strong
and hearty though not of the best moral character, which are proper
subjects of transportation";[2] and a third instance appears in a letter of
James Habersham of Georgia in 1764 telling of his purchase of a parcel
of negroes at New York for work on his rice plantation.[3] That the
disestablishment of slavery in the North during and after the American
Revolution enhanced the exportation of negroes was recited in a Vermont
statute of 1787,[4] and is shown by occasional items in Southern archives.
One of these is the registry at Savannah of a bill of sale made at New
London in 1787 for a mulatto boy "as a servant for the term of ten years
only, at the expiration of which time he is to be free."[5] Another is a
report from an official at Norfolk to the Governor of Virginia, in 1795,
relating that the captain of a sloop from Boston with three negroes on
board pleaded ignorance of the Virginia law against the bringing in of

[Footnote 1: Massachusetts Historical Society _Proceedings_, XXIV, 335,

[Footnote 2: Reprinted in Joshua Coffin, _An Account of Some of the
Principal Slave Insurrections_ (New York, 1860), p. 15.]

[Footnote 3: "The Letters of James Habersham," in the Georgia Historical
Society _Collections_, VI, 22, 23.]

[Footnote 4: _New England Register_, XXIX, 248, citing Vermont _Statutes_,
1787, p. 105.]

[Footnote 5: U.B. Phillips, "Racial Problems, Adjustments and Disturbances
in the Ante-bellum South," in _The South in the Building of the Nation_,
IV, 218.]

[Footnote 6: _Calendar of Virginia State Papers_, VIII, 255.]

The federal census returns show that from 1790 onward the decline in the
number of slaves in the Northern states was more than counterbalanced by
the increase of their free negroes. This means either that the selling of
slaves to the southward was very slight, or that the statistical effect
of it was canceled by the northward flight of fugitive slaves and the
migration of negroes legally free. There seems to be no evidence that the
traffic across Mason and Dixon's line was ever of large dimensions, the
following curious item from a New Orleans newspaper in 1818 to the contrary
notwithstanding: "Jersey negroes appear to be peculiarly adapted to this
market--especially those that bear the mark of Judge Van Winkle, as it is
understood that they offer the best opportunity for speculation. We have
the right to calculate on large importations in future, from the success
which hitherto attended the sale."[7]

[Footnote 7: Augusta, Ga., _Chronicle_, Aug. 22, 1818, quoting the New
Orleans _Chronicle_, July 14, 1818.]

The internal trade at the South began to be noticeable about the end of the
eighteenth century. A man at Knoxville, Tennessee, in December, 1795, sent
notice to a correspondent in Kentucky that he was about to set out with
slaves for delivery as agreed upon, and would carry additional ones on
speculation; and he concluded by saying "I intend carrying on the business
extensively."[8] In 1797 La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt met a "drove of
negroes" about one hundred in number,[9] whose owner had abandoned the
planting business in the South Carolina uplands and was apparently carrying
them to Charleston for sale. In 1799 there was discovered in the Georgia
treasury a shortage of some ten thousand dollars which a contemporary news
item explained as follows: Mr. Sims, a member of the legislature, having
borrowed the money from the treasurer, entrusted it to a certain Speers for
the purchase of slaves in Virginia. "Speers accordingly went and purchased
a considerable number of negroes; and on his way returning to this state
the negroes rose and cut the throats of Speers and another man who
accompanied him. The slaves fled, and about ten of them, I think, were
killed. In consequence of this misfortune Mr. Sims was rendered unable to
raise the money at the time the legislature met."[10] Another transaction
achieved record because of a literary effusion which it prompted. Charles
Mott Lide of South Carolina, having inherited a fortune, went to Virginia
early in 1802 to buy slaves, and began to establish a sea-island cotton
plantation in Georgia. But misfortune in other investments forced him next
year to sell his land, slaves and crops to two immigrants from the Bahama
Islands. Thereupon, wrote he, "I composed the following valedictory, which
breathes something of the tenderness of Ossian."[11] Callous history is not
concerned in the farewell to his "sweet asylum," but only in the fact that
he bought slaves in Virginia and carried them to Georgia. A grand jury
at Alexandria presented as a grievance in 1802, "the practice of persons
coming from distant parts of the United States into this district for the
purpose of purchasing slaves."[12] Such fugitive items as these make up the
whole record of the trade in its early years, and indeed constitute the
main body of data upon its career from first to last.

[Footnote 8: Unsigned MS. draft in the Wisconsin Historical Society, Draper
collection, printed in _Plantation and Frontier_, II, 55, 56.]

[Footnote 9: La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, _Travels in the United States_, p.

[Footnote 10: Charleston, S.C., _City Gazette_, Dec. 21, 1799.]

[Footnote 11: Alexander Gregg, _History of the Old Cheraws_ (New York,
1877), pp. 480-482.]

[Footnote 12: Quoted in a speech in Congress in 1829, _Register of
Debates_, V, 177.]

As soon as the African trade was closed, the interstate traffic began to
assume the aspect of a regular business though for some years it not only
continued to be of small scale but was oftentimes merely incidental in
character. That is to say, migrating planters and farmers would in some
cases carry extra slaves bought with a view to reselling them at western
prices and applying the proceeds toward the expense of their new
homesteads. The following advertisement by William Rochel at Natchez in
1810 gives an example of this: "I have upwards of twenty likely Virginia
born slaves now in a flat bottomed boat lying in the river at Natchez, for
sale cheaper than has been sold here in years.[13] Part of said negroes
I wish to barter for a small farm. My boat may be known by a large cane
standing on deck."

[Footnote 13: Natchez, Miss., _Weekly Chronicle_, April 2, 1810.]

The heyday of the trade fell in the piping times of peace and migration
from 1815 to 1860. Its greatest activity was just prior to the panic of
1837, for thereafter the flow was held somewhat in check, first by the
hard times in the cotton belt and then by an agricultural renaissance in
Virginia. A Richmond newspaper reported in the fall of 1836 that estimates
by intelligent men placed Virginia's export in the preceding year at
120,000 slaves, of whom at least two thirds had been carried by emigrating
owners, and the rest by dealers.[14] This was probably an exaggeration
for even the greatest year of the exodus. What the common volume of the
commercial transport was can hardly be ascertained from the available data.

[Footnote 14: _Niles' Register_, LI, 83 (Oct. 8, 1836), quoting the
_Virginia Times_.]

The slave trade was partly systematic, partly casual. For local sales every
public auctioneer handled slaves along with other property, and in each
city there were brokers buying them to sell again or handling them on
commission. One of these at New Orleans in 1854 was Thomas Foster who
advertised that he would pay the highest prices for sound negroes as
well as sell those whom merchants or private citizens might consign him.
Expecting to receive negroes throughout the season, he said, he would have
a constant stock of mechanics, domestics and field hands; and in addition
he would house as many as three hundred slaves at a time, for such as
were importing them from other states.[16] Similarly Clark and Grubb, of
Whitehall Street in Atlanta, when advertising their business as wholesale
grocers, commission merchants and negro brokers, announced that they kept
slaves of all classes constantly on hand and were paying the highest market
prices for all that might be offered.[16] At Nashville, William L. Boyd,
Jr., and R.W. Porter advertised as rival slave dealers in 1854;[17] and in
the directory of that city for 1860 E.S. Hawkins, G.H. Hitchings, and Webb,
Merrill and Company were also listed in this traffic. At St. Louis in 1859
Corbin Thompson and Bernard M. Lynch were the principal slave dealers. The
rates of the latter, according to his placard, were 37-1/2 cents per day
for board and 2-1/2 per cent, commission on sales; and all slaves entrusted
to his care were to be held at their owners' risk.[18]

[Footnote 15: _Southern Business Directory_ (Charleston, 1854), I, 163.]

[Footnote 16: Atlanta _Intelligencer_, Mch. 7, 1860.]

[Footnote 17: _Southern Business Directory_, II, 131.]

[Footnote 18: H.A. Trexler, _Slavery in Missouri, 1804-1865_ (Baltimore,
1914), p. 49.]

On the other hand a rural owner disposed to sell a slave locally would
commonly pass the word round among his neighbors or publish a notice in the
county newspaper. To this would sometimes be appended a statement that the
slave was not to be sent out of the state, or that no dealers need apply.
The following is one of many such Maryland items: "Will be sold for cash or
good paper, a negro woman, 22 years old, and her two female children. She
is sold for want of employment, and will not be sent out of the state.
Apply to the editor."[19] In some cases, whether rural or urban, the slave
was sent about to find his or her purchaser. In the city of Washington
in 1854, for example, a woman, whose husband had been sold South, was
furnished with the following document: "The bearer, Mary Jane, and her two
daughters, are for sale. They are sold for no earthly fault whatever. She
is one of the most ladylike and trustworthy servants I ever knew. She is
a first rate parlour servant; can arrange and set out a dinner or party
supper with as much taste as the most of white ladies. She is a pretty good
mantua maker; can cut out and make vests and pantaloons and roundabouts
and joseys for little boys in a first rate manner. Her daughters' ages are
eleven and thirteen years, brought up exclusively as house servants. The
eldest can sew neatly, both can knit stockings; and all are accustomed to
all kinds of house work. They would not be sold to speculators or traders
for any price whatever." The price for the three was fixed at $1800, but a
memorandum stated that a purchaser taking the daughters at $1000 might have
the mother on a month's trial. The girls were duly bought by Dr. Edward
Maynard, who we may hope took the mother also at the end of the stipulated
month.[20] In the cities a few slaves were sold by lottery. One Boulmay,
for example, advertised at New Orleans in 1819 that he would sell fifty
tickets at twenty dollars each, the lucky drawer to receive his girl
Amelia, thirteen years old.[21]

[Footnote 19: Charleston, Md., _Telegraph_, Nov. 7, 1828.]

[Footnote 20: MSS. in the New York Public Library, MSS. division, filed
under "slavery."]

[Footnote 21: _Louisiana Courier_ (New Orleans), Aug. 17, 1819.]

The long distance trade, though open to any who would engage in it, appears
to have been conducted mainly by firms plying it steadily. Each of these
would have an assembling headquarters with field agents collecting slaves
for it, one or more vessels perhaps for the coastwise traffic, and a
selling agency at one of the centers of slave demand. The methods followed
by some of the purchasing agents, and the local esteem in which they were
held, may be gathered by an item written in 1818 at Winchester in the
Shenandoah Valley: "Several wretches, whose hearts must be as black as the
skins of the unfortunate beings who constitute their inhuman traffic, have
for several days been impudently prowling about the streets of this place
with labels on their hats exhibiting in conspicuous characters the words
'Cash for negroes,'"[22] That this repugnance was genuine enough to cause
local sellers to make large concessions in price in order to keep faithful
servants out of the hands of the long-distance traders is evidenced by
the following report in 1824 from Hillsborough on the eastern shore of
Maryland: "Slaves in this county, and I believe generally on this shore,
have always had two prices, viz. a neighbourhood or domestic and a foreign
or Southern price. The domestic price has generally been about a third less
than the foreign, and sometimes the difference amounts to one half."[23]

[Footnote 22: _Virginia Northwestern Gazette_, Aug. 15, 1818.]

[Footnote 23: _American Historical Review_, XIX, 818.]

The slaves of whom their masters were most eager to be rid were the
indolent, the unruly, and those under suspicion. A Creole settler at Mobile
wrote in 1748, for example, to a friend living on the Mississippi: "I am
sending you l'Eveille and his wife, whom I beg you to sell for me at the
best price to be had. If however they will not bring 1,500 francs each,
please keep them on your land and make them work. What makes me sell them
is that l'Eveille is accused of being the head of a plot of some thirty
Mobile slaves to run away. He stoutly denies this; but since there is
rarely smoke without fire I think it well to take the precaution."[24] The
converse of this is a laconic advertisement at Charleston in 1800:
"Wanted to purchase one or two negro men whose characters will not be
required."[25] It is probable that offers were not lacking in response.

[Footnote 24: MS. in private possession, here translated from the French.]

[Footnote 25: Charleston _City Gazette_, Jan. 8, 1800.]

Some of the slaves dealt in were actually convicted felons sold by the
states in which their crimes had been committed. The purchasers of these
were generally required to give bond to transport them beyond the limits
of the United States; but some of the traders broke their pledges on the
chance that their breaches would not be discovered. One of these, a certain
W.H. Williams, when found offering his outlawed merchandize of twenty-four
convict slaves at New Orleans in 1841, was prosecuted and convicted. His
penalty included the forfeiture of the twenty-four slaves, a fine of $500
to the state of Louisiana for each of the felons introduced, and the
forfeiture to the state of Virginia of his bond in the amount of $1,000 per
slave. The total was reckoned at $48,000.[26]

[Footnote 26: _Niles' Register_, LX, 189, quoting the New Orleans
_Picayune_, May 2, 1841.]

The slaves whom the dealers preferred to buy for distant sale were "likely
negroes from ten to thirty years old."[27] Faithfulness and skill in
husbandry were of minor importance, for the trader could give little proof
of them to his patrons. Demonstrable talents in artisanry would of course
enhance a man's value; and unusual good looks on the part of a young woman
might stimulate the bidding of men interested in concubinage. Episodes of
the latter sort were occasionally reported; but in at least one instance
inquiry on the spot showed that sex was not involved. This was the case of
the girl Sarah, who was sold to the highest bidder on the auction block in
the rotunda of the St. Louis Hotel at New Orleans in 1841 at a price of
eight thousand dollars. The onlookers were set agog, but a newspaper man
promptly found that the sale had been made as a mere form in the course of
litigation and that the bidding bore no relation to the money which was to
change hands.[28] Among the thousands of bills of sale which the present
writer has scanned, in every quarter of the South, many have borne record
of exceptional prices for men, mostly artisans and "drivers"; but the few
women who brought unusually high prices were described in virtually every
case as fine seamstresses, parlor maids, laundresses, hotel cooks, and
the like. Another indication against the multiplicity of purchases for
concubinage is that the great majority of the women listed in these records
were bought in family groups. Concubinage itself was fairly frequent,
particularly in southern Louisiana; but no frequency of purchases for it as
a predominant purpose can be demonstrated from authentic records.

[Footnote 27: Advertisement in the _Western Carolinian_ (Salisbury, N. C),
July 12, 1834.]

[Footnote 28: New Orleans _Bee_, Oct. 16, 1841.]

Some of the dealers used public jails, taverns and warehouses for the
assembling of their slaves, while others had stockades of their own. That
of Franklin and Armfield at Alexandria, managed by the junior member of
the firm, was described by a visitor in July, 1835. In addition to a brick
residence and office, it comprised two courts, for the men and women
respectively, each with whitewashed walls, padlocked gates, cleanly
barracks and eating sheds, and a hospital which at this time had no
occupants. In the men's yards "the slaves, fifty or sixty in number, were
standing or moving about in groups, some amusing themselves with rude
sports, and others engaged in conversation which was often interrupted
by loud laughter in all the varied tones peculiar to negroes." They were
mostly young men, but comprised a few boys of from ten to fifteen years
old. In the women's yard the ages ranged similarly, and but one woman had a
young child. The slaves were neatly dressed in clothes from a tailor shop
within the walls, and additional clothing was already stored ready to be
sent with the coffle and issued to its members at the end of the southward
journey. In a yard behind the stockade there were wagons and tents made
ready for the departure. Shipments were commonly made by the firm once
every two months in a vessel for New Orleans, but the present lot was to
march overland. Whether by land or sea, the destination was Natchez, where
the senior partner managed the selling end of the business. Armfield
himself was "a man of fine personal appearance, and of engaging and
graceful manners"; and his firm was said to have gained the confidence of
all the countryside by its honorable dealings and by its resolute efforts
to discourage kidnapping. It was said to be highly esteemed even among the

[Footnote 29: E.A. Andrews, _Slavery and the Domestic Slave Trade in the
United States_ (Boston, 1836), pp. 135, 143, 150.]

Soon afterward this traveler made a short voyage on the Potomac with a
trader of a much more vulgar type who was carrying about fifty slaves,
mostly women with their children, to Fredericksburg and thence across the
Carolinas. Overland, the trader said, he was accustomed to cover some
twenty-five miles a day, with the able-bodied slaves on foot and the
children in wagons. The former he had found could cover these marches,
after the first few days, without much fatigue. His firm, he continued, had
formerly sent most of its slaves by sea, but one of the vessels carrying
them had been driven to Bermuda, where all the negroes had escaped to land
and obtained their freedom under the British flag.[30]

[Footnote 30: _Ibid_., pp. 145-149.]

The scale of the coasting transit of slaves may be ascertained from the
ship manifests made under the requirements of the congressional act of
1808 and now preserved in large numbers in the manuscripts division of the
Library of Congress. Its volume appears to have ranged commonly, between
1815 and 1860, at from two to five thousand slaves a year. Several score of
these, or perhaps a few hundred, annually were carried as body servants by
their owners when making visits whether to southern cities or to New York
or Philadelphia. Of the rest about half were sent or carried without intent
of sale. Thus in 1831 James L. Pettigru and Langdon Cheves sent from
Charleston to Savannah 85 and 64 slaves respectively of ages ranging from
ninety and seventy years to infancy, with obvious purpose to develop newly
acquired plantations in Georgia. Most of the non-commercial shipments,
however, were in lots of from one to a dozen slaves each. The traders'
lots, on the other hand, which were commonly of considerable dimensions,
may be somewhat safely distinguished by the range of the negroes' ages,
with heavy preponderance of those between ten and thirty years, and by the
recurrence of shippers' and consignees' names. The Chesapeake ports were
the chief points of departure, and New Orleans the great port of entry.
Thus in 1819 Abner Robinson at Baltimore shipped a cargo of 99 slaves to
William Kenner and Co. at New Orleans, whereas by 1832 Robinson had himself
removed to the latter place and was receiving shipments from Henry King
at Norfolk. In the latter year Franklin and Armfield sent from Alexandria
_via_ New Orleans to Isaac Franklin at Natchez three cargoes of 109, 117
and 134 slaves, mainly of course within the traders' ages; R.C. Ballard and
Co. sent batches from Norfolk to Franklin at Natchez and to John Hogan and
Co. at New Orleans; and William T. Foster, associated with William Rollins
who was master of the brig _Ajax_, consigned numerous parcels to various
New Orleans correspondents. About 1850 the chief shippers were Joseph
Donovan of Baltimore, B.M. and M.L. Campbell of the same place, David
Currie of Richmond and G.W. Apperson of Norfolk, each of whom sent each
year several shipments of several score slaves to New Orleans. The
principal recipients there were Thomas Boudar, John Hogan, W.F. Talbott,
Buchanan, Carroll and Co., Masi and Bourk, and Sherman Johnson. The outward
manifests from New Orleans show in turn a large maritime distribution from
that port, mainly to Galveston and Matagorda Bay. The chief bulk of this
was obviously migrant, not commercial; but a considerable dependence of all
the smaller Gulf ports and even of Montgomery upon the New Orleans labor
market is indicated by occasional manifests bulking heavily in the traders'
ages. In 1850 and thereabouts, it is curious to note, there were manifests
for perhaps a hundred slaves a year bound for Chagres _en route_ for San
Francisco. They were for the most part young men carried singly, and were
obviously intended to share their masters' adventures in the California
gold fields.

Many slaves carried by sea were covered by marine insurance. Among a number
of policies issued by the Louisiana Insurance Company to William Kenner and
Company was one dated February 18, 1822, on slaves in transit in the brig
_Fame_. It was made out on a printed form of the standard type for the
marine insurance of goods, with the words "on goods" stricken out and "on
slaves" inserted. The risks, specified as assumed in the printed form were
those "of the sea, men of war, fire, enemies, pirates, rovers, thieves,
jettison, letters of mart and counter-mart, surprisals, taking at sea,
arrests, restraints and detainments of all kings, princes or people of what
nation, condition or quality soever, barratry of the master and mariners,
and all other perils, losses and misfortunes that have or shall come to the
hurt, detriment or damage of the said goods or merchandize, or any part
thereof." In manuscript was added: "This insurance is declared to be made
on one hundred slaves, valued at $40,000 and warranted by the insured to be
free from insurrection, elopement, suicide and natural death." The premium
was one and a quarter per cent, of the forty thousand dollars.[31] That
the insurers were not always free from serious risk is indicated by a New
Orleans news item in 1818 relating that two local insurance companies
had recently lost more than forty thousand dollars in consequence of the
robbery of seventy-two slaves out of a vessel from the Chesapeake by a
piratical boat off the Berry Islands.[32]

[Footnote 31: Original in private possession.]

[Footnote 32: Augusta, Ga., _Chronicle_, Sept. 23, 1818, quoting the
_Orleans Gazette_.]

Overland coffles were occasionally encountered and described by travelers.
Featherstonhaugh overtook one at daybreak one morning in southwestern
Virginia bound through the Tennessee Valley and wrote of it as follows: "It
was a camp of negro slave drivers, just packing up to start. They had about
three hundred slaves with them, who had bivouacked the preceding night
in chains in the woods. These they were conducting to Natchez on the
Mississippi River to work upon the sugar plantations in Louisiana. It
resembled one of the coffles spoken of by Mungo Park, except that they had
a caravan of nine wagons and single-horse carriages for the purpose of
conducting the white people and any of the blacks that should fall lame....
The female slaves, some of them sitting on logs of wood, while others were
standing, and a great many little black children, were warming themselves
at the fire of the bivouac. In front of them all, and prepared for the
march, stood in double files about two hundred men slaves, manacled and
chained to each other." The writer went on to ejaculate upon the horror of
"white men with liberty and equality in their mouths," driving black men
"to perish in the sugar mills of Louisiana, where the duration of life for
a sugar mill hand does not exceed seven years."[33] Sir Charles Lyell,
who was less disposed to moralize or to repeat slanders of the Louisiana
régime, wrote upon reaching the outskirts of Columbus, Georgia, in January,
1846: "The first sight we saw there was a long line of negroes, men, women
and boys, well dressed and very merry, talking and laughing, who stopped to
look at our coach. On inquiry we were told that it was a gang of slaves,
probably from Virginia, going to the market to be sold."[34] Whether this
laughing company wore shackles the writer failed to say.

[Footnote 33: G.W. Featherstonhaugh, _Excursion through the Slave States_
(London, 1844), I, 120.]

[Footnote 34: Sir Charles Lyell, _A Second Visit to the United States_ (New
York, 1849), II, 35.]

Some of the slaves in the coffles were peddled to planters and townsmen
along the route; the rest were carried to the main distributing centers and
there either kept in stock for sale at fixed prices to such customers as
might apply, or sold at auction. Oftentimes a family group divided for sale
was reunited by purchase. Johann Schoepf observed a prompt consummation of
the sort when a cooper being auctioned continually called to the bidders
that whoever should buy him must buy his son also, an injunction to which
his purchaser duly conformed.[35] Both hardness of heart and shortness
of sight would have been involved in the neglect of so ready a means of
promoting the workman's equanimity; and the good nature of the competing
bidders doubtless made the second purchase easy. More commonly the sellers
offered the slaves in family groups outright. By whatever method the sales
were made, the slaves of both sexes were subjected to such examination of
teeth and limbs as might be desired.[36] Those on the block oftentimes
praised their own strength and talents, for it was a matter of pride to
fetch high prices. On the other hand if a slave should bear a grudge
against his seller, or should hope to be bought only by someone who would
expect but light service, he might pretend a disability though he had it
not. The purchasers were commonly too shrewd to be deceived in either way;
yet they necessarily took risks in every purchase they made. If horse
trading is notoriously fertile in deception, slave trading gave opportunity
for it in as much greater degree as human nature is more complex and
uncertain than equine and harder to fathom from surface indications.

[Footnote 35: Johann David Schoepf, _Travels in the Confederation,
1783-1784_, A.J. Morrison tr. (Philadelphia, 1911), I, 148.]

[Footnote 36: The proceedings at typical slave auctions are narrated by
Basil Hall, _Travels in North America_ (Edinburgh, 1829), III, 143-145; and
by William Chambers, _Things as they are in America_ (2d edition, London,
1857), pp. 273-284.]

There was also some risk of loss from defects of title. The negroes offered
might prove to be kidnapped freemen, or stolen slaves, or to have been
illegally sold by their former owners in defraud of mortgagees. The last
of these considerations was particularly disquieting in times of financial
stress, for suspicion of wholesale frauds then became rife. At the
beginning of 1840, for example, the offerings of slaves from Mississippi in
large numbers and at bargain prices in the New Orleans market prompted a
local editor to warn the citizens against buying cheap slaves who might
shortly be seized by the federal marshal at the suit of citizens in other
states. A few days afterward the same journal printed in its local news the
following: "Many slaves were put up this day at the St. Louis exchange. Few
if any were sold. It is very difficult now to find persons willing to buy
slaves from Mississippi or Alabama on account of the fears entertained that
such property may be already mortgaged to the banks of the above named
states. Our moneyed men and speculators are now wide awake. It will take a
pretty cunning child to cheat them."[37]

[Footnote 37: _Louisiana Courier_, Feb. 12 and 15, 1840.]

The disesteem in which the slavetraders were held was so great and general
in the Southern community as to produce a social ostracism. The prevailing
sentiment was expressed, with perhaps a little exaggeration, by D.R.
Hundley of Alabama in his analysis of Southern social types: "Preëminent in
villainy and a greedy love of filthy lucre stands the hard-hearted negro
trader.... Some of them, we do not doubt, are conscientious men, but the
number is few. Although honest and honorable when they first go into the
business, the natural result of their calling seems to corrupt them; for
they usually have to deal with the most refractory and brutal of the slave
population, since good and honest slaves are rarely permitted to fall into
the unscrupulous clutches of the speculator.... [He] is outwardly a coarse,
ill-bred person, provincial in speech and manners, with a cross-looking
phiz, a whiskey-tinctured nose, cold hard-looking eyes, a dirty
tobacco-stained mouth, and shabby dress.... He is not troubled evidently
with a conscience, for although he habitually separates parent from child,
brother from sister, and husband from wife, he is yet one of the jolliest
dogs alive, and never evinces the least sign of remorse.... Almost every
sentence he utters is accompanied by an oath.... Nearly nine tenths of the
slaves he buys and sells are vicious ones sold for crimes and misdemeanors,
or otherwise diseased ones sold because of their worthlessness as property.
These he purchases for about one half what healthy and honest slaves would
cost him; but he sells them as both honest and healthy, mark you! So soon
as he has completed his 'gang' he dresses them up in good clothes, makes
them comb their kinky heads into some appearance of neatness, rubs oil on
their dusky faces to give them a sleek healthy color, gives them a dram
occasionally to make them sprightly, and teaches each one the part he or
she has to play; and then he sets out for the extreme South.... At every
village of importance he sojourns for a day or two, each day ranging his
'gang' in a line on the most busy street, and whenever a customer makes his
appearance the oily speculator button-holes him immediately and begins to
descant in the most highfalutin fashion upon the virtuous lot of darkeys he
has for sale. Mrs. Stowe's Uncle Tom was not a circumstance to any one of
the dozens he points out. So honest! so truthful! so dear to the hearts
of their former masters and mistresses! Ah! Messrs. stock-brokers of Wall
Street--you who are wont to cry up your rotten railroad, mining, steamboat
and other worthless stocks[38]--for ingenious lying you should take lessons
from the Southern negro trader!" Some of the itinerant traders were said,
however, and probably with truth, to have had silent partners among the
most substantial capitalists in the Southern cities.[39]

[Footnote 38: D.R. Hundley, _Social Relations in our Southern States_ (New
York, 1860), pp. 139-142.]

[Footnote 39: _Ibid_., p.145.]

The social stigma upon slave dealing doubtless enhanced the profits of the
traders by diminishing the competition. The difference in the scales of
prices prevailing at any time in the cheapest and the dearest local markets
was hardly ever less than thirty per cent. From such a margin, however,
there had to be deducted not only the cost of feeding, clothing,
sheltering, guarding and transporting the slaves for the several months
commonly elapsing between purchase and sale in the trade, but also
allowances for such loss as might occur in transit by death, illness,
accident or escape. At some periods, furthermore, slave prices fell so
rapidly that the prospect of profit for the speculator vanished. At
Columbus, Georgia, in December, 1844, for example, it was reported that a
coffle from North Carolina had been marched back for want of buyers.[40]
But losses of this sort were more than offset in the long run by the upward
trend of prices which was in effect throughout the most of the ante-bellum
period. The Southern planters sometimes cut into the business of the
traders by going to the border states to buy and bring home in person the
slaves they needed.[41] The building of railways speeded the journeys and
correspondingly reduced the costs. The Central of Georgia Railroad
improved its service in 1858 by instituting a negro sleeping car [42]--an
accommodation which apparently no railroad has furnished in the post-bellum

[Footnote 40: _Federal Union_ (Milledgeville, Ga.), Dec. 31, 1844.]

[Footnote 41: Andrews, _Slavery and the Domestic Slave Trade_, p.171.]

While the traders were held in common contempt, the incidents and effects
of their traffic were viewed with mixed emotions. Its employment of
shackles was excused only on the ground of necessary precaution. Its
breaking up of families was generally deplored, although it was apologized
for by thick-and-thin champions of everything Southern with arguments that
negro domestic ties were weak at best and that the separations were no more
frequent than those suffered by free laborers at the North under the stress
of economic necessity. Its drain of money from the districts importing the
slaves was regretted as a financial disadvantage. On the other hand, the
citizens of the exporting states were disposed to rejoice doubly at being
saved from loss by the depreciation of property on their hands [43] and at
seeing the negro element in their population begin to dwindle;[44] but even
these considerations were in some degree offset, in Virginia at least,
by thoughts that the shrinkage of the blacks was not enough to lessen
materially the problem of racial adjustments, that it was prime young
workmen and women rather than culls who were being sold South, that white
immigration was not filling their gaps, and that accordingly land prices
were falling as slave prices rose.[45]

[Footnote 42: Central of Georgia Railroad Company _Report_ for 1859.]

[Footnote 43: _National Intelligencer_ (Washington, D.C.), Jan. 19, 1833.]

[Footnote 44: R.R. Howison, _History of Virginia_ (Richmond, Va.,
1846-1848), II. 519, 520.]

[Footnote 45: Edmund Ruffin, "The Effects of High Prices of Slaves," in
_DeBow's Review_, XXVI, 647-657 (June, 1859).]

Delaware alone among the states below Mason and Dixon's line appears to
have made serious effort to restrict the outgoing trade in slaves; but all
the states from Maryland and Kentucky to Louisiana legislated from time to
time for the prohibition of the inward trade.[46] The enforcement of these
laws was called for by citizen after citizen in the public press, as
demanded by "every principle of justice, humanity, policy and interest,"
and particularly on the ground that if the border states were drained of
slaves they would be transferred from the pro-slavery to the anti-slavery
group in politics.[47] The state laws could not constitutionally debar
traders from the right of transit, and as a rule they did not prohibit
citizens from bringing in slaves for their own use. These two apertures,
together with the passiveness of the public, made the legislative obstacles
of no effect whatever. As to the neighborhood trade within each community,
no prohibition was attempted anywhere in the South.

[Footnote 46: These acts are summarized in W.H. Collins, _Domestic Slave
Trade_, chap. 7.]

[Footnote 47: _Louisiana Gazette_, Feb. 25, 1818 and Jan. 29, 1823;
_Louisiana Courier_, Jan. 13, 1831; _Georgia Journal_ (Milledgeville, Ga.),
Dec. 4, 1821, reprinted in _Plantation and Frontier_, II, 67-70; _Federal
Union_ (Milledgeville, Ga.), Feb. 6, 1847.]

On the whole, instead of hampering migration, as serfdom would have done,
the institution of slavery made the negro population much more responsive
to new industrial opportunity than if it had been free. The long distance
slave trade found its principal function in augmenting the westward
movement. No persuasion of the ignorant and inert was required; the fiat of
one master set them on the road, and the fiat of another set them to new
tasks. The local branch of the trade had its main use in transferring labor
from impoverished employers to those with better means, from passive owners
to active, and from persons with whom relations might be strained to
others whom the negroes might find more congenial. That this last was not
negligible is suggested by a series of letters in 1860 from William Capers,
overseer on a Savannah River rice plantation, to Charles Manigault his
employer, concerning a slave foreman or "driver" named John. In the first
of these letters, August 5, Capers expressed pleasure at learning that
John, who had in previous years been his lieutenant on another estate, was
for sale. He wrote: "Buy him by all means. There is but few negroes
more competent than he is, and he was not a drunkard when under my
management.... In speaking with John he does not answer like a smart negro,
but he is quite so. You had better say to him who is to manage him on
Savannah." A week later Capers wrote: "John arrived safe and handed me
yours of the 9th inst. I congratulate you on the purchase of said negro.
He says he is quite satisfied to be here and will do as he has always done
'during the time I have managed him.' No drink will be offered him. All
on my part will be done to bring John all right." Finally, on October 15,
Capers reported: "I have found John as good a driver as when I left him on
Santee. Bad management was the cause of his being sold, and [I] am glad you
have been the fortunate man to get him."[48]

[Footnote 48: _Plantation and Frontier_, I, 337, 338.]

Leaving aside for the present, as topics falling more fitly under the
economics of slavery, the questions of the market breeding of slaves in the
border states and the working of them to death in the lower South, as well
as the subject of inflations and depressions in slave prices, it remains
to mention the chief defect of the slave trade as an agency for the
distribution of labor. This lay in the fact that it dealt only in lifetime
service. Employers, it is true, might buy slaves for temporary employment
and sell them when the need for their labor was ended; but the fluctuations
of slave prices and of the local opportunity to sell those on hand would
involve such persons in slave trading risks on a scale eclipsing that of
their industrial earnings. The fact that slave hiring prevailed extensively
in all the Southern towns demonstrates the eagerness of short term
employers to avoid the toils of speculation.



It would be hard to overestimate the predominance of the special crops in
the industry and interest of the Southern community. For good or ill they
have shaped its development from the seventeenth to the twentieth century.
Each characteristic area had its own staple, and those districts which had
none were scorned by all typical Southern men. The several areas expanded
and contracted in response to fluctuations in the relative prices of their
products. Thus when cotton was exceptionally high in the early 'twenties
many Virginians discarded tobacco in its favor for a few years,[1] and on
the Louisiana lands from Baton Rouge to Alexandria, the planters from time
to time changed from sugar to cotton and back again.[2] There were local
variations also in scale and intensity; but in general the system in each
area tended to be steady and fairly uniform. The methods in the several
staples, furthermore, while necessarily differing in their details, were so
similar in their emphasis upon routine that each reinforced the influence
of the others in shaping the industrial organization of the South as a

[Footnote 1: _Richmond Compiler_, Nov. 25, 1825, and _Alexandria Gazette_,
Feb. 11, 1826, quoted in the _Charleston City Gazette_, Dec. 1, 1825 and
Feb. 20, 1826; _The American Farmer_ (Baltimore, Dec. 29, 1825), VII, 299.]

[Footnote 2: _Hunt's Merchant's Magazine_, IX, 149.]

At the height of the plantation system's career, from 1815 to 1860, indigo
production was a thing of the past; hemp was of negligible importance;
tobacco was losing in the east what it gained in the west; rice and
sea-island cotton were stationary; but sugar was growing in local
intensity, and upland cotton was "king" of a rapidly expanding realm.
The culture of sugar, tobacco and rice has been described in preceding
chapters; that of the fleecy staple requires our present attention.

The outstanding features of the landscape on a short-staple cotton
plantation were the gin house and its attendant baling press. The former
was commonly a weatherboarded structure some forty feet square, raised
about eight feet from the ground by wooden pillars. In the middle of the
space on the ground level, a great upright hub bore an iron-cogged pinion
and was pierced by a long horizontal beam some three feet from the ground.
Draught animals hitched to the ends of this and driven in a circular path
would revolve the hub and furnish power for transmission by cogs and belts
to the gin on the floor above. At the front of the house were a stair and a
platform for unloading seed cotton from the wagons; inside there were bins
for storage, as well as a space for operating the gin; and in the rear a
lean-to room extending to the ground level received the flying lint and let
it settle on the floor. The press, a skeleton structure nearby, had in the
center a stout wooden box whose interior length and width determined the
height and thickness of the bales but whose depth was more than twice as
great as the intended bale's width. The floor, the ends and the upper
halves of the sides of the box were built rigidly, but the lower sides were
hinged at the bottom, and the lid was a block sliding up and down according
as a great screw from above was turned to left or right. The screw,
sometimes of cast iron but preferably of wood as being less liable to break
under strain without warning, worked through a block mortised into a timber
frame above the box, and at its upper end it supported two gaunt beams
which sloped downward and outward to a horse path encircling the whole.
A cupola roof was generally built on the revolving apex to give a slight
shelter to the apparatus; and in some cases a second roof, with the screw
penetrating its peak, was built near enough the ground to escape the whirl
of the arms. When the contents of the lint room were sufficient for a bale,
a strip of bagging was laid upon the floor of the press and another was
attached to the face of the raised lid; the sides of the press were then
made fast, and the box was filled with cotton. The draught animals at the
beam ends were then driven round the path until the descent of the lid
packed the lint firmly; whereupon the sides were lowered, the edges of the
bagging drawn into place, ropes were passed through transverse slots in
the lid and floor and tied round the bale in its bagging, the pressure
was released, and the bale was ready for market. Between 1820 and 1860
improvements in the apparatus promoted an increase in the average weight
of the bales from 250 to 400 pounds; while in still more recent times the
replacement of horse power by steam and the substitution of iron ties for
rope have caused the average bale to be yet another hundredweight heavier.
The only other distinctive equipment for cotton harvesting comprised cloth
bags with shoulder straps, and baskets of three or four bushels capacity
woven of white-oak splits to contain the contents of the pickers' bags
until carried to the gin house to be weighed at the day's end.

Whether on a one-horse farm or a hundred-hand plantation, the essentials in
cotton growing were the same. In an average year a given force of laborers
could plant and cultivate about twice as much cotton as it could pick. The
acreage to be seeded in the staple was accordingly fixed by a calculation
of the harvesting capacity, and enough more land was put into other crops
to fill out the spare time of the hands in spring and summer. To this
effect it was customary to plant in corn, which required less than half as
much work, an acreage at least equal to that in cotton, and to devote the
remaining energy to sweet potatoes, peanuts, cow peas and small grain. In
1820 the usual crop in middle Georgia for each full hand was reported at
six acres of cotton and eight of corn;[3] but in the following decades
during which mules were advantageously substituted for horses and oxen,
and the implements of tillage were improved and the harvesters grew more
expert, the annual stint was increased to ten acres in cotton and ten in

[Footnote 3: _The American Farmer_ (Baltimore), II, 359.]

At the Christmas holiday when the old year's harvest was nearly or quite
completed, well managed plantations had their preliminaries for the new
crop already in progress. The winter months were devoted to burning
canebrakes, clearing underbrush and rolling logs in the new grounds,
splitting rails and mending fences, cleaning ditches, spreading manure,
knocking down the old cotton and corn stalks, and breaking the soil of the
fields to be planted. Some planters broke the fields completely each year
and then laid off new rows. Others merely "listed" the fields by first
running a furrow with a shovel plow where each cotton or corn row was to be
and filling it with a single furrow of a turn plow from either side; then
when planting time approached they would break out the remaining balks with
plows, turning the soil to the lists and broadening them into rounded plant
beds. This latter plan was advocated as giving a firm seed bed while making
the field clean of all grass at the planting. The spacing of the cotton
rows varied from three to five feet according to the richness of the soil.
The policy was to put them at such distance that the plants when full grown
would lightly interlace their branches across the middles.

In March the corn fields were commonly planted, not so much because this
forehandedness was better for the crop as for the sake of freeing the
choicer month of April for the more important planting of cotton. In this
operation a narrow plow lightly opened the crests of the beds; cotton seed
were drilled somewhat thickly therein; and a shallow covering of earth was
given by means of a concave board on a plow stock, or by a harrow, a roller
or a small shallow plow.

Within two or three weeks, as soon as the young plants had put forth three
or four leaves, thinning and cultivation was begun. Hoe hands, under
orders to chop carefully, stirred the crust along the rows and reduced the
seedlings to a "double stand," leaving only two plants to grow at each
interval of twelve or eighteen inches. The plows then followed, stirring
the soil somewhat deeply near the rows. In another fortnight the hoes gave
another chopping, cutting down the weaker of each pair of plants, thus
reducing the crop to a "single stand"; and where plants were missing they
planted fresh seed to fill the gaps. The plows followed again, with broad
wings to their shares, to break the crust and kill the grass throughout the
middles. Similar alternations of chipping and plowing then ensued until
near the end of July, each cultivation shallower than the last in order
that the roots of the cotton should not be cut.[4]

[Footnote 4: Cotton Culture is described by M.W. Philips in the _American
Agriculturist_, II (New York, 1843), 51, 81, 117, 149; by various writers
in J.A. Turner, ed., _The Cotton Planter's Manual_ (New York, 1856), chap.
I; Harry Hammond, _The Cotton Plant_ (U.S. Department of Agriculture,
Experiment Station, _Bulletin_ 33, 1896); and in the U.S. Census, 1880,
vols. V and VI.]

When the blossoms were giving place to bolls in midsummer, "lay-by time"
was at hand. Cultivation was ended, and the labor was diverted to other
tasks until in late August or early September the harvest began. The
corn, which had been worked at spare times previously, now had its blades
stripped and bundled for fodder; the roads were mended, the gin house and
press put in order, the premises in general cleaned up, and perhaps a few
spare days given to recreation.

The cotton bolls ripened and opened in series, those near the center of the
plant first, then the outer ones on the lower branches, and finally the
top crop. If subjected unduly to wind and rain the cotton, drooping in the
bolls, would be blown to the ground or tangled with dead leaves or stained
with mildew. It was expedient accordingly to send the pickers through the
fields as early and as often as there was crop enough open to reward the

Four or five compartments held the contents of each boll; from sixty to
eighty bolls were required to yield a pound in the seed; and three or four
pounds of seed cotton furnished one pound of lint. When a boll was wide
open a deft picker could empty all of its compartments by one snatch of
the fingers; and a specially skilled one could keep both hands flying
independently, and still exercise the small degree of care necessary to
keep the lint fairly free from the trash of the brittle dead calyxes. As
to the day's work, a Georgia planter wrote in 1830: "A hand will pick or
gather sixty to a hundred pounds of cotton in the seed, with ease, per day.
I have heard of some hands gathering a hundred and twenty pounds in a day.
The hands on a plantation ought to average sixty-five pounds," [5] But
actual records in the following decades made these early pickers appear
very inept. On Levin Covington's plantation near Natchez in 1844, in a
typical week of October, Bill averaged 220 pounds a day, Dred 205 pounds,
Aggy 215, and Delia 185; and on Saturday of that week all the twenty-eight
men and boys together picked an average of 160 pounds, and all the eighteen
women and girls an average of 125.[6] But these were dwarfed in turn by the
pickings on J.W. Fowler's Prairie plantation, Coahoma County, Mississippi,
at the close of the ante-bellum period. In the week of September 12 to 17,
1859, Sandy, Carver and Gilmore each averaged about three hundred pounds a
day, and twelve other men and five women ranged above two hundred, while
the whole gang of fifty-one men and women, boys and girls average 157
pounds each.[7]

[Footnote 5: _American Farmer_, II, 359.]

[Footnote 6: MS. in the Mississippi Department of History and Archives,
Jackson, Miss.]

[Footnote 7: MS. in the possession of W.H. Stovall, Stovall, Miss.]

The picking required more perseverance than strength. Dexterity was at a
premium, but the labors of the slow, the youthful and the aged were all
called into requisition. When the fields were white with their fleece and
each day might bring a storm to stop the harvesting, every boll picked
might well be a boll saved from destruction. Even the blacksmith was called
from his forge and the farmer's children from school to bend their backs in
the cotton rows. The women and children picked steadily unless rains drove
them in; the men picked as constantly except when the crop was fairly under
control and some other task, such as breaking in the corn, called the whole
gang for a day to another field or when the gin house crew had to clear the
bins by working up their contents to make room for more seed cotton.

In the Piedmont where the yield was lighter the harvest was generally ended
by December; but in the western belt, particularly when rains interrupted
the work, it often extended far into the new year. Lucien Minor, for
example, wrote when traveling through the plantations of northern Alabama,
near Huntsville, in December, 1823: "These fields are still white with
cotton, which frequently remains unpicked until March or April, when the
ground is wanted to plant the next crop."[8] Planters occasionally noted in
their journals that for want of pickers the top crop was lost.

[Footnote 8: _Atlantic Monthly_, XXVI, 175.]

As to the yield, an adage was current, that cotton would promise more and
do less and promise less and do more than any other green thing that grew.
The plants in the earlier stages were very delicate. Rough stirring of the
clods would kill them; excess of rain or drought would be likewise fatal;
and a choking growth of grass would altogether devastate the field.
Improvement of conditions would bring quick recuperation to the surviving
stalks, which upon attaining their full growth became quite hardy; but
undue moisture would then cause a shedding of the bolls, and the first
frost of autumn would stop the further fruiting. The plants, furthermore,
were liable to many diseases and insect ravages. In infancy cut-worms might
sever the stalks at the base, and lice might sap the vitality; in the full
flush of blooming luxuriance, wilt and rust, the latter particularly on
older lands, might blight the leaves, or caterpillars in huge armies reduce
them to skeletons and blast the prospect; and even when the fruit was
formed, boll-worms might consume the substance within, or dry-rot prevent
the top crop from ripening. The ante-bellum planters, however, were exempt
from the Mexican boll-weevil, the great pest of the cotton belt in the
twentieth century.

While every planter had his fat years and lean, and the yield of the belt
as a whole alternated between bumper crops and short ones, the industry was
in general of such profit as to maintain a continued expansion of its area
and a never ending though sometimes hesitating increase of its product. The
crop rose from eighty-five million pounds in 1810 to twice as much in 1820;
it doubled again by 1830 and more than doubled once more by 1840. Extremely
low prices for the staple in the early 'forties and again in 1849 prompted
a campaign for crop reduction; and in that decade the increase was only
from 830,000,000 to 1,000,000,000 pounds. But the return of good prices in
the 'fifties caused a fresh and huge enlargement to 2,300,000,000 pounds in
the final census year of the ante-bellum period. While this was little more
than one fourth as great as the crops of sixteen million bales in 1912 and
1915, it was justly reckoned in its time, at home and abroad, a prodigious
output. All the rest of the world then produced barely one third as much.
The cotton sent abroad made up nearly two thirds of the value of the gross
export trade of the United States, while the tobacco export had hardly a
tenth of the cotton's worth. In competition with all the other staples,
cotton engaged the services of some three fourths of all the country's
plantation labor, in addition to the labor of many thousands of white
farmers and their families.

The production and sale of the staple engrossed no less of the people's
thought than of their work. A traveler who made a zig-zag journey from
Charleston to St. Louis in the early months of 1827, found cotton "a
plague." At Charleston, said he, the wharves were stacked and the stores
and ships packed with the bales, and the four daily papers and all
the patrons of the hotel were "teeming with cotton." At Augusta the
thoroughfares were thronged with groaning wagons, the warehouses were
glutted, the open places were stacked, and the steamboats and barges hidden
by their loads. On the road beyond, migrating planters and slaves bound
for the west, "'where the cotton land is not worn out,'" met cotton-laden
wagons townward bound, whereupon the price of the staple was the chief
theme of roadside conversation. Occasionally a wag would have his jest. The
traveler reported a tilt between two wagoners: "'What's cotton in Augusta?'
says the one with a load.... 'It's cotton,' says the other. 'I know that,'
says the first, 'but what is it?' 'Why,' says the other, 'I tell you it's
cotton. Cotton is cotton in Augusta and everywhere else that I ever heard
of,' 'I know that as well as you,' says the first, 'but what does cotton
bring in Augusta?' 'Why, it brings nothing there, but everybody brings
cotton,'" Whereupon the baffled inquirer appropriately relieved his
feelings and drove on. At his crossing of the Oconee River the traveler saw
pole-boats laden with bales twelve tiers high; at Milledgeville and Macon
cotton was the absorbing theme; in the newly opened lands beyond he "found
cotton land speculators thicker than locusts in Egypt"; in the neighborhood
of Montgomery cotton fields adjoined one another in a solid stretch for
fourteen miles along the road; Montgomery was congested beyond the capacity
of the boats; and journeying thence to Mobile he "met and overtook nearly
one hundred cotton waggons travelling over a road so bad that a state
prisoner could hardly walk through it to make his escape." As to Mobile, it
was "a receptacle monstrous for the article. Look which way you will you
see it, and see it moving; keel boats, steamboats, ships, brigs, schooners,
wharves, stores, and press-houses, all appeared to be full; and I believe
that in the three days I was there, boarding with about one hundred cotton
factors, cotton merchants and cotton planters, I must have heard the word
cotton pronounced more than three thousand times." New Orleans had a
similar glut.

On the journey up the Mississippi the plaint heard by this traveler from
fellow passengers who lived at Natchitoches, was that they could not get
enough boats to bring the cotton down the Red. The descending steamers and
barges on the great river itself were half of them heavy laden with cotton
and at the head of navigation on the Tennessee, in northwestern Alabama,
bales enough were waiting to fill a dozen boats. "The Tennesseeans," said
he, "think that no state is of any account but their own; Kentucky, they
say, would be if it could grow cotton, but as it is, it is good for
nothing. They count on forty or fifty thousand bales going from Nashville
this season; that is, if they can get boats to carry it all." The fleet
on the Cumberland River was doing its utmost, to the discomfort of the
passengers; and it was not until the traveler boarded a steamer for
St. Louis at the middle of March, that he escaped the plague which had
surrounded him for seventy days and seventy nights. This boat, at last,
"had not a bale of cotton on board, nor did I hear it named more than twice
in thirty-six hours...I had a pretty tolerable night's sleep, though I
dreamed of cotton."[9]

[Footnote 9: _Georgia Courier_ (Augusta, Ga.), Oct. 11, 1827, reprinted in
_Plantation and Frontier_, I, 283-289.]

This obsession was not without its undertone of disquiet. Foresighted men
were apprehensive lest the one-crop system bring distress to the cotton
belt as it had to Virginia. As early as 1818 a few newspaper editors[10]
began to decry the régime; and one of them in 1821 rejoiced in a widespread
prevalence of rot in the crop of the preceding year as a blessing, in that
it staved off the rapidly nearing time when the staple's price would fall
below the cost of production.[11] A marked rise of the price to above
twenty cents a pound at the middle of the decade, however, silenced these
prophets until a severe decline in the later twenties prompted the sons of
Jeremiah to raise their voices again, and the political crisis procured
them a partial hearing. Politicians were advocating the home production
of cloth and foodstuffs as a demonstration against the protective tariff,
while the economists pleaded for diversification for the sake of permanent
prosperity, regardless of tariff rates. One of them wrote in 1827: "That we
have cultivated cotton, cotton, cotton and bought everything else, has long
been our opprobrium. It is time that we should be aroused by some means or
other to see that such a course of conduct will inevitably terminate in
our ultimate poverty and ruin. Let us manufacture, because it is our best
policy. Let us go more on provision crops and less on cotton, because we
have had everything about us poor and impoverished long enough.... We have
good land, unlimited water powers, capital in plenty, and a patriotism
which is running over in some places. If the tariff drives us to this,
we say, let the name be sacred in all future generations."[12] Next year
William Ellison of the South Carolina uplands welcomed even the low price
of cotton as a lever[13] which might pry the planters out of the cotton rut
and shift them into industries less exhausting to the soil.

[Footnote 10: Augusta _Chronicle_, Dec. 23, 1818.]

[Footnote 11: _Georgia Journal_ (Milledgeville), June 5, 1821.]

[Footnote 12: _Georgia Courier_ (Augusta), June 21, 1827.]

[Footnote 13: _Southern Agriculturist_, II, 13.]

But in the breast of the lowlander, William Elliott, the depression of the
cotton market produced merely a querulous complaint that the Virginians, by
rushing into the industry several years before when the prices were high,
had spoiled the market. Each region, said he, ought to devote itself to
the staples best suited to its climate and soil; this was the basis of
profitable commerce. The proper policy for Virginia and most of North
Carolina was to give all their labor spared from tobacco to the growing of
corn which South Carolina would gladly buy of them if undisturbed in her
peaceful concentration upon cotton.[14] The advance of cotton prices
throughout most of the thirties suspended the discussion, and the régime
went on virtually unchanged. As an evidence of the specialization of the
Piedmont in cotton, it was reported in 1836 that in the town of Columbia
alone the purchases of bacon during the preceding year had amounted to
three and a half million pounds.[15]

[Footnote 14: _Southern Agriculturist_, I, 61.]

[Footnote 15: _Niles' Register_, LI, 46.]

The world-wide panic of 1837 began to send prices down, and the specially
intense cotton crisis of 1839 broke the market so thoroughly that for five
years afterward the producers had to take from five to seven cents a pound
for their crops. Planters by thousands were bankrupted, most numerously in
the inflated southwest; and thoughtful men everywhere set themselves afresh
to study the means of salvation. Edmund Ruffin, the Virginian enthusiast
for fertilizers, was employed by the authority of the South Carolina
legislature to make an agricultural survey of that state with a view to
recommending improvements. Private citizens made experiments on their
estates; and the newspapers and the multiplying agricultural journals
published their reports and advice. Most prominent among the cotton belt
planters who labored in the cause of reform were ex-Governor James H.
Hammond of South Carolina, Jethro V. Jones of Georgia, Dr. N.B. Cloud of
Alabama, and Dr. Martin W. Philips of Mississippi. Of these, Hammond was
chiefly concerned in swamp drainage, hillside terracing, forage increase,
and livestock improvement; Jones was a promoter of the breeding of improved
strains of cotton; Cloud was a specialist in fertilizing; and Philips was
an all-round experimenter and propagandist. Hammond and Philips, who were
both spurred to experiments by financial stress, have left voluminous
records in print and manuscript. Their careers illustrate the handicaps
under which innovators labored.

Hammond's estate[16] lay on the Carolina side of the Savannah River, some
sixteen miles below Augusta. Impressed by the depletion of his upland
soils, he made a journey in 1838 through southwestern Georgia and the
adjacent portion of Florida in search of a new location; but finding land
prices inflated, he returned without making a purchase,[17] and for the
time being sought relief at home through the improvement of his methods. He
wrote in 1841: "I have tried almost all systems, and unlike most planters
do not like what is old. I hardly know anything old in corn or cotton
planting but what is wrong." His particular enthusiasm now was for plow
cultivation as against the hoe. The best planter within his acquaintance,
he said, was Major Twiggs, on the opposite bank of the Savannah, who ran
thirty-four plows with but fourteen hoes. Hammond's own plowmen were now
nearly as numerous as his full hoe hands, and his crops were on a scale of
twenty acres of cotton, ten of corn and two of oats to the plow. He was
fertilizing each year a third of his corn acreage with cotton seed, and a
twentieth of his cotton with barnyard manure; and he was making a surplus
of thirty or forty bushels of corn per hand for sale.[18] This would
perhaps have contented him in normal times, but the severe depression of
cotton prices drove him to new prognostications and plans. His confidence
in the staple was destroyed, he said, and he expected the next crop
to break the market forever and force virtually everyone east of the
Chattahoochee to abandon the culture. "Here and there," he continued, "a
plantation may be found; but to plant an acre that will not yield three
hundred pounds net will be folly. I cannot make more than sixty dollars
clear to the hand on my whole plantation at seven cents...The western
plantations have got fairly under way; Texas is coming in, and the game is
up with us." He intended to change his own activities in the main to the
raising of cattle and hogs; and he thought also of sending part of his
slaves to Louisiana or Texas, with a view to removing thither himself after
a few years if the project should prove successful.[19] In an address of
the same year before the Agricultural Society of South Carolina, he
advised those to emigrate who intended to continue producing cotton,
and recommended for those who would stay in the Piedmont a diversified
husbandry including tobacco but with main emphasis upon cereals and
livestock.[20] Again at the end of 1849, he voiced similar views at the
first annual fair of the South Carolina Institute. The first phase of the
cotton industry, said he, had now passed; and the price henceforward would
be fixed by the cost of production, and would yield no great profits even
in the most fertile areas. The rich expanses of the Southwest, he thought,
could meet the whole world's demand at a cost of less than five cents a
pound, for the planters there could produce two thousand pounds of lint
per hand while those in the Piedmont could not exceed an average of twelve
hundred pounds. This margin of difference would deprive the slaves of their
value in South Carolina and cause their owners to send them West, unless
the local system of industry should be successfully revolutionized.
The remedies he proposed were the fertilization of the soil, the
diversification of crops, the promotion of commerce, and the large
development of cotton manufacturing.[21]

[Footnote 16: Described in 1846 in the _American Agriculturist_, VI, 113,

[Footnote 17: MS. diary, April 13 to May 14, 1838, in Hammond papers,
Library of Congress.]

[Footnote 18: Letters of Hammond to William Gilmore Simms, Jan. 27 and Mch.
9, 1841. Hammond's MS. drafts are in the Library of Congress.]

[Footnote 19: Letter to Isaac W. Hayne, Jan. 21, 1841.]

[Footnote 20: MS. oration in the Library of Congress.]

[Footnote 21: James H. Hammond, _An Address delivered before the South
Carolina Institute, at the first annual Fair, on the 20th November, 1849_
(Charleston. 1849).]

Hammond found that not only the public but his own sons also, with the
exception of Harry, were cool toward his advice and example; and he himself
yielded to the temptation of the higher cotton prices in the 'fifties, and
while not losing interest in cattle and small grain made cotton and corn
his chief reliance. He appears to have salved his conscience in this
relapse by devoting part of his income to the reclamation of a great marsh
on his estate. He operated two plantations, the one at his home, "Silver
Bluff," the other, "Cathwood," near by. The field force on the former
comprised in 1850 sixteen plow hands, thirty-four full hoe hands, six
three-quarter hands, two half hands and a water boy, the whole rated at
fifty-five full hands. At Cathwood the force, similarly grouped, was rated
at seventy-one hands; but at either place the force was commonly subject to
a deduction of some ten per cent, of its rated strength, on the score of
the loss of time by the "breeders and suckers" among the women. In addition
to their field strength and the children, of whom no reckoning was made in
the schedule of employments, the two plantations together had five stable
men, two carpenters, a miller and job worker, a keeper of the boat landing,
three nurses and two overseers' cooks; and also thirty-five ditchers in the
reclamation work.

At Silver Bluff, the 385 acres in cotton were expected to yield 330 bales
of 400 pounds each; the 400 acres in corn had an expectation of 9850
bushels; and 10 acres of rice, 200 bushels. At Cathwood the plantings and
expectations were 370 acres in cotton to yield 280 bales, 280 in corn to
yield 5000 bushels, 15 in wheat to yield 100 bushels, 11 in rye to yield
50, and 2 in rice to yield 50. In financial results, after earning in 1848
only $4334.91, which met barely half of his plantation and family expenses
for the year, his crop sales from 1849 to 1853 ranged from seven to twenty
thousand dollars annually in cotton and from one and a half to two and
a half thousand dollars in corn. His gross earnings in these five years
averaged $16,217.76, while his plantation expenses averaged $5393.87, and
his family outlay $6392.67, leaving an average "clear gain per annum," as
he called it, of $4431.10. The accounting, however, included no reckoning
of interest on the investment or of anything else but money income and
outgo. In 1859 Hammond put upon the market his 5500 acres of uplands with
their buildings, livestock, implements and feed supplies, together with 140
slaves including 70 full hands. His purpose, it may be surmised, was to
confine his further operations to his river bottoms.[22]

[Footnote 22: Hammond MSS., Library of Congress.]

Philips, whom a dearth of patients drove early from the practice of
medicine, established in the 'thirties a plantation which he named Log
Hall, in Hinds County, Mississippi. After narrowly escaping the loss of his
lands and slaves in 1840 through his endorsement of other men's notes,
he launched into experimental farming and agricultural publication. He
procured various fancy breeds of cattle and hogs, only to have most of
them die on his hands. He introduced new sorts of grasses and unfamiliar
vegetables and field crops, rarely with success. Meanwhile, however, he
gained wide reputation through his many writings in the periodicals, and in
the 'fifties he turned this to some advantage in raising fancy strains
of cotton and selling their seed. His frequent attendance at fairs and
conventions and his devotion to his experiments and to his pen caused
him to rely too heavily upon overseers in the routine conduct of his
plantation. In consequence one or more slaves occasionally took to the
woods; the whole force was frequently in bad health; and his women, though
remarkably fecund, lost most of their children in infancy. In some degree
Philips justified the prevalent scorn of planters for "book farming."[23]

[Footnote 23: M.W. Phillips, "Diary," F.L. Riley, ed., in the Mississippi
Historical Society _Publications_, X, 305-481; letters of Philips in the
_American Agriculturist, DeBow's Review_, etc., and in J.A. Turner, ed.,
_The Cotton Planter's Manual_, pp. 98-123.]

The newspapers and farm journals everywhere printed arguments in the
'forties in behalf of crop diversification, and _DeBow's Review_, founded
in 1846, joined in the campaign; but the force of habit, the dearth of
marketable substitutes and the charms of speculation conspired to make all
efforts of but temporary avail. The belt was as much absorbed in cotton in
the 'fifties as it had ever been before.

Meanwhile considerable improvement had been achieved in cotton methods.
Mules, mainly bred in Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri, largely replaced
the less effective horses and oxen; the introduction of horizontal plowing
with occasional balks and hillside ditches, checked the washing of the
Piedmont soils; the use of fertilizers became fairly common; and cotton
seed was better selected. These last items of manures and seed were the
subject of special campaigns. The former was begun as early as 1808 by the
Virginian John Taylor of Caroline in his "Arator" essays, and was furthered
by the publications of Edmund Ruffin and many others. But an adequate
available source of fertilizers long remained a problem without solution.
Taylor stressed the virtues of dung and rotation; but the dearth of forage
hampered the keeping of large stocks of cattle, and soiling crops were
thought commonly to yield too little benefit for the expense in labor.
Ruffin had great enthusiasm for the marl or phosphate rock of the Carolina
coast; but until the introduction in much later decades of a treatment by
sulphuric acid this was too little soluble to be really worth while as a
plant food. Lime was also praised; but there were no local sources of it in
the districts where it was most needed.

Cotton seed, in fact, proved to be the only new fertilizer generally
available in moderate abundance prior to the building of the railroads. In
early years the seed lay about the gins as refuse until it became a public
nuisance. To abate it the village authorities of Sparta, Georgia, for
example, adopted in 1807 an ordinance "that the owner of each and every
cotton machine within the limits of said town shall remove before the first
day of May in each year all seed and damaged cotton that may be about such
machines, or dispose of such seed or cotton so as to prevent its unhealthy
putrefaction."[24] Soon after this a planter in St. Stephen's Parish,
South Carolina, wrote: "We find from experience our cotton seed one of the
strongest manures we make use of for our Indian corn; a pint of fresh seed
put around or in the corn hole makes the corn produce wonderfully",[25]
but it was not until the lapse of another decade or two that such practice
became widespread. In the thirties Harriet Martineau and J.S. Buckingham
noted that in Alabama the seed was being strewn as manure on a large
scale.[26] As an improvement of method the seed was now being given in many
cases a preliminary rotting in compost heaps, with a consequent speeding of
its availability as plant food;[27] and cotton seed rose to such esteem as
a fertilizer for general purposes that many planters rated it to be worth
from sixteen to twenty-five cents a bushel of twenty-five pounds.[28] As
early as 1830, furthermore a beginning was made in extracting cottonseed
oil for use both in painting and illumination, and also in utilizing the
by-product of cottonseed meal as a cattle feed.[29] By the 'fifties the oil
was coming to be an unheralded substitute for olive oil in table use; but
the improvements which later decades were to introduce in its extraction
and refining were necessary for the raising of the manufacture to the scale
of a substantial industry.

[Footnote 24: _Farmer's Gazette_ (Sparta, Ga.), Jan. 31, 1807.]

[Footnote 25: Letter of John Palmer. Dec. 3, 1808, to David Ramsay. MS. in
the Charleston Library.]

[Footnote 26: Harriet Martineau, _Retrospect of Western Travel_, (London,
1838), I, 218; I.S. Buckingham, _The Slave States of America_ (London,
1842), I, 257.]

[Footnote 27: D.R. Williams of South Carolina described his own practice to
this effect in an essay of 1825 contributed to the _American Farmer_ and
reprinted in H.T. Cook, _The Life and Legacy of David R. Williams_ (New
York, 1916), pp. 226, 227.]

[Footnote 28: J.A. Turner, ed., _Cotton Planter's Manual_, p. 99; Robert
Russell, _North America_, p. 269.]

[Footnote 29: _Southern Agriculturist_, II, 563; _American Farmer_, II, 98;
H.T. Cook, _Life and Legacy of David R. Williams_, pp. 197-209.]

The importation of fertilizers began with guano. This material, the dried
droppings of countless birds, was discovered in the early 'forties on
islands off the coast of Peru;[30] and it promptly rose to such high esteem
in England that, according to an American news item, Lloyd's listed for
1845 not less than a thousand British vessels as having sailed in search of
guano cargoes. The use of it in the United States began about that year;
and nowhere was its reception more eager than in the upland cotton belt.
Its price was about fifty dollars a ton in the seaports. To stimulate the
use of fertilizers, the Central of Georgia Railroad Company announced
in 1858 that it would carry all manures for any distance on its line in
carload lots at a flat rate of two dollars per ton; and the connecting
roads concurred in this policy. In consequence the Central of Georgia
carried nearly two thousand tons of guano in 1859, and more than nine
thousand tons in 1860, besides lesser quantities of lime, salt and bone
dust. The superintendent reported that while the rate failed to cover the
cost of transportation, the effect in increasing the amount of cotton to be
freighted, and in checking emigration, fully compensated the road.[31] A
contributor to the _North American Review_ in January, 1861, wrote: "The
use of guano is increasing. The average return for each pound used in the
cotton field is estimated to be a pound and a half of cotton; and the
planter who could raise but three bales to the hand on twelve acres of
exhausted soil has in some instances by this appliance realized ten bales
from the same force and area. In North Carolina guano is reported to
accelerate the growth of the plant, and this encourages the culture on
the northern border of the cotton-field, where early frosts have proved

[Footnote 30: _American Agriculturist_, III, 283.]

[Footnote 31: Central of Georgia Railroad Company _Reports_, 1858-1860.]

Widespread interest in agricultural improvement was reported by _DeBow's
Review_ in the 'fifties, taking the form partly of local and general
fairs, partly of efforts at invention. A citizen of Alabama, for example,
announced success in devising a cotton picking machine; but as in many
subsequent cases in the same premises, the proclamation was premature.

As to improved breeds of cotton, public interest appears to have begun
about 1820 in consequence of surprisingly good results from seed newly
procured from Mexico. These were in a few years widely distributed under
the name of Petit Gulf cotton. Colonel Vick of Mississippi then began to
breed strains from selected seed; and others here and there followed his
example, most of them apparently using the Mexican type. The more dignified
of the planters who prided themselves on selling nothing but cotton, would
distribute among their friends parcels of seed from any specially fine
plants they might encounter in their fields, and make little ado about
it. Men of a more flamboyant sort, such as M.W. Philips, contemning such
"ruffle-shirt cant," would christen their strains with attractive names,
publish their virtues as best they might, and offer their fancy seed for
sale at fancy prices. Thus in 1837 the Twin-seed or Okra cotton was in
vogue, selling at many places for five dollars a quart. In 1839 this was
eclipsed by the Alvarado strain, which its sponsors computed from an
instance of one heavily fruited stalk nine feet high and others not so
prodigious, might yield three thousand pounds per acre.[32] Single Alvarado
seeds were sold at fifty cents each, or a bushel might be had at $160. In
the succeeding years Vick's Hundred Seed, Brown's, Pitt's, Prolific, Sugar
Loaf, Guatemala, Cluster, Hogan's, Banana, Pomegranate, Dean, Multibolus,
Mammoth, Mastodon and many others competed for attention and sale. Some
proved worth while either in increasing the yield, or in producing larger
bolls and thereby speeding the harvest, or in reducing the proportionate
weight of the seed and increasing that of the lint; but the test of
planting proved most of them to be merely commonplace and not worth the
cost of carriage. Extreme prices for seed of any strain were of course
obtainable only for the first year or two; and the temptation to make
fraudulent announcement of a wonder-working new type was not always
resisted. Honest breeders improved the yield considerably; but the
succession of hoaxes roused abundant skepticism. In 1853 a certain Miller
of Mississippi confided to the public the fact that he had discovered by
chance a strain which would yield three hundred pounds more of seed cotton
per acre than any other sort within his knowledge, and he alluringly named
it Accidental Poor Land Cotton. John Farrar of the new railroad town
Atlanta was thereby moved to irony. "This kind of cotton," he wrote in a
public letter, "would run a three million bale crop up to more than four
millions; and this would reduce the price probably to four or five cents.
Don't you see, Mr. Miller, that we had better let you keep and plant your
seed? You say that you had rather plant your crop with them than take a
dollar a pint.... Let us alone, friend, we are doing pretty well--we might
do worse."[33]

[Footnote 32: _Southern Banner_( Athens, Ga.), Sept. 20, 1839.]

[Footnote 33: J.A. Turner, ed., _Cotton Planter's Manual_, p. 98-128.]

In the sea-island branch of the cotton industry the methods differed
considerably from those in producing the shorter staple. Seed selection was
much more commonly practiced, and extraordinary care was taken in ginning
and packing the harvest. The earliest and favorite lands for this crop
were those of exceedingly light soil on the islands fringing the coast of
Georgia and South Carolina. At first the tangle of live-oak and palmetto
roots discouraged the use of the plow; and afterward the need of heavy
fertilization with swamp mud and seaweed kept the acreage so small in
proportion to the laborers that hoes continued to be the prevalent means of
tillage. Operations were commonly on the basis of six or seven acres to the
hand, half in cotton and the rest in corn and sweet potatoes. In the swamps
on the mainland into which this crop was afterwards extended, the use of
the plow permitted the doubling of the area per hand; but the product of
the swamp lands was apparently never of the first grade.

The fields were furrowed at five-foot intervals during the winter, bedded
in early spring, planted in late April or early May, cultivated until the
end of July, and harvested from September to December. The bolls opened but
narrowly and the fields had to be reaped frequently to save the precious
lint from damage by the weather. Accordingly the pickers are said to have
averaged no more than twenty-five pounds a day. The preparation for market
required the greatest painstaking of all. First the seed cotton was dried
on a scaffold; next it was whipped for the removal of trash and sand; then
it was carefully sorted into grades by color and fineness; then it went to
the roller gins, whence the lint was spread upon tables where women picked
out every stained or matted bit of the fiber; and finally when gently
packed into sewn bags it was ready for market. A few gin houses were
equipped in the later decades with steam power; but most planters retained
the system of a treadle for each pair of rollers as the surest safeguard
of the delicate filaments. A plantation gin house was accordingly a simple
barn with perhaps a dozen or two foot-power gins, a separate room for the
whipping, a number of tables for the sorting and moting, and a round hole
in the floor to hold open the mouth of the long bag suspended for the
packing.[34] In preparing a standard bale of three hundred pounds, it was
reckoned that the work required of the laborers at the gin house was as
follows: the dryer, one day; the whipper, two days; the sorters, at fifty
pounds of seed cotton per day for each, thirty days; the ginners, each
taking 125 pounds in the seed per day and delivering therefrom 25 pounds of
lint, twelve days; the moters, at 43 pounds, seven days; the inspector and
packer, two days; total fifty-four days.

[Footnote 34: The culture and apparatus are described by W.B. Seabrook,
_Memoir on Cotton_, pp. 23-25; Thomas Spaulding in the _American
Agriculturist_, III, 244-246; R.F.W. Allston, _Essay on Sea Coast Crops_
(Charleston, 1854), reprinted in _DeBow's Review_, XVI, 589-615; J.A.
Turner, ed., _Cotton Planter's Manual_, pp. 131-136. The routine of
operations is illustrated in the diary of Thomas P. Ravenel, of Woodboo
plantation, 1847-1850, printed in _Plantation and Frontier_, I, 195-208.]

The roller gin was described in a most untechnical manner by Basil Hall:
"It consists of two little wooden rollers, each about as thick as a man's
thumb, placed horizontally and touching each other. On these being put into
rapid motion, handfulls of the cotton are cast upon them, which of course
are immediately sucked in.... A sort of comb fitted with iron teeth ... is
made to wag up and down with considerable velocity in front of the rollers.
This rugged comb, which is equal in length to the rollers, lies parallel to
them, with the sharp ends of its teeth almost in contact with them. By
the quick wagging motion given to this comb by the machinery, the buds of
cotton cast upon the rollers are torn open just as they are beginning to be
sucked in. The seeds, now released ... fly off like sparks to the right and
left, while the cotton itself passes between the rollers."[35]

[Footnote 35: Basil Hall, _Travels in North America_ (Edinburgh, 1829),
III, 221, 222.]

As to yields and proceeds, a planter on the Georgia seaboard analyzed his
experience from 1830 to 1847 as follows: the harvest average per acre
ranged from 68 pounds of lint in 1846 to 223 pounds in 1842, with a general
average for the whole period of 137 pounds; the crop's average price per
pound ranged from 14 cents in 1847 to 41 cents in 1838, with a general
average of 23 1/2 cents; and the net proceeds per hand were highest at
$137 in 1835, lowest at $41 in 1836, and averaged $83 for the eighteen

[Footnote 36: J.A. Turner, ed., _Cotton Planter's Manual_, pp. 128, 129.]

In the cotton belt as a whole the census takers of 1850 enumerated 74,031
farms and plantations each producing five bales or more,[37] and they
reckoned the crop at 2,445,793 bales of four hundred pounds each. Assuming
that five bales were commonly the product of one full hand, and leaving
aside a tenth of the gross output as grown perhaps on farms where the
cotton was not the main product, it appears that the cotton farms and
plantations averaged some thirty bales each, and employed on the average
about six full hands. That is to say, there were very many more small
farms than large plantations devoted to cotton; and among the plantations,
furthermore, it appears that very few were upon a scale entitling them
to be called great, for the nature of the industry did not encourage the
engrossment of more than sixty laborers under a single manager.[38] It is
true that some proprietors operated on a much larger scale than this. It
was reported in 1859, for example, that Joseph Bond of Georgia had marketed
2199 bales of his produce, that numerous Louisiana planters, particularly
about Concordia Parish, commonly exceeded that output; that Dr. Duncan of
Mississippi had a crop of 3000 bales; and that L.R. Marshall, who lived at
Natchez and had plantations in Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas, was
accustomed to make more than four thousand bales.[39] The explanation lies
of course in the possession by such men of several more or less independent
plantations of manageable size. Bond's estate, for example, comprised not
less than six plantations in and about Lee County in southwestern Georgia,
while his home was in the town of Macon. The areas of these, whether
cleared or in forest, ranged from 1305 to 4756 acres.[40] But however large
may have been the outputs of exceptionally great planters, the fact remains
on the other hand that virtually half of the total cotton crop each year
was made by farmers whose slaves were on the average hardly more numerous
than the white members of their own families. The plantation system
nevertheless dominated the régime.

[Footnote 37: _Compendium of the Seventh Census_, p. 178]

[Footnote 38: _DeBow's Review_, VIII, 16.]

[Footnote 39: _Ibid_., XXVI, 581.]

[Footnote 40: Advertisement of Bond's executors offering the plantations
for sale in the _Federal Union_ (Milledgeville, Ga.), Nov. 8, 1859.]

The British and French spinners, solicitous for their supply of material,
attempted at various times and places during the ante-bellum period to
enlarge the production of cotton where it was already established and to
introduce it into new regions. The result was a complete failure to lessen
the predominance of the United States as a source. India, Egypt and Brazil
might enlarge their outputs considerably if the rates in the market were
raised to twice or thrice their wonted levels; but so long as the price
held a moderate range the leadership of the American cotton belt could not
be impaired, for its facilities were unequaled. Its long growing season,
hot in summer by day and night, was perfectly congenial to the plant, its
dry autumns permitted the reaping of full harvests, and its frosty winters
decimated the insect pests. Its soil was abundant, its skilled managers
were in full supply, its culture was well systematized, and its labor
adequate for the demand. To these facilities there was added in the
Southern thought of the time, as no less essential for the permanence of
the cotton belt's primacy, the plantation system and the institution of



The tone and method of a plantation were determined partly by the crop and
the lie of the land, partly by the characters of the master and his men,
partly by the local tradition. Some communities operated on the basis of
time-work, or the gang system; others on piece-work or the task system. The
former was earlier begun and far more widely spread, for Sir Thomas Dale
used it in drilling the Jamestown settlers at their work, it was adopted
in turn on the "particular" and private plantations thereabout, and it was
spread by the migration of the sons and grandsons of Virginia throughout
the middle and western South as far as Missouri and Texas. The task system,
on the other hand, was almost wholly confined to the rice coast. The gang
method was adaptable to operations on any scale. If a proprietor were of
the great majority who had but one or two families of slaves, he and his
sons commonly labored alongside the blacks, giving not less than step for
step at the plow and stroke for stroke with the hoe. If there were a dozen
or two working hands, the master, and perhaps the son, instead of laboring
manually would superintend the work of the plow and hoe gangs. If the
slaves numbered several score the master and his family might live in
leisure comparative or complete, while delegating the field supervision to
an overseer, aided perhaps by one or more slave foremen. When an estate
was inherited by minor children or scattered heirs, or where a single
proprietor had several plantations, an overseer would be put into full
charge of an establishment so far as the routine work was concerned; and
when the plantations in one ownership were quite numerous or of a great
scale a steward might be employed to supervise the several overseers. Thus
in the latter part of the eighteenth century, Robert Carter of Nomoni Hall
on the Potomac had a steward to assist in the administration of his many
scattered properties, and Washington after dividing the Mount Vernon lands
into several units had an overseer upon each and a steward for the whole
during his own absence in the public service. The neighboring estate of
Gunston Hall, belonging to George Mason, was likewise divided into several
units for the sake of more detailed supervision. Even the 103 slaves of
James Mercer, another neighbor, were distributed on four plantations under
the management in 1771 of Thomas Oliver. Of these there were 54 slaves on
Marlborough, 19 on Acquia, 12 on Belviderra and 9 on Accokeek, besides 9
hired for work elsewhere. Of the 94 not hired out, 64 were field workers.
Nearly all the rest, comprising the house servants, the young children, the
invalids and the superannuated, were lodged on Marlborough, which was of
course the owner's "home place." Each of the four units had its implements
of husbandry, and three of them had tobacco houses; but the barn and
stables were concentrated on Marlborough. This indicates that the four
plantations were parts of a single tract so poor in soil that only pockets
here and there would repay cultivation.[1] This presumption is reinforced
by an advertisement which Mercer published in 1767: "Wanted soon, ... a
farmer who will undertake the management of about 80 slaves, all settled
within six miles of each other, to be employed in making of grain."[2] In
such a case the superintendent would combine the functions of a regular
overseer on the home place with those of a "riding boss" inspecting the
work of the three small outlying squads from time to time. Grain crops
would facilitate this by giving more frequent intermissions than tobacco in
the routine. The Mercer estate might indeed be more correctly described
as a plantation and three subsidiary farms than as a group of four
plantations. The occurrence of tobacco houses in the inventory and of grain
crops alone in the advertisement shows a recent abandonment of the tobacco
staple; and the fact of Mercer's financial embarrassment[3] suggests, what
was common knowledge, that the plantation system was ill suited to grain
production as a central industry.

[Footnote 1: Robert Carter's plantation affairs are noted in Philip V.
Fithian, _Journal and Letters_ (Princeton, N.J., 1900); the Gunston Hall
estate is described in Kate M. Rowland, _Life of George Mason_ (New York,
1892), I, 98-102; many documents concerning Mt. Vernon are among the George
Washington MSS. in the Library of Congress, and Washington's letters,
1793-179, to his steward are printed in the Long Island Historical Society
_Memoirs_ v. 4; of James Mercer's establishments an inventory taken in 1771
is reproduced in _Plantation and Frontier_, I, 249.]

[Footnote 2: _Virginia Gazette_ (Williamsburg, Va.), Oct. 22, 1767,
reprinted in _Plantation and Frontier_, I, 133.]

[Footnote 3: S.M. Hamilton ed., _Letters to Washington_, IV, 286.]

The organization and routine of the large plantations on the James River in
the period of an agricultural renaissance are illustrated in the inventory
and work journal of Belmead, in Powhatan County, owned by Philip St. George
Cocke and superintended by S.P. Collier.[4] At the beginning of 1854 the
125 slaves were scheduled as follows: the domestic staff comprised a
butler, two waiters, four housemaids, a nurse, a laundress, a seamstress, a
dairy maid and a gardener; the field corps had eight plowmen, ten male and
twelve female hoe hands, two wagoners and four ox drivers, with two cooks
attached to its service; the stable and pasture staff embraced a carriage
driver, a hostler, a stable boy, a shepherd, a cowherd and a hog herd; in
outdoor crafts there were two carpenters and five stone masons; in indoor
industries a miller, two blacksmiths, two shoemakers, five women spinners
and a woman weaver; and in addition there were forty-five children, one
invalid, a nurse for the sick, and an old man and two old women hired off
the place, and finally Nancy for whom no age, value or classification is
given. The classified workers comprised none younger than sixteen years
except the stable boy of eleven, a waiter of twelve, and perhaps some of
the housemaids and spinners whose ages are not recorded. At the other
extreme there were apparently no slaves on the plantation above sixty years
old except Randal, a stone mason, who in spite of his sixty-six years was
valued at $300, and the following who had no appraisable value: Old Jim the
shepherd, Old Maria the dairy maid, and perhaps two of the spinners. The
highest appraisal, $800, was given to Payton, an ox driver, twenty-eight
years old. The $700 class comprised six plowmen, five field hands, the
three remaining ox drivers, both wagoners, both blacksmiths, the carriage
driver, four stone masons, a carpenter, and Ned the twenty-eight year old
invalid whose illness cannot have been chronic. The other working men
ranged between $250 and $500 except the two shoemakers whose rating was
only $200 each. None of the women were appraised above $400, which was the
rating also of the twelve and thirteen year old boys. The youngest children
were valued at $100 each. These ratings were all quite conservative for
that period. The fact that an ox driver overtopped all others in appraisal
suggests that the artisans were of little skill. The masons, the carpenters
and various other specialists were doubtless impressed as field hands on

[Footnote 4: These records are in the possession of Wm. Bridges of
Richmond, Va. For copies of them, as well as for many other valuable items,
I am indebted to Alfred H. Stone of Dunleith, Miss.]

The livestock comprised twelve mules, nine work horses, a stallion, a brood
mare, four colts, six pleasure horses and "William's team" of five head;
sixteen work oxen, a beef ox, two bulls, twenty-three cows, and twenty-six
calves; 150 sheep and 115 swine. The implements included two reaping
machines, three horse rakes, two wheat drills, two straw cutters, three
wheat fans, and a corn sheller; one two-horse and four four-horse wagons,
two horse carts and four ox carts; nine one-horse and twelve two-horse
plows, six colters, six cultivators, eight harrows, two earth scoops, and
many scythes, cradles, hoes, pole-axes and miscellaneous farm implements as
well as a loom and six spinning wheels.

The bottom lands of Belmead appear to have been cultivated in a rotation
of tobacco and corn the first year, wheat the second and clover the third,
while the uplands had longer rotations with more frequent crops of clover
and occasional interspersions of oats. The work journal of 1854 shows
how the gang dovetailed the planting, cultivation, and harvesting of the
several crops and the general upkeep of the plantation.

On specially moist days from January to the middle of April all hands were
called to the tobacco houses to strip and prize the cured crop; when the
ground was frozen they split and hauled firewood and rails, built fences,
hauled stone to line the ditches or build walls and culverts, hauled
wheat to the mill, tobacco and flour to the boat landing, and guano, land
plaster, barnyard manure and straw to the fields intended for the coming
tobacco crop; and in milder dry weather they spread and plowed in these
fertilizers, prepared the tobacco seed bed by heaping and burning brush
thereon and spading it mellow, and also sowed clover and oats in their
appointed fields. In April also the potato patch and the corn fields were
prepared, and the corn planted; and the tobacco bed was seeded at the
middle of the month. In early May the corn began to be plowed, and the soil
of the tobacco fields drawn by hoes into hills with additional manure in
their centers. From the end of May until as late as need be in July the
occurrence of every rain sent all hands to setting the tobacco seedlings in
their hills at top speed as long as the ground stayed wet enough to give
prospect of success in the process. In the interims the corn cultivation
was continued, hay was harvested in the clover fields and the meadows, and
the tobacco fields first planted began to be scraped with hoe and plow. The
latter half of June was devoted mainly to the harvesting of small grain
with the two reaping machines and the twelve cradles; and for the following
two months the main labor force was divided between threshing the wheat and
plowing, hoeing, worming and suckering the tobacco, while the expert Daniel
was day after day steadily topping the plants. In late August the plows
began breaking the fallow fields for wheat. Early in September the cutting
and housing of tobacco began, and continued at intervals in good weather
until the middle of October. Then the corn was harvested and the sowing of
wheat was the chief concern until the end of November when winter plowing
was begun for the next year's tobacco. Two days in December were devoted to
the housing of ice; and Christmas week, as well as Easter Monday and a
day or two in summer and fall, brought leisure. Throughout the year the
overseer inspected the negroes' houses and yards every Sunday morning and
regularly reported them in good order.

The greatest of the tobacco planters in this period was Samuel Hairston,
whose many plantations lying in the upper Piedmont on both sides of the
Virginia-North Carolina boundary were reported in 1854 to have slave
populations aggregating some 1600 souls, and whose gardens at his homestead
in Henry County, Virginia, were likened to paradise. Of his methods
of management nothing more is known than that his overseers were
systematically superintended and that his negroes were commonly both fed
and clothed with the products of the plantations themselves.[5]

[Footnote 5: William Chambers, _American Slavery and Colour_ (London,
1857), pp. 194, 195, quoting a Richmond newspaper of 1854.]

In the eastern cotton belt a notable establishment of earlier decades was
that of Governor David R. Williams, who began operations with about a
hundred slaves in Chesterfield County, South Carolina, near the beginning
of the nineteenth century and increased their number fivefold before his
death in 1830. While each of his four plantations gave adequate yields of
the staple as well as furnishing their own full supplies of corn and pork,
the central feature and the chief source of prosperity was a great bottom
tract safeguarded from the floods of the Pee Dee by a levee along the river
front. The building of this embankment was but one of many enterprises
which Williams undertook in the time spared from his varied political and
military services. Others were the improvement of manuring methods, the
breeding of mules, the building of public bridges, the erection and
management of a textile factory, the launching of a cottonseed oil mill, of
which his talents might have made a success even in that early time had not
his untimely death intervened. The prosperity of Williams' main business in
the face of his multifarious diversions proves that his plantation
affairs were administered in thorough fashion. His capable wife must have
supplemented the husband and his overseers constantly and powerfully in the
conduct of the routine. The neighboring plantation of a kinsman, Benjamin
F. Williams, was likewise notable in after years for its highly improved
upland fields as well as for the excellent specialized work of its slave

[Footnote 6: Harvey T. Cooke, _The Life and Legacy of David Rogerson
Williams_ (New York, 1916), chaps. XIV, XVI, XIX, XX, XXV. This book,
though bearing a New York imprint, is actually published, as I have been at
pains to learn, by Mr. J.W. Norwood of Greenville, South Carolina.]

In the fertile bottoms on the Congaree River not far above Columbia, lay
the well famed estate of Colonel Wade Hampton, which in 1846 had some
sixteen hundred acres of cotton and half as much of corn. The traveler,
when reaching it after long faring past the slackly kept fields and
premises common in the region, felt equal enthusiasm for the drainage and
the fencing, the avenues, the mansion and the mill, the stud of blooded
horses, the herd of Durham cattle, the flock of long-wooled sheep, and the
pens of Berkshire pigs.[7] Senator McDuffie's plantation in the further
uplands of the Abbeville district was likewise prosperous though on a
somewhat smaller scale. Accretions had enlarged it from three hundred acres
in 1821 to five thousand in 1847, when it had 147 slaves of all ages. Many
of these were devoted to indoor employments, and seventy were field workers
using twenty-four mules. The 750 acres in cotton commonly yielded crops of
a thousand pounds in the seed; the 325 acres in corn gave twenty-five or
thirty bushels; the 300 in oats, fifteen bushels; and ten acres in peas,
potatoes and squashes yielded their proportionate contribution.[8]

[Footnote 7: Described by R.L. Allen in the _American Agriculturist_, VI,
20, 21.]

[Footnote 8: _DeBow's Review_, VI, 149.]

The conduct and earnings of a cotton plantation fairly typical among those
of large scale, may be gathered from the overseer's letters and factor's
accounts relating to Retreat, which lay in Jefferson County, Georgia. This
was one of several establishments founded by Alexander Telfair of Savannah
and inherited by his two daughters, one of whom became the wife of W.B.
Hodgson. For many years Elisha Cain was its overseer. The first glimpse
which the correspondence affords is in the fall of 1829, some years after
Cain had taken charge. He then wrote to Telfair that many of the negroes
young and old had recently been ill with fever, but most of them had
recovered without a physician's aid. He reported further that a slave named
John had run away "for no other cause than that he did not feel disposed to
be governed by the same rules and regulations that the other negroes on
the land are governed by." Shortly afterward John returned and showed
willingness to do his duty. But now Cain encountered a new sort of trouble.
He wrote Telfair in January, 1830: "Your negroes have a disease now among
them that I am fully at a loss to know what I had best to do. Two of them
are down with the venereal disease, Die and Sary. Doctor Jenkins has been
attending Die four weeks, and very little alteration as I can learn. It is
very hard to get the truth; but from what I can learn, Sary got it from
Friday." A note appended to this letter, presumably by Telfair, reads:
"Friday is the house servant sent to Retreat every summer. I have all the
servants examined before they leave Savannah."

In a letter of February, 1831, Cain described his winter work and his
summer plans. The teams had hauled away nearly all the cotton crop of 205
bales; the hog killing had yielded thirteen thousand pounds of pork, from
which some of the bacon and lard was to be sent to Telfair's town house;
the cotton seed were abundant and easily handled, but they were thought
good for fertilizing corn only; the stable and cowpen manure was
embarrassingly plentiful in view of the pressure of work for the mules and
oxen; and the encumbrance of logs and brush on the fields intended for
cotton was straining all the labor available to clear them. The sheep, he
continued, had not had many lambs; and many of the pigs had died in spite
of care and feeding; but "the negroes have been healthy, only colds, and
they have for some time now done their work in as much peace and have been
as obedient as I could wish."

One of the women, however, Darkey by name, shortly became a pestilent
source of trouble. Cain wrote in 1833 that her termagant outbreaks among
her fellows had led him to apply a "moderate correction," whereupon she had
further terrorized her housemates by threats of poison. Cain could then
only unbosom himself to Telfair: "I will give you a full history of my
belief of Darkey, to wit: I believe her disposition as to temper is as bad
as any in the whole world. I believe she is as unfaithful as any I have
ever been acquainted with. In every respect I believe she has been more
injury to you in the place where she is than two such negroes would sell
for.... I have tryed and done all I could to get on with her, hopeing that
she would mend; but I have been disappointed in every instant. I can not
hope for the better any longer."

The factor's record becomes available from 1834, with the death of Telfair.
The seventy-six pair of shoes entered that year tells roughly the number
of working hands, and the ninety-six pair in 1842 suggests the rate of
increase. Meanwhile the cotton output rose from 166 bales of about three
hundred pounds in 1834 to 407 bales of four hundred pounds in the fine
weather of 1841. In 1836 an autumn report from Cain is available, dated
November 20. Sickness among the negroes for six weeks past had kept
eight or ten of them in their beds; the resort to Petit Gulf seed had
substantially increased the cotton yield; and the fields were now white
with a crop in danger of ruin from storms. "My hands," he said, "have
picked well when they were able, and some of them appear to have a kind
of pride in making a good crop." A gin of sixty saws newly installed had
proved too heavy for the old driving apparatus, but it was now in operation
with shifts of four mules instead of two as formerly. This pressure, in
addition to the hauling of cotton to market had postponed the gathering of
the corn crop. The corn would prove adequate for the plantation's need, and
the fodder was plentiful, but the oats had been ruined by the blast. The
winter cloth supply had been spun and woven, as usual, on the place; but
Cain now advised that the cotton warp for the jeans in future be bought.
"The spinning business on this plantation," said he, "is very ungaining. In
the present arrangement there is eight hands regular imployed in spinning
and weaving, four of which spin warpe, and it could be bought at the
factory at 120 dollars annually. Besides, it takes 400 pounds of cotton
each year, leaveing 60 dollars only to the four hands who spin warp....
These hands are not old negroes, not all of them. Two of Nanny's daughters,
or three I may say, are all able hands ... and these make neither corn nor
meat. Take out $20 to pay their borde, and it leaves them in debt. I give
them their task to spin, and they say they cannot do more. That is, they
have what is jenerly given as a task."

In 1840 Cain raised one of the slaves to the rank of driver, whereupon
several of the men ran away in protest, and Cain was impelled to defend his
policy in a letter to Mary Telfair, explaining that the new functionary had
not been appointed "to lay off tasks and use the whip." The increase of the
laborers and the spread of the fields, he said, often required the working
of three squads, the plowmen, the grown hoe hands, and the younger hoe
hands. "These separate classes are frequently separate a considerable
distance from each other, and so soon as I am absent from either they are
subject to quarrel and fight, or to idle time, or beat and abuse the mules;
and when called to account each negro present when the misconduct took
place will deny all about the same. I therefore thought, and yet believe,
that for the good order of the plantation and faithful performance of their
duty, it was proper to have some faithful and trusty hand whose duty it
should be to report to me those in fault, and that is the only dread they
have of John, for they know he is not authorized to beat them. You mention
in your letter that you do not wish your negroes treated with severity.
I have ever thought my fault on the side of lenity; if they were treated
severe as many are, I should not be their overseer on any consideration."
In the same letter Cain mentioned that the pork made on the place the
preceding year had yielded eleven monthly allowances to the negroes at the
rate of 1050 pounds per month, and that the deficit for the twelfth month
had been filled as usual by a shipment from Savannah.

From 407 bales in 1841 the cotton output fell rapidly, perhaps because of
restriction prompted by the low prices, to 198 bales in 1844. Then it rose
to the maximum of 438 bales in 1848. Soon afterwards Cain's long service
ended, and after two years during which I. Livingston was in charge, I.N.
Bethea was engaged and retained for the rest of the ante-bellum period. The
cotton crops in the 'fifties did not commonly exceed three hundred bales
of a weight increasing to 450 pounds, but they were supplemented to some
extent by the production of wheat and rye for market. The overseer's wages
were sometimes as low as $600, but were generally $1000 a year. In the
expense accounts the annual charges for shoes, blankets and oznaburgs were
no more regular than the items of "cotton money for the people." These
sums, averaging about a hundred dollars a year, were distributed among
the slaves in payment for the little crops of nankeen cotton which they
cultivated in spare time on plots assigned to the several families. Other
expense items mentioned salt, sugar, bacon, molasses, tobacco, wool and
cotton cards, loom sleighs, mules and machinery. Still others dealt with
drugs and doctor's bills. In 1837, for example, Dr. Jenkins was paid $90
for attendance on Priscilla. In some years the physician's payment was a
round hundred dollars, indicating services on contract. In May, 1851, there
are debits of $16.16 for a constable's reward, a jail fee and a railroad
fare, and of $1.30 for the purchase of a pair of handcuffs, two padlocks
and a trace chain. These constitute the financial record of a runaway's

From 1834 to 1841 the gross earnings on Retreat ranged between eight and
fifteen thousand dollars, of which from seven to twelve thousand each year
was available for division between the owners. The gross then fell rapidly
to $4000 in 1844, of which more than half was consumed in expenses. It then
rose as rapidly to its maximum of $21,300 in 1847, when more than half of
it again was devoted to current expenses and betterments. Thereafter the
range of the gross was between $8000 and $17,000 except for a single
year of crop failure, 1856, when the 109 bales brought $5750. During the
'fifties the current expenses ranged usually between six and ten thousand
dollars, as compared with about one third as much in the 'thirties. This is
explained partly by the resolution of the owners to improve the fields,
now grown old, and to increase the equipment. For the crop of 1856, for
example, purchases were made of forty tons of Peruvian guano at $56 per
ton, and nineteen tons of Mexican guano at $25 a ton. In the following
years lime, salt and dried blood were included in the fertilizer purchases.
At length Hodgson himself gave over his travels and his ethnological
studies to take personal charge on Retreat. He wrote in June, 1859, to his
friend Senator Hammond, of whom we have seen something in the preceding
chapter, that he had seriously engaged in "high farming," and was spreading
huge quantities of fertilizers. He continued: "My portable steam engine
is the _delicia domini_ and of overseer too. It follows the reapers
beautifully in a field of wheat, 130 acres, and then in the rye fields. In
August it will be backed up to the gin house and emancipate from slavery
eighteen mules and four little nigger drivers."[9]

[Footnote 9: MS. among the Hammond papers in the Library of Congress.]

The factor's books for this plantation continue their records into the war
time. From the crop of 1861 nothing appears to have been sold but a single
bale of cotton, and the year's deficit was $6,721. The proceeds from the
harvests of 1862 were $500 from nineteen bales of cotton, and some $10,000
from fodder, hay, peanuts and corn. The still more diversified market
produce of 1863 comprised also wheat, which was impressed by the
Confederate government, syrup, cowpeas, lard, hams and vinegar. The
proceeds were $17,000 and the expenses about $9000, including the
overseer's wages at $1300 and the purchase of 350 bushels of peanuts from
the slaves at $1.50 per bushel. The reckonings in the war period were made
of course in the rapidly depreciating Confederate currency. The stoppage of
the record in 1864 was doubtless a consequence of Sherman's march through

[Footnote 10: The Retreat records are in the possession of the Georgia
Historical Society, trustee for the Telfair Academy of Art, Savannah, Ga.
The overseer's letters here used are printed in _Plantation and Frontier_,
I, 314, 330-336, II, 39, 85.]

In the western cotton belt the plantations were much like those of the
eastern, except that the more uniform fertility often permitted the fields
to lie in solid expanses instead of being sprawled and broken by waste
lands as in the Piedmont. The scale of operations tended accordingly to be
larger. One of the greatest proprietors in that region, unless his display
were far out of proportion to his wealth, was Joseph A.S. Acklen whose
group of plantations was clustered near the junction of the Red and
Mississippi Rivers. In 1859 he began to build a country house on the style
of a Gothic castle, with a great central hall and fifty rooms exclusive of
baths and closets.[11] The building was expected to cost $150,000, and
the furnishings $125,000 more. Acklen's rules for the conduct of his
plantations will be discussed in another connection;[12] but no description
of his estate or his actual operations is available.

[Footnote 11: _Federal Union_ (Milledgeville, Ga.), Aug. 2, 1859.]

[Footnote 12: Below, pp. 262 ff.]

Olmsted described in detail a plantation in the neighborhood of Natchez.
Its thirteen or fourteen hundred acres of cotton, corn and incidental
crops were tilled by a plow gang of thirty and a hoe gang of thirty-seven,
furnished by a total of 135 slaves on the place. A driver cracked a whip
among the hoe hands, occasionally playing it lightly upon the shoulders
of one or another whom he thought would be stimulated by the suggestion.
"There was a nursery for sucklings at the quarters, and twenty women at
this time left their work four times a day, for half an hour, to nurse the
young ones, and whom the overseer counted as half hands--that is, expected
to do half an ordinary day's work." At half past nine every night the hoe
and plow foremen, serving alternately, sounded curfew on a horn, and half
an hour afterward visited each cabin to see that the households were at
rest and the fires safely banked. The food allowance was a peck of corn and
four pounds of pork weekly. Each family, furthermore, had its garden, fowl
house and pigsty; every Christmas the master distributed among them coffee,
molasses, tobacco, calico and "Sunday tricks" to the value of from a
thousand to fifteen hundred dollars; and every man might rive boards in the
swamp on Sundays to buy more supplies, or hunt and fish in leisure times to
vary his family's fare. Saturday afternoon was also free from the routine.
Occasionally a slave would run away, but he was retaken sooner or later,
sometimes by the aid of dogs. A persistent runaway was disposed of by

[Footnote 13: F.L. Olmsted, _A Journey in the Back Country_ (New York,
1860), pp. 46-54.]

Another estate in the same district, which Olmsted observed more cursorily,
comprised four adjoining plantations, each with its own stables and
quarter, each employing more than a hundred slaves under a separate
overseer, and all directed by a steward whom the traveler described as
cultured, poetic and delightful. An observation that women were at some
of the plows prompted Olmsted to remark that throughout the Southwest the
slaves were worked harder as a rule than in the easterly and northerly
slaveholding states. On the other hand he noted: "In the main the negroes
appeared to be well cared for and abundantly supplied with the necessaries
of vigorous physical existence. A large part of them lived in commodious
and well built cottages, with broad galleries in front, so that each family
of five had two rooms on the lower floor and a large loft. The remainder
lived in log huts, small and mean in appearance;[14] but those of their
overseers were little better, and preparations were being made to replace
all of these by neat boarded cottages."

[Footnote 14: Olmsted, _Back Country_, pp. 72-92.]

In the sugar district Estwick Evans when on his "pedestrious tour" in 1817
found the shores of the Mississippi from a hundred miles above New Orleans
to twenty miles below the city in a high state of cultivation.
"The plantations within these limits," he said, "are superb beyond
description.... The dwelling houses of the planters are not inferior to any
in the United States, either with respect to size, architecture, or the
manner in which they are furnished. The gardens and yards contiguous to
them are formed and decorated with much taste. The cotton, sugar and ware
houses are very large, and the buildings for the slaves are well finished.
The latter buildings are in some cases forty or fifty in number, and each
of them will accommodate ten or twelve persons.... The planters here derive
immense profits from the cultivation of their estates.[15] The yearly
income from them is from twenty thousand to thirty thousand dollars."

[Footnote 15: Estwick Evans, _A Pedestrious Tour ... through the Western
States and Territories_ (Concord, N.H., 1817), p. 219, reprinted in R.G.
Thwaites ed., _Early Western Travels_, VIII, 325, 326.]

Gross proceeds running into the tens of thousands of dollars were indeed
fairly common then and afterward among Louisiana sugar planters, for the
conditions of their industry conduced strongly to a largeness of plantation
scale. Had railroad facilities been abundant a multitude of small
cultivators might have shipped their cane to central mills for manufacture,
but as things were the weight and the perishableness of the cane made
milling within the reach of easy cartage imperative. It was inexpedient
even for two or more adjacent estates to establish a joint mill, for the
imminence of frost in the harvest season would make wrangles over the
questions of precedence in the grinding almost inevitable. As a rule,
therefore, every unit in cane culture was also a unit in sugar manufacture.
Exceptions were confined to the scattering instances where some small farm
lay alongside a plantation which had a mill of excess capacity available
for custom grinding on slack days.

The type of plantation organization in the sugar bowl was much like that
which has been previously described for Jamaica. Mules were used as draught
animals instead of oxen, however, on account of their greater strength
and speed, and all the seeding and most of the cultivation was done with
deep-running plows. Steam was used increasingly as years passed for driving
the mills, railways were laid on some of the greater estates for hauling
the cane, more suitable varieties of cane were introduced, guano was
imported soon after its discovery to make the rich fields yet more fertile,
and each new invention of improved mill apparatus was readily adopted for
the sake of reducing expenses. In consequence the acreage cultivated per
hand came to be several times greater than that which had prevailed in
Jamaica's heyday. But the brevity of the growing season kept the saccharine
content of the canes below that in the tropics, and together with the
mounting price of labor made prosperity depend in some degree upon
protective tariffs. The dearth of land available kept the sugar output
well below the domestic demand, though the molasses market was sometimes

A typical prosperous estate of which a description and a diary are
extant[16] was that owned by Valcour Aime, lying on the right bank of the
Mississippi about sixty miles above New Orleans. Of the 15,000 acres which
it comprised in 1852, 800 were in cane, 300 in corn, 150 in crops belonging
to the slaves, and most of the rest in swampy forest from which two or
three thousand cords of wood were cut each year as fuel for the sugar mill
and the boiling house. The slaves that year numbered 215 of all ages, half
of them field hands,[17] and the mules 64. The negroes were well housed,
clothed and fed; the hospital and the nursery were capacious, and the
stables likewise. The mill was driven by an eighty-horse-power steam
engine, and the vacuum pans and the centrifugals were of the latest types.
The fields were elaborately ditched, well manured, and excellently tended.
The land was valued at $360,000, the buildings at $100,000, the machinery
at $60,000, the slaves at $170,000, and the livestock at $11,000;
total, $701,000. The crop of 1852, comprising 1,300,000 pounds of white
centrifugal sugar at 6 cents and 60,000 gallons of syrup at 36 cents,
yielded a gross return of almost $100,000. The expenses included 4,629
barrels of coal from up the river, in addition to the outlay for wages and
miscellaneous supplies.

[Footnote 16: _Harper's Magasine_, VII, 758, 759 (November, 1853);
Valcour Aime, _Plantation Diary_ (New Orleans, 1878), partly reprinted in
_Plantation and Frontier_, I, 214, 230.]

[Footnote 17: According to the MS. returns of the U.S. census of 1850
Aime's slaves at that time numbered 231, of whom 58 were below fifteen
years old, 164 were between 15 and 65, and 9 (one of them blind, another
insane) were from 66 to 80 years old. Evidently there was a considerable
number of slaves of working age not classed by him as field hands.]

In the routine of work, each January was devoted mainly to planting fresh
canes in the fields from which the stubble canes or second rattoons had
recently been harvested. February and March gave an interval for cutting
cordwood, cleaning ditches, and such other incidentals as the building and
repair of the plantation's railroad. Warm weather then brought the corn
planting and cane and corn cultivation. In August the laying by of the
crops gave time for incidentals again. Corn and hay were now harvested, the
roads and premises put in order, the cordwood hauled from the swamp, the
coal unladen from the barges, and all things made ready for the rush of
the grinding season which began in late October. In the first phase of
harvesting the main gang cut and stripped the canes, the carters and the
railroad crew hauled them to the mill, and double shifts there kept up the
grinding and boiling by day and by night. As long as the weather continued
temperate the mill set the pace for the cutters. But when frost grew
imminent every hand who could wield a knife was sent to the fields to cut
the still standing stalks and secure them against freezing. For the first
few days of this phase, the stalks as fast as cut were laid, in their
leaves, in great mats with the tops turned south to prevent the entrance
of north winds, with the leaves of each layer covering the butts of that
below, and with a blanket of earth over the last butts in the mat. Here
these canes usually stayed until January when they were stripped and strewn
in the furrows of the newly plowed "stubble" field as the seed of a new
crop. After enough seed cane were "mat-layed," the rest of the cut was
merely laid lengthwise in the adjacent furrows to await cartage to the
mill.[18] In the last phase of the harvest, which followed this work of the
greatest emergency, these "windrowed" canes were stripped and hauled, with
the mill setting the pace again, until the grinding was ended, generally in

[Footnote 18: These processes of matlaying and windrowing are described in
L. Bouchereau, _Statement of the Sugar and Rice Crops made in Louisiana in
1870-71_ (New Orleans, 1871), p. xii.]

Another typical sugar estate was that of Dr. John P.R. Stone, comprising
the two neighboring though not adjacent plantations called Evergreen and
Residence, on the right bank of the Mississippi in Iberville Parish. The
proprietor's diary is much like Aime's as regards the major crop routine
but is fuller in its mention of minor operations. These included the
mending and heightening of the levee in spring, the cutting of staves,
the shaving of hoops and the making of hogsheads in summer, and, in their
fitting interims, the making of bricks, the sawing of lumber, enlarging
old buildings, erecting new ones, whitewashing, ditching, pulling fodder,
cutting hay, and planting and harvesting corn, sweet potatoes, pumpkins,
peas and turnips. There is occasional remark upon the health of the slaves,
usually in the way of rejoicing at its excellence. Apparently no outside
help was employed except for an Irish carpenter during the construction of
a sugar house on Evergreen in 1850.[19] The slaves on Evergreen in 1850
numbered 44 between the ages of 15 and 60 years and 26 children; on
Residence, 25 between 15 and 65 years and 6 children.[20] The joint crop
in 1850, ground in the Residence mill, amounted to 312 hogsheads of brown
sugar and sold for 4-3/4 to 5 cents a pound; that of the phenomenal year
1853, when the Evergreen mill was also in commission, reached 520 hogsheads
on that plantation and 179 on Residence, but brought only 3 cents a pound.
These prices were much lower than those of white sugar at the time; but as
Valcour Aime found occasion to remark, the refining reduced the weight of
the product nearly as much as it heightened the price, so that the chief
advantage of the centrifugals lay in the speed of their process.

[Footnote 19: Diary of Dr. J.P.R. Stone. MS. in the possession of Mr. John
Stone Ware, White Castle, La. For the privilege of using the diary I
am indebted to Mr. V. Alton Moody of the University of Michigan, now
Lieutenant in the American Expeditionary Force in France.]

[Footnote 20: MS. returns in the U.S. Census Bureau, data procured through
the courtesy of the Carnegie Institution of Washington and Mr.(now
Lieutenant) V. Alton Moody.]

All of the characteristic work in the sugar plantation routine called
mainly for able-bodied laborers. Children were less used than in tobacco
and cotton production, and the men and women, like the mules, tended to be
of sturdier physique. This was the result partly of selection, partly of
the vigorous exertion required.

Among the fourteen hundred and odd sugar plantations of this period, the
average one had almost a hundred slaves of all ages, and produced average
crops of nearly three hundred hogsheads or a hundred and fifty tons. Most
of the Anglo-Americans among the planters lived about Baton Rouge and on
the Red River, where they or their fathers had settled with an initial
purpose of growing cotton. Their fellows who acquired estates in the Creole
parishes were perhaps as often as otherwise men who had been merchants and
not planters in earlier life. One of these had removed from New York in the
eighteenth century and had thriven in miscellaneous trade at Pensacola and
on the Mississippi. In 1821 he bought for $140,000 a plantation and its
complement of slaves on Bayou Lafourche, and he afterward acquired a second
one in Plaquemines Parish. In the conduct of his plantation business he
shrewdly bought blankets by the bale in Philadelphia, and he enlarged his
gang by commissioning agents to buy negroes in Virginia and Maryland. The
nature of the instructions he gave may be gathered from the results, for
there duly arrived in several parcels between 1828 and 1832, fully covered
by marine insurance for the coastwise voyage, fifty slaves, male and
female, virtually all of whom ranged between the ages of ten and
twenty-five years.[21] This planter prospered, and his children after him;
and while he may have had a rugged nature, his descendants to-day are among
the gentlest of Louisianians. Another was Duncan F. Kenner, who was long a
slave trader with headquarters at New Orleans before he became a planter in
Ascension Parish on a rapidly increasing scale. His crop advanced from 580
hogsheads in 1849 to 1,370 hogsheads in 1853 and 2,002 hogsheads in 1858
when he was operating two mills, one equipped with vacuum pans and the
other with Rillieux apparatus.[22] A third example was John Burnside, who
emigrated from the North of Ireland in his youth rose rapidly from grocery
clerk in upland Virginia to millionaire merchant in New Orleans, and then
in the fifties turned his talents to sugar growing. He bought the three
contiguous plantations of Col. J.S. Preston lying opposite Donaldsonville,
and soon added a fourth one to the group. In 1858 his aggregate crop was
3,701 hogsheads; and in 1861 his fields were described by William H.
Russell as exhibiting six thousand acres of cane in an unbroken tract. By
employing squads of immigrant Irishmen for ditching and other severe
work he kept his literally precious negroes, well housed and fed, in
fit condition for effective routine under his well selected staff of
overseers.[23] Even after the war Burnside kept on acquiring plantations,
and with free negro labor kept on making large sugar crops. At the end of
his long life, spent frugally as a bachelor and somewhat of a recluse,
he was doubtless by far the richest man in all the South. The number of
planters who had been merchants and the frequency of partnerships and
corporations operating sugar estates, as well as the magnitude of scale
characteristic of the industry, suggest that methods of a strictly business
kind were more common in sugar production than in that of cotton or
tobacco. Domesticity and paternalism were nevertheless by no means alien to
the sugar régime.

[Footnote 21: MSS. in private possession, data from which were made
available through the kindness of Mr. V.A. Moody.]

[Footnote 22: The yearly product of each sugar plantation in Louisiana
between 1849 and 1858 is reported in P.A. Champonier's _Annual Statement_
of the crop. (New Orleans, 1850-1859).]

[Footnote 23: William H. Russell, _My Diary North and South_ (Boston,
1863), pp. 268-279]

Virtually all of the tobacco, short staple cotton and sugar plantations
were conducted on the gang system. The task system, on the other hand, was
instituted on the rice coast, where the drainage ditches checkering
the fields into half or quarter acre plots offered convenient units of
performance in the successive processes. The chief advantage of the task
system lay in the ease with which it permitted a planter or an overseer
to delegate much of his routine function to a driver. This official each
morning would assign to each field hand his or her individual plot, and
spend the rest of the day in seeing to the performance of the work. At
evening or next day the master could inspect the results and thereby keep
a check upon both the driver and the squad. Each slave when his day's task
was completed had at his own disposal such time as might remain. The driver
commonly gave every full hand an equal area to be worked in the same way,
and discriminated among them only in so far as varying conditions from plot
to plot would permit the assignment of the stronger and swifter workmen to
tracts where the work required was greater, and the others to plots where
the labor was less. Fractional hands were given fractional tasks, or were
combined into full hands for full tasks. Thus a woman rated at three
quarters might be helped by her own one quarter child, or two half-hand
youths might work a full plot jointly. The system gave some stimulus to
speed of work, at least from time to time, by its promise of afternoon
leisure in reward. But for this prospect to be effective the tasks had to
be so limited that every laborer might have the hope of an hour or two's
release as the fruit of diligence. The performance of every hand tended
accordingly to be standardized at the customary accomplishment of the
weakest and slowest members of the group. This tendency, however, was
almost equally strong in the gang system also.

The task acre was commonly not a square of 210 feet, but a rectangle 300
feet long and 150 feet broad, divided into square halves and rectangular
quarters, and further divisible into "compasses" five feet wide and 150
feet long, making one sixtieth of an acre. The standard tasks for full
hands in rice culture were scheduled in 1843 as follows: plowing with two
oxen, with the animals changed at noon, one acre; breaking stiff land with
the hoe and turning the stubble under, ten compasses; breaking such land
with the stubble burnt off, or breaking lighter land, a quarter acre or
slightly more; mashing the clods to level the field, from a quarter to half
an acre; trenching the drills, if on well prepared land, three quarters of
an acre; sowing rice, from three to four half-acres; covering the drills,
three quarters; the first hoeing, half an acre, or slightly less if the
ground were lumpy and the drills hard to clear; second hoeing, half an
acre, or slightly less or more according to the density of the grass; third
hoeing with hand picking of the grass from the drills, twenty compasses;
fourth hoeing, half an acre; reaping with the sickle, three quarters,
or much less if the ground were new and cumbered or if the stalks were
tangled; and threshing with the flail, six hundred sheaves for the men,
five hundred for the women.[24] Much of the incidental work was also done
by tasks, such as ditching, cutting cordwood, squaring timber, splitting
rails, drawing staves and hoop poles, and making barrels. The scale of the
crop was commonly five acres of rice to each full hand, together with about
half as much in provision crops for home consumption.

[Footnote 24: Edmund Ruffin, _Agricultural Survey of South Carolina_
(Columbia, 1843), p. 118.]

Under the task system, Olmsted wrote: "most of the slaves work rapidly and
well...Custom has settled the extent of the task, and it is difficult to
increase it. The driver who marks it out has to remain on the ground until
it is finished, and has no interest in over-measuring it; and if it should
be systematically increased very much there is the danger of a general
stampede to the 'swamp'--a danger a slave can always hold before his
master's cupidity...It is the driver's duty to make the tasked hands do
their work well.[25] If in their haste to finish it they neglect to do it
properly he 'sets them back,' so that carelessness will hinder more than
it hastens the completion of their tasks." But Olmsted's view was for once
rose colored. A planter who lived in the régime wrote: "The whole task
system ... is one that I most unreservedly disapprove of, because it
promotes idleness, and that is the parent of mischief."[26] Again the truth
lies in the middle ground. The virtue or vice of the system, as with the
gang alternative, depended upon its use by a diligent master or its abuse
by an excessive delegation of responsibility.

[Footnote 25: Olmsted, _Seaboard Slave States_, pp. 435, 436.]

[Footnote 26: J.A. Turner, ed., _Cotton Planter's Manual_, p. 34.]

That the tide when taken at the flood on the rice coast as elsewhere
would lead to fortune is shown by the career of the greatest of all rice
planters, Nathaniel Heyward. At the time of his birth, in 1766, his father
was a planter on an inland swamp near Port Royal. Nathaniel himself after
establishing a small plantation in his early manhood married Harriett
Manigault, an heiress with some fifty thousand dollars. With this, when
both lands and slaves were cheap, Heyward bought a tide-land tract and
erected four plantations thereon, and soon had enough accrued earnings to
buy the several inland plantations of the Gibbes brothers, who had fallen
into debt from luxurious living. With the proceeds of his large crops at
high prices during the great wars in Europe, he bought more slaves year
after year, preferably fresh Africans as long as that cheap supply remained
available, and he bought more land when occasion offered. Joseph Manigault
wrote of him in 1806: "Mr. Heyward has lately made another purchase of
land, consisting of 300 acres of tide swamp, joining one of his Combahee
plantations and belonging to the estate of Mrs. Bell. I believe he has made
a good bargain. It is uncleared and will cost him not quite £20 per acre.
I have very little doubt that he will be in a few years, if he lives, the
richest, as he is the best planter in the state. The Cooper River lands
give him many a long ride." Heyward was venturesome in large things,
conservative in small. He long continued to have his crops threshed by
hand, saying that if it were done by machines his darkies would have no
winter work; but when eventually he instituted mechanical threshers, no
one could discern an increase of leisure. In the matter of pounding
mills likewise, he clung for many years to those driven by the tides and
operating slowly and crudely; but at length he built two new ones driven by
steam and so novel and complete in their apparatus as to be the marvels of
the countryside. He necessarily depended much upon overseers; but his own
frequent visits of inspection and the assistance rendered by his sons kept
the scattered establishments in an efficient routine. The natural increase
of his slaves was reckoned by him to have ranged generally between one and
five per cent. annually, though in one year it rose to seven per cent. At
his death in 1851 he owned fourteen rice plantations with fields ranging
from seventy to six hundred acres in each, and comprising in all 4,390
acres in cultivation. He had also a cotton plantation, much pine land and a
sawmill, nine residences in Charleston, appraised with their furniture at
$180,000; securities and cash to the amount of $200,000; $20,000 worth of
horses, mules and cattle; $15,000 worth of plate; and $3000 worth of old
wine. His slaves, numbering 2,087 and appraised at an average of $550, made
up the greater part of his two million dollar estate. His heirs continued
his policy. In 1855, for example, they bought a Savannah River plantation
called Fife, containing 500 acres of prime rice land at $150 per
acre, together with its equipment and 120 slaves, at a gross price of

[Footnote 27: MSS. in the possession of Mrs. Hawkins K. Jenkins, Pinopolis,
S.C., including a "Memoir of Nathaniel Heyward," written in 1895 by Gabriel
E. Manigault.]

The history of the estate of James Heyward, Nathaniel's brother, was in
striking contrast with this. When on a tour in Ireland he met and married
an actress, who at his death in 1796 inherited his plantation and 214
slaves. Two suitors for the widow's hand promptly appeared in Alexander
Baring, afterwards Lord Ashburton, and Charles Baring, his cousin. Mrs.
Heyward married the latter, who increased the estate to seven or eight
hundred acres in rice, yielding crops worth from twelve to thirty thousand
dollars. But instead of superintending its work in person Baring bought
a large tract in the North Carolina mountains, built a house there, and
carried thither some fifty slaves for his service. After squandering the
income for nearly fifty years, he sold off part of the slaves and mortgaged
the land; and when the plantation was finally surrendered in settlement of
Baring's debts, it fell into Nathaniel Heyward's possession.[28]

[Footnote 28: Notes by Louis Manigault of a conversation with Nathaniel
Heyward in 1846. M.S. in the collection above mentioned.]

Another case of absentee neglect, made notorious through Fanny Kemble's
_Journal_, was the group of rice and sea-island cotton plantations founded
by Senator Pierce Butler on and about Butler's Island near the mouth of the
Altamaha River. When his two grandsons inherited the estate, they used it
as a source of revenue but not as a home. One of these was Pierce Butler
the younger, who lived in Philadelphia. When Fanny Kemble, with fame
preceding her, came to America in 1832, he became infatuated, followed
her troupe from city to city, and married her in 1834. The marriage was
a mistake. The slaveholder's wife left the stage for the time being, but
retained a militant English abolitionism. When in December, 1838, she and
her husband were about to go South for a winter on the plantations, she
registered her horror of slavery in advance, and resolved to keep a journal
of her experiences and observations. The resulting record is gloomy enough.
The swarms of negroes were stupid and slovenly, the cabins and hospitals
filthy, the women overdriven, the overseer callous, the master indifferent,
and the new mistress herself, repudiating the title, was more irritable and
meddlesome than helpful.[29] The short sojourn was long enough. A few years
afterward the ill-mated pair were divorced and Fanny Kemble resumed her
own name and career. Butler did not mend his ways. In 1859 his half of the
slaves, 429 in number, were sold at auction in Savannah to pay his debts.

[Footnote 29: Frances Anne Kemble, _Journal of a Residence on a Georgia
Plantation in 1838-1839_(London, 1863).]

A pleasanter picture is afforded by the largest single unit in rice culture
of which an account is available. This was the plantation of William Aiken,
at one time governor of South Carolina, occupying Jehossee Island near the
mouth of the Edisto River. It was described in 1850 by Solon Robinson, an
Iowa farmer then on tour as correspondent for the _American Agriculturist_.
The two or three hundred acres of firm land above tide comprised the
homestead, the negro quarter, the stables, the stock yard, the threshing
mill and part of the provision fields. Of the land which could be flooded
with the tide, about fifteen hundred acres were diked and drained. About
two-thirds of this appears to have been cropped in rice each year, and the
rest in corn, oats and sweet potatoes. The steam-driven threshing apparatus
was described as highly efficient. The sheaves were brought on the heads of
the negroes from the great smooth stack yard, and opened in a shed where
the scattered grain might be saved. A mechanical carrier led thence to the
threshing machines on the second floor, whence the grain descended through
a winnowing fan. The pounding mill, driven by the tide, was a half mile
distant at the wharf, whence a schooner belonging to the plantation carried
the hulled and polished rice in thirty-ton cargoes to Charleston. The
average product per acre was about forty-five bushels in the husk, each
bushel yielding some thirty pounds of cleaned rice, worth about three cents
a pound. The provision fields commonly fed the force of slaves and mules;
and the slave families had their own gardens and poultry to supplement
their fare. The rice crops generally yielded some twenty-five
thousand dollars in gross proceeds, while the expenses, including the
two-thousand-dollar salary of the overseer, commonly amounted to some ten
thousand dollars. During the summer absence of the master, the overseer
was the only white man on the place. The engineers, smiths, carpenters
and sailors were all black. "The number of negroes upon the place," wrote
Robinson, "is just about 700, occupying 84 double frame houses, each
containing two tenements of three rooms to a family besides the
cockloft.... There are two common hospitals and a 'lying-in hospital,' and
a very neat, commodious church, which is well filled every Sabbath.... Now
the owner of all this property lives in a very humble cottage, embowered in
dense shrubbery and making no show.... He and his family are as plain and
unostentatious in their manners as the house they live in.... Nearly all
the land has been reclaimed and the buildings, except the house, erected
new within the twenty years that Governor Aiken has owned the island. I
fully believe that he is more concerned to make his people comfortable
and happy than he is to make money."[30] When the present writer visited
Jehossee in the harvest season sixty years after Robinson, the fields were
dotted with reapers, wage earners now instead of slaves, but still using
sickles on half-acre tasks; and the stack yard was aswarm with sable men
and women carrying sheaves on their heads and chattering as of old in a
dialect which a stranger can hardly understand. The ante-bellum hospital
and many of the cabins in their far-thrown quadruple row were still
standing. The site of the residence, however, was marked only by desolate
chimneys, a live-oak grove and a detached billiard room, once elegant but
now ruinous, the one indulgence which this planter permitted himself.

[Footnote 30: _American Agriculturist_, IX, 187, 188, reprinted in _DeBow's
Review_, IX, 201-203.]

The ubiquitous Olmsted chose for description two rice plantations operated
as one, which he inspected in company with the owner, whom he calls "Mr.
X." Frame cabins at intervals of three hundred feet constituted the
quarters; the exteriors were whitewashed, the interiors lathed and
plastered, and each family had three rooms and a loft, as well as a chicken
yard and pigsty not far away. "Inside, the cabins appeared dirty and
disordered, which was rather a pleasant indication that their home life
was not much interfered with, though I found certain police regulations
enforced." Olmsted was in a mellow mood that day. At the nursery "a number
of girls eight or ten years old were occupied in holding and tending the
youngest infants. Those a little older--the crawlers--were in the pen, and
those big enough to toddle were playing on the steps or before the house.
Some of these, with two or three bigger ones, were singing and dancing
about a fire they had made on the ground.... The nurse was a kind-looking
old negro woman.... I watched for half an hour, and in all that time not a
baby of them began to cry; nor have I ever heard one, at two or three other
plantation nurseries which I have visited." The chief slave functionary was
a "gentlemanly-mannered mulatto who ... carried by a strap at his waist a
very large bunch of keys and had charge of all the stores of provisions,
tools and materials on the plantations, as well as of their produce before
it was shipped to market. He weighed and measured out all the rations of
the slaves and the cattle.... In all these departments his authority was
superior to that of the overseer; ... and Mr. X. said he would trust him
with much more than he would any overseer he had ever known." The master
explained that this man and the butler, his brother, having been reared
with the white children, had received special training to promote their
sense of dignity and responsibility. The brothers, Olmsted further
observed, rode their own horses the following Sunday to attend the same
church as their master, and one of them slipped a coin into the hand of the
boy who had been holding his mount. The field hands worked by tasks under
their drivers. "I saw one or two leaving the field soon after one o'clock,
several about two; and between three and four I met a dozen men and women
coming home to their cabins, having finished their day's work." As to
punishment, Olmsted asked how often it was necessary. The master replied:
"'Sometimes perhaps not once for two or three weeks; then it will seem as
if the devil had gotten into them all and there is a good deal of it.'" As
to matings: "While watching the negroes in the field, Mr. X. addressed a
girl who was vigorously plying a hoe near us: 'Is that Lucy?--Ah, Lucy,
what's this I hear about you?' The girl simpered, but did not answer or
discontinue her work. 'What is this I hear about you and Sam, eh?' The girl
grinned and still hoeing away with all her might whispered 'Yes, sir.' 'Sam
came to see me this morning,' 'If master pleases.' 'Very well; you may come
up to the house Saturday night, and your mistress will have something for
you.'"[31] We may hope that the pair whose prospective marriage was thus
endorsed with the promise of a bridal gift lived happily ever after.

[Footnote 31: Olmsted, _Seaboard Slave States_,418-448.]

The most detailed record of rice operations available is that made by
Charles Manigault from the time of his purchase in 1833 of "Gowrie," on the
Savannah River, twelve miles above the city of Savannah.[32] The plantation
then had 220 acres in rice fields, 80 acres unreclaimed, a good pounding
mill, and 50 slaves. The price of $40,000 was analyzed by Manigault as
comprising $7500 for the mill, $70 per acre for the cleared, and $37 for
the uncleared, and an average of $300 for the slaves. His maintenance
expense per hand he itemized at a weekly peck of corn, $13 a year; summer
and winter clothes, $7; shoes, $1; meat at times, salt, molasses and
medical attention, not estimated. In reward for good service, however,
Manigault usually issued broken rice worth $2.50 per bushel, instead of
corn worth $1. Including the overseer's wages the current expense for the
plantation for the first six years averaged about $2000 annually. Meanwhile
the output increased from 200 barrels of rice in 1833 to 578 in 1838. The
crop in the latter year was particularly notable, both in its yield of
three barrels per acre, or 161-1/2 barrels per working hand, and its price
of four cents per pound or $24 per barrel. The net proceeds of the one crop
covered the purchase in 1839 of two families of slaves, comprising sixteen
persons, mostly in or approaching their prime, at a price of $640 each.

[Footnote 32: The Manigault MSS. are in the possession of Mrs. H.K.
Jenkins, Pinopolis, S.C. Selections from them are printed in _Plantation
and Frontier_, I, 134-139 _et passim_.]

Manigault and his family were generally absent every summer and sometimes
in winter, at Charleston or in Europe, and once as far away as China. His
methods of administration may be gathered from his letters, contracts and
memoranda. In January, 1848, he wrote from Naples to I.F. Cooper whom his
factor had employed at $250 a year as a new overseer on Gowrie: "My negroes
have the reputation of being orderly and well disposed; but like all
negroes they are up to anything if not watched and attended to. I expect
the kindest treatment of them from you, for this has always been a
principal thing with me. I never suffer them to work off the place, or
exchange work with any plantation....It has always been my plan to give out
allowance to my negroes on Sunday in preference to any other day, because
this has much influence in keeping them at home that day, whereas if they
received allowance on Saturday for instance some of them would be off with
it that same evening to the shops to trade, and perhaps would not get back
until Monday morning. I allow no strange negro to take a wife on my place,
and none of mine to keep a boat."[33]

[Footnote 33: MS. copy in Manigault letter book.]

A few years after this, Manigault bought an adjoining plantation, "East
Hermitage," and consolidated it with Gowrie, thereby increasing his rice
fields to 500 acres and his slaves to about 90 of all ages. His draught
animals appear to have comprised merely five or six mules. A new overseer,
employed in 1853 at wages of $500 together with corn and rice for his table
and the services of a cook and a waiting boy, was bound by a contract
stipulating the duties described in the letter to Cooper above quoted,
along with a few additional items. He was, for example, to procure a book
of medical instructions and a supply of the few requisite "plantation
medicines" to be issued to the nurses with directions as needed. In case of
serious injury to a slave, however, the sufferer was to be laid upon a door
and sent by the plantation boat to Dr. Bullock's hospital in Savannah.
Except when the work was very pressing the slaves were to be sent home for
the rest of the day upon the occurrence of heavy rains in the afternoon,
for Manigault had found by experience "that always after a complete
wetting, particularly in cold rainy weather in winter or spring, one
or more of them are made sick and lie up, and at times serious illness

[Footnote 34: _Plantation and Frontier_, I, 122-126.]

In 1852 and again in 1854 storms and freshets heavily injured Manigault's
crops, and cholera decimated his slaves. In 1855 the fields were in
bad condition because of volunteer rice, and the overseer was dying of
consumption. The slaves, however, were in excellent health, and the crop,
while small, brought high prices because of the Crimean war. In 1856 a new
overseer named Venters handled the flooding inexpertly and made but half
a crop, yielding $12,660 in gross proceeds. For the next year Venters was
retained, on the maxim "never change an overseer if you can help it,"
and nineteen slaves were bought for $11,850 to fill the gaps made by the
cholera. Furthermore a tract of pine forest was bought to afford summer
quarters for the negro children, who did not thrive on the malarial
plantation, and to provide a place of isolation for cholera cases. In 1857
Venters made a somewhat better crop, but as Manigault learned and wrote at
the end of the year, "elated by a strong and very false religious feeling,
he began to injure the plantation a vast deal, placing himself on a par
with the negroes by even joining in with them at their prayer meetings,
breaking down long established discipline which in every case is so
difficult to preserve, favoring and siding in any difficulty with the
people against the drivers, besides causing numerous grievances." The
successor of the eccentric Venters in his turn proved grossly neglectful;
and it was not until the spring of 1859 that a reliable overseer was found
in William Capers, at a salary of $1000. Even then the year's experience
was such that at its end Manigault recorded the sage conclusion: "The truth
is, on a plantation, to attend to things properly it requires both master
and overseer."

The affairs of another estate in the Savannah neighborhood, "Sabine
Fields," belonging to the Alexander Telfair estate, may be gleaned from
its income and expense accounts. The purchases of shoes indicate a
working force of about thirty hands. The purchases of woolen clothing and
waterproof hats tell of adequate provision against inclement weather;
but the scale of the doctor's bills suggest either epidemics or serious
occasional illnesses. The crops from 1845 to 1854 ranged between seventeen
and eighty barrels of rice; and for the three remaining years of the record
they included both rice and sea-island cotton. The gross receipts were
highest at $1,695 in 1847 and lowest at $362 in 1851; the net varied from
a surplus of $995 in 1848 to a deficit of $2,035 in the two years 1853 and
1854 for which the accounting was consolidated. Under E.S. Mell, who was
overseer until 1854 at a salary of $350 or less, there were profits until
1849, losses thereafter. The following items of expense in this latter
period, along with high doctor's bills, may explain the reverse: for taking
a negro from the guard-house, $5; for court costs in the case of a
boy prosecuted for larceny, $9.26; jail fees of Cesar, $2.69; for the
apprehension of a runaway, $5; paid Jones for trying to capture a negro,
$5. In February, 1854, Mell was paid off, and a voucher made record of a
newspaper advertisement for another overseer. What happened to the new
incumbent is told by the expense entries of March 9, 1855: "Paid ... amount
Jones' bill for capturing negroes, $25. Expenses of Overseer Page's burial
as follows, Ferguson's bill, $25; Coroner's, $14; Dr. Kollock's, $5; total
$69." A further item in 1856 of twenty-five dollars paid for the arrest of
Bing and Tony may mean that two of the slaves who shared in the killing of
the overseer succeeded for a year in eluding capture, or it may mean that
disorders continued under Page's successor.[35]

[Footnote 35: Account book of Sabine Fields plantation, among the Telfair
MSS. in the custody of the Georgia Historical Society, Savannah, Ga.]

Other lowland plantations on a scale similar to that of Sabine Fields
showed much better earnings. One of these, in Liberty County, Georgia,
belonged to the heirs of Dr. Adam Alexander of Savannah. It was devoted to
sea-island cotton in the 'thirties, but rice was added in the next decade.
While the output fluctuated, of course, the earnings always exceeded the
expenses and sometimes yielded as much as a hundred dollars per hand for
distribution among the owners.[36]

[Footnote 36: The accounts for selected years are printed in _Plantation
and Frontier_, I, 150-165.]

The system of rice production was such that plantations with less than
a hundred acres available for the staple could hardly survive in the
competition. If one of these adjoined another estate it was likely to be
merged therewith; but if it lay in isolation the course of years would
probably bring its abandonment. The absence of the proprietors every summer
in avoidance of malaria, and the consequent expense of overseer's wages,
hampered operations on a small scale, as did also the maintenance of
special functionaries among the slaves, such as drivers, boatswains, trunk
minders, bird minders, millers and coopers. In 1860 Louis Manigault listed
the forty-one rice plantations on the Savannah River and scheduled their
acreage in the crop. Only one of them had as little as one hundred acres
in rice, and it seems to have been an appendage of a larger one across the
river. On the other hand, two of them had crops of eleven hundred, and two
more of twelve hundred acres each. The average was about 425 acres per
plantation, expected to yield about 1200 pounds of rice per acre each
year.[37] A census tabulation in 1850, ignoring any smaller units, numbered
the plantations which produced annually upwards of 20,000 pounds of rice at
446 in South Carolina, 80 in Georgia, and 25 in North Carolina.[38]

[Footnote 37: MS. in the possession of Mrs. H.K. Jenkins, Pinopolis, S.C.]

[Footnote 38: _Compendium of the Seventh U.S. Census_, p. 178.]

Indigo and sea-island cotton fields had no ditches dividing them
permanently into task units; but the fact that each of these in its day was
often combined with rice on the same plantations, and that the separate
estates devoted to them respectively lay in the region dominated by the
rice régime, led to the prevalence of the task system in their culture
also. The soils used for these crops were so sandy and light, however, that
the tasks, staked off each day by the drivers, ranged larger than those in
rice. In the cotton fields they were about half an acre per hand, whether
for listing, bedding or cultivation. In the collecting and spreading of
swamp mud and other manures for the cotton the work was probably done
mostly by gangs rather than by task, since the units were hard to measure.
In cotton picking, likewise, the conditions of the crop were so variable
and the need of haste so great that time work, perhaps with special rewards
for unusually heavy pickings, was the common resort. Thus the lowland
cotton régime alternated the task and gang systems according to the work
at hand; and even the rice planters of course abandoned all thoughts of
stinted performance when emergency pressed, as in the mending of breaks in
the dikes, or when joint exertion was required, as in log rolling, or when
threshing and pounding with machinery to set the pace.

That the task system was extended sporadically into the South Carolina
Piedmont, is indicated by a letter of a certain Thomas Parker of the
Abbeville district, in 1831,[39] which not only described his methods but
embodied an essential plantation precept. He customarily tasked his hoe
hands, he said, at rates determined by careful observation as just both to
himself and the workers. These varied according to conditions, but ranged
usually about three quarters of an acre. He continued: "I plant six acres
of cotton to the hand, which is about the usual quantity planted in my
neighborhood. I do not make as large crops as some of my neighbors. I am
content with three to three and a half bales of cotton to the hand, with my
provisions and pork; but some few make four bales, and last year two of my
neighbors made five bales to the hand. In such cases I have vanity enough,
however, to attribute this to better lands. I have no overseer, nor indeed
is there one in the neighborhood. We personally attend to our planting,
believing that as good a manure as any, if not the best we can apply to our
fields, is the print of the master's footstep."

[Footnote 39: _Southern Agriculturist_, March. 1831, reprinted in the
_American Farmer_, XIII, 105, 106.]



Typical planters though facile in conversation seldom resorted to their
pens. Few of them put their standards into writing except in the form of
instructions to their stewards and overseers. These counsels of perfection,
drafted in widely separated periods and localities, and varying much in
detail, concurred strikingly in their main provisions. Their initial topic
was usually the care of the slaves. Richard Corbin of Virginia wrote in
1759 for the guidance of his steward: "The care of negroes is the first
thing to be recommended, that you give me timely notice of their wants
that they may be provided with all necessarys. The breeding wenches more
particularly you must instruct the overseers to be kind and indulgent to,
and not force them when with child upon any service or hardship that will
be injurious to them, ... and the children to be well looked after, ... and
that none of them suffer in time of sickness for want of proper care."
P.C. Weston of South Carolina wrote in 1856: "The proprietor, in the first
place, wishes the overseer most distinctly to understand that his first
object is to be, under all circumstances, the care and well being of the
negroes. The proprietor is always ready to excuse such errors as may
proceed from want of judgment; but he never can or will excuse any cruelty,
severity or want of care towards the negroes. For the well being, however,
of the negroes it is absolutely necessary to maintain obedience, order and
discipline, to see that the tasks are punctually and carefully performed,
and to conduct the business steadily and firmly, without weakness on the
one hand or harshness on the other." Charles Manigault likewise required of
his overseer in Georgia a pledge to treat his negroes "all with kindness
and consideration in sickness and health." On J.W. Fowler's plantation in
the Yazoo-Mississippi delta from which we have seen in a preceding chapter
such excellent records of cotton picking, the preamble to the rules framed
in 1857 ran as follows: "The health, happiness, good discipline and
obedience, good, sufficient and comfortable clothing, a sufficiency
of good, wholesome and nutritious food for both man and beast being
indispensably necessary to successful planting, as well as for reasonable
dividends for the amount of capital invested, without saying anything about
the Master's duty to his dependents, to himself, and his God, I do hereby
establish the following rules and regulations for the management of my
Prairie plantation, and require an observance of the same by any and all
overseers I may at any time have in charge thereof."[1]

[Footnote 1: The Corbin, Weston, Manigault and Fowler instructions are
printed in _Plantation and Frontier_, I, 109-129.]

Joseph A.S. Acklen had his own rules printed in 1861 for the information of
applicants and the guidance of those who were employed as his overseers.[2]
His estate was one of the greatest in Louisiana, his residence one of the
most pretentious,[3] and his rules the most sharply phrased. They read in
part: "Order and system must be the aim of everyone on this estate, and the
maxim strictly pursued of a time for everything and everything done in its
time, a place for everything and everything kept in its place, a rule for
everything and everything done according to rule. In this way labor becomes
easy and pleasant. No man can enforce a system of discipline unless he
himself conforms strictly to rules...No man should attempt to manage
negroes who is not perfectly firm and fearless and [in] entire control of
his temper."

[Footnote 2: They were also printed in _DeBow's Review_, XXII, 617-620,
XXIII, 376-381 (Dec., 1856, and April, 1857).]

[Footnote 3: _See above_, p. 239.]

James H. Hammond's "plantation manual" which is the fullest of such
documents available, began with the subject of the crop, only to
subordinate it at once to the care of the slaves and outfit: "A good crop
means one that is good taking into consideration everything, negroes, land,
mules, stock, fences, ditches, farming utensils, etc., etc., all of which
must be kept up and improved in value. The effort must therefore not be
merely to make so many cotton bales or such an amount of other produce, but
as much as can be made without interrupting the steady increase in value
of the rest of the property.... There should be an increase in number and
improvement in condition of negroes."[4]

[Footnote 4: MS. bound volume, "Plantation Manual," among the Hammond
papers in the Library of Congress.]

For the care of the sick, of course, all these planters were solicitous.
Acklen, Manigault and Weston provided that mild cases be prescribed for by
the overseer in the master's absence, but that for any serious illness a
doctor be summoned. One of Telfair's women was a semi-professional midwife
and general practitioner, permitted by her master to serve blacks and
whites in the neighborhood. For home needs Telfair wrote of her: "Elsey is
the doctoress of the plantation. In case of extraordinary illness, when
she thinks she can do no more for the sick, you will employ a physician."
Hammond, however, was such a devotee of homeopathy that in the lack of an
available physician of that school he was his own practitioner. He wrote in
his manual: "No negro will be allowed to remain at his own house when sick,
but must be confined to the hospital. Every reasonable complaint must be
promptly attended to; and with any marked or general symptom of sickness,
however trivial, a negro may lie up a day or so at least.... Each case
has to be examined carefully by the master or overseer to ascertain the
disease. The remedies next are to be chosen with the utmost discrimination;
... the directions for treatment, diet, etc., most implicitly followed; the
effects and changes cautiously observed.... In cases where there is the
slightest uncertainty, the books must be taken to the bedside and a careful
and thorough examination of the case and comparison of remedies made before
administering them. The overseer must record in the prescription book
every dose of medicine administered." Weston said he would never grudge a
doctor's bill, however large; but he was anxious to prevent idleness under
pretence of illness. "Nothing," said he, "is so subversive of discipline,
or so unjust, as to allow people to sham, for this causes the well-disposed
to do the work of the lazy."

Pregnancy, childbirth and the care of children were matters of special
concern. Weston wrote: "The pregnant women are always to do some work up
to the time of their confinement, if it is only walking into the field and
staying there. If they are sick, they are to go to the hospital and stay
there until it is pretty certain their time is near." "Lying-in women are
to be attended by the midwife as long as is necessary, and by a woman put
to nurse them for a fortnight. They will remain at the negro houses for
four weeks, and then will work two weeks on the highland. In some cases,
however, it is necessary to allow them to lie up longer. The health of many
women has been ruined by want of care in this particular." Hammond's rules
were as follows: "Sucklers are not required to leave their homes until
sunrise, when they leave their children at the children's house before
going to field. The period of suckling is twelve months. Their work lies
always within half a mile of the quarter. They are required to be cool
before commencing to suckle--to wait fifteen minutes at least in summer,
after reaching the children's house before nursing. It is the duty of the
nurse to see that none are heated when nursing, as well as of the overseer
and his wife occasionally to do so. They are allowed forty-five minutes at
each nursing to be with their children. They return three times a day until
their children are eight months old--in the middle of the forenoon, at
noon, and in the middle of the afternoon; till the twelfth month but twice
a day, missing at noon; during the twelfth month at noon only...The amount
of work done by a suckler is about three fifths of that done by a full
hand, a little increased toward the last...Pregnant women at five months
are put in the sucklers' gang. No plowing or lifting must be required of
them. Sucklers, old, infirm and pregnant receive the same allowances as
full-work hands. The regular plantation midwife shall attend all women in
confinement. Some other woman learning the art is usually with her during
delivery. The confined woman lies up one month, and the midwife remains in
constant attendance for seven days. Each woman on confinement has a bundle
given her containing articles of clothing for the infant, pieces of cloth
and rag, and some nourishment, as sugar, coffee, rice and flour for the

The instructions with one accord required that the rations issued to the
negroes be never skimped. Corbin wrote, "They ought to have their belly
full, but care must be taken with this plenty that no waste is committed."
Acklen, closely followed by Fowler, ordered his overseer to "see that
their necessities be supplied, that their food and clothing be good and
sufficient, their houses comfortable; and be kind and attentive to them in
sickness and old age." And further: "There will be stated hours for the
negroes to breakfast and dine [in the field], and those hours must be
regularly observed. The manager will frequently inspect the meals as they
are brought by the cook--see that they have been properly prepared, and
that vegetables be at all times served with the meat and bread." At the
same time he forbade his slaves to use ardent spirits or to have such about
their houses. Weston wrote: "Great care should be taken that the negroes
should never have less than their regular allowance. In all cases of doubt,
it should be given in favor of the largest quantity. The measure should
not be struck, but rather heaped up over. None but provisions of the best
quality should be used." Telfair specified as follows: "The allowance for
every grown negro, however old and good for nothing, and every young one
that works in the field, is a peck of corn each week and a pint of salt,
and a piece of meat, not exceeding fourteen pounds, per month...The
suckling children, and all other small ones who do not work in the field,
draw a half allowance of corn and salt....Feed everything plentifully, but
waste nothing." He added that beeves were to be killed for the negroes in
July, August and September. Hammond's allowance to each working hand was a
heaping peck of meal and three pounds of bacon or pickled pork every week.
In the winter, sweet potatoes were issued when preferred, at the rate of a
bushel of them in lieu of the peck of meal; and fresh beef, mutton or pork,
at increased weights, were to be substituted for the salt pork from time to
time. The ditchers and drivers were to have extra allowances in meat and
molasses. Furthermore, "Each ditcher receives every night, when ditching, a
dram (jigger) consisting of two-thirds whiskey and one-third water, with as
much asafoetida as it will absorb, and several strings of red peppers added
in the barrel. The dram is a large wine-glass full. In cotton picking time
when sickness begins to be prevalent, every field hand gets a dram in the
morning before leaving for the field. After a soaking rain all exposed to
it get a dram before changing their clothes; also those exposed to the
dust from the shelter and fan in corn shelling, on reaching the quarter at
night; or anyone at any time required to keep watch in the night. Drams are
not given as rewards, but only as medicinal. From the second hoeing, or
early in May, every work hand who uses it gets an occasional allowance of
tobacco, about one sixth of a pound, usually after some general operation,
as a hoeing, plowing, etc. This is continued until their crops are
gathered, when they can provide for themselves." The families, furthermore,
shared in the distribution of the plantation's peanut crop every fall. Each
child was allowed one third as much meal and meat as was given to each
field hand, and an abundance of vegetables to be cooked with their meat.
The cooking and feeding was to be done at the day nursery. For breakfast
they were to have hominy and milk and cold corn bread; for dinner,
vegetable soup and dumplings or bread; and cold bread or potatoes were to
be kept on hand for demands between meals. They were also to have molasses
once or twice a week. Each child was provided with a pan and spoon in
charge of the nurse.

Hammond's clothing allowance was for each man in the fall two cotton
shirts, a pair of woolen pants and a woolen jacket, and in the spring two
cotton shirts and two pairs of cotton pants, with privilege of substitution
when desired; for each woman six yards of woolen cloth and six yards of
cotton cloth in the fall, six yards of light and six of heavy cotton cloth
in the spring, with needles, thread and buttons on each occasion. Each
worker was to have a pair of stout shoes in the fall, and a heavy blanket
every third year. Children's cloth allowances were proportionate and their
mothers were required to dress them in clean clothes twice a week.

In the matter of sanitation, Acklen directed the overseer to see that the
negroes kept clean in person, to inspect their houses at least once a week
and especially during the summer, to examine their bedding and see to its
being well aired, to require that their clothes be mended, "and everything
attended to which conduces to their comfort and happiness." In these
regards, as in various others, Fowler incorporated Acklen's rules in his
own, almost verbatim. Hammond scheduled an elaborate cleaning of the houses
every spring and fall. The houses were to be completely emptied and their
contents sunned, the walls and floors were to be scrubbed, the mattresses
to be emptied and stuffed with fresh hay or shucks, the yards swept and the
ground under the houses sprinkled with lime. Furthermore, every house was
to be whitewashed inside and out once a year; and the negroes must appear
once a week in clean clothes, "and every negro habitually uncleanly in
person must be washed and scrubbed by order of the overseer--the driver and
two other negroes officiating."

As to schedules of work, the Carolina and Georgia lowlanders dealt in
tasks; all the rest in hours. Telfair wrote briefly: "The negroes to be
tasked when the work allows it. I require a reasonable day's work, well
done--the task to be regulated by the state of the ground and the strength
of the negro." Weston wrote with more elaboration: "A task is as much work
as the meanest full hand can do in nine hours, working industriously....
This task is never to be increased, and no work is to be done over task
except under the most urgent necessity; which over-work is to be reported
to the proprietor, who will pay for it. No negro is to be put into a task
which [he] cannot finish with tolerable ease. It is a bad plan to punish
for not finishing tasks; it is subversive of discipline to leave tasks
unfinished, and contrary to justice to punish for what cannot be done. In
nothing does a good manager so much excel a bad as in being able to discern
what a hand is capable of doing, and in never attempting to make him do
more." In Hammond's schedule the first horn was blown an hour before
daylight as a summons for work-hands to rise and do their cooking and other
preparations for the day. Then at the summons of the plow driver, at first
break of day, the plowmen went to the stables whose doors the overseer
opened. At the second horn, "just at good daylight," the hoe gang set out
for the field. At half past eleven the plowmen carried their mules to a
shelter house in the fields, and at noon the hoe hands laid off for dinner,
to resume work at one o'clock, except that in hot weather the intermission
was extended to a maximum of three and a half hours. The plowmen led the
way home by a quarter of an hour in the evening, and the hoe hands followed
at sunset. "No work," said Hammond, "must ever be required after dark."
Acklen contented himself with specifying that "the negroes must all rise at
the ringing of the first bell in the morning, and retire when the last
bell rings at night, and not leave their houses after that hour unless on
business or called." Fowler's rule was of the same tenor: "All hands should
be required to retire to rest and sleep at a suitable hour and permitted to
remain there until such time as it will be necessary to get out in time to
reach their work by the time they can see well how to work."

Telfair, Fowler and Hammond authorized the assignment of gardens and
patches to such slaves as wanted to cultivate them at leisure times. To
prevent these from becoming a cloak for thefts from the planter's crops,
Telfair and Fowler forbade the growing of cotton in the slaves' private
patches, and Hammond forbade both cotton and corn. Fowler specifically
gave his negroes the privilege of marketing their produce and poultry "at
suitable leisure times." Hammond had a rule permitting each work hand to go
to Augusta on some Sunday after harvest; but for some reason he noted in
pencil below it: "This is objectionable and must be altered." Telfair
and Weston directed that their slaves be given passes on application,
authorizing them to go at proper times to places in the neighborhood. The
negroes, however, were to be at home by the time of the curfew horn about
nine o'clock each night. Mating with slaves on other plantations was
discouraged as giving occasion for too much journeying.

"Marriage is to be encouraged," wrote Hammond, "as it adds to the comfort,
happiness and health of those who enter upon it, besides insuring a greater
increase. Permission must always be obtained from the master before
marriage, but no marriage will be allowed with negroes not belonging to the
master. When sufficient cause can be shewn on either side, a marriage may
be annulled; but the offending party must be severely punished. Where both
are in wrong, both must be punished, and if they insist on separating must
have a hundred lashes apiece. After such a separation, neither can marry
again for three years. For first marriage a bounty of $5.00, to be invested
in household articles, or an equivalent of articles, shall be given. If
either has been married before, the bounty shall be $2.50. A third marriage
shall be not allowed but in extreme cases, and in such cases, or where both
have been married before, no bounty will be given."

"Christianity, humanity and order elevate all, injure none," wrote Fowler,
"whilst infidelity, selfishness and disorder curse some, delude others and
degrade all. I therefore want all of my people encouraged to cultivate
religious feeling and morality, and punished for inhumanity to their
children or stock, for profanity, lying and stealing." And again: "I would
that every human being have the gospel preached to them in its original
purity and simplicity. It therefore devolves upon me to have these
dependants properly instructed in all that pertains to the salvation of
their souls. To this end whenever the services of a suitable person can be
secured, have them instructed in these things. In view of the fanaticism
of the age, it behooves the master or overseer to be present on all
such occasions. They should be instructed on Sundays in the day time if
practicable; if not, then on Sunday night." Acklen wrote in his usual
peremptory tone: "No negro preachers but my own will be permitted to preach
or remain on any of my places. The regularly appointed minister for my
places must preach on Sundays during daylight, or quit. The negroes must
not be suffered to continue their night meetings beyond ten o'clock."
Telfair in his rules merely permitted religious meetings on Saturday nights
and Sunday mornings. Hammond encouraged his negroes to go to church on
Sundays, but permitted no exercises on the plantation beyond singing and
praying. He, and many others, encouraged his negroes to bring him their
complaints against drivers and overseers, and even against their own
ecclesiastical authorities in the matter of interference with recreations.

Fighting among the negroes was a common bane of planters. Telfair
prescribed: "If there is any fighting on the plantation, whip all engaged
in it, for no matter what the cause may have been, all are in the wrong."
Weston wrote: "Fighting, particularly amongst women, and obscene or abusive
language, is to be always rigorously punished."

"Punishment must never be cruel or abusive," wrote Acklen, closely followed
by Fowler, "for it is absolutely mean and unmanly to whip a negro from mere
passion and malice, and any man who can do so is utterly unfit to have
control of negroes; and if ever any of my negroes are cruelly or inhumanly
treated, bruised, maimed or otherwise injured, the overseer will be
promptly discharged and his salary withheld." Weston recommended the lapse
of a day between the discovery of an offense and the punishment, and he
restricted the overseer's power in general to fifteen lashes. He continued:
"Confinement (not in the stocks) is to be preferred to whipping; but the
stoppage of Saturday's allowance, and doing whole task on Saturday, will
suffice to prevent ordinary offenses. Special care must be taken to prevent
any indecency in punishing women. No driver or other negro is to be allowed
to punish any person in any way except by order of the overseer and in his
presence." And again: "Every person should be made perfectly to understand
what they are punished for, and should be made to perceive that they are
not punished in anger or through caprice. All abusive language or violence
of demeanor should be avoided; they reduce the man who uses them to a level
with the negro, and are hardly ever forgotten by those to whom they are
addressed." Hammond directed that the overseer "must never threaten a
negro, but punish offences immediately on knowing them; otherwise he will
soon have runaways." As a schedule he wrote: "The following is the order
in which offences must be estimated and punished: 1st, running away; 2d,
getting drunk or having spirits; 3d, stealing hogs; 4th, stealing; 5th,
leaving plantation without permission; 6th, absence from house after
horn-blow at night; 7th, unclean house or person; 8th, neglect of tools;
9th, neglect of work. The highest punishment must not exceed a hundred
lashes in one day, and to that extent only in extreme cases. The whip lash
must be one inch in width, or a strap of one thickness of leather 1-1/2
inches in width, and never severely administered. In general fifteen to
twenty lashes will be a sufficient flogging. The hands in every case must
be secured by a cord. Punishment must always be given calmly, and never
when angry or excited." Telfair was as usual terse: "No negro to have
more than fifty lashes for any offense, no matter how great the crime."
Manigault said nothing of punishments in his general instructions, but sent
special directions when a case of incorrigibility was reported: "You had
best think carefully respecting him, and always keep in mind the important
old plantation maxim, viz: 'never to threaten a negro,' or he will do as
you and I would when at school--he will run. But with such a one, ... if
you wish to make an example of him, take him down to the Savannah jail and
give him prison discipline, and by all means solitary confinement, for
three weeks, when he will be glad to get home again.... Mind then and tell
him that you and he are quits, that you will never dwell on old quarrels
with him, that he has now a clear track before him and all depends on
himself, for he now sees how easy it is to fix 'a bad disposed nigger.'
Then give my compliments to him and tell him that you wrote me of his
conduct, and say if he don't change for the better I'll sell him to a slave
trader who will send him to New Orleans, where I have already sent several
of the gang for misconduct, or their running away for no cause." In one
case Manigault lost a slave by suicide in the river when a driver brought
him up for punishment but allowed him to run before it was administered.[5]

[Footnote 5: _Plantation and Frontier_, II, 32, 94.]

As to rewards, Hammond was the only one of these writers to prescribe them
definitely. His head driver was to receive five dollars, the plow driver
three dollars, and the ditch driver and stock minder one dollar each every
Christmas day, and the nurse a dollar and the midwife two dollars for every
actual increase of two on the place. Further, "for every infant thirteen
months old and in sound health, that has been properly attended to, the
mother shall receive a muslin or calico frock."

"The head driver," Hammond wrote, "is the most important negro on the
plantation, and is not required to work like other hands. He is to
be treated with more respect than any other negro by both master and
overseer....He is to be required to maintain proper discipline at all
times; to see that no negro idles or does bad work in the field, and to
punish it with discretion on the spot....He is a confidential servant, and
may be a guard against any excesses or omissions of the overseer." Weston,
forbidding his drivers to inflict punishments except at the overseer's
order and in his presence, described their functions as the maintenance of
quiet in the quarter and of discipline at large, the starting of the slaves
to the fields each morning, the assignment and supervision of tasks,
and the inspection of "such things as the overseer only generally
superintends." Telfair informed his overseer: "I have no driver. You are to
task the negroes yourself, and each negro is responsible to you for his own
work, and nobody's else."

Of the master's own functions Hammond wrote in another place: "A planter
should have all his work laid out, days, weeks, months, seasons and years
ahead, according to the nature of it. He must go from job to job without
losing a moment in turning round, and he must have all the parts of his
work so arranged that due proportion of attention may be bestowed upon each
at the proper time. More is lost by doing work out of season, and doing it
better or worse than is requisite, than can readily be supposed. Negroes
are harassed by it, too, instead of being indulged; so are mules, and
everything else. A halting, vacillating, undecided course, now idle, now
overstrained, is more fatal on a plantation than in any other kind of
business--ruinous as it is in any."[6]

[Footnote 6: Letter of Hammond to William Gilmore Simms, Jan. 21, 1841,
from Hammond's MS. copy in the Library of Congress.]

In the overseer all the virtues of a master were desired, with a deputy's
obedience added. Corbin enjoined upon his staff that they "attend their
business with diligence, keep the negroes in good order, and enforce
obedience by the example of their own industry, which is a more effectual
method in every respect than hurry and severity. The ways of industry," he
continued, "are constant and regular, not to be in a hurry at one time and
do nothing at another, but to be always usefully and steadily employed.
A man who carries on business in this manner will be prepared for every
incident that happens. He will see what work may be proper at the distance
of some time and be gradually and leisurely preparing for it. By this
foresight he will never be in confusion himself, and his business, instead
of a labor, will be a pleasure to him." Weston wrote: "The proprietor
wishes particularly to impress upon the overseer the criterions by which
he will judge of his usefullness and capacity. First, by the general
well-being of all the negroes; their cleanly appearance, respectful
manners, active and vigorous obedience; their completion of their tasks
well and early; the small amount of punishment; the excess of births over
deaths; the small number of persons in hospital; and the health of the
children. Secondly, the condition and fatness of the cattle and mules; the
good repair of all the fences and buildings, harness, boats, flats and
ploughs; more particularly the good order of the banks and trunks, and the
freedom of the fields from grass and volunteer [rice]. Thirdly, the amount
and quality of the rice and provision crops.... The overseer is expressly
forbidden from three things, viz.: bleeding, giving spirits to any negro
without a doctor's order, and letting any negro on the place have or keep
any gun, powder or shot." One of Acklen's prohibitions upon his overseers
was: "Having connection with any of my female servants will most certainly
be visited with a dismissal from my employment, and no excuse can or will
be taken."

Hammond described the functions as follows: "The overseer will never be
expected to work in the field, but he must always be with the hands when
not otherwise engaged in the employer's business.... The overseer must
never be absent a single night, nor an entire day, without permission
previously obtained. Whenever absent at church or elsewhere he must be on
the plantation by sundown without fail. He must attend every night and
morning at the stables and see that the mules are watered, cleaned and fed,
and the doors locked. He must keep the stable keys at night, and all the
keys, in a safe place, and never allow anyone to unlock a barn, smoke-house
or other depository of plantation stores but himself. He must endeavor,
also, to be with the plough hands always at noon." He must also see that
the negroes are out promptly in the morning, and in their houses after
curfew, and must show no favoritism among the negroes. He must carry on all
experiments as directed by the employer, and use all new implements and
methods which the employer may determine upon; and he must keep a full
plantation diary and make monthly inventories. Finally, "The negroes must
be made to obey and to work, which may be done, by an overseer who attends
regularly to his business, with very little whipping. Much whipping
indicates a bad tempered or inattentive manager, and will not be allowed."
His overseer might quit employment on a month's notice, and might be
discharged without notice. Acklen's dicta were to the same general effect.

As to the relative importance of the several functions of an overseer, all
these planters were in substantial agreement. As Fowler put it: "After
taking proper care of the negroes, stock, etc., the next most important
duty of the overseer is to make, if practicable, a sufficient quantity of
corn, hay, fodder, meat, potatoes and other vegetables for the consumption
of the plantation, and then as much cotton as can be made by requiring good
and reasonable labor of operatives and teams." Likewise Henry Laurens,
himself a prosperous planter of the earlier time as well as a statesman,
wrote to an overseer of whose heavy tasking he had learned: "Submit to
make less rice and keep my negroes at home in some degree of happiness in
preference to large crops acquired by rigour and barbarity to those poor
creatures." And to a new incumbent: "I have now to recommend to you the
care of my negroes in general, but particularly the sick ones. Desire Mrs.
White not to be sparing of red wine for those who have the flux or bad
loosenesses; let them be well attended night and day, and if one wench is
not sufficient add another to nurse them. With the well ones use gentle
means mixed with easy authority first--if that does not succeed, make
choice of the most stubborn one or two and chastise them severely but
properly and with mercy, that they may be convinced that the end of
correction is to be amendment," Again, alluding to one of his slaves
who had been gathering the pennies of his fellows: "Amos has a great
inclination to turn rum merchant. If his confederate comes to that
plantation, I charge you to discipline him with thirty-nine sound lashes
and turn him out of the gate and see that he goes quite off."[7]

[Footnote 7: D.D. Wallace, _Life of Henry Laurens_, pp. 133, 192.]

The published advice of planters to their fellows was quite in keeping with
these instructions to overseers. About 1809, for example, John Taylor, of
Caroline, the leading Virginian advocate of soil improvement in his day,
wrote of the care and control of slaves as follows: "The addition of
comfort to mere necessaries is a price paid by the master for the
advantages he will derive from binding his slave to his service by a
ligament stronger than chains, far beneath their value in a pecuniary
point of view; and he will moreover gain a stream of agreeable reflections
throughout life, which will cost him nothing." He recommended fireproof
brick houses, warm clothing, and abundant, varied food. Customary plenty
in meat and vegetables, he said, would not only remove occasions for
pilfering, but would give the master effective power to discourage it; for
upon discovering the loss of any goods by theft he might put his whole
force of slaves upon a limited diet for a time and thus suggest to the
thief that on any future occasion his fellows would be under pressure
to inform on him as a means of relieving their own privations. "A daily
allowance of cyder," Taylor continued, "will extend the success of this
system for the management of slaves, and particularly its effect of
diminishing corporal punishments. But the reader is warned that a stern
authority, strict discipline and complete subordination must be combined
with it to gain any success at all."[8]

[Footnote 8: John Taylor, of Caroline County, Virginia, _Arator, Being
a Series of Agricultural Essays_ (2d ed., Georgetown, D. C, 1814), pp.

Another Virginian's essay, of 1834, ran as follows: Virginia negroes are
generally better tempered than any other people; they are kindly, grateful,
attached to persons and places, enduring and patient in fatigue and
hardship, contented and cheerful. Their control should be uniform and
consistent, not an alternation of rigor and laxity. Punishment for real
faults should be invariable but moderate. "The best evidence of the good
management of slaves is the keeping up of good discipline with little or
no punishment." The treatment should be impartial except for good conduct
which should bring rewards. Praise is often a better cure for laziness than
stripes. The manager should know the temper of each slave. The proud and
high spirited are easily handled: "Your slow and sulky negro, although he
may have an even temper, is the devil to manage. The negro women are all
harder to manage than the men. The only way to get along with them is by
kind words and flattery. If you want to cure a sloven, give her something
nice occasionally to wear, and praise her up to the skies whenever she has
on anything tolerably decent." Eschew suspicion, for it breeds dishonesty.
Promote harmony and sound methods among your neighbors. "A good
disciplinarian in the midst of bad managers of slaves cannot do much; and
without discipline there cannot be profit to the master or comfort to the
slaves." Feed and clothe your slaves well. The best preventive of theft is
plenty of pork. Let them have poultry and gardens and fruit trees to attach
them to their houses and promote amenability. "The greatest bar to good
discipline in Virginia is the number of grog shops in every farmer's
neighborhood." There is no severity in the state, and there will be no
occasion for it again if the fanatics will only let us alone.[9]

[Footnote 9: "On the Management of Negroes. Addressed to the Farmers and
Overseers of Virginia," signed "H. C," in the _Farmer's Register_, I, 564,
565 (February, 1834).]

An essay written after long experience by Robert Collins, of Macon,
Georgia, which was widely circulated in the 'fifties, was in the same tone:
"The best interests of all parties are promoted by a kind and liberal
treatment on the part of the owner, and the requirement of proper
discipline and strict obedience on the part of the slave ... Every attempt
to force the slave beyond the limits of reasonable service by cruelty or
hard treatment, so far from extorting more work, only tends to make him
unprofitable, unmanageable, a vexation and a curse." The quarters should
be well shaded, the houses free of the ground, well ventilated, and large
enough for comfort; the bedding and blankets fully adequate. "In former
years the writer tried many ways and expedients to economize in the
provision of slaves by using more of the vegetable and cheap articles of
diet, and less of the costly and substantial. But time and experience have
fully proven the error of a stinted policy ... The allowance now given per
week to each hand ... is five pounds of good clean bacon and one quart of
molasses, with as much good bread as they require; and in the fall, or
sickly season of the year, or on sickly places, the addition of one pint of
strong coffee, sweetened with sugar, every morning before going to work."
The slaves may well have gardens, but the assignment of patches for market
produce too greatly "encourages a traffic on their own account, and
presents a temptation and opportunity, during the process of gathering, for
an unscrupulous fellow to mix a little of his master's produce with his
own. It is much better to give each hand whose conduct has been such as to
merit it an equivalent in money at the end of the year; it is much less
trouble, and more advantageous to both parties." Collins further advocated
plenty of clothing, moderate hours, work by tasks in cotton picking and
elsewhere when feasible, and firm though kindly discipline. "Slaves," he
said, "have no respect or affection for a master who indulges them over
much.... Negroes are by nature tyrannical in their dispositions, and if
allowed, the stronger will abuse the weaker, husbands will often abuse
their wives and mothers their children, so that it becomes a prominent duty
of owners and overseers to keep peace and prevent quarrelling and disputes
among them; and summary punishment should follow any violation of this
rule. Slaves are also a people that enjoy religious privileges. Many
of them place much value upon it; and to every reasonable extent that
advantage should be allowed them. They are never injured by preaching, but
thousands become wiser and better people and more trustworthy servants
by their attendance at church. Religious services should be provided and
encouraged on every plantation. A zealous and vehement style, both in
doctrine and manner, is best adapted to their temperament. They are good
believers in mysteries and miracles, ready converts, and adhere with much
pertinacity to their opinions when formed."[10] It is clear that Collins
had observed plantation negroes long and well.

[Footnote 10: Robert Collins, "Essay on the Management of Slaves,"
reprinted in _DeBow's Review_, XVII, 421-426, and partly reprinted in F.L.
Olmsted, _Seaboard Slave States_, pp. 692-697.]

Advice very similar to the foregoing examples was also printed in the
form of manuals at the front of blank books for the keeping of plantation
records;[11] and various planters described their own methods in operation
as based on the same principles. One of these living at Chunnennuggee,
Alabama, signing himself "N.B.P.," wrote in 1852 an account of the problems
he had met and the solutions he had applied. Owning some 150 slaves, he had
lived away from his plantation until about a decade prior to this writing;
but in spite of careful selection he could never get an overseer combining
the qualities necessary in a good manager. "They were generally on
extremes; those celebrated for making large crops were often too severe,
and did everything by coercion. Hence turmoil and strife ensued. The
negroes were ill treated and ran away. On the other hand, when he employed
a good-natured man there was a want of proper discipline; the negroes
became unmanageable and, as a natural result, the farm was brought into
debt," The owner then entered residence himself and applied methods which
resulted in contentment, health and prolific increase among the slaves, and
in consistently good crops. The men were supplied with wives at home so far
as was practicable; each family had a dry and airy house to itself, with a
poultry house and a vegetable garden behind; the rations issued weekly were
three and a half pounds of bacon to each hand over ten years old, together
with a peck of meal, or more if required; the children in the day nursery
were fed from the master's kitchen with soup, milk, bacon, vegetables and
bread; the hands had three suits of working clothes a year; the women were
given time off for washing, and did their mending in bad weather; all hands
had to dress up and go to church on Sunday when preaching was near; and
a clean outfit of working clothes was required every Monday. The chief
distinction of this plantation, however, lay in its device for profit
sharing. To each slave was assigned a half-acre plot with the promise that
if he worked with diligence in the master's crop the whole gang would in
turn be set to work his crop. This was useful in preventing night and
Sunday work by the negroes. The proceeds of their crops, ranging from ten
to fifty dollars, were expended by the master at their direction for Sunday
clothing and other supplies.[12] On a sugar plantation visited by Olmsted
a sum of as many dollars as there were hogsheads in the year's crop was
distributed among the slaves every Christmas.[13]

[Footnote 11: Pleasant Suit, _Farmer's Accountant and Instructions for
Overseers_ (Richmond, Va., 1828); _Affleck's Cotton Plantation Record and
Account Book_, reprinted in _DeBow's Review_, XVIII, 339-345, and in Thomas
W. Knox, _Campfire and Cotton Field_ (New York, 1865), pp. 358-364. _See
also_ for varied and interesting data as to rules, experience and advice;
Thomas S. Clay (of Bryan County, Georgia), _Detail of a Plan for the Moral
Improvement of Negroes on Plantations_ (1833); and _DeBow's Review_, XII,
291, 292; XIX, 358-363; XXI, 147-149, 277-279; XXIV, 321-326; XXV, 463;
XXVI, 579, 580; XXIX, 112-115, 357-368.]

[Footnote 12: _Southern Quarterly Review_, XXI, 215, 216.]

[Footnote 13: Olmsted, _Seaboard Slave States_, p. 660.]

Of overseers in general, the great variety in their functions, their
scales of operation and their personal qualities make sweeping assertions
hazardous. Some were at just one remove from the authority of a great
planter, as is suggested by the following advertisement: "Wanted, a manager
to superintend several rice plantations on the Santee River. As the
business is extensive, a proportionate salary will be made, and one or two
young men of his own selection employed under him.[14] A healthful summer
residence on the seashore is provided for himself and family." Others
were hardly more removed from the status of common field hands. Lawrence
Tompkins, for example, signed with his mark in 1779 a contract to oversee
the four slaves of William Allason, near Alexandria, and to work steadily
with them. He was to receive three barrels of corn and three hundred pounds
of pork as his food allowance, and a fifth share of the tobacco, hemp and
flax crops and a sixth of the corn; but if he neglected his work he might
be dismissed without pay of any sort.[15] Some overseers were former
planters who had lost their property, some were planters' sons working for
a start in life, some were English and German farmers who had brought their
talents to what they hoped might prove the world's best market, but most of
them were of the native yeomanry which abounded in virtually all parts
of the South. Some owned a few slaves whom they put on hire into their
employers' gangs, thereby hastening their own attainment of the means to
become planters on their own score.[16]

[Footnote 14: _Southern Patriot_ (Charleston, S. C), Jan. 9, 1821.]

[Footnote 15: MS. Letter book, 1770-1787, among the Allason papers in the
New York Public Library.]

[Footnote 16: D.D. Wallace, _Life of Henry Laurens_, pp. 21, 135.]

If the master lived on the plantation, as was most commonly the case, the
overseer's responsibilities were usually confined to the daily execution of
orders in supervising the slaves in the fields and the quarters. But when
the master was an absentee the opportunity for abuses and misunderstandings
increased. Jurisdiction over slaves and the manner of its exercise were the
grounds of most frequent complaint. On the score of authority, for example,
a Virginia overseer in the employ of Robert Carter wrote him in 1787 in
despair at the conduct of a woman named Suckey: "I sent for hir to Come in
the morning to help Secoure the foder, but She Sent me word that She would
not come to worke that Day, and that you had ordered her to wash hir
Cloaiths and goo to Any meeting She pleased any time in the weke without my
leafe, and on monday when I Come to Reken with hir about it She Said it was
your orders and She would do it in Defiance of me.... I hope if Suckey is
aloud that privilige more than the Rest, that she will bee moved to some
other place, and one Come in her Room."[17] On the score of abuses, Stancil
Barwick, an overseer in southwestern Georgia, wrote in 1855 to John B.
Lamar: "I received your letter on yesterday ev'ng. Was vary sorry to hear
that you had heard that I was treating your negroes so cruely. Now, sir, I
do say to you in truth that the report is false. Thear is no truth in it.
No man nor set of men has ever seen me mistreat one of the negroes on the
place." After declaring that miscarriages by two of the women had been due
to no requirement of work, he continued: "The reports that have been sent
must have been carried from this place by negroes. The fact is I have made
the negro men work, an made them go strait. That is what is the matter, an
is the reason why my place is talk of the settlement. I have found among
the negro men two or three hard cases an I have had to deal rite ruff, but
not cruly at all. Among them Abram has been as triflin as any man on the
place. Now, sir, what I have wrote you is truth, and it cant be disputed by
no man on earth,"[18]

[Footnote 17: _Plantation and Frontier_, I, 325.]

[Footnote 18: _Ibid_., I, 312, 313.]

To diminish the inducement for overdriving, the method of paying the
overseers by crop shares, which commonly prevailed in the colonial period,
was generally replaced in the nineteenth century by that of fixed salaries.
As a surer preventive of embezzlement, a trusty slave was in some cases
given the store-house keys in preference to the overseer; and sometimes
even when the master was an absentee an overseer was wholly dispensed with
and a slave foreman was given full charge. This practice would have been
still more common had not the laws discouraged it.[19] Some planters
refused to leave their slaves in the full charge of deputies of any kind,
even for short periods. For example, Francis Corbin in 1819 explained
to James Madison that he must postpone an intended visit because of the
absence of his son. "Until he arrives," Corbin wrote, "I dare not, in
common prudence, leave my affairs to the sole management of overseers, who
in these days are little respected by our intelligent negroes, many of whom
are far superior in mind, morals and manners to those who are placed in
authority over them."[20]

[Footnote 19: Olmsted, _Seaboard States_, p. 206.]

[Footnote 20: Massachusetts Historical Society _Proceedings_, XLIII, 261.]

Various phases of the problem of management are illustrated in a letter of
A.H. Pemberton of the South Carolina midlands to James H. Hammond at the
end of 1846. The writer described himself as unwilling to sacrifice his
agricultural reading in order to superintend his slaves in person, but as
having too small a force to afford the employment of an overseer pure and
simple. For the preceding year he had had one charged with the double
function of working in person and supervising the slaves' work also; but
this man's excess of manual zeal had impaired his managerial usefulness.
What he himself did was well done, said Pemberton, "and he would do _all_
and leave the negroes to do virtually nothing; and as they would of course
take advantage of this, what he did was more than counterbalanced by what
they did not." Furthermore, this employee, "who worked harder than any man
I ever saw," used little judgment or foresight. "Withal, he has always been
accustomed to the careless Southern practice generally of doing things
temporarily and in a hurry, just to last for the present, and allowing the
negroes to leave plows and tools of all kinds just where they use them,
no matter where, so that they have to be hunted all over the place when
wanted. And as to stock, he had no idea of any more attention to them than
is common in the ordinarily cruel and neglectful habits of the South."
Pemberton then turned to lamentation at having let slip a recent
opportunity to buy at auction "a remarkably fine looking negro as to size
and strength, very black, about thirty-five or forty, and so intelligent
and trustworthy that he had charge of a separate plantation and eight or
ten hands some ten or twelve miles from home." The procuring of such a
foreman would precisely have solved Pemberton's problem; the failure to
do so left him in his far from hopeful search for a paragon manager and
workman combined.[21]

[Footnote 21: MS. among the Hammond papers in the Library of Congress.]

On the whole, the planters were disposed to berate the overseers as a class
for dishonesty, inattention and self indulgence. The demand for new
and better ones was constant. For example, the editor of the _American
Agriculturist_, whose office was at New York, announced in 1846: "We are
almost daily beset with applications for properly educated managers
for farms and plantations--we mean for such persons as are up to the
improvements of the age, and have the capacity to carry them into
effect."[22] Youths occasionally offered themselves as apprentices. One of
them, in Louisiana, published the following notice in 1822: "A young man
wishing to acquire knowledge of cotton planting would engage for twelve
months as overseer and keep the accounts of a plantation.... Unquestionable
reference as to character will be given."[23] And a South Carolinian in
1829 proposed that the practice be systematized by the appointment of local
committees to bring intelligent lads into touch with planters willing to
take them as indentured apprentices.[24] The lack of system persisted,
however, both in agricultural education and in the procuring of managers.
In the opinion of Basil Hall and various others the overseers were commonly
better than the reputation of their class,[25] but this is not to say that
they were conspicuous either for expertness or assiduity. On the whole
they had about as much human nature, with its merits and failings, as the
planters or the slaves or anybody else.

[Footnote 22: _American Agriculturist_, V, 24.]

[Footnote 23: _Louisiana Herald_ (Alexandria, La.), Jan. 12, 1822,

[Footnote 24: _Southern Agriculturist_, II, 271.]

[Footnote 25: Basil Hall, _Travels in North America_, III, 193.]

It is notable that George Washington was one of the least tolerant
employers and masters who put themselves upon record.[26] This was
doubtless due to his own punctiliousness and thorough devotion to system as
well as to his often baffled wish to diversify his crops and upbuild his
fields. When in 1793 he engaged William Pearce as a new steward for the
group of plantations comprising the Mount Vernon estate, he enjoined strict
supervision of his overseers "to keep them from running about and to oblige
them to remain constantly with their people, and moreover to see at what
time they turn out in the morning--for," said he, "I have strong suspicions
that this with some of them is at a late hour, the consequences of which
to the negroes is not difficult to foretell." "To treat them civilly,"
Washington continued, "is no more than what all men are entitled to; but my
advice to you is, keep them at a proper distance, for they will grow upon
familiarity in proportion as you will sink in authority if you do not. Pass
by no faults or neglects, particularly at first, for overlooking one only
serves to generate another, and it is more than probable that some of
them, one in particular, will try at first what lengths he may go."
Particularizing as to the members of his staff, Washington described their
several characteristics: Stuart was intelligent and apparently honest and
attentive, but vain and talkative, and usually backward in his schedule;
Crow would be efficient if kept strictly at his duty, but seemed prone to
visiting and receiving visits. "This of course leaves his people too much
to themselves, which produces idleness or slight work on the one side and
flogging on the other, the last of which, besides the dissatisfaction
which it creates, has in one or two instances been productive of serious
consequences." McKay was a "sickly, slothful and stupid sort of fellow,"
too much disposed to brutality in the treatment of the slaves in his
charge; Butler seemed to have "no more authority over the negroes ... than
an old woman would have"; and Green, the overseer of the carpenters, was
too much on a level with the slaves for the exertion of control. Davy, the
negro foreman at Muddy Hole, was rated in his master's esteem higher than
some of his white colleagues, though Washington had suspicions concerning
the fate of certain lambs which had vanished while in his care. Indeed the
overseers all and several were suspected from time to time of drunkenness,
waste, theft and miscellaneous rascality. In the last of these categories
Washington seems to have included their efforts to secure higher wages.

[Footnote 26: Voluminous plantation data are preserved in the Washington
MSS. in the Library of Congress. Those here used are drawn from the letters
of Washington published in the Long Island Historical Society _Memoirs_,
vol. IV; entitled _George Washington and Mount Vernon_. A map of the Mount
Vernon estate is printed in Washington's _Writings_ (W.C. Ford ed.), XII,

The slaves in their turn were suspected of ruining horses by riding them at
night, and of embezzling grain issued for planting, as well as of lying and
malingering in general. The carpenters, Washington said, were notorious
piddlers; and not a slave about the mansion house was worthy of trust.
Pretences of illness as excuses for idleness were especially annoying.
"Is there anything particular in the cases of Ruth, Hannah and Pegg,"
he enquired, "that they have been returned as sick for several weeks
together?... If they are not made to do what their age and strength will
enable them, it will be a very bad example to others, none of whom would
work if by pretexts they can avoid it." And again: "By the reports I
perceive that for every day Betty Davis works she is laid up two. If she
is indulged in this idleness she will grow worse and worse, for she has a
disposition to be one of the most idle creatures on earth, and is besides
one of the most deceitful." Pearce seems to have replied that he was at a
loss to tell the false from the true. Washington rejoined: "I never found
so much difficulty as you seem to apprehend in distinguishing between real
and feigned sickness, or when a person is much afflicted with pain. Nobody
can be very sick without having a fever, or any other disorder continue
long upon anyone without reducing them.... But my people, many of them,
will lay up a month, at the end of which no visible change in their
countenance nor the loss of an ounce of flesh is discoverable; and their
allowance of provision is going on as if nothing ailed them." Runaways were
occasional. Of one of them Washington directed: "Let Abram get his deserts
when taken, by way of example; but do not trust Crow to give it to him, for
I have reason to believe he is swayed more by passion than by judgment in
all his corrections." Of another, whom he had previously described as an
idler beyond hope of correction: "Nor is it worth while, except for the
sake of example, ... to be at much trouble, or any expence over a trifle,
to hunt him up." Of a third, who was thought to have escaped in company
with a neighbor's slave: "If Mr. Dulany is disposed to pursue any measure
for the purpose of recovering his man, I will join him in the expence so
far as it may respect Paul; but I would not have my name appear in any
advertisement, or other measure, leading to it." Again, when asking that a
woman of his who had fled to New Hampshire be seized and sent back if it
could be done without exciting a mob: "However well disposed I might be to
gradual abolition, or even to an entire emancipation of that description of
people (if the latter was in itself practicable), at this moment it would
neither be politic nor just to reward unfaithfulness with a premature
preference, and thereby discontent beforehand the minds of all her fellow
serv'ts who, by their steady attachment, are far more deserving than
herself of favor."[27] Finally: "The running off of my cook has been a most
inconvenient thing to this family, and what rendered it more disagreeable
is that I had resolved never to become the master of another slave by
purchase. But this resolution I fear I must break. I have endeavored to
hire, black or white, but am not yet supplied." As to provisions, the
slaves were given fish from Washington's Potomac fishery while the supply
lasted, "meat, fat and other things ... now and then," and of meal "as
much as they can eat without waste, and no more." The housing and clothing
appear to have been adequate. The "father of his country" displayed little
tenderness for his slaves. He was doubtless just, so far as a business-like
absentee master could be; but his only generosity to them seems to have
been the provision in his will for their manumission after the death of his

[Footnote 27: Marion G. McDougall, _Fugitive Slaves_( Boston, 1891), p.

Lesser men felt the same stresses in plantation management. An owner of
ninety-six slaves told Olmsted that such was the trouble and annoyance
his negroes caused him, in spite of his having an overseer, and such the
loneliness of his isolated life, that he was torn between a desire to sell
out at once and a temptation to hold on for a while in the expectation of
higher prices. At the home of another Virginian, Olmsted wrote: "During
three hours or more in which I was in company with the proprietor I do
not think there were ten consecutive minutes uninterrupted by some of the
slaves requiring his personal direction or assistance. He was even obliged
three times to leave the dinner table. 'You see,' said he smiling, as he
came in the last time, 'a farmer's life in this country is no sinecure,'" A
third Virginian, endorsing Olmsted's observations, wrote that a planter's
cares and troubles were endless; the slaves, men, women and children,
infirm and aged, had wants innumerable; some were indolent, some obstinate,
some fractious, and each class required different treatment. With the daily
wants of food, clothing and the like, "the poor man's time and thoughts,
indeed every faculty of mind, must be exercised on behalf of those who have
no minds of their own."[28]

[Footnote 28: F.L. Olmsted, _Seaboard Slave States_, pp. 44, 58, 718.]

Harriet Martineau wrote on her tour of the South: "Nothing struck me
more than the patience of slave-owners ... with their slaves ... When I
considered how they love to be called 'fiery Southerners,' I could not but
marvel at their mild forbearance under the hourly provocations to which
they are liable in their homes. Persons from New England, France or
England, becoming slaveholders, are found to be the most severe masters
and mistresses, however good their tempers may always have appeared
previously. They cannot, like the native proprietor, sit waiting half an
hour for the second course, or see everything done in the worst possible
manner, their rooms dirty, their property wasted, their plans frustrated,
their infants slighted,--themselves deluded by artifices--they cannot, like
the native proprietor, endure all this unruffled."[29] It is clear from
every sort of evidence, if evidence were needed, that life among negro
slaves and the successful management of them promoted, and wellnigh
necessitated, a blending of foresight and firmness with kindliness and
patience. The lack of the former qualities was likely to bring financial
ruin; the lack of the latter would make life not worth living; the
possession of all meant a toleration of slackness in every concern not
vital to routine. A plantation was a bed of roses only if the thorns were
turned aside. Charles Eliot Norton, who like Olmsted, Hall, Miss Martineau
and most other travelers, was hostile to slavery, wrote after a journey to
Charleston in 1855: "The change to a Northerner in coming South is always
a great one when he steps over the boundary of the free states; and the
farther you go towards the South the more absolutely do shiftlessness and
careless indifference take the place of energy and active precaution and
skilful management.... The outside first aspect of slavery has nothing
horrible and repulsive about it. The slaves do not go about looking
unhappy, and are with difficulty, I fancy, persuaded to feel so. Whips and
chains, oaths and brutality, are as common, for all that one sees, in the
free as the slave states. We have come thus far, and might have gone ten
times as far, I dare say, without seeing the first sign of negro misery
or white tyranny."[30] If, indeed, the neatness of aspect be the test of
success, most plantations were failures; if the test of failure be the lack
of harmony and good will, it appears from the available evidence that most
plantations were successful.

[Footnote 29: Harriet Martineau, _Society in America_ (London, 1837), II
315, 316.]

[Footnote 30: Charles Eliot Norton, _Letters_ (Boston, 1913), I, 121.]

The concerns and the character of a high-grade planter may be gathered from
the correspondence of John B. Lamar, who with headquarters in the town of
Macon administered half a dozen plantations belonging to himself and his
kinsmen scattered through central and southwestern Georgia and northern
Florida.[31] The scale of his operations at the middle of the nineteenth
century may be seen from one of his orders for summer cloth, presumably
at the rate of about five yards per slave. This was to be shipped from
Savannah to the several plantations as follows: to Hurricane, the property
of Howell Cobb, Lamar's brother-in-law, 760 yards; to Letohatchee, a trust
estate in Florida belonging to the Lamar family, 500 yards; and to Lamar's
own plantations the following: Swift Creek, 486; Harris Place, 360; Domine,
340; and Spring Branch, 229. Of his course of life Lamar wrote: "I am one
half the year rattling over rough roads with Dr. Physic and Henry, stopping
at farm houses in the country, scolding overseers in half a dozen counties
and two states, Florida and Georgia, and the other half in the largest
cities of the Union, or those of Europe, living on dainties and riding on
rail-cars and steamboats. When I first emerge from Swift Creek into the
hotels and shops on Broadway of a summer, I am the most economical body
that you can imagine. The fine clothes and expensive habits of the people
strike me forcibly.... In a week I become used to everything, and in a
month I forget my humble concern on Swift Creek and feel as much a nabob as
any of them.... At home where everything is plain and comfortable we look
on anything beyond that point as extravagant. When abroad where things are
on a greater scale, our ideas keep pace with them. I always find such to be
my case; and if I live to a hundred I reckon it will always be so."

[Footnote 31: Lamar's MSS. are in the possession of Mrs. A.S. Erwin,
Athens, Ga. Selections from them are printed in _Plantation and Frontier_,
I, 167-183, 309-312, II, 38, 41.]

Lamar could command strong words, as when a physician demanded five hundred
dollars for services at Hurricane in 1844, or when overseers were detected
in drunkenness or cruelty; but his most characteristic complaints were of
his own short-comings as a manager and of the crotchets of his relatives.
His letters were always cheery, and his repeated disappointments in
overseers never damped his optimism concerning each new incumbent. His
old lands contented him until he found new and more fertile ones to buy,
whereupon his jubilation was great. When cotton was low he called himself a
toad under the harrow; but rising markets would set him to counting bales
before the seed had more than sprouted and to building new plantations in
the air. In actual practice his log-cabin slave quarters gave place to
frame houses; his mules were kept in full force; his production of corn and
bacon was nearly always ample for the needs of each place; his slaves were
permitted to raise nankeen cotton on their private accounts; and his own
frequent journeys of inspection and stimulus, as he said, kept up an
_esprit du corps_. When an overseer reported that his slaves were down with
fever by the dozen and his cotton wasting in the fields, Lamar would hasten
thither with a physician and a squad of slaves impressed from another
plantation, to care for the sick and the crop respectively. He
redistributed slaves among his plantations with a view to a better
balancing of land and labor, but was deterred from carrying this policy as
far as he thought might be profitable by his unwillingness to separate the
families. His absence gave occasion sometimes for discontent among his
slaves; yet when the owners of others who were for sale authorized them
to find their own purchasers his well known justice, liberality and good
nature made "Mas John" a favorite recourse.

As to crops and management, Lamar indicated his methods in criticizing
those of a relative: "Uncle Jesse still builds air castles and blinds
himself to his affairs. Last year he tinkered away on tobacco and sugar
cane, things he knew nothing about.... He interferes with the arrangements
of his overseers, and has no judgment of his own.... If he would employ a
competent overseer and move off the plantation with his family he could
make good crops, as he has a good force of hands and good lands.... I have
found that it is unprofitable to undertake anything on a plantation out of
the regular routine. If I had a little place off to itself, and my business
would admit of it, I should delight in agricultural experiments." In his
reliance upon staple routine, as in every other characteristic, Lamar rings
true to the planter type.



WHILE produced only in America, the plantation slave was a product of
old-world forces. His nature was an African's profoundly modified but
hardly transformed by the requirements of European civilization. The wrench
from Africa and the subjection to the new discipline while uprooting his
ancient language and customs had little more effect upon his temperament
than upon his complexion. Ceasing to be Foulah, Coromantee, Ebo or Angola,
he became instead the American negro. The Caucasian was also changed by the
contact in a far from negligible degree; but the negro's conversion
was much the more thorough, partly because the process in his case was
coercive, partly because his genius was imitative.

The planters had a saying, always of course with an implicit reservation
as to limits, that a negro was what a white man made him. The molding,
however, was accomplished more by groups than by individuals. The purposes
and policies of the masters were fairly uniform, and in consequence the
negroes, though with many variants, became largely standardized into the
predominant plantation type. The traits which prevailed were an eagerness
for society, music and merriment, a fondness for display whether of person,
dress, vocabulary or emotion, a not flagrant sensuality, a receptiveness
toward any religion whose exercises were exhilarating, a proneness to
superstition, a courteous acceptance of subordination, an avidity for
praise, a readiness for loyalty of a feudal sort, and last but not least, a
healthy human repugnance toward overwork. "It don't do no good to hurry,"
was a negro saying, "'caze you're liable to run by mo'n you overtake."
Likewise painstaking was reckoned painful; and tomorrow was always waiting
for today's work, while today was ready for tomorrow's share of play. On
the other hand it was a satisfaction to work sturdily for a hard boss, and
so be able to say in an interchange of amenities: "Go long, half-priced
nigger! You wouldn't fotch fifty dollars, an' I'm wuth a thousand!"[1]

[Footnote 1: _Daily Tropic_ (New Orleans), May 18, 1846.]

Contrasts were abundant. John B. Lamar, on the one hand, wrote: "My man Ned
the carpenter is idle or nearly so at the plantation. He is fixing gates
and, like the idle groom in Pickwick, trying to fool himself into the
belief that he is doing something.... He is an eye servant. If I was with
him I could have the work done soon and cheap; but I am afraid to trust him
off where there is no one he fears."[2] On the other hand, M.W. Philips
inscribed a page of his plantation diary as follows:[3]

[Footnote 2: _Plantation and Frontier_, II, 38.]

[Footnote 3: Mississippi Historical Society _Publications_, X, 444.]

  July 10, 1853
  Peyton is no more
  Aged 42
  Though he was a bad man in many respects
  yet he was a most excellent field
  hand, always at his
  On this place for 21 years.
  Except the measles and its sequence, the
  injury rec'd by the mule last Nov'r and its sequence,
  he has not lost 15 days' work, I verily believe, in the
  remaining 19 years. I wish we could hope for his
  eternal state.

Should anyone in the twentieth century wish to see the old-fashioned prime
negro at his best, let him take a Mississippi steamboat and watch the
roustabouts at work--those chaffing and chattering, singing and swinging,
lusty and willing freight handlers, whom a river captain plying out of New
Orleans has called the noblest black men that God ever made.[4] Ready
at every touching of the shore day and night, resting and sleeping only
between landings, they carry their loads almost at running speed, and when
returning for fresh burdens they "coonjine" by flinging their feet in
semi-circles at every step, or cutting other capers in rhythm to show their
fellows and the gallery that the strain of the cotton bales, the grain
sacks, the oil barrels and the timbers merely loosen their muscles and
lighten their spirits.

[Footnote 4: Captain L.V. Cooley, _Address Before the Tulane Society of
Economics, New Orleans, April 11th, 1911, on River Transportation and Its
Relation to New Orleans, Past, Present and Future_. [New Orleans, 1911.]]

Such an exhibit would have been the despair of the average ante-bellum
planter, for instead of choosing among hundreds of applicants and rejecting
or discharging those who fell short of a high standard, he had to make
shift with such laborers as the slave traders chanced to bring or as his
women chanced to rear. His common problem was to get such income and
comfort as he might from a parcel of the general run; and the creation
of roustabout energy among them would require such vigor and such iron
resolution on his own part as was forthcoming in extremely few cases.

Theoretically the master might be expected perhaps to expend the minimum
possible to keep his slaves in strength, to discard the weaklings and the
aged, to drive his gang early and late, to scourge the laggards hourly, to
secure the whole with fetters by day and with bolts by night, and to keep
them in perpetual terror of his wrath. But Olmsted, who seems to have gone
South with the thought of finding some such theory in application, wrote:
"I saw much more of what I had not anticipated and less of what I had in
the slave states than, with a somewhat extended travelling experience, in
any other country I ever visited";[5] and Nehemiah Adams, who went from
Boston to Georgia prepared to weep with the slaves who wept, found himself
laughing with the laughing ones instead.[6]

[Footnote 5: Olmsted, _Seaboard Slave States_, p. 179.]

[Footnote 6: Nehemiah Adams. _A Southside View of Slavery, or Three Months
in the South in 1854_ (Boston, 1854), chap. 2.]

The theory of rigid coercion and complete exploitation was as strange to
the bulk of the planters as the doctrine and practice of moderation was to
those who viewed the régime from afar and with the mind's eye. A planter
in explaining his mildness might well have said it was due to his being
neither a knave nor a fool He refrained from the use of fetters not so much
because they would have hampered the slaves in their work as because the
general use of them never crossed his mind. And since chains and bolts were
out of the question, the whole system of control must be moderate; slaves
must be impelled as little as possible by fear, and as much as might be by
loyalty, pride and the prospect of reward.

Here and there a planter applied this policy in an exceptional degree. A
certain Z. Kingsley followed it with marked success even when his whole
force was of fresh Africans. In a pamphlet of the late eighteen-twenties
he told of his method as follows: "About twenty-five years ago I settled
a plantation on St. John's River in Florida with about fifty new negroes,
many of whom I brought from the Coast myself. They were mostly fine young
men and women, and nearly in equal numbers. I never interfered in their
connubial concerns nor domestic affairs, but let them regulate these after
their own manner. I taught them nothing but what was useful, and what I
thought would add to their physical and moral happiness. I encouraged as
much as possible dancing, merriment and dress, for which Saturday afternoon
and night and Sunday morning were dedicated. [Part of their leisure] was
usually employed in hoeing their corn and getting a supply of fish for the
week. Both men and women were very industrious. Many of them made twenty
bushels of corn to sell, and they vied with each other in dress and
dancing.... They were perfectly honest and obedient, and appeared perfectly
happy, having no fear but that of offending me; and I hardly ever had
to apply other correction than shaming them. If I exceeded this, the
punishment was quite light, for they hardly ever failed in doing their work
well. My object was to excite their ambition and attachment by kindness,
not to depress their spirits by fear and punishment.... Perfect confidence,
friendship and good understanding reigned between us." During the War of
1812 most of these negroes were killed or carried off in a Seminole raid.
When peace returned and Kingsley attempted to restore his Eden with a
mixture of African and American negroes, a serpent entered in the guise of
a negro preacher who taught the sinfulness of dancing, fishing on Sunday
and eating the catfish which had no scales. In consequence the slaves
"became poor, ragged, hungry and disconsolate. To steal from me was only to
do justice--to take what belonged to them, because I kept them in unjust
bondage." They came to believe "that all pastime or pleasure in this
iniquitous world was sinful; that this was only a place of sorrow and
repentance, and the sooner they were out of it the better; that they would
then go to a good country where they would experience no want of anything,
and have no work nor cruel taskmaster, for that God was merciful and would
pardon any sin they committed; only it was necessary to pray and ask
forgiveness, and have prayer meetings and contribute what they could to the
church, etc.... Finally myself and the overseer became completely divested
of all authority over the negroes.... Severity had no effect; it only made
it worse."[7]

[Footnote 7: [Z. Kingsley] _A Treatise on the Patriarchal System of Society
as It exists ... under the Name of Slavery_. By an inhabitant of Florida.
Fourth edition (1834), pp. 21, 22. (Copy in the Library of Congress.)]

This experience left Kingsley undaunted in his belief that liberalism
and profit-sharing were the soundest basis for the plantation régime.
To support this contention further he cited an experiment by a South
Carolinian who established four or five plantations in a group on Broad
River, with a slave foreman on each and a single overseer with very limited
functions over the whole. The cotton crop was the master's, while the hogs,
corn and other produce belonged to the slaves for their sustenance and the
sale of any surplus. The output proved large, "and the owner had no further
trouble nor expense than furnishing the ordinary clothing and paying the
overseer's wages, so that he could fairly be called free, seeing that he
could realize his annual income wherever he chose to reside, without paying
the customary homage to servitude of personal attendance on the operation
of his slaves." In Kingsley's opinion the system "answered extremely well,
and offers to us a strong case in favor of exciting ambition by cultivating
utility, local attachment and moral improvement among the slaves."[8]

[Footnote 8: [Z. Kingsley] _Treatise_, p. 22.]

The most thoroughgoing application on record of self-government by slaves
is probably that of the brothers Joseph and Jefferson Davis on their
plantations, Hurricane and Brierfield, in Warren County, Mississippi. There
the slaves were not only encouraged to earn money for themselves in every
way they might, but the discipline of the plantations was vested in courts
composed wholly of slaves, proceeding formally and imposing penalties to be
inflicted by slave constables except when the master intervened with his
power of pardon. The régime was maintained for a number of years in full
effect until in 1862 when the district was invaded by Federal troops.[9]

[Footnote 9: W.L. Fleming, "Jefferson Davis, the Negroes and the Negro
Problem," in the _Sewanee Review_ (October, 1908).]

These several instances were of course exceptional, and they merely tend to
counterbalance the examples of systematic severity at the other extreme.
In general, though compulsion was always available in last resort, the
relation of planter and slave was largely shaped by a sense of propriety,
proportion and cooperation.

As to food, clothing and shelter, a few concrete items will reinforce the
indications in the preceding chapters that crude comfort was the rule.
Bartram the naturalist observed in 1776 that a Georgia slaveholder with
whom he stopped sold no dairy products from his forty cows in milk. The
proprietor explained this by saying: "I have a considerable family of black
people who though they are slaves must be fed and cared for Those I have
were either chosen for their good qualities or born in the family; and I
find from long experience and observation that the better they are fed,
clothed and treated, the more service and profit we may expect to derive
from their labour. In short, I find my stock produces no more milk, or any
article of food or nourishment, than what is expended to the best advantage
amongst my family and slaves." At another place Bartram noted the arrival
at a plantation of horse loads of wild pigeons taken by torchlight from
their roosts in a neighboring swamp.[10]

[Footnote 10: William Bartram, _Travels_ (London, 1792), pp. 307-310, 467,

On Charles Cotesworth Pinckney's two plantations on the South Carolina
coast, as appears from his diary of 1818, a detail of four slaves was
shifted from the field work each week for a useful holiday in angling
for the huge drumfish which abounded in those waters; and their catches
augmented the fare of the white and black families alike.[11] Game and
fish, however, were extras. The staple meat was bacon, which combined
the virtues of easy production, ready curing and constant savoriness. On
Fowler's "Prairie" plantation, where the field hands numbered a little less
than half a hundred, the pork harvest throughout the eighteen-fifties,
except for a single year of hog cholera, yielded from eleven to
twenty-three hundred pounds; and when the yield was less than the normal,
northwestern bacon or barreled pork made up the deficit.[12]

In the matter of clothing, James Habersham sent an order to London in 1764
on behalf of himself and two neighbors for 120 men's jackets and breeches
and 80 women's gowns to be made in assorted sizes from strong and heavy
cloth. The purpose was to clothe their slaves "a little better than common"
and to save the trouble of making the garments at home.[13] In January,
1835, the overseer of one of the Telfair plantations reported that the
woolen weaving had nearly supplied the full needs of the place at the rate
of six or six and a half yards for each adult and proportionately for the
children.[14] In 1847, in preparation for winter, Charles Manigault wrote
from Paris to his overseer: "I wish you to count noses among the negroes
and see how many jackets and trousers you want for the men at Gowrie, ...
and then write to Messrs. Matthiessen and Co. of Charleston to send them to
you, together with the same quantity of twilled red flannel shirts, and a
large woolen Scotch cap for each man and youth on the place.... Send back
anything which is not first rate. You will get from Messrs. Habersham and
Son the twilled wool and cotton, called by some 'Hazzard's cloth,' for all
the women and children, and get two or three dozen handkerchiefs so as to
give each woman and girl one.... The shoes you will procure as usual from
Mr. Habersham by sending down the measures in time."[15] Finally, the
register of A.L. Alexander's plantation in the Georgia Piedmont contains
record of the distributions from 1851 to 1864 on a steady schedule. Every
spring each man drew two cotton shirts and two pair of homespun woolen
trousers, each woman a frock and chemises, and each child clothing or cloth
in proportion; and every fall the men drew shirts, trousers and coats, the
women shifts, petticoats, frocks and sacks, the children again on a similar
scale, and the several families blankets as needed.[16]

[Footnote 11: _Plantation and Frontier_, I, 203-208.]

[Footnote 12: MS. records in the possession of W.H. Stovall, Stovall,

[Footnote 13: _Plantation and Frontier_, I, 293, 294.]

[Footnote 14: _Ibid_., 192, 193.]

[Footnote 15: MS. copy in Manigault's letter book.]

[Footnote 16: MS. in the possession of Mrs. J.F. Minis, Savannah, Ga.]

As for housing, the vestiges of the old slave quarters, some of which
have stood abandoned for half a century, denote in many cases a sounder
construction and greater comfort than most of the negroes in freedom have
since been able to command.

With physical comforts provided, the birth-rate would take care of itself.
The pickaninnies were winsome, and their parents, free of expense and
anxiety for their sustenance, could hardly have more of them than they
wanted. A Virginian told Olmsted, "he never heard of babies coming so fast
as they did on his plantation; it was perfectly surprising";[17] and in
Georgia, Howell Cobb's negroes increased "like rabbits."[18] In Mississippi
M.W. Philips' woman Amy had borne eleven children when at the age of
thirty she was married by her master to a new husband, and had eight more
thereafter, including a set of triplets.[19] But the culminating instance
is the following as reported by a newspaper at Lynchburg, Virginia: "VERY
REMARKABLE. There is now living in the vicinity of Campbell a negro
woman belonging to a gentleman by the name of Todd; this woman is in her
forty-second year and has had forty-one children and at this time is
pregnant with her forty-second child, and possibly with her forty-third, as
she has frequently had doublets."[20] Had childbearing been regulated
in the interest of the masters, Todd's woman would have had less than
forty-one and Amy less than her nineteen, for such excesses impaired the
vitality of the children. Most of Amy's, for example, died a few hours or
days after birth.

[Footnote 17: Olmsted, _Seaboard Slave States_, p. 57.]

[Footnote 18: _Plantation and Frontier_, I, 179.]

[Footnote 19: Mississippi Historical Society _Publications_, X, 439, 443,
447, 480.]

[Footnote 20: _Louisiana Gazette_ (New Orleans), June 11, 1822, quoting the
Lynchburg _Press_.]

A normal record is that of Fowler's plantation, the "Prairie." Virtually
all of the adult slaves were paired as husbands and wives except Caroline
who in twenty years bore ten children. Her husband was presumably the slave
of some other master. Tom and Milly had nine children in eighteen years;
Harry and Jainy had seven in twenty-two years; Fanny had five in seventeen
years with Ben as the father of all but the first born; Louisa likewise had
five in nineteen years with Bob as the father of all but the first; and
Hector and Mary had five in seven years. On the other hand, two old couples
and one in their thirties had had no children, while eight young pairs had
from one to four each.[21] A lighter schedule was recorded on a Louisiana
plantation called Bayou Cotonier, belonging to E. Tanneret, a Creole. The
slaves listed in 1859 as being fifteen years old and upwards comprised
thirty-six males and thirty-seven females. The "livre des naissances"
showed fifty-six births between 1833 and 1859 distributed among
twenty-three women, two of whom were still in their teens when the record
ended. Rhodé bore six children between her seventeenth and thirty-fourth
years; Henriette bore six between twenty-one and forty; Esther six between
twenty-one and thirty-six; Fanny, four between twenty-five and thirty-two;
Annette, four between thirty-three and forty; and the rest bore from one
to three children each, including Celestine who had her first baby when
fifteen and her second two years after. None of the matings or paternities
appear in the record, though the christenings and the slave godparents are

[Footnote 21: MS. in the possession of W.H. Stovall, Stovall, Miss.]

[Footnote 22: MS. in the Howard Memorial Library, New Orleans.]

The death rate was a subject of more active solicitude. This may be
illustrated from the journal for 1859-1860 of the Magnolia plantation,
forty miles below New Orleans. Along with its record of rations to 138
hands, and of the occasional births, deaths, runaways and recaptures, and
of the purchase of a man slave for $2300, it contains the following summary
under date of October 4, 1860: "We have had during the past eighteen months
over 150 cases of measles and numerous cases of whooping cough, and then
the diphtheria, all of which we have gone through with but little loss save
in the whooping cough when we lost some twelve children." This entry was in
the spirit of rejoicing at escape from disasters. But on December 18 there
were two items of another tone. One of these was entered by an overseer
named Kellett: "[I] shot the negro boy Frank for attempting to cut at me
and three boys with his cane knife with intent to kill." The other, in a
different handwriting, recorded tersely: "J.A. Randall commenst buisnass
this mornung. J. Kellett discharged this morning." The owner could not
afford to keep an overseer who killed negroes even though it might be in
self defence.[23]

[Footnote 23: MS. preserved on the plantation, owned by ex-Governor H.C.

Of epidemics, yellow fever was of minor concern as regards the slaves, for
negroes were largely immune to it; but cholera sometimes threatened to
exterminate the slaves and bankrupt their masters. After a visitation of
this in and about New Orleans in 1832, John McDonogh wrote to a friend:
"All that you have seen of yellow fever was nothing in comparison. It is
supposed that five or six thousand souls, black and white, were carried off
in fourteen days."[24] The pecuniary loss in Louisiana from slave deaths
in that epidemic was estimated at four million dollars.[25] Two years
afterward it raged in the Savannah neighborhood. On Mr. Wightman's
plantation, ten miles above the city, there were in the first week of
September fifty-three cases and eighteen deaths. The overseer then checked
the spread by isolating the afflicted ones in the church, the barn and the
mill. The neighboring planters awaited only the first appearance of the
disease on their places to abandon their crops and hurry their slaves to
lodges in the wilderness.[26] Plagues of smallpox were sometimes of similar

[Footnote 24: William Allen, _Life of John McDonogh_ (Baltimore, 1886), p.

[Footnote 25: _Niles' Register_, XLV, 84]

[Footnote 26: _Federal Union_ (Milledgeville, Ga.), Sept. 14 and 17 and
Oct. 22, 1834.]

Even without pestilence, deaths might bring a planter's ruin. A series
of them drove M.W. Philips to exclaim in his plantation journal: "Oh! my
losses almost make me crazy. God alone can help." In short, planters must
guard their slaves' health and life as among the most vital of their own
interests; for while crops were merely income, slaves were capital. The
tendency appears to have been common, indeed, to employ free immigrant
labor when available for such work as would involve strain and exposure.
The documents bearing on this theme are scattering but convincing. Thus
E.J. Forstall when writing in 1845 of the extension of the sugar fields,
said thousands of Irishmen were seen in every direction digging plantation
ditches;[27] T.B. Thorpe when describing plantation life on the Mississippi
in 1853 said the Irish proved the best ditchers;[28] and a Georgia planter
when describing his drainage of a swamp in 1855 said that Irish were
hired for the work in order that the slaves might continue at their usual
routine.[29] Olmsted noted on the Virginia seaboard that "Mr. W.... had an
Irish gang draining for him by contract." Olmsted asked, "why he should
employ Irishmen in preference to doing the work with his own hands. 'It's
dangerous work,' the planter replied, 'and a negro's life is too valuable
to be risked at it. If a negro dies, it is a considerable loss you
know,'"[30] On a Louisiana plantation W.H. Russell wrote in 1860: "The
labor of ditching, trenching, cleaning the waste lands and hewing down the
forests is generally done by Irish laborers who travel about the country
under contractors or are engaged by resident gangsmen for the task. Mr.
Seal lamented the high prices of this work; but then, as he said, 'It was
much better to have Irish do it, who cost nothing to the planter if they
died, than to use up good field-hands in such severe employment,'" Russell
added on his own score: "There is a wonderful mine of truth in this
observation. Heaven knows how many poor Hibernians have been consumed and
buried in these Louisianian swamps, leaving their earnings to the dramshop
keeper and the contractor, and the results of their toil to the planter."
On another plantation the same traveller was shown the débris left by the
last Irish gang and was regaled by an account of the methods by which their
contractor made them work.[31] Robert Russell made a similar observation on
a plantation near New Orleans, and was told that even at high wages Irish
laborers were advisable for the work because they would do twice as
much ditching as would an equal number of negroes in the same time.[32]
Furthermore, A. de Puy Van Buren, noted as a common sight in the Yazoo
district, "especially in the ditching season, wandering 'exiles of Erin,'
straggling along the road"; and remarked also that the Irish were the chief
element among the straining roustabouts, on the steamboats of that day.[33]
Likewise Olmsted noted on the Alabama River that in lading his boat with
cotton from a towering bluff, a slave squad was appointed for the work at
the top of the chute, while Irish deck hands were kept below to capture the
wildly bounding bales and stow them. As to the reason for this division
of labor and concentration of risk, the traveller had his own surmise
confirmed when the captain answered his question by saying, "The niggers
are worth too much to be risked here; if the Paddies are knocked overboard,
or get their backs broke, nobody loses anything!"[34] To these chance
observations it may be added that many newspaper items and canal and
railroad company reports from the 'thirties to the 'fifties record that the
construction gangs were largely of Irish and Germans. The pay attracted
those whose labor was their life; the risk repelled those whose labor was
their capital. There can be no doubt that the planters cherished the lives
of their slaves.

[Footnote 27: Edward J. Forstall, _The Agricultural Productions of
Louisiana_ (New Orleans, 1845).]

[Footnote 28: _Harper's Magazine_, VII, 755.]

[Footnote 29: _DeBoufs Review_, XI, 401.]

[Footnote 30: Olmsted, _Seaboard Slave States_, pp. 90, 91.]

[Footnote 31: W.H. Russell, _My Diary North and South_ (Boston, 1863), pp
272, 273, 278.]

[Footnote 32: Robert Russell, _North America, Its Agriculture and Chwate_
(Edinburgh, 1857), p. 272.]

[Footnote 33: A. de Puy Van Buren, _Jottings of a Year's Sojourn in the
South_ (Battle Creek, Mich., 1859), pp. 84, 318.]

[Footnote 34: Olmsted, _Seaboard Slave States_, pp. 550, 551.]

Truancy was a problem in somewhat the same class with disease, disability
and death, since for industrial purposes a slave absent was no better than
a slave sick, and a permanent escape was the equivalent of a death on the
plantation. The character of the absconding was various. Some slaves merely
took vacations without leave, some fled in postponement of threatened
punishments, and most of the rest made resolute efforts to escape from
bondage altogether.

Occasionally, however, a squad would strike in a body as a protest against
severities. An episode of this sort was recounted in a letter of a Georgia
overseer to his absent employer: "Sir: I write you a few lines in order to
let you know that six of your hands has left the plantation--every man but
Jack. They displeased me with their worke and I give some of them a few
lashes, Tom with the rest. On Wednesday morning they were missing. I think
they are lying out until they can see you or your uncle Jack, as he is
expected daily. They may be gone off, or they may be lying round in this
neighbourhood, but I don't know. I blame Tom for the whole. I don't think
the rest would of left the plantation if Tom had not of persuaded them of
for some design. I give Tom but a few licks, but if I ever get him in my
power I will have satisfaction. There was a part of them had no cause for
leaving, only they thought if they would all go it would injure me moore.
They are as independent a set for running of as I have ever seen, and I
think the cause is they have been treated too well. They want more whipping
and no protecter; but if our country is so that negroes can quit their
homes and run of when they please without being taken they will have the
advantage of us. If they should come in I will write to you immediately and
let you know." [35]

[Footnote 35: Letter of I.E.H. Harvey, Jefferson County, Georgia, April 16,
1837, to H.C. Flournoy, Athens, Ga. MS. in private possession. Punctuation
and capitals, which are conspicuously absent in the original, have here
been supplied for the sake of clarity.]

Such a case is analogous to that of wage-earning laborers on strike for
better conditions of work. The slaves could not negotiate directly at such
a time, but while they lay in the woods they might make overtures to the
overseer through slaves on a neighboring plantation as to terms upon which
they would return to work, or they might await their master's posthaste
arrival and appeal to him for a redress of grievances. Humble as their
demeanor might be, their power of renewing the pressure by repeating their
flight could not be ignored. A happy ending for all concerned might be
reached by mutual concessions and pledges. That the conclusion might be
tragic is illustrated in a Louisiana instance where the plantation was in
charge of a negro foreman. Eight slaves after lying out for some weeks
because of his cruelty and finding their hardships in the swamp intolerable
returned home together and proposed to go to work again if granted amnesty.
When the foreman promised a multitude of lashes instead, they killed him
with their clubs. The eight then proceeded to the parish jail at Vidalia,
told what they had done, and surrendered themselves. The coroner went to
the plantation and found the foreman dead according to specifications.[36]
The further history of the eight is unknown.

[Footnote 36: _Daily Delta_ (New Orleans), April 17, 1849.]

Most of the runaways went singly, but some of them went often. Such chronic
offenders were likely to be given exemplary punishment when recaptured. In
the earlier decades branding and shackling were fairly frequent. Some of
the punishments were unquestionably barbarous, the more so when inflicted
upon talented and sensitive mulattoes and quadroons who might be quite
as fit for freedom as their masters. In the later period the more common
resorts were to whipping, and particularly to sale. The menace of this last
was shrewdly used by making a bogey man of the trader and a reputed hell
on earth of any district whither he was supposed to carry his merchandise.
"They are taking her to Georgia for to wear her life away" was a slave
refrain welcome to the ears of masters outside that state; and the
slanderous imputation gave no offence even to Georgians, for they
recognized that the intention was benevolent, and they were in turn
blackening the reputations of the more westerly states in the amiable
purpose of keeping their own slaves content.

Virtually all the plantations whose records are available suffered more
or less from truancy, and the abundance of newspaper advertisements for
fugitives reinforces the impression that the need of deterrence was vital.
Whippings, instead of proving a cure, might bring revenge in the form of
sabotage, arson or murder. Adequacy in food, clothing and shelter might
prove of no avail, for contentment must be mental as well as physical. The
preventives mainly relied upon were holidays, gifts and festivities to
create lightness of heart; overtime and overtask payments to promote zeal
and satisfaction; kindliness and care to call forth loyalty in return;
and the special device of crop patches to give every hand a stake in the
plantation. This last raised a minor problem of its own, for if slaves
were allowed to raise and sell the plantation staples, pilfering might be
stimulated more than industry and punishments become more necessary
than before. In the cotton belt a solution was found at last in nankeen
cotton.[37] This variety had been widely grown for domestic use as early as
the beginning of the nineteenth century, but it was left largely in neglect
until when in the thirties it was hit upon for negro crops. While the
prices it brought were about the same as those of the standard upland
staple, its distinctive brown color prevented the admixture of the
planter's own white variety without certain detection when it reached
the gin. The scale which the slave crops attained on some plantations is
indicated by the proceeds of $1,969.65 in 1859 from the nankeen of the
negroes on the estate of Allen McWalker in Taylor County, Georgia.[38] Such
returns might be distributed in cash; but planters generally preferred for
the sake of sobriety that money should not be freely handled by the slaves.
Earnings as well as gifts were therefore likely to be issued in the form of
tickets for merchandise. David Ross, for example, addressed the following
to the firm of Allen and Ellis at Fredericksburg in the Christmas season of
1802: "Gentlemen: Please to let the bearer George have ten dollars value in
anything he chooses"; and the merchants entered a memorandum that George
chose two handkerchiefs, two hats, three and a half yards of linen, a pair
of hose, and six shillings in cash.[39]

[Footnote 37: John Drayton, _View of South Carolina_ (Charleston, 1802), p.

[Footnote 38: Macon, Ga., _Telegraph_, Feb. 3, 1859, quoted in _DeBow's
Review_, XXIX, 362, note.]

[Footnote 39: MS. among the Allen and Ellis papers in the Library of

In general the most obvious way of preventing trouble was to avoid the
occasion for it. If tasks were complained of as too heavy, the simplest
recourse was to reduce the schedule. If jobs were slackly done,
acquiescence was easier than correction. The easy-going and plausible
disposition of the blacks conspired with the heat of the climate to soften
the resolution of the whites and make them patient. Severe and unyielding
requirements would keep everyone on edge; concession when accompanied with
geniality and not indulged so far as to cause demoralization would make
plantation life not only tolerable but charming.

In the actual régime severity was clearly the exception, and kindliness the
rule. The Englishman Welby, for example, wrote in 1820: "After travelling
through three slave states I am obliged to go back to theory to raise any
abhorrence of it. Not once during the journey did I witness an instance of
cruel treatment nor could I discover anything to excite commiseration in
'the faces or gait of the people of colour. They walk, talk and appear at
least as independent as their masters; in animal spirits they have greatly
the advantage."[40] Basil Hall wrote in 1828: "I have no wish, God knows!
to defend slavery in the abstract; ... but ... nothing during my recent
journey gave me more satisfaction than the conclusion to which I was
gradually brought that the planters of the Southern states of America,
generally speaking, have a sincere desire to manage their estates with
the least possible severity. I do not say that undue severity is nowhere
exercised; but the discipline, taken upon the average, as far as I could
learn, is not more strict than is necessary for the maintenance of a proper
degree of authority, without which the whole framework of society in that
quarter would be blown to atoms."[41] And Olmsted wrote: "The only whipping
of slaves that I have seen in Virginia has been of these wild, lazy
children as they are being broke in to work."[42]

[Footnote 40: Adlard Welby, _Visit to North America_ (London, 1821 )
reprinted in Thwaites ed., _Early Western Travels_, XII, 289]

[Footnote 41: Basil Hall, _Travels in the United States_, III, 227, 228.]

[Footnote 42: Olmsted, _Seaboard Slave States_, p. 146.]

As to the rate and character of the work, Hall said that in contrast with
the hustle prevailing on the Northern farms, "in Carolina all mankind
appeared comparatively idle."[43] Olmsted, when citing a Virginian's remark
that his negroes never worked enough to tire themselves, said on his own
account: "This is just what I have thought when I have seen slaves at
work--they seem to go through the motions of labor without putting strength
into them. They keep their powers in reserve for their own use at night,
perhaps."[44] And Solon Robinson reported tersely from a rice plantation
that the negroes plied their hoes "at so slow a rate, the motion would have
given a quick-working Yankee convulsions."[45]

[Footnote 43: Basil Hall, III, 117.]

[Footnote 44: _Seaboard Slave States_, p. 91.]

[Footnote 45: _American Agriculturist_, IX, 93.]

There was clearly no general prevalence of severity and strain in the
régime. There was, furthermore, little of that curse of impersonality
and indifference which too commonly prevails in the factories of the
present-day world where power-driven machinery sets the pace, where the
employers have no relations with the employed outside of work hours, where
the proprietors indeed are scattered to the four winds, where the directors
confine their attention to finance, and where the one duty of the
superintendent is to procure a maximum output at a minimum cost. No, the
planters were commonly in residence, their slaves were their chief property
to be conserved, and the slaves themselves would not permit indifference
even if the masters were so disposed. The generality of the negroes
insisted upon possessing and being possessed in a cordial but respectful
intimacy. While by no means every plantation was an Arcadia there were many
on which the industrial and racial relations deserved almost as glowing
accounts as that which the Englishman William Faux wrote in 1819 of the
"goodly plantation" of the venerable Mr. Mickle in the uplands of South
Carolina.[46] "This gentleman," said he, "appears to me to be a rare
example of pure and undefiled religion, kind and gentle in manners....
Seeing a swarm, or rather herd, of young negroes creeping and dancing
about the door and yard of his mansion, all appearing healthy, happy and
frolicsome and withal fat and decently clothed, both young and old, I felt
induced to praise the economy under which they lived. 'Aye,' said he, 'I
have many black people, but I have never bought nor sold any in my life.
All that you see came to me with my estate by virtue of my father's will.
They are all, old and young, true and faithful to my interests. They need
no taskmaster, no overseer. They will do all and more than I expect them
to do, and I can trust them with untold gold. All the adults are well
instructed, and all are members of Christian churches in the neighbourhood;
and their conduct is becoming their professions. I respect them as my
children, and they look on me as their friend and father. Were they to be
taken from me it would be the most unhappy event of their lives,' This
conversation induced me to view more attentively the faces of the adult
slaves; and I was astonished at the free, easy, sober, intelligent and
thoughtful impression which such an economy as Mr. Mickle's had indelibly
made on their countenances."

[Footnote 46: William Faux, _Memorable Days in America_ (London, 1823), p.
68, reprinted in Thwaites, ed., _Early Western Travels_, XI, 87.]



When Hakluyt wrote in 1584 his _Discourse of Western Planting_, his theme
was the project of American colonization; and when a settlement was planted
at Jamestown, at Boston or at Providence as the case might be, it was
called, regardless of the type, a plantation. This usage of the word in the
sense of a colony ended only upon the rise of a new institution to which
the original name was applied. The colonies at large came then to be known
as provinces or dominions, while the sub-colonies, the privately
owned village estates which prevailed in the South, were alone called
plantations. In the Creole colonies, however, these were known as
_habitations_--dwelling places. This etymology of the name suggests the
nature of the thing--an isolated place where people in somewhat peculiar
groups settled and worked and had their being. The standard community
comprised a white household in the midst of several or many negro families.
The one was master, the many were slaves; the one was head, the many were
members; the one was teacher, the many were pupils.

The scheme of the buildings reflected the character of the group. The "big
house," as the darkies loved to call it, might be of any type from a double
log cabin to a colonnaded mansion of many handsome rooms, and its setting
might range from a bit of primeval forest to an elaborate formal garden.
Most commonly the house was commodious in a rambling way, with no pretense
to distinction without nor to luxury within. The two fairly constant
features were the hall running the full depth of the house, and the
verandah spanning the front. The former by day and the latter at evening
served in all temperate seasons as the receiving place for guests and the
gathering place for the household at all its leisure times. The house was
likely to have a quiet dignity of its own; but most of such beauty as the
homestead possessed was contributed by the canopy of live-oaks if on the
rice or sugar coasts, or of oaks, hickories or cedars, if in the uplands.
Flanking the main house in many cases were an office and a lodge,
containing between them the administrative headquarters, the schoolroom,
and the apartments for any bachelor overflow whether tutor, sons or
guests. Behind the house and at a distance of a rod or two for the sake of
isolating its noise and odors, was the kitchen. Near this, unless a spring
were available, stood the well with its two buckets dangling from the
pulley; and near this in turn the dairy and the group of pots and tubs
which constituted the open air laundry. Bounding the back yard there were
the smoke-house where bacon and hams were cured, the sweet potato pit, the
ice pit except in the southernmost latitudes where no ice of local origin
was to be had, the carriage house, the poultry house, the pigeon cote, and
the lodgings of the domestic servants. On plantations of small or medium
scale the cabins of the field hands generally stood at the border of the
master's own premises; but on great estates, particularly in the lowlands,
they were likely to be somewhat removed, with the overseer's house, the
smithy, and the stables, corn cribs and wagon sheds nearby. At other
convenient spots were the buildings for working up the crops--the tobacco
house, the threshing and pounding mills, the gin and press, or the sugar
house as the respective staples required. The climate conduced so strongly
to out of door life that as a rule each roof covered but a single unit of
residence, industry or storage.

The fields as well as the buildings commonly radiated from the planter's
house. Close at hand were the garden, the orchards and the horse lot; and
behind them the sweet potato field, the watermelon patch and the forage
plots of millet, sorghum and the like. Thence there stretched the fields
of the main crops in a more or less solid expanse according to the local
conditions. Where ditches or embankments were necessary, as for sugar and
rice fields, the high cost of reclamation promoted compactness; elsewhere
the prevailing cheapness of land promoted dispersion. Throughout the
uplands, accordingly, the area in crops was likely to be broken by wood
lots and long-term fallows. The scale of tillage might range from a few
score acres to a thousand or two; the expanse of unused land need have no
limit but those of the proprietor's purse and his speculative proclivity.

The scale of the orchards was in some degree a measure of the domesticity
prevailing. On the rice coast the unfavorable character of the soil and the
absenteeism of the planter's families in summer conspired to keep the fruit
trees few. In the sugar district oranges and figs were fairly plentiful.
But as to both quantity and variety in fruits the Piedmont was unequaled.
Figs, plums, apples, pears and quinces were abundant, but the peaches
excelled all the rest. The many varieties of these were in two main groups,
those of clear stones and soft, luscious flesh for eating raw, and those
of clinging stones and firm flesh for drying, preserving, and making pies.
From June to September every creature, hogs included, commonly had as many
peaches as he cared to eat; and in addition great quantities might be
carried to the stills. The abandoned fields, furthermore, contributed
dewberries, blackberries, wild strawberries and wild plums in summer, and
persimmons in autumn, when the forest also yielded its muscadines, fox
grapes, hickory nuts, walnuts, chestnuts and chinquapins, and along the
Gulf coast pecans.

The resources for edible game were likewise abundant, with squirrels,
opossums and wild turkeys, and even deer and bears in the woods, rabbits,
doves and quail in the fields, woodcock and snipe in the swamps and
marshes, and ducks and geese on the streams. Still further, the creeks and
rivers yielded fish to be taken with hook, net or trap, as well as terrapin
and turtles, and the coastal waters added shrimp, crabs and oysters. In
most localities it required little time for a household, slave or free, to
lay forest, field or stream under tribute.

The planter's own dietary, while mostly home grown, was elaborate. Beef and
mutton were infrequent because the pastures were poor; Irish potatoes were
used only when new, for they did not keep well in the Southern climate;
and wheaten loaves were seldom seen because hot breads were universally
preferred. The standard meats were chicken in its many guises, ham and
bacon. Wheat flour furnished relays of biscuit and waffles, while corn
yielded lye hominy, grits, muffins, batter cakes, spoon bread, hoe cake
and pone. The gardens provided in season lettuce, cucumbers, radishes and
beets, mustard greens and turnip greens, string beans, snap beans and
butter beans, asparagus and artichokes, Irish potatoes, squashes, onions,
carrots, turnips, okra, cabbages and collards. The fields added green corn
for boiling, roasting, stewing and frying, cowpeas and black-eyed peas,
pumpkins and sweet potatoes, which last were roasted, fried or candied
for variation. The people of the rice coast, furthermore, had a special
fondness for their own pearly staple; and in the sugar district _strop de
batterie_ was deservedly popular. The pickles, preserves and jellies were
in variety and quantity limited only by the almost boundless resources and
industry of the housewife and her kitchen corps. Several meats and breads
and relishes would crowd the table simultaneously, and, unless unexpected
guests swelled the company, less would be eaten during the meal than would
be taken away at the end, never to return. If ever tables had a habit of
groaning it was those of the planters. Frugality, indeed, was reckoned a
vice to be shunned, and somewhat justly so since the vegetables and eggs
were perishable, the bread and meat of little cost, and the surplus from
the table found sure disposal in the kitchen or the quarters. Lucky was the
man whose wife was the "big house" cook, for the cook carried a basket, and
the basket was full when she was homeward bound.

The fare of the field hands was, of course, far more simple. Hoecake and
bacon were its basis and often its whole content. But in summer fruit
and vegetables were frequent; there was occasional game and fish at all
seasons; and the first heavy frost of winter brought the festival of
hog-killing time. While the shoulders, sides, hams and lard were saved, all
other parts of the porkers were distributed for prompt consumption. Spare
ribs and backbone, jowl and feet, souse and sausage, liver and chitterlings
greased every mouth on the plantation; and the crackling-bread, made of
corn meal mixed with the crisp tidbits left from the trying of the lard,
carried fullness to repletion. Christmas and the summer lay-by brought
recreation, but the hog-killing brought fat satisfaction.[1]

[Footnote 1: This account of plantation homesteads and dietary is drawn
mainly from the writer's own observations in post-bellum times in which,
despite the shifting of industrial arrangements and the decrease of wealth,
these phases have remained apparent. Confirmation may be had in Philip
Fithian _Journal_ (Princeton, 1900); A. de Puy Van Buren, _Jottings of a
Year's Sojourn in the South_ (Battle Creek, Mich., 1859); Susan D. Smedes,
_Memorials of a Southern Planter_ (Baltimore, 1887); Mary B. Chestnutt, _A
Diary from Dixie_ (New York, 1905); and many other memoirs and traveller's

The warmth of the climate produced some distinctive customs. One was the
high seasoning of food to stimulate the appetite; another was the afternoon
siesta of summer; a third the wellnigh constant leaving of doors ajar even
in winter when the roaring logs in the chimney merely took the chill from
the draughts. Indeed a door was not often closed on the plantation except
those of the negro cabins, whose inmates were hostile to night air, and
those of the storerooms. As a rule, it was only in the locks of the latter
that keys were ever turned by day or night.

The lives of the whites and the blacks were partly segregate, partly
intertwined. If any special link were needed, the children supplied it.
The whites ones, hardly knowing their mothers from their mammies or their
uncles by blood from their "uncles" by courtesy, had the freedom of the
kitchen and the cabins, and the black ones were their playmates in the
shaded sandy yard the livelong day. Together they were regaled with
folklore in the quarters, with Bible and fairy stories in the "big house,"
with pastry in the kitchen, with grapes at the scuppernong arbor, with
melons at the spring house and with peaches in the orchard. The half-grown
boys were likewise almost as undiscriminating among themselves as the dogs
with which they chased rabbits by day and 'possums by night. Indeed, when
the fork in the road of life was reached, the white youths found something
to envy in the freedom of their fellows' feet from the cramping weight of
shoes and the freedom of their minds from the restraints of school. With
the approach of maturity came routine and responsibility for the whites,
routine alone for the generality of the blacks. Some of the males of each
race grew into ruffians, others into gentlemen in the literal sense, some
of the females into viragoes, others into gentlewomen; but most of
both races and sexes merely became plain, wholesome folk of a somewhat
distinctive plantation type.

In amusements and in religion the activities of the whites and blacks were
both mingled and separate. Fox hunts when occurring by day were as a rule
diversions only for the planters and their sons and guests, but when they
occurred by moonlight the chase was joined by the negroes on foot with
halloos which rivalled the music of the hounds. By night also the blacks,
with the whites occasionally joining in, sought the canny 'possum and the
embattled 'coon; in spare times by day they hied their curs after the
fleeing Brer Rabbit, or built and baited seductive traps for turkeys and
quail; and fishing was available both by day and by night. At the horse
races of the whites the jockeys and many of the spectators were negroes;
while from the cock fights and even the "crap" games of the blacks, white
men and boys were not always absent.

Festivities were somewhat more separate than sports, though by no means
wholly so. In the gayeties of Christmas the members of each race were
spectators of the dances and diversions of the other. Likewise marriage
merriment in the great house would have its echo in the quarters; and
sometimes marriages among the slaves were grouped so as to give occasion
for a general frolic. Thus Daniel R. Tucker in 1858 sent a general
invitation over the countryside in central Georgia to a sextuple wedding
among his slaves, with dinner and dancing to follow.[2] On the whole, the
fiddle, the banjo and the bones were not seldom in requisition.

[Footnote 2: _Federal Union_ (Milledgeville, Ga.), April 20, 1858.]

It was a matter of discomfort that in the evangelical churches dancing
and religion were held to be incompatible. At one time on Thomas Dabney's
plantation in Mississippi, for instance, the whole negro force fell captive
in a Baptist "revival" and forswore the double shuffle. "I done buss' my
fiddle an' my banjo, and done fling 'em away," the most music-loving
fellow on the place said to the preacher when asked for his religious
experiences.[3] Such a condition might be tolerable so long as it was
voluntary; but the planters were likely to take precautions against its
becoming coercive. James H. Hammond, for instance, penciled a memorandum
in his plantation manual: "Church members are privileged to dance on all
holyday occasions; and the class-leader or deacon who may report them shall
be reprimanded or punished at the discretion of the master."[4] The logic
with which sin and sanctity were often reconciled is illustrated in Irwin
Russell's remarkably faithful "Christmas in the Quarters." "Brudder Brown"
has advanced upon the crowded floor to "beg a blessin' on dis dance:"

[Footnote 3: S.D. Smedes. _Memorials of a Southern Planter_, pp. 161, 162.]

[Footnote 4: MS. among the Hammond papers in the Library of Congress.]

  O Mashr! let dis gath'rin' fin' a blessin' in yo' sight!
  Don't jedge us hard fur what we does--you knows it's Chrismus night;
  An' all de balunce ob de yeah we does as right's we kin.
  Ef dancin's wrong, O Mashr! let de time excuse de sin!

  We labors in de vineya'd, wukin' hard and wukin' true;
  Now, shorely you won't notus, ef we eats a grape or two,
  An' takes a leetle holiday,--a leetle restin' spell,--
  Bekase, nex' week we'll start in fresh, an' labor twicet as well.

  Remember, Mashr,--min' dis, now,--de sinfulness ob sin
  Is 'pendin' 'pon de sperrit what we goes an' does it in;
  An' in a righchis frame ob min' we's gwine to dance an' sing,
  A-feelin' like King David, when he cut de pigeon-wing.

  It seems to me--indeed it do--I mebbe mout be wrong--
  That people raly _ought_ to dance, when Chrismus comes along;
  Des dance bekase dey's happy--like de birds hops in de trees,
  De pine-top fiddle soundin' to de blowin' ob de breeze.

  We has no ark to dance afore, like Isrul's prophet king;
  We has no harp to soun' de chords, to holp us out to sing;
  But 'cordin' to de gif's we has we does de bes' we knows,
  An' folks don't 'spise de vi'let-flower bekase it ain't de rose.

  You bless us, please, sah, eben ef we's doin' wrong tonight:
  Kase den we'll need de blessin' more'n ef we's doin' right;
  An' let de blessin' stay wid us, untel we comes to die,
  An' goes to keep our Chrismus wid dem sheriffs in de sky!

  Yes, tell dem preshis anjuls we's a-gwine to jine 'em soon:
  Our voices we's a-trainin' fur to sing de glory tune;
  We's ready when you wants us, an' it ain't no matter when--
  O Mashr! call yo' chillen soon, an' take 'em home! Amen.[5]

[Footnote 5: Irwin Russell, _Poems_ (New York [1888]), pp. 5-7.]

The churches which had the greatest influence upon the negroes were those
which relied least upon ritual and most upon exhilaration. The Baptist and
Methodist were foremost, and the latter had the special advantage of the
chain of camp meetings which extended throughout the inland regions. At
each chosen spot the planters and farmers of the countryside would jointly
erect a great shed or "stand" in the midst of a grove, and would severally
build wooden shelters or "tents" in a great square surrounding it. When the
crops were laid by in August, the households would remove thither, their
wagons piled high with bedding, chairs and utensils to keep "open house"
with heavy-laden tables for all who might come to the meeting. With less
elaborate equipment the negroes also would camp in the neighborhood and
attend the same service as the whites, sitting generally in a section of
the stand set apart for them. The camp meeting, in short, was the chief
social and religious event of the year for all the Methodist whites and
blacks within reach of the ground and for such non-Methodists as cared
to attend. For some of the whites this occasion was highly festive, for
others, intensely religious; but for any negro it might easily be both at
once. Preachers in relays delivered sermons at brief intervals from
sunrise until after nightfall; and most of the sermons were followed by
exhortations for sinners to advance to the mourners' benches to receive
the more intimate and individual suasion of the clergy and their corps of
assisting brethren and sisters. The condition was highly hypnotic, and the
professions of conversion were often quite as ecstatic as the most fervid
ministrant could wish. The negroes were particularly welcome to the
preachers, for they were likely to give the promptest response to the
pulpit's challenge and set the frenzy going. A Georgia preacher, for
instance, in reporting from one of these camps in 1807, wrote: "The first
day of the meeting, we had a gentle and comfortable moving of the spirit of
the Lord among us; and at night it was much more powerful than before, and
the meeting was kept up all night without intermission. However, before
day the white people retired, and the meeting was continued by the black
people." It is easy to see who led the way to the mourners' bench. "Next
day," the preacher continued, "at ten o'clock the meeting was remarkably
lively, and many souls were deeply wrought upon; and at the close of the
sermon there was a general cry for mercy, and before night there were a
good many persons who professed to get converted. That night the meeting
continued all night, both by the white and black people, and many souls
were converted before day." The next day the stir was still more general.
Finally, "Friday was the greatest day of all. We had the Lord's Supper at
night, ... and such a solemn time I have seldom seen on the like occasion.
Three of the preachers fell helpless within the altar, and one lay a
considerable time before he came to himself. From that the work of
convictions and conversions spread, and a large number were converted
during the night, and there was no intermission until the break of day. At
that time many stout hearted sinners were conquered. On Saturday we had
preaching at the rising of the sun; and then with many tears we took leave
of each other."[6]

[Footnote 6: _Farmer's Gazette_ (Sparta, Ga.), Aug. 8, 1807, reprinted in
_Plantation and Frontier_, II, 285, 286.]

The tone of the Baptist "protracted meetings" was much like that of the
Methodist camps. In either case the rampant emotionalism, effective enough
among the whites, was with the negroes a perfect contagion. With some of
these the conversion brought lasting change; with others it provided a
garment of piety to be donned with "Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes" and
doffed as irksome on week days. With yet more it merely added to the joys
of life. The thrill of exaltation would be followed by pleasurable "sin,"
to give place to fresh conversion when the furor season recurred. The
rivalry of the Baptist and Methodist churches, each striving by similar
methods to excel the other, tempted many to become oscillating proselytes,
yielding to the allurements first of the one and then of the other, and on
each occasion holding the center of the stage as a brand snatched from the
burning, a lost sheep restored to the fold, a cause and participant of

In these manifestations the negroes merely followed and enlarged upon the
example of some of the whites. The similarity of practices, however,
did not promote a permanent mingling of the two races in the same
congregations, for either would feel some restraint upon its rhapsody
imposed by the presence of the other. To relieve this there developed in
greater or less degree a separation of the races for purposes of worship,
white ministers preaching to the blacks from time to time in plantation
missions, and home talent among the negroes filling the intervals. While
some of the black exhorters were viewed with suspicion by the whites,
others were highly esteemed and unusually privileged. One of these at
Lexington, Kentucky, for example, was given the following pass duly signed
by his master: "Tom is my slave, and has permission to go to Louisville for
two or three weeks and return here after he has made his visit. Tom is a
preacher of the reformed Baptist church, and has always been a faithful
servant."[7] As a rule the greater the proportion of negroes in a district
or a church connection, the greater the segregation in worship. If the
whites were many and the negroes few, the latter would be given the gallery
or some other group of pews; but if the whites were few and the negroes
many, the two elements would probably worship in separate buildings. Even
in such case, however, it was very common for a parcel of black domestics
to flock with their masters rather than with their fellows.

[Footnote 7: Dated Aug. 6, 1856, and signed E. McCallister. MS. in the New
York Public Library.]

The general régime in the fairly typical state of South Carolina was
described in 1845 in a set of reports procured preliminary to a convention
on the state of religion among the negroes and the means of its betterment.
Some of these accounts were from the clergy of several denominations,
others from the laity; some treated of general conditions in the several
districts, others in detail of systems on the writers' own plantations. In
the latter group, N.W. Middleton, an Episcopalian of St. Andrew's parish,
wrote that he and his wife and sons were the only religious teachers of his
slaves, aside from the rector of the parish. He read the service and taught
the catechism to all every Sunday afternoon, and taught such as came
voluntarily to be instructed after family prayers on Wednesday nights. His
wife and sons taught the children "constantly during the week," chiefly in
the catechism. On the other hand R.F.W. Allston, a fellow Episcopalian of
Prince George, Winyaw, had on his plantation a place of worship open to all
denominations. A Methodist missionary preached there on alternate Sundays,
and the Baptists were less regularly cared for. Both of these sects,
furthermore, had prayer meetings, according to the rules of the plantation,
on two nights of each week. Thus while Middleton endeavored to school his
slaves in his own faith, Allston encouraged them to seek salvation by such
creed as they might choose.

An Episcopal clergyman in the same parish with Allston wrote that he held
fortnightly services among the negroes on ten plantations, and enlisted
some of the literate slaves as lay readers. His restriction of these to the
text of the prayer book, however, seems to have shorn them of power. The
bulk of the slaves flocked to the more spontaneous exercises elsewhere;
and the clergyman could find ground for satisfaction only in saying that
frequently as many as two hundred slaves attended services at one of the
parish churches in the district.

The Episcopal failure was the "evangelical" opportunity. Of the thirteen
thousand slaves in Allston's parish some 3200 were Methodists and 1500
Baptists, as compared with 300 Episcopalians. In St. Peter's parish a
Methodist reported that in a total of 6600 slaves, 1335 adhered to his
faith, about half of whom were in mixed congregations of whites and blacks
under the care of two circuit-riders, and the rest were in charge of two
missionaries who ministered to negroes alone. Every large plantation,
furthermore, had one or more "so-called negro preachers, but more properly
exhorters." In St. Helena parish the Baptists led with 2132 communicants;
the Methodists followed with 314 to whom a missionary holding services on
twenty plantations devoted the whole of his time; and the Episcopalians as
usual brought up the rear with fifty-two negro members of the church at
Beaufort and a solitary additional one in the chapel on St. Helena island.

Of the progress and effects of religion in the lowlands Allston and
Middleton thought well. The latter said, "In every respect I feel
encouraged to go on." The former wrote: "Of my own negroes and those in my
immediate neighborhood I may speak with confidence. They are attentive to
religious instruction and greatly improved in intelligence and morals, in
domestic relations, etc. Those who have grown up under religious training
are more intelligent and generally, though not always, more improved than
those who have received religious instruction as adults. Indeed the degree
of intelligence which as a class they are acquiring is worthy of deep
consideration." Thomas Fuller, the reporter from the Beaufort neighborhood,
however, was as much apprehensive as hopeful. While the negroes had greatly
improved in manners and appearance as a result of coming to worship in town
every Sunday, said he, the freedom which they were allowed for the purpose
was often misused in ways which led to demoralization. He strongly advised
the planters to keep the slaves at home and provide instruction there.

From the upland cotton belt a Presbyterian minister in the Chester district
wrote: "You are all aware, gentlemen, that the relation and intercourse
between the whites and the blacks in the up-country are very different from
what they are in the low-country. With us they are neither so numerous nor
kept so entirely separate, but constitute a part of our households, and are
daily either with their masters or some member of the white family. From
this circumstance they feel themselves more identified with their owners
than they can with you. I minister steadily to two different congregations.
More than one hundred blacks attend.... The gallery, or a quarter of the
house, is appropriated to them in all our churches, and they enjoy the
preached gospel in common with the whites." Finally, from the Greenville
district, on the upper edge of the Piedmont, where the Methodists and
Baptists were completely dominant among whites and blacks alike, it was
reported: "About one fourth of the members in the churches are negroes.
In the years 1832, '3 and '4 great numbers of negroes joined the churches
during a period of revival. Many, I am sorry to say, have since been
excommunicated. As the general zeal in religion declined, they backslid."
There were a few licensed negro preachers, this writer continued, who were
thought to do some good; but the general improvement in negro character, he
thought, was mainly due to the religious and moral training given by their
masters, and still more largely by their mistresses. From all quarters the
expression was common that the promotion of religion among the slaves was
not only the duty of masters but was to their interest as well in that it
elevated the morals of the workmen and improved the quality of the service
they rendered.[8]

[Footnote 8: _Proceedings of the Meeting in Charleston, S.C., May 13-15,
1845, on the Religious Instruction of the Negroes, together with the Report
of the Committee and the Address to the Public_ (Charleston, 1845). The
reports of the Association for the Religious Instruction of Negroes in
Liberty County, Georgia, printed annually for a dozen years or more in the
'thirties and 'forties, relate the career of a particularly interesting
missionary work in that county on the rice coast, under the charge of the
Reverend C.C. Jones. The tenth report in the series (1845) summarizes the
work of the first decade, and the twelfth (1847) surveys the conditions
then prevalent. In C.F. Deems ed., _Annals of Southern Methodism for 1856_
(Nashville, [1857]) the ninth chapter is made up of reports on the mission
activities of that church among the negroes in various quarters of the

In general, the less the cleavage of creed between master and man, the
better for both, since every factor conducing to solidarity of sentiment
was of advantage in promoting harmony and progress. When the planter went
to sit under his rector while the slave stayed at home to hear an exhorter,
just so much was lost in the sense of fellowship. It was particularly
unfortunate that on the rice coast the bulk of the blacks had no
co-religionists except among the non-slaveholding whites with whom they had
more conflict than community of economic and sentimental interest. On
the whole, however, in spite of the contrary suggestion of irresponsible
religious preachments and manifestations, the generality of the negroes
everywhere realized, like the whites, that virtue was to be acquired by
consistent self-control in the performance of duty rather man by the
alternation of spasmodic reforms and relapses.

Occasionally some hard-headed negro would resist the hypnotic suggestion
of his preacher, and even repudiate glorification on his death-bed. A
Louisiana physician recounts the final episode in the career of "Old Uncle
Caleb," who had long been a-dying. "Before his departure, Jeff, the negro
preacher of the place, gathered his sable flock of saints and sinners
around the bed. He read a chapter and prayed, after which they sang a
hymn.... Uncle Caleb lay motionless with closed eyes, and gave no sign.
Jeff approached and took his hand. 'Uncle Caleb,' said he earnestly, 'de
doctor says you are dying; and all de bredderin has come in for to see you
de last time. And now, Uncle Caleb, dey wants to hear from your own mouf de
precious words, dat you feels prepared to meet your God, and is ready and
willin' to go,' Old Caleb opened his eyes suddenly, and in a very peevish,
irritable tone, rebuffed the pious functionary in the following unexpected
manner: 'Jeff, don't talk your nonsense to me! You jest knows dat I an't
ready to go, nor willin' neder; and dat I an't prepared to meet nobody,'
Jeff expatiated largely not only on the mercy of God, but on the glories of
the heavenly kingdom, as a land flowing with milk and honey, etc. 'Dis ole
cabin suits me mon'sus well!' was the only reply he could elicit from the
old reprobate. And so he died."[9]

[Footnote 9: William H. Holcombe, "Sketches of Plantation Life," in the
_Knickerbocker Magazine_, LVII, 631 (June, 1861).]

The slaves not only had their own functionaries in mystic matters,
including a remnant of witchcraft, but in various temporal concerns also.
Foremen, chosen by masters with the necessary sanction of the slaves, had
industrial and police authority; nurses were minor despots in sick rooms
and plantation hospitals; many an Uncle Remus was an oracle in folklore;
and many an Aunt Dinah was arbitress of style in turbans and of elegancies
in general. Even in the practice of medicine a negro here and there gained
a sage's reputation. The governor of Virginia reported in 1729 that he had
"met with a negro, a very old man, who has performed many wonderful cures
of diseases. For the sake of his freedom he has revealed the medicine, a
concoction of roots and barks.... There is no room to doubt of its being
a certain remedy here, and of singular use among the negroes--it is well
worth the price (£60) of the negro's freedom, since it is now known how to
cure slaves without mercury."[10] And in colonial South Carolina a slave
named Caesar was particularly famed for his cure for poison, which was a
decoction of plantain, hoar-hound and golden rod roots compounded with rum
and lye, together with an application of tobacco leaves soaked in rum in
case of rattlesnake bite. In 1750 the legislature ordered his prescription
published for the benefit of the public, and the Charleston journal which
printed it found its copies exhausted by the demand.[11] An example of more
common episodes appears in a letter from William Dawson, a Potomac planter,
to Robert Carter of Nomoni Hall, asking that "Brother Tom," Carter's
coachman, be sent to see a sick child in his quarter. Dawson continued:
"The black people at this place hath more faith in him as a doctor than any
white doctor; and as I wrote you in a former letter I cannot expect you to
lose your man's time, etc., for nothing, but am quite willing to pay for

[Footnote 10: J.H. Russell, _The Free Negro in Virginia_ (Baltimore, 1913),
p. 53, note.]

[Footnote 11: _South Carolina Gazette_, Feb. 25, 1751.]

[Footnote 12: MS. in the Carter papers, Virginia Historical Society.]

Each plantation had a double head in the master and the mistress. The
latter, mother of a romping brood of her own and over-mother of the
pickaninny throng, was the chatelaine of the whole establishment. Working
with a never flagging constancy, she carried the indoor keys, directed the
household routine and the various domestic industries, served as head nurse
for the sick, and taught morals and religion by precept and example.
Her hours were long, her diversions few, her voice quiet, her influence
firm.[13] Her presence made the plantation a home; her absence would have
made it a factory. The master's concern was mainly with the able-bodied in
the routine of the crops. He laid the plans, guessed the weather, ordered
the work, and saw to its performance. He was out early and in late,
directing, teaching, encouraging, and on occasion punishing. Yet he found
time for going to town and for visits here and there, time for politics,
and time for sports. If his duty as he saw it was sometimes grim, and
his disappointments keen, hearty diversions were at hand to restore his
equanimity. His horn hung near and his hounds made quick response on
Reynard's trail, and his neighbors were ready to accept his invitations and
give theirs lavishly in return, whether to their houses or to their fields.
When their absences from home were long, as they might well be in the
public service, they were not unlikely upon return to meet such a reception
as Henry Laurens described: "I found nobody there but three of our old
domestics--Stepney, Exeter and big Hagar. These drew tears from me by their
humble and affectionate salutes. My knees were clasped, my hands kissed,
my very feet embraced, and nothing less than a very--I can't say fair, but
full--buss of my lips would satisfy the old man weeping and sobbing in my
face.... They ... held my hands, hung upon me; I could scarce get from
them. 'Ah,' said the old man, 'I never thought to see you again; now I am
happy; Ah, I never thought to see you again.'"[14]

[Footnote 13: Emily J. Putnam, _The Lady_ (New York, 1910), pp. 282-323.]

[Footnote 14: D.D. Wallace, _Life of Henry Laurens_, p. 436.]

Among the clearest views of plantation life extant are those of two
Northern tutors who wrote of their Southern sojourns. One was Philip
Fithian who went from Princeton in 1773 to teach the children of Colonel
Robert Carter of Nomoni Hall in the "Northern Neck" of Virginia, probably
the most aristocratic community of the whole South: the other was A. de Puy
Van Buren who left Battle Creek in the eighteen-fifties to seek health and
employment in Mississippi and found them both, and happiness too, amid the
freshly settled folk on the banks of the Yazoo River. Each of these made
jottings now and then of the work and play of the negroes, but both of them
were mainly impressed by the social régime in which they found themselves
among the whites. Fithian marveled at the evidences of wealth and the
stratification of society, but he reckoned that a well recommended
Princeton graduate, with no questions asked as to his family, fortune or
business, would be rated socially as on an equal footing with the owner
of a £10,000 estate, though this might be discounted one-half if he were
unfashionably ignorant of dancing, boxing, fencing, fiddling and cards.[15]
He was attracted by the buoyancy, the good breeding and the cordiality of
those whom he met, and particularly by the sound qualities of Colonel and
Mrs. Carter with whom he dwelt; but as a budding Presbyterian preacher he
was a little shocked at first by the easy-going conduct of the Episcopalian
planters on Sundays. The time at church, he wrote, falls into three
divisions: first, that before service, which is filled by the giving and
receiving of business letters, the reading of advertisements and the
discussion of crop prices and the lineage and qualities of favorite horses;
second, "in the church at service, prayrs read over in haste, a sermon
seldom under and never over twenty minutes, but always made up of sound
morality or deep, studied metaphysicks;"[16] third, "after service is over,
three quarters of an hour spent in strolling round the church among the
crowd, in which time you will be invited by several different gentlemen
home with them to dinner."

[Footnote 15: Philip V. Fithian, _Journal and Letters_ (Princeton, 1900),
p. 287.]

[Footnote 16: Fithian _Journal and Letters_, p. 296.]

Van Buren found the towns in the Yazoo Valley so small as barely to be
entitled to places on the map; he found the planters' houses to be commonly
mere log structures, as the farmers' houses about his own home in Michigan
had been twenty years before; and he found the roads so bad that the mule
teams could hardly draw their wagons nor the spans of horses their chariots
except in dry weather. But when on his horseback errands in search of a
position he learned to halloo from the roadway and was regularly met at
each gate with an extended hand and a friendly "How do you do, sir? Won't
you alight, come in, take a seat and sit awhile?"; when he was invariably
made a member of any circle gathered on the porch and refreshed with cool
water from the cocoanut dipper or with any other beverages in circulation;
when he was asked as a matter of course to share any meal in prospect and
to spend the night or day, he discovered charms even in the crudities of
the pegs for hanging saddles on the porch and the crevices between the logs
of the wall for the keeping of pipes and tobacco, books and newspapers.
Finally, when the planter whose house he had made headquarters for two
months declined to accept a penny in payment, Van Buren's heart overflowed.
The boys whom he then began to teach he found particularly apt in
historical studies, and their parents with whom he dwelt were thorough

Toward the end of his narrative, Van Buren expressed the thought that
Mississippi, the newly settled home of people from all the older Southern
states, exemplified the manners of all. He was therefore prompted to
generalize and interpret: "A Southern gentleman is composed of the same
material that a Northern gentleman is, only it is tempered by a Southern
clime and mode of life. And if in this temperament there is a little more
urbanity and chivalry, a little more politeness and devotion to the ladies,
a little more _suaviter in modo_, why it is theirs--be fair and acknowledge
it, and let them have it. He is from the mode of life he lives, especially
at home, more or less a cavalier; he invariably goes a-horseback. His boot
is always spurred, and his hand ensigned with the riding-whip. Aside from
this he is known by his bearing--his frankness and firmness." Furthermore
he is a man of eminent leisureliness, which Van Buren accounts for as
follows: "Nature is unloosed of her stays there; she is not crowded for
time; the word haste is not in her vocabulary. In none of the seasons is
she stinted to so short a space to perform her work as at the North. She
has leisure enough to bud and blossom--to produce and mature fruit, and do
all her work. While on the other hand in the North right the reverse is
true. Portions are taken off the fall and spring to lengthen out the
winter, making his reign nearly half the year. This crowds the work of
the whole year, you might say, into about half of it. This ... makes the
essential difference between a Northerner and a Southerner. They are
children of their respective climes; and this is why Southrons are so
indifferent about time; they have three months more of it in a year than we
have." [17]

[Footnote 17: A. de Puy Van Buren, _Jottings of a Year's Sojourn in the
South_, pp. 232-236.]

A key to Van Buren's enthusiasm is given by a passage in the diary of
the great English reporter, William H. Russell: "The more one sees of a
planter's life the greater is the conviction that its charms come from a
particular turn of mind, which is separated by a wide interval from modern
ideas in Europe. The planter is a denomadized Arab;--he has fixed himself
with horses and slaves in a fertile spot, where he guards his women with
Oriental care, exercises patriarchal sway, and is at once fierce, tender
and hospitable. The inner life of his household is exceedingly charming,
because one is astonished to find the graces and accomplishments of
womanhood displayed in a scene which has a certain sort of savage rudeness
about it after all, and where all kinds of incongruous accidents are
visible in the service of the table, in the furniture of the house, in
its decorations, menials, and surrounding scenery."[18] The Southerners
themselves took its incongruities much as a matter of course. The régime
was to their minds so clearly the best attainable under the circumstances
that its roughnesses chafed little. The plantations were homes to which,
as they were fond of singing, their hearts turned ever; and the negroes,
exasperating as they often were to visiting strangers, were an element
in the home itself. The problem of accommodation, which was the central
problem of the life, was on the whole happily solved.

[Footnote 18: William H. Russell, _My Diary North and South_ (Boston,
1863), p. 285.]

The separate integration of the slaves was no more than rudimentary. They
were always within the social mind and conscience of the whites, as the
whites in turn were within the mind and conscience of the blacks. The
adjustments and readjustments were mutually made, for although the masters
had by far the major power of control, the slaves themselves were by no
means devoid of influence. A sagacious employer has well said, after long
experience, "a negro understands a white man better than the white man
understands the negro."[19] This knowledge gave a power all its own. The
general régime was in fact shaped by mutual requirements, concessions
and understandings, producing reciprocal codes of conventional morality.
Masters of the standard type promoted Christianity and the customs of
marriage and parental care, and they instructed as much by example as
by precept; they gave occasional holidays, rewards and indulgences, and
permitted as large a degree of liberty as they thought the slaves could be
trusted not to abuse; they refrained from selling slaves except under
the stress of circumstances; they avoided cruel, vindictive and captious
punishments, and endeavored to inspire effort through affection rather
than through fear; and they were content with achieving quite moderate
industrial results. In short their despotism, so far as it might properly
be so called was benevolent in intent and on the whole beneficial in

[Footnote 19: Captain L.V. Cooley, _Address Before the Tulane Society of
Economics_ [New Orleans, 1911], p. 8.]

Some planters there were who inflicted severe punishments for disobedience
and particularly for the offense of running away; and the community
condoned and even sanctioned a certain degree of this. Otherwise no planter
would have printed such descriptions of scars and brands as were fairly
common in the newspaper advertisements offering rewards for the recapture
of absconders.[20] When severity went to an excess that was reckoned as
positive cruelty, however, the law might be invoked if white witnesses
could be had; or the white neighbors or the slaves themselves might apply
extra-legal retribution. The former were fain to be content with inflicting
social ostracism or with expelling the offender from the district;[21] the
latter sometimes went so far as to set fire to the oppressor's house or to
accomplish his death by poison, cudgel, knife or bullet.[22]

[Footnote 20: Examples are reprinted in _Plantation and Frontier_, II,

[Footnote 21: An instance is given in H.M. Henry, _Police Control of the
Slave in South Carolina_ (Emory, Va., [1914]), p. 75.]

[Footnote 22: For instances _see Plantation and Frontier_, II, 117-121.]

In the typical group there was occasion for terrorism on neither side. The
master was ruled by a sense of dignity, duty and moderation, and the
slaves by a moral code of their own. This embraced a somewhat obsequious
obedience, the avoidance of open indolence and vice, the attainment of
moderate skill in industry, and the cultivation of the master's good
will and affection. It winked at petty theft, loitering and other little
laxities, while it stressed good manners and a fine faithfulness in major
concerns. While the majority were notoriously easy-going, very many made
their master's interests thoroughly their own; and many of the masters had
perfect confidence in the loyalty of the bulk of their servitors. When on
the eve of secession Edmund Ruffin foretold[23] the fidelity which the
slaves actually showed when the war ensued, he merely voiced the faith of
the planter class.

[Footnote 23: _Debowfs Review_, XXX, 118-120 (January, 1861).]

In general the relations on both sides were felt to be based on pleasurable
responsibility. The masters occasionally expressed this in their letters.
William Allason, for example, who after a long career as a merchant at
Falmouth, Virginia, had retired to plantation life, declined his niece's
proposal in 1787 that he return to Scotland to spend his declining years.
In enumerating his reasons he concluded: "And there is another thing which
in your country you can have no trial of: that is, of selling faithful
slaves, which perhaps we have raised from their earliest breath. Even this,
however, some can do, as with horses, etc., but I must own that it is not
in my disposition."[24]

[Footnote 24: Letter dated Jan. 22, 1787, in the Allason MS. mercantile
books, Virginia State Library.]

Others were yet more expressive when they came to write their wills.
Thus[25] Howell Cobb of Houston County, Georgia, when framing his testament
in 1817 which made his body-servant "to be what he is really deserving, a
free man," and gave an annuity along with virtual freedom to another slave,
of an advanced age, said that the liberation of the rest of his slaves was
prevented by a belief that the care of generous and humane masters would
be much better for them than a state of freedom. Accordingly he bequeathed
these to his wife who he knew from her goodness of temper would treat them
with unflagging kindness. But should the widow remarry, thereby putting her
property under the control of a stranger, the slaves and the plantation
were at once to revert to the testator's brother who was recommended to
bequeath them in turn to his son Howell if he were deemed worthy of the
trust. "It is my most ardent desire that in whatsoever hands fortune
may place said negroes," the will enjoined, "that all the justice and
indulgence may be shown them that is consistent with a state of slavery. I
flatter myself with the hope that none of my relations or connections will
be so ungrateful to my memory as to treat or use them otherwise." Surely
upon the death of such a master the slaves might, with even more than usual
unction, raise their melodious refrain:

[Footnote 25: MS. copy in the possession of Mrs. A.S. Erwin, Athens,
Ga. The nephew mentioned in the will was Howell Cobb of Confederate

  Down in de cawn fiel'
  Hear dat mo'nful soun';
  All de darkies am aweepin',
  Massa's in de col', col' ground.



Every typical settlement in English America was in its first phase a bit
of the frontier. Commerce was rudimentary, capital scant, and industry
primitive. Each family had to suffice itself in the main with its own
direct produce. No one could afford to specialize his calling, for the
versatility of the individual was wellnigh a necessity of life. This phase
lasted only until some staple of export was found which permitted the rise
of external trade. Then the fruit of such energy as could be spared from
the works of bodily sustenance was exchanged for the goods of the outer
world; and finally in districts of special favor for staples, the bulk of
the community became absorbed in the special industry and procured most of
its consumption goods from without.

In the hidden coves of the Southern Alleghanies the primitive régime has
proved permanent. In New England where it was but gradually replaced
through the influence first of the fisheries and then of manufacturing, it
survived long enough to leave an enduring spirit of versatile enterprise,
evidenced in the plenitude of "Yankee notions." In the Southern lowlands
and Piedmont, however, the pristine advantages of self-sufficing industry
were so soon eclipsed by the profits to be had from tobacco, rice, indigo,
sugar or cotton, that in large degree the whole community adopted a
stereotyped economy with staple production as its cardinal feature.
The earnings obtained by the more efficient producers brought an early
accumulation of capital, and at the same time the peculiar adaptability of
all the Southern staples to production on a large scale by unfree labor
prompted the devotion of most of the capital to the purchase of servants
and slaves. Thus in every district suited to any of these staples, the
growth of an industrial and social system like that of Europe and the
Northern States was cut short and the distinctive Southern scheme of things
developed instead.

This régime was conditioned by its habitat, its products and the racial
quality of its labor supply, as well as by the institution of slavery and
the traditional predilections of the masters. The climate of the South was
generally favorable to one or another of the staples except in the elevated
tracts in and about the mountain ranges. The soil also was favorable except
in the pine barrens which skirted the seaboard. Everywhere but in the
alluvial districts, however, the land had only a surface fertility, and all
the staples, as well as their great auxiliary Indian corn, required the
fields to be kept clean and exposed to the weather; and the heavy rainfall
of the region was prone to wash off the soil from the hillsides and to
leach the fertile ingredients through the sands of the plains. But so
spacious was the Southern area that the people never lacked fresh fields
when their old ones were outworn. Hence, while public economy for the long
run might well have suggested a conservation of soil at the expense of
immediate crops, private economy for the time being dictated the opposite
policy; and its dictation prevailed, as it has done in virtually all
countries and all ages. Slaves working in squads might spread manure and
sow soiling crops if so directed, as well as freemen working individually;
and their failure to do so was fully paralleled by similar neglect at the
North in the same period. New England, indeed, was only less noted than the
South for exhausted fields and abandoned farms. The newness of the country,
the sparseness of population and the cheapness of land conspired with
crops, climate and geological conditions to promote exploitive methods.
The planters were by no means alone in shaping their program to fit these
circumstances.[1] The heightened speed of the consequences was in a sense
merely an unwelcome proof of their system's efficiency. Their laborers, by
reason of being slaves, must at word of command set forth on a trek of
a hundred or a thousand miles. No racial inertia could hinder nor local
attachments hold them. In the knowledge of this the masters were even more
alert than other men of the time for advantageous new locations; and they
were accordingly fain to be content with rude houses and flimsy fences in
any place of sojourn, and to let their hills remain studded with stumps as
well as to take the exhaustion of the soil as a matter of course.[2]

[Footnote 1 Edmund Ruffin, _Address on the opposite results of exhausting
and fertilizing systems of agriculture. Read before the South Carolina
Institute, November 18, 1852_ (Charleston, 1853), pp. 12, 13.]

[Footnote 2 W.L. Trenholm, "The Southern States, their social and
industrial history, conditions and needs," in the _Journal of Social
Science_, no. IX (January, 1878).]

Migration produced a more or less thorough segregation of types, for
planters and farmers respectively tended to enter and remain in the
districts most favorable to them.[3] The monopolization of the rice and
sugar industries by the planters, has been described in previous chapters.
At the other extreme the farming régime was without a rival throughout the
mountain regions, in the Shenandoah and East Tennessee Valleys and in
large parts of Kentucky and Missouri where the Southern staples would not
flourish, and in great tracts of the pine barrens where the quality of
the soil repelled all but the unambitious. The tobacco and cotton belts
remained as the debatable ground in which the two systems might compete on
more nearly even terms, though in some cotton districts the planters had
always an overwhelming advantage. In the Mississippi bottoms, for example,
the solid spread of the fields facilitated the supervision of large gangs
at work, and the requirement of building and maintaining great levees on
the river front virtually debarred operations by small proprietors. The
extreme effects of this are illustrated in Issa-quena County, Mississippi,
and Concordia Parish, Louisiana, where in 1860 the slaveholdings averaged
thirty and fifty slaves each, and where except for plantation overseers
and their families there were virtually no non-slaveholders present. The
Alabama prairies, furthermore, showed a plantation predominance almost as
complete. In the six counties of Dallas, Greene, Lowndes, Macon, Perry,
Sumter and Wilcox, for example, the average slaveholdings ranged from
seventeen to twenty-one each, and the slaveholding families were from twice
to six times as numerous as the non-slaveholding ones. Even in the more
rugged parts of the cotton belt and in the tobacco zone as well, the same
tendency toward the engrossment of estates prevailed, though in milder
degree and with lesser effects.

[Footnote 3 F.V. Emerson, "Geographical Influences in American Slavery," in
the American Geographical Society _Bulletin_, XLIII (1911), 13-26, 106-118,

This widespread phenomenon did not escape the notice of contemporaries. Two
members of the South Carolina legislature described it as early as 1805 in
substance as follows: "As one man grows wealthy and thereby increases his
stock of negroes, he wants more land to employ them on; and being fully
able, he bids a large price for his less opulent neighbor's plantation, who
by selling advantageously here can raise money enough to go into the back
country, where he can be more on a level with the most forehanded, can get
lands cheaper, and speculate or grow rich by industry as he pleases."[4]
Some three decades afterward another South Carolinian spoke sadly "on the
incompatibleness of large plantations with neighboring farms, and their
uniform tendency to destroy the yeoman."[5] Similarly Dr. Basil Manly,[6]
president of the University of Alabama, spoke in 1841 of the inveterate
habit of Southern farmers to buy more land and slaves and plod on captive
to the customs of their ancestors; and C.C. Clay, Senator from Alabama,
said in 1855 of his native county of Madison, which lay on the Tennessee
border: "I can show you ... the sad memorials of the artless and exhausting
culture of cotton. Our small planters, after taking the cream off their
lands, unable to restore them by rest, manures or otherwise, are going
further west and south in search of other virgin lands which they may and
will despoil and impoverish in like manner. Our wealthier planters, with
greater means and no more skill, are buying out their poorer neighbors,
extending their plantations and adding to their slave force. The wealthy
few, who are able to live on smaller profits and to give their blasted
fields some rest, are thus pushing off the many who are merely
independent.... In traversing that county one will discover numerous farm
houses, once the abode of industrious and intelligent freemen, now occupied
by slaves, or tenantless, deserted and dilapidated; he will observe
fields, once fertile, now unfenced, abandoned, and covered with those evil
harbingers fox-tail and broomsedge; he will see the moss growing on the
mouldering walls of once thrifty villages; and will find 'one only master
grasps the whole domain' that once furnished happy homes for a dozen white
families. Indeed, a country in its infancy, where fifty years ago scarce
a forest tree had been felled by the axe of the pioneer, is already
exhibiting the painful signs of senility and decay apparent in Virginia and
the Carolinas; the freshness of its agricultural glory is gone, the vigor
of its youth is extinct, and the spirit of desolation seems brooding over

[Footnote 4: "Diary of Edward Hooker," in the American Historical
Association _Report_ for 1896, p. 878.]

[Footnote 5: Quoted in Francis Lieber, _Slavery, Plantations and the
Yeomanry_ (Loyal Publication Society, no. 29, New York, 1863), p. 5.]

[Footnote 6: _Tuscaloosa Monitor_, April 13, 1842.]

[Footnote 7: _DeBow's Review_, XIX, 727.]

The census returns for Madison County show that in 1830 when the gross
population was at its maximum the whites and slaves were equally numerous,
and that by 1860 while the whites had diminished by a fourth the slaves had
increased only by a twentieth. This suggests that the farmers were drawn,
not driven, away.

The same trend may be better studied in the uplands of eastern Georgia
where earlier settlements gave a longer experience and where fuller
statistics permit a more adequate analysis. In the county of Oglethorpe,
typical of that area, the whites in the year 1800 were more than twice as
many as the slaves, the non-slaveholding families were to the slaveholders
in the ratio of 8 to 5, and slaveholders on the average had but 5
slaves each. In 1820 the county attained its maximum population for the
ante-bellum period, and competition between the industrial types was
already exerting its full effect. The whites were of the same number as
twenty years before, but the slaves now exceeded them; the slaveholding
families also slightly exceeded those who had none, and the scale of the
average slaveholding had risen to 8.5. Then in the following forty years
while the whites diminished and the number of slaves remained virtually
constant, the scale of the average slaveholding rose to 12.2; the number of
slaveholders shrank by a third and the non-slaveholders by two thirds.[8]
The smaller slaveholders, those we will say with less than ten slaves each,
ought of course to be classed among the farmers. When this is done the
farmers of Oglethorpe appear to have been twice as many as the planters
even in 1860. But this is properly offset by rating the average plantation
there at four or five times the industrial scale of the average farm, which
makes it clear that the plantation régime had grown dominant.

[Footnote 8: U.B. Phillips, "The Origin and Growth of the Southern Black
Belts," in the _American Historical Review_, XI, 810-813 (July, 1906).]

In such a district virtually everyone was growing cotton to the top of his
ability. When the price of the staple was high, both planters and farmers
prospered in proportion to their scales. Those whose earnings were greatest
would be eager to enlarge their fields, and would make offers for adjoining
lands too tempting for some farmers to withstand. These would sell out and
move west to resume cotton culture to better advantage than before. When
cotton prices were low, however, the farmers, feeling the stress most
keenly, would be inclined to forsake staple production. But in such case
there was no occasion for them to continue cultivating lands best fit for
cotton. The obvious policy would be to sell their homesteads to neighboring
planters and move to cheaper fields beyond the range of planters'
competition. Thus the farmers were constantly pioneering in districts of
all sorts, while the plantation régime, whether by the prosperity and
enlargement of the farms or by the immigration of planters, or both, was
constantly replacing the farming scale in most of the staple areas.

In the oldest districts of all, however, the lowlands about the Chesapeake,
the process went on to a final stage in which the bulk of the planters,
after exhausting the soil for staple purposes, departed westward and were
succeeded in their turn by farmers, partly native whites and free negroes
and partly Northerners trickling in, who raised melons, peanuts, potatoes,
and garden truck for the Northern city markets.

Throughout the Southern staple areas the plantations waxed and waned in a
territorial progression. The régime was a broad billow moving irresistibly
westward and leaving a trough behind. At the middle of the nineteenth
century it was entering Texas, its last available province, whose cotton
area it would have duly filled had its career escaped its catastrophic
interruption. What would have occurred after that completion, without the
war, it is interesting to surmise. Probably the crest of the billow would
have subsided through the effect of an undertow setting eastward again.
Belated immigrants, finding the good lands all engrossed, would have
returned to their earlier homes, to hold their partially exhausted soils
in higher esteem than before and to remedy the depletion by reformed
cultivation. That the billow did not earlier give place to a level flood
was partly due to the shortage of slaves; for the African trade was closed
too soon for the stock to fill the country in these decades. To the same
shortage was owing such opportunity as the white yeomanry had in staple
production. The world offered a market, though not at high prices, for a
greater volume of the crops than the plantation slaves could furnish; the
farmers supplied the deficit.

Free workingmen in general, whether farmers, artisans or unskilled wage
earners, merely filled the interstices in and about the slave plantations.
One year in the eighteen-forties a planter near New Orleans, attempting to
dispense with slave labor, assembled a force of about a hundred Irish and
German immigrants for his crop routine. Things went smoothly until the
midst of the grinding season, when with one accord the gang struck for
double pay. Rejecting the demand the planter was unable to proceed with
his harvest and lost some ten thousand dollars worth of his crop.[9] The
generality of the planters realized, without such a demonstration, that
each year must bring its crop crisis during which an overindulgence by the
laborers in the privileges of liberty might bring ruin to the employers.
To secure immunity from this they were the more fully reconciled to the
limitations of their peculiar labor supply. Freemen white or black might
be convenient as auxiliaries, and were indeed employed in many instances
whether on annual contract as blacksmiths and the like or temporarily
as emergency helpers in the fields; but negro slaves were the standard
composition of the gangs. This brought it about that whithersoever the
planters went they carried with them crowds of negro slaves and all the
problems and influences to which the presence of negroes and the prevalence
of slavery gave rise.

[Footnote 9: Sir Charles Lyell, _Second Visit to the United States_,
(London, 1850), II, 162, 163.]

One of the consequences was to keep foreign immigration small. In the
colonial period the trade in indentured servants recruited the white
population, and most of those who came in that status remained as permanent
citizens of the South; but such Europeans as came during the nineteenth
century were free to follow their own reactions without submitting to a
compulsory adjustment. Many of them found the wage-earning opportunity
scant, for the slaves were given preference by their masters when steady
occupations were to be filled, and odd jobs were often the only recourse
for outsiders. This was an effect of the slavery system. Still more
important, however, was the repugnance which the newcomers felt at working
and living alongside the blacks; and this was a consequence not of the
negroes being slaves so much as of the slaves being negroes. It was
a racial antipathy which when added to the experience of industrial
disadvantage pressed the bulk of the newcomers northwestward beyond the
confines of the Southern staple belts, and pressed even many of the native
whites in the same direction.

This intrenched the slave plantations yet more strongly in their local
domination, and by that very fact it hampered industrial development. Great
landed proprietors, it is true, have oftentimes been essential for making
beneficial innovations. Thus the remodeling of English agriculture which
Jethro Tull and Lord Townsend instituted in the eighteenth century could
not have been set in progress by any who did not possess their combination
of talent and capital.[10] In the ante-bellum South, likewise, it was the
planters, and necessarily so, who introduced the new staples of sea-island
cotton and sugar, the new devices of horizontal plowing and hillside
terracing, the new practice of seed selection, and the new resource of
commercial fertilizers. Yet their constant bondage to the staples debarred
the whole community in large degree from agricultural diversification, and
their dependence upon gangs of negro slaves kept the average of skill and
assiduity at a low level.

[Footnote 10: R.E. Prothero, _English Farming, past and present_, (London,
1912), chap. 7.]

The negroes furnished inertly obeying minds and muscles; slavery provided a
police; and the plantation system contributed the machinery of direction.
The assignment of special functions to slaves of special aptitudes would
enhance the general efficiency; the coördination of tasks would prevent
waste of effort; and the conduct of a steady routine would lessen the
mischiefs of irresponsibility. But in the work of a plantation squad no
delicate implements could be employed, for they would be broken; and no
discriminating care in the handling of crops could be had except at a cost
of supervision which was generally prohibitive. The whole establishment
would work with success only when the management fully recognized and
allowed for the crudity of the labor.

The planters faced this fact with mingled resolution and resignation. The
sluggishness of the bulk of their slaves they took as a racial trait to
be conquered by discipline, even though their ineptitude was not to
be eradicated; the talents and vigor of their exceptional negroes and
mulattoes, on the other hand, they sought to foster by special training and
rewards. But the prevalence of slavery which aided them in the one policy
hampered them in the other, for it made the rewards arbitrary instead of
automatic and it restricted the scope of the laborers' employments and of
their ambitions as well. The device of hiring slaves to themselves, which
had an invigorating effect here and there in the towns, could find little
application in the country; and the paternalism of the planters could
provide no fully effective substitute. Hence the achievements of the
exceptional workmen were limited by the status of slavery as surely as
the progress of the generality was restricted by the fact of their being

A further influence of the plantation system was to hamper the growth of
towns. This worked in several ways. As for manufactures, the chronic demand
of the planters for means with which to enlarge their scales of operations
absorbed most of the capital which might otherwise have been available for
factory promotion. A few cotton mills were built in the Piedmont where
water power was abundant, and a few small ironworks and other industries;
but the supremacy of agriculture was nowhere challenged. As for commerce,
the planters plied the bulk of their trade with distant wholesale dealers,
patronizing the local shopkeepers only for petty articles or in emergencies
when transport could not be awaited; and the slaves for their part, while
willing enough to buy of any merchant within reach, rarely had either money
or credit.

Towns grew, of course, at points on the seaboard where harbors were good,
and where rivers or railways brought commerce from the interior. Others
rose where the fall line marked the heads of river navigation, and on the
occasional bluffs of the Mississippi, and finally a few more at railroad
junctions. All of these together numbered barely three score, some of which
counted their population by hundreds rather than by thousands; and in the
wide intervals between there was nothing but farms, plantations and thinly
scattered villages. In the Piedmont, country towns of fairly respectable
dimensions rose here and there, though many a Southern county-seat could
boast little more than a court house and a hitching rack. Even as regards
the seaports, the currents of trade were too thin and divergent to permit
of large urban concentration, for the Appalachian water-shed shut off
the Atlantic ports from the commerce of the central basin; and even the
ambitious construction of railroads to the northwest, fostered by the
seaboard cities, merely enabled the Piedmont planters to get their
provisions overland, and barely affected the volume of the seaboard trade.
New Orleans alone had a location promising commercial greatness; but her
prospects were heavily diminished by the building of the far away Erie
Canal and the Northern trunk line railroads which diverted the bulk of
Northwestern trade from the Gulf outlet.

As conditions were, the slaveholding South could have realized a
metropolitan life only through absentee proprietorships. In the Roman
_latifundia_, which overspread central and southern Italy after the
Hannibalic war, absenteeism was a chronic feature and a curse. The
overseers there were commonly not helpers in the proprietors' daily
routine, but sole managers charged with a paramount duty of procuring
the greatest possible revenues and transmitting them to meet the urban
expenditures of their patrician employers. The owners, having no more
personal touch with their great gangs of slaves than modern stockholders
have with the operatives in their mills, exploited them accordingly. Where
humanity and profits were incompatible, business considerations were likely
to prevail. Illustrations of the policy may be drawn from Cato the Elder's
treatise on agriculture. Heavy work by day, he reasoned, would not only
increase the crops but would cause deep slumber by night, valuable as a
safeguard against conspiracy; discord was to be sown instead of harmony
among the slaves, for the same purpose of hindering plots; capital
sentences when imposed by law were to be administered in the presence of
the whole corps for the sake of their terrorizing effect; while rations for
the able-bodied were not to exceed a fixed rate, those for the sick were to
be still more frugally stinted; and the old and sick slaves were to be
sold along with other superfluities.[11] Now, Cato was a moralist of wide
repute, a stoic it is true, but even so a man who had a strong sense of
duty. If such were his maxims, the oppressions inflicted by his fellow
proprietors and their slave drivers must have been stringent indeed.

[Footnote 11: A.H.J. Greenidge, _History of Rome during the later Republic
and the early Principate_ (New York, 1905), I, 64-85; M. Porcius Cato, _De
Agri Cultura_, Keil ed. (Leipsig, 1882).]

The heartlessness of the Roman _latifundiarii_ was the product partly of
their absenteeism, partly of the cheapness of their slaves which were
poured into the markets by conquests and raids in all quarters of the
Mediterranean world, and partly of the lack of difference between masters
and slaves in racial traits. In the ante-bellum South all these conditions
were reversed: the planters were commonly resident; the slaves were costly;
and the slaves were negroes, who for the most part were by racial quality
submissive rather than defiant, light-hearted instead of gloomy, amiable
and ingratiating instead of sullen, and whose very defects invited
paternalism rather than repression. Many a city slave in Rome was the boon
companion of his master, sharing his intellectual pleasures and his revels,
while most of those on the _latifundia_ were driven cattle. It was hard to
maintain a middle adjustment for them. In the South, on the other hand, the
medium course was the obvious thing. The bulk of the slaves, because they
were negroes, because they were costly, and because they were in personal
touch, were pupils and working wards, while the planters were teachers and
guardians as well as masters and owners. There was plenty of coercion in
the South; but in comparison with the harshness of the Roman system the
American régime was essentially mild.

Every plantation of the standard Southern type was, in fact, a school
constantly training and controlling pupils who were in a backward state of
civilization. Slave youths of special promise, or when special purposes
were in view, might be bound as apprentices to craftsmen at a distance.
Thus James H. Hammond in 1859 apprenticed a fourteen-year-old mulatto boy,
named Henderson, for four years to Charles Axt, of Crawfordville, Georgia,
that he might be taught vine culture. Axt agreed in the indenture to feed
and clothe the boy, pay for any necessary medical attention, teach him his
trade, and treat him with proper kindness. Before six months were ended
Alexander H. Stephens, who was a neighbor of Axt and a friend of Hammond,
wrote the latter that Henderson had run away and that Axt was unfit to have
the care of slaves, especially when on hire, and advised Hammond to take
the boy home. Soon afterward Stephens reported that Henderson had returned
and had been whipped, though not cruelly, by Axt.[12] The further history
of this episode is not ascertainable. Enough of it is on record, however,
to suggest reasons why for the generality of slaves home training was
thought best.

[Footnote 12: MSS. among the Hammond papers in the Library of Congress.]

This, rudimentary as it necessarily was, was in fact just what the bulk of
the negroes most needed. They were in an alien land, in an essentially
slow process of transition from barbarism to civilization. New industrial
methods of a simple sort they might learn from precepts and occasional
demonstrations; the habits and standards of civilized life they could only
acquire in the main through examples reinforced with discipline. These the
plantation régime supplied. Each white family served very much the function
of a modern social settlement, setting patterns of orderly, well bred
conduct which the negroes were encouraged to emulate; and the planters
furthermore were vested with a coercive power, salutary in the premises, of
which settlement workers are deprived. The very aristocratic nature of the
system permitted a vigor of discipline which democracy cannot possess. On
the whole the plantations were the best schools yet invented for the mass
training of that sort of inert and backward people which the bulk of the
American negroes represented. The lack of any regular provision for the
discharge of pupils upon the completion of their training was, of course, a
cardinal shortcoming which the laws of slavery imposed; but even in view
of this, the slave plantation régime, after having wrought the initial and
irreparable misfortune of causing the negroes to be imported, did at
least as much as any system possible in the period could have done toward
adapting the bulk of them to life in a civilized community.



In barbaric society slavery is a normal means of conquering the isolation
of workers and assembling them in more productive coördination. Where
population is scant and money little used it is almost a necessity in the
conduct of large undertakings, and therefore more or less essential for
the advancement of civilization. It is a means of domesticating savage or
barbarous men, analogous in kind and in consequence to the domestication of
the beasts of the field.[1] It was even of advantage to some of the people
enslaved, in that it saved them from extermination when defeated in war,
and in that it gave them touch with more advanced communities than their
own. But this was counterbalanced by the stimulus which the profits of
slave catching gave to wars and raids with all their attendant injuries.
Any benefit to the slave, indeed, was purely incidental. The reason for the
institution's existence was the advantage which accrued to the masters.
So positive and pronounced was this reckoned to be, that such highly
enlightened people as the Greeks and Romans maintained it in the palmiest
days of their supremacies.

[Footnote 1: This thought was expressed, perhaps for the first time, in
T.R. Dew's essay on slavery (1832); it is elaborated in Gabriel Tarde, _The
Laws of Imitation_ (Parsons tr., New York, 1903), pp. 278, 279.]

Western Europe in primitive times was no exception. Slavery in a more or
less fully typical form was widespread. When the migrations ended in the
middle ages, however, the rise of feudalism gave the people a thorough
territorial regimentation. The dearth of commerce whether in goods or in
men led gradually to the conversion of the unfree laborers from slaves
into serfs or villeins attached for generations to the lands on which they
wrought. Finally, the people multiplied so greatly and the landless were
so pressed for livelihood that at the beginning of modern times European
society found the removal of bonds conducive to the common advantage. Serfs
freed from their inherited obligations could now seek employment wherever
they would, and landowners, now no longer lords, might employ whom they
pleased. Bondmen gave place to hirelings and peasant proprietors,
status gave place to contract, industrial society was enabled to make
redistributions and readjustments at will, as it had never been before. In
view of the prevailing traits and the density of the population a general
return whether to slavery or serfdom was economically unthinkable. An
intelligent Scotch philanthropist, Fletcher of Saltoun, it is true,
proposed at the end of the seventeenth century that the indigent and their
children be bound as slaves to selected masters as a means of relieving
the terrible distresses of unemployment in his times;[2] but his project
appears to have received no public sanction whatever. The fact that he
published such a plan is more a curious antiquarian item than one of
significance in the history of slavery. Not even the thin edge of a wedge
could possibly be inserted which might open a way to restore what everyone
was on virtually all counts glad to be free of.

[Footnote 2: W.E.H. Lecky, _History of England in the Eighteenth Century_
(New York, 1879), II, 43,44.]

When the American mining and plantation colonies were established, however,
some phases of the most ancient labor problems recurred. Natural resources
invited industry in large units, but wage labor was not to be had. The
Spaniards found a temporary solution in impressing the tropical American
aborigines, and the English in a recourse to indented white immigrants. But
both soon resorted predominantly for plantation purposes to the importation
of Africans, for whom the ancient institution of slavery was revived. Thus
from purely economic considerations the sophisticated European colonists
of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries involved themselves and their
descendants, with the connivance of their home governments, in the toils of
a system which on the one hand had served their remote forbears with good
effect, but which on the other hand civilized peoples had long and almost
universally discarded as an incubus. In these colonial beginnings the
negroes were to be had so cheaply and slavery seemed such a simple and
advantageous device when applied to them, that no qualms as to the future
were felt. At least no expressions of them appear in the records of thought
extant for the first century and more of English colonial experience.
And when apprehensions did arise they were concerned with the dangers of
servile revolt, not with any deleterious effects to arise from the economic
nature of slavery in time of peace.

Now, slavery and indented servitude are analogous to serfdom in that they
may yield to the employers all the proceeds of industry beyond what is
required for the sustenance of the laborers; but they have this difference,
immense for American purposes, that they permit labor to be territorially
shifted, while serfdom keeps it locally fixed. By choosing these
facilitating forms of bondage instead of the one which would have attached
the laborers to the soil, the founders of the colonial régime in industry
doubtless thought they had avoided all economic handicaps in the premises.
Their device, however, was calculated to meet the needs of a situation
where the choice was between bond labor and no labor. As generations passed
and workingmen multiplied in America, the system of indentures for white
immigrants was automatically dissolved; but slavery for the bulk of the
negroes persisted as an integral feature of economic life. Whether this
was conducive or injurious to the prosperity of employers and to the
community's welfare became at length a question to which students far and
wide applied their faculties. Some of the participants in the discussion
considered the problem as one in pure theory; others examined not only the
abstract ratio of slave and free labor efficiency but included in their
view the factor of negro racial traits and the prospects and probable
consequences of abolition under existing circumstances. On the one point
that an average slave might be expected to accomplish less in an hour's
work than an average free laborer, agreement was unanimous; on virtually
every other point the views published were so divergent as to leave the
public more or less distracted. Adam Smith, whose work largely shaped the
course of economic thought for a century following its publication in 1776,
said of slave labor merely that its cost was excessive by reason of its
lack of zest, frugality and inventiveness. The tropical climate of the
sugar colonies, he conceded, might require the labor of negro slaves,
but even there its productiveness would be enhanced by liberal policies
promoting intelligence among the slaves and assimilating their condition to
that of freemen.[3] To some of these points J.B. Say, the next economist to
consider the matter, took exception. Common sense must tell us, said he,
that a slave's maintenance must be less than that of a free workman, since
the master will impose a more drastic frugality than a freeman will adopt
unless a dearth of earnings requires it. The slave's work, furthermore,
is more constant, for the master will not permit so much leisure and
relaxation as the freeman customarily enjoys. Say agreed, however, that
slavery, causing violence and brutality to usurp the place of intelligence,
both hampered the progress of invention and enervated such free laborers as
were in touch with the régime.[4]

[Footnote 3: Adam Smith, _The Wealth of Nations_, various editions, book I,
chap. 8; book III, chap. 2; book IV, chaps. 7 and 9.]

[Footnote 4: J.B. Say, _Traité d'Economie Politique_ (Paris, 1803), book I,
chap. 28; in various later editions, book I, chap. 19.]

The translation of Say's book into English evoked a reply to his views on
slavery by Adam Hodgson, an Englishman with anti-slavery bent who had made
an American tour; but his essay, though fortified with long quotations,
was too rambling and ill digested to influence those who were not already
desirous of being convinced.[5] More substantial was an essay of 1827 by
a Marylander, James Raymond, who cited the experiences of his own
commonwealth to support his contentions that slavery hampered economy by
preventing seasonal shiftings of labor, by requiring employers to support
their operatives in lean years as well as fat, and by hindering the
accumulation of wealth by the laborers. The system, said he, could yield
profits to the masters only in specially fertile districts; and even there
it kept down the growth of population and of land values.[6]

[Footnote 5: Adam Hodgson, _A Letter to M. Jean-Baptiste Say, on the
comparative expense of free and slave labour_ (Liverpool, 1823; New York,

[Footnote 6: James Raymond, _Prize Essay on the Comparative Economy of Free
and Slave Labor in Agriculture_ (Frederick [Md.], 1827), reprinted in the
_African Repository_, III, 97-110 (June, 1827).]

About the same time Dr. Thomas Cooper, president of South Carolina College,
wrote: "Slave labour is undoubtedly the dearest kind of labour; it is all
forced, and forced too from a class of human beings who have the least
propensity to voluntary labour even when it is to benefit themselves
alone." The cost of rearing a slave to the age of self support, he
reckoned, including insurance, at forty dollars a year for fifteen years.
The usual work of a slave field hand, he thought, was barely two-thirds of
what a white laborer at usual wages would perform, and from his earnings
about forty dollars a year must be deducted for his maintenance. When
interest on the investment and a proportion of an overseer's wages were
deducted in addition, he thought the prevalent rate, six to eight dollars
a month and board valued at forty or fifty dollars a year, for free white
farm hands in the Northern states gave a decisive advantage to those who
hired laborers over those who owned them. "Nothing will justify slave
labour in point of economy," he concluded, "but the nature of the soil and
climate which incapacitates a white man from labouring in the summer time,
as on the rich lands in Carolina and Georgia extending one hundred miles
from the seaboard."[7]

[Footnote 7: Thomas Cooper, _Lectures on the Elements of Political
Economy_, (Columbia [S.C.], 1826), pp. 94, 95.]

The economic vices of slavery as exemplified in Virginia were elaborated in
an essay printed in 1832 attributed to Jesse Burton Harrison of that state.
Slavery, said this essay, drives away free workmen by stigmatizing labor,
for "nothing but the most abject necessity would lead a white man to hire
himself to work in the fields under the overseer"; it causes exhaustion of
the soil by reason of the negligence it promotes in the workmen and
the stress which overseers are fain to put upon immediate returns; it
discourages all forms of industry but plantation tillage, furthermore, for
although it has not and perhaps cannot be proved that slaves may not be
successfully employed in manufactures, the community has gone and tends
still to go, on that assumption; it discourages mechanic skill, for the
slaves never acquire more than the rudiments of artisanry, and the planters
discourage white craftsmen by giving preference uniformly to their
own laborers. Slave labor is dearer than free, because of its lack of
incentive; the régime costs the community the services of the immigrants
who would otherwise enter; and finally it promotes waste instead of
frugality on the part of both masters and slaves. The only means by which
Virginia could procure profit from slaves, it concluded, was that of
raising them for sale to the lower South; but such profit could only be
gained systematically at a complete sacrifice of honor.[8]

[Footnote 8: [Jesse Burton Harrison], _Review of the Slave Question,
extracted from the American Quarterly Review, Dec. 1832_. By a Virginian
(Richmond, 1833).]

Daniel R. Goodloe of North Carolina wrote in 1846 in a similar tone but
with original arguments. Beginning with an exposition of the South's
comparative backwardness in economic development, he showed a twofold
working of the institution of slavery as the cause. For one thing it
lessened the vigor of industry by degrading labor in the estimation of the
poor and engendering pride in the rich; but far more important, it required
employers to sink large amounts of capital in the purchase of laborers
instead of permitting them to pay for work, as the wage system does, out
of current proceeds. It thereby particularly hampered the growth of
manufactures, for in such lines, as well as in commerce, "the fact that
slavery absorbs the bulk of Southern capital must always present an
obstacle to extensive operations." The holding of laborers as property, he
continued, can contribute nothing to production, for the destruction of the
property by the liberation of the slaves would not impair their laboring
efficiency. Hence all the individual wealth which has assumed that shape
has added nothing to the resources of the community. "Slavery merely serves
to appropriate the wages of labor--it distributes wealth, but cannot create
it." It involves expenditure in acquiring early population, then operates
to prevent land improvements and the diversification of industry,
restricting, indeed, even the range of agriculture. The monopoly which the
South has enjoyed in the production of the staples has palliated the evils
of slavery, but at the same time has expanded the system to the point of
great injury to the public. Goodloe accordingly advocated the riddance of
the institution, contending that both landowners and laborers would thereby
benefit. The continued maintenance of the institution, on the other hand,
would bring severe loss to the slaveholders, for within the coming decade
the demand of the Southwest for slaves would be sated, he thought, and
nothing but a great advancement of cotton prices and an unlimited supply of
fertile land for its production could sustain slave prices. "It is
evident that the Southern country approaches a period of great and sudden
depreciation in the value of slave property."[9]

[Footnote 9: [D.R. Goodloe], _Inquiry into the Causes which have retarded
the Accumulation of Wealth and Increase of Population in the
Southern States, in which the question of slavery is considered in a
politico-economic point of view. By a Carolinian_. (Washington, 1846.)
_See also_ a similar essay by the same author in the U.S. Commissioner of
Agriculture's _Report_ for 1865, pp. 102-135.]

The statistical theme of the South's backwardness was used by many other
essayists in the period for indicting the slaveholding régime. With most
of these, however, exemplified saliently by H.R. Helper, logic was to such
extent replaced with vehemence as to transfer their writings from the
proper purview of economics to that of sectional controversy.

On the other hand, Thomas R. Dew, whose cogent essay of 1832 marks the turn
of the prevailing Southern sentiment toward a firm support of slavery,
attributed the lack of prosperity in the South to the tariff policy of the
United States, while he largely ignored the question of labor efficiency.
His central theme was the imperative necessity of maintaining the
enslavement of the negroes on hand until a sound plan was devised and made
applicable for their peaceful and prosperous disposal elsewhere. Among
Dew's disciples, William Harper of South Carolina admitted that slave labor
was dear and unskillful, though he thought it essential for productive
industry in the tropics and sub-tropics, and he considered coercion
necessary for the negroes elsewhere in civilized society. James H. Hammond,
likewise, agreed that "as a general rule ... free labor is cheaper than
slave labor," but in addition to the factor of race he stressed the
sparsity of population in the South as a contributing element in
economically necessitating the maintenance of slavery.[10]

[Footnote 10: "Essay" (1832), Harper's "Memoir" (1838), and Hammond's
"Letters to Clarkson" (1845) are collected in the _Pro-Slavery Argument_
(Philadelphia, 1852).]

Most of the foregoing Southern writers were men of substantial position and
systematic reasoning. N.A. Ware, on the other hand who in 1844 issued in
the capacity of a Southern planter a slender volume of _Notes on Political
Economy_ was both obscure and irresponsible. Contending as his main theme
that protective tariffs were of no injury to the plantation interests, he
asserted that slave labor was incomparably cheaper than free, and attempted
to prove it by ignoring the cost of capital and by reckoning the price
of bacon at four cents a pound and corn at fifteen cents a bushel. Then,
curiously, he delivered himself of the following: "When slavery shall have
run itself out or yielded to the changes and ameliorations of the times,
the owners and all dependent upon it will stand appalled and prostrate,
as the sot whose liquor has been withheld, and nothing but the bad and
worthless habit left to remind the country of its ruinous effects. The
political economist, as well as all wise statesmen in this country, cannot
think of any measure going to discharge slavery that would not be a worse
state than its existence." His own remedy for the depression prevailing at
the time when he wrote, was to divert a large proportion of the slaves from
the glutted business of staple agriculture into manufacturing, for which he
thought them well qualified.[11] Equally fantastic were the ideas of H.C.
Carey of Pennsylvania who dealt here and there with slavery in the course
of his three stout volumes on political economy. His lucubrations are
negligible for the present survey.

[Footnote 11: [N.A. Ware] _Notes on Political Economy as applicable to the
United States_. By a Southern Planter (New York, 1844), pp. 200-204.]

All these American writers except Goodloe accomplished little of
substantial quality in the field of economic thought beyond adding details
to the doctrines of Adam Smith and Say. John Stuart Mill in turn did little
more than combine the philosophies of his predecessors. "It is a truism
to assert," said he, "that labour extorted by fear of punishment is
insufficient and unproductive"; yet some people can be driven by the
lash to accomplish what no feasible payment would have induced them to
undertake. In sparsely settled regions, furthermore, slavery may afford
the otherwise unobtainable advantages of labour combination, and it has
undoubtedly hastened industrial development in some American areas. Yet,
since all processes carried on by slave labour are conducted in the rudest
manner, virtually any employer may pay a considerably greater value in
wages to free labour than the maintenance of his slaves has cost him and be
a gainer by the change.[12]

[Footnote 12: John Stuart Mill, _Principles of Political Economy_ (London,
1848, and later editions), book II, chap. 5.]

Partly concurring and partly at variance with Mill's views were those which
Edmund Ruffin of Virginia published in a well reasoned essay of 1857, _The
Political Economy of Slavery_. "Slave labor in each individual case and for
each small measure of time," he said, "is more slow and inefficient than
the labor of a free man." On the other hand it is more continuous, for
hirelings are disposed to work fewer hours per day and fewer days per year,
except when wages are so low as to require constant exertion in the
gaining of a bare livelihood. Furthermore, the consolidation of domestic
establishments, which slavery promotes, permits not only an economy in the
purchase of supplies but also a great saving by the specialization of labor
in cooking, washing, nursing, and the care of children, thereby releasing
a large proportion of the women from household routine and rendering them
available for work in the field. An increasing density of population,
however, would depress the returns of industry to the point where slaves
would merely earn their keep, and free laborers would of necessity lengthen
their hours. Finally a still greater glut of labor might come, and indeed
had occurred in various countries of Europe, carrying wages so low that
only the sturdiest free laborers could support themselves and all the
weaker ones must enter a partial pauperism. At such a stage the employment
of slaves could only be continued at a steady deficit, to relieve
themselves from which the masters must resort to a general emancipation. In
the South, however, there were special public reasons, lying in the racial
traits of the slave population, which would make that recourse particularly
deplorable; for the industrial collapse ensuing upon emancipation in the
British West Indies on the one hand, and on the other the pillage and
massacre which occurred in San Domingo and the disorder still prevailing
there, were alternative examples of what might be apprehended from orderly
or revolutionary abolition as the case might be. The Southern people, in
short, might well congratulate themselves that no ending of their existing
régime was within visible prospect.[13]

[Footnote 13: Edmund Ruffin, _The Political Economy of Slavery_ ([Richmond,

About the same time a writer in _DeBow's Review_ elaborated the theme that
the comparative advantages of slavery and freedom depended wholly upon the
attainments of the laboring population concerned. "Both are necessarily
recurring types of social organization, and each suited to its peculiar
phase of society." "When a nation or society is in a condition unfit for
self-government, ... often the circumstance of contact with or subjection
by more enlightened nations has been the means of transition to a higher
development." "All that is now needed for the defence of United States
negro slavery and its entire exoneration from reproach is a thorough
investigation of fact; ... and political economy ... must ... pronounce our
system ... no disease, but the normal and healthy condition of a society
formed of such mixed material as ours." "The strong race and the weak, the
civilized and the savage," the one by nature master, the other slave, "are
here not only cast together, but have been born together, grown together,
lived together, worked together, each in his separate sphere striving for
the good of each.... These two races of men are mutually assistant to each
other and are contributing in the largest possible degree consistent with
their mutual powers to the good of each other and mankind." A general
emancipation therefore could bring nothing but a detriment.[14]

[Footnote 14: _DeBow's Review_, XXI, 331-349, 443-467 (October and
November, 1856).]

What proved to be the last work in the premises before the overthrow of
slavery in the United States was _The Slave Power, its Character, Career
and Probable Designs_, by J.E. Cairnes, professor of political economy in
the University of Dublin and in Queen's College, Galway. It was published
in 1862 and reissued with appendices in the following year. Cairnes at the
outset scouted the factors of climate and negro racial traits. The sole
economic advantage of slavery, said he, consists in its facilitation
of control in large units; its defects lay in its causing reluctance,
unskilfulness and lack of versatility. The reason for its prevalence in the
South he found in the high fertility and the immense abundance of soil on
the one hand, and on the other the intensiveness of staple cultivation. A
single operative, said he, citing as authority Robert Russell's erroneous
assertion, "might cultivate twenty acres in wheat or Indian corn, but could
not manage more than two in tobacco or three in cotton; therefore the
supervision of a considerable squad is economically feasible in these
though it would not be so in the cereals." These conditions might once have
made slave labor profitable, he conceded; but such possibility was now
doubtless a thing of the distant past. The persistence of the system did
not argue to the contrary, for it would by force of inertia persist as long
as it continued to be self-supporting.

Turning to a different theme, Cairnes announced that slave labor, since it
had never been and never could be employed with success in manufacturing or
commercial pursuits, must find its whole use in agriculture; and even there
it required large capital, at the same time that the unthrifty habits
inculcated in the masters kept them from accumulating funds. The
consequence was that slaveholding society must necessarily be and remain
heavily in debt. The imperative confinement of slave labor to the most
fertile soils, furthermore, prevented the community from utilizing any
areas of inferior quality; for slaveholding society is so exclusive that it
either expels free labor from its vicinity or deprives it of all industrial
vigor. It is true that some five millions of whites in the South have no
slaves; but these "are now said to exist in this manner in a condition
little removed from savage life, eking out a wretched subsistence by
hunting, by fishing, by hiring themselves for occasional jobs, by plunder."
These "mean whites ... are the natural growth of the slave system; ...
regular industry is only known to them as the vocation of slaves, and it is
the one fate which above all others they desire to avoid."[15]

[Footnote 15: First American edition (New York, 1862), pp. 54, 78, 79.]

"The constitution of a slave society," he says again, "resolves itself into
three classes, broadly distinguished from each other and connected by no
common interest--the slaves on whom devolves all the regular industry, the
slaveholders who reap all its fruits, and an idle and lawless rabble who
live dispensed over vast plains in a condition little removed from absolute
barbarism."[16] Nowhere can any factors be found which will promote any
progress of civilization so long as slavery persists. The non-slaveholders
will continue in "a life alternating between listless vagrancy and the
excitement of marauding expeditions." "If civilization is to spring up
among the negro race, it will scarcely be contended that this will happen
while they are still slaves; and if the present ruling class are ever to
rise above the existing type, it must be in some other capacity than
as slaveholders."[17] Even as a "probationary discipline" to prepare a
backward people for a higher form of civilized existence, slavery as it
exists in America cannot be justified; for that effect is vitiated by
reason of the domestic slave trade. "Considerations of economy, ... which
under a natural system afford some security for humane treatment by
identifying the master's interest with the slave's preservation, when once
trading in slaves is practised become reasons for racking to the utmost the
toil of the slave; for when his place can at once be supplied from foreign
preserves the duration of his life becomes a matter of less moment than
its productiveness while it lasts. It is accordingly a maxim of slave
management in slave-importing countries, that the most effective economy is
that which takes out of the human chattel in the shortest space of time the
utmost amount of exertion it is capable of putting forth."[18]

[Footnote 16: Ibid., p. 60.]

[Footnote 17: Ibid., p. 83.]

[Footnote 18: First American edition (New York, 1862), p. 73.]

The force of circumstances gave this book a prodigious and lasting vogue.
Its confident and cogent style made skepticism difficult; the dearth of
contrary data prevented impeachment on the one side of the Atlantic, and
on the other side the whole Northern people would hardly criticise such a
vindication of their cause in war by a writer from whose remoteness might
be presumed fairness, and whose professional position might be taken as
giving a stamp of thoroughness and accuracy. Yet the very conditions and
method of the writer made his interpretations hazardous. An economist,
using great caution, might possibly have drawn the whole bulk of his data
from travelers' accounts, as Cairnes did, and still have reached fairly
sound conclusions; but Cairnes gave preference not to the concrete
observations of the travelers but to their generalizations, often biased
or amateurish, and on them erected his own. Furthermore, he ignored such
material as would conflict with his preconceptions. His conclusions,
accordingly, are now true, now false, and while always vivid are seldom
substantially illuminating. His picture of the Southern non-slaveholders,
which, be it observed, he applied in his first edition to five millions
or ten-elevenths of that whole white population, and which he restricted,
under stress of contemporary criticism, only to four million souls in the
second edition,[19] is merely the most extreme of his grotesqueries. The
book was, in short, less an exposition than an exposure.

[Footnote 19: Ibid., second edition (London, 1863), appendix D.]

These criticisms of Cairnes will apply in varying lesser degrees to all of
his predecessors in the field. Those who sought the truth merely were in
general short of data; those who could get the facts in any fullness were
too filled with partisan purpose. What was begun as a study was continued
as a dispute, necessarily endless so long as the political issue remained
active. Many data which would have been illuminating, such as plantation
records and slave price quotations, were never systematically assembled;
and the experience resulting from negro emancipation was then too slight
for use in substantial generalizations. The economist M'Culloch, for
example, concluded from the experience of San Domingo and Jamaica that
cane sugar production could not be sustained without slavery;[20] but the
industrial careers of Cuba, Porto Rico and Louisiana since his time have
refuted him. He, like virtually all his contemporaries in economic thought,
confused the several factors of slavery, race traits and the plantation
system; the consequent liability to error was inevitable.

[Footnote 20: J.R. M'Culloch, _Principles of Political Economy_ (fourth
edition, Edinburgh, 1849), p. 439.]

Economists of later times have nearly all been too much absorbed in current
problems to give attention to a discarded institution. Most of them have
ignored the subject of slavery altogether, and the concern of the rest with
it has been merely incidental. Nicholson, for example, alludes to it as[21]
"one of the earliest and one of the most enduring forms of poverty," and
again as "the original and universal form of bankruptcy." Smart deals with
it only as concerns the care of workingmen's children: "The one good thing
in slavery was the interest of the master in the future of his workers.
The children of the slaves were the master's property. They were always at
least a valuable asset.... But there is no such continuity in the
relation between the employer [of free labor] and his human cattle. The
best-intentioned employer cannot be expected to be much concerned about the
efficient upkeep of the workman's child when the child is free to go where
he likes.... The child's future is bound up with the father's wage. The
wage may be enough, even when low, to support the father's efficiency, but
it is not necessarily enough to keep up the efficiency of the young laborer
on which the future depends."[22] Loria deals more extensively with
slavery as affected by the valuation of labor,[23] and Gibson[24] examines
elaborately the nature of hypothetically absolute slavery in analyzing the
earnings of labor. The contributions of both Loria and Gibson will be used
below. The economic bearings of the institution in history still await
satisfactory analysis.

[Footnote 21: J.S. Nicholson, _Principles of Political Economy_ (New York,
1898), I, 221, 391.]

[Footnote 22: William Smart, _The Distribution of Income_ (London, 1899),
pp. 296, 297.]

[Footnote 23: Achille Loria, _La Costitutione Economica Odierna_ (Turin,
1899), chap. 6, part 2.]

[Footnote 24: Arthur H. Gibson, _Human Economics_ (London, 1909).]



An expert accountant has well defined the property of a master in his slave
as an annuity extending throughout the slave's working life and amounting
to the annual surplus which the labor of the slave produced over and above
the cost of his maintenance.[1] Before any profit accrued to the master
in any year, however, various deductions had to be subtracted from this
surplus. These included interest on the slave's cost, regardless of
whether he had been reared by his owner or had been bought for a price;
amortization of the capital investment; insurance against the slave's
premature death or disability and against his escape from service;
insurance also for his support when incapacitated whether by illness,
accident or old age; taxes; and wages of superintendence. None of these
charges would any sound method of accounting permit the master to escape.

[Footnote 1: Arthur H. Gibson, _Human Economics_ (London, 1909), p. 202.
The substance of the present paragraph and the three following ones is
mostly in close accord with Gibson's analysis.]

The maintenance of the slave at the full rate required for the preservation
of lusty physique was essential. The master could not reduce it below that
standard without impairing his property as well as lessening its immediate
return; and as a rule he could shift none of the charge to other shoulders,
for the public would grant his workmen no dole from its charity funds. On
the other hand, he was often induced to raise the scale above the minimum
standard in order to increase the zeal and efficiency of his corps. In any
case, medical attendance and the like was necessarily included in the cost
of maintenance.

The capital investment in a slave reared by his master would include
charges for the insurance of the child's mother at the time of his birth
and for her deficit of routine work before and afterward; the food,
clothing, nurse's care and incidentals furnished in childhood; the surplus
of supplies over earnings in the period of youth while the slave was not
fully earning his own keep and his overhead charges; compound interest on
all of these until the slave reached adolescence or early manhood; and a
proportion of similar charges on behalf of other children in his original
group who had died in youth. In his teens the slave's earnings would
gradually increase until they covered all his current charges, including
the cost of supervision; and shortly before the age of twenty he would
perhaps begin to yield a net return to the owner.

A slave's highest rate of earning would be reached of course when his
physical maturity and his training became complete, and would normally
continue until his bodily powers began to flag. This period would extend
in the case of male field hands from perhaps twenty-five to possibly fifty
years of age, and in the case of artizans from say thirty to fifty-five
years. The maximum valuation of the slave as property, however, would come
earlier, at the point when the investment in his production was first
complete and when his maximum earnings were about to begin; and his value
would thereafter decline, first slowly and then more swiftly with every
passing year, in anticipation of the decline and final cessation of his
earning power. Thus the ratio between the capital value of a slave and his
annual net earnings, far from remaining constant, would steadily recede
from the beginning to the end of his working life. At the age of twenty
it might well be as ten to one; at the age of fifty it would probably not
exceed four to one; at sixty-five it might be less than a parity.

In the buying and selling of nearly all non-human commodities the cost of
production, or of reproduction, bears a definite relation to the market
price, in that it fixes a limit below which owners will not continue to
produce and sell. In the case of slaves, however, the cost of rearing had
no practical bearing upon the market price, for the reason that the owners
could not, or at least did not, increase or diminish the production at
will.[2] It has been said by various anti-slavery spokesmen that many
slaveowners systematically bred slaves for the market. They have adduced no
shred of supporting evidence however; and although the present writer has
long been alert for such data he has found but a single concrete item in
the premises. This one came, curiously enough, from colonial Massachusetts,
where John Josslyn recorded in 1636: "Mr. Maverick's negro woman came to my
chamber window and in her own country language and tune sang very loud and
shril. Going out to her, she used a great deal of respect towards me, and
willingly would have expressed her grief in English. But I apprehended it
by her countenance and deportment, whereupon I repaired to my host to learn
of him the cause, for that I understood before that she had been a queen in
her own countrey, and observed a very humble and dutiful garb used towards
her by another negro who was her maid. Mr. Maverick was desirous to have a
breed of negroes, and therefore seeing she would not yield to perswasions
to company with a negro young man he had in his house, he commanded him,
will'd she nill'd she to go to bed to her--which was no sooner done than
she kickt him out again. This she took in high disdain beyond her slavery,
and this was the cause of her grief."[3]

[Footnote 2: This is at variance with Gibson's thesis which, professedly
dealing always in pure hypothesis, assumes a state of "perfect" slavery in
which breeding is controlled on precisely the same basis as in the case of

[Footnote 3: John Josslyn, "Account of two Voyages to New England," in the
Massachusetts Historical Society _Collections, XXIII_, 231.]

As for the ante-bellum South, the available plantation instructions,
journals and correspondence contain no hint of such a practice. Jesse
Burton Harrison, a Virginian in touch with planters' conversation and
himself hostile to slavery,[4] went so far as to write, "It may be that
there is a small section of Virginia (perhaps we could indicate it) where
the theory of population is studied with reference to the yearly income
from the sale of slaves," but he went no further; and this, be it noted, is
not clearly to hint anything further than that the owners of multiplying
slaves reckoned their own gains from the unstimulated increase. If pressure
were commonly applied James H. Hammond would not merely have inserted the
characteristic provision in his schedule of rewards: "For every infant
thirteen months old and in sound health that has been properly attended to,
the mother shall receive a muslin or calico frock."[5] A planter here and
there may have exerted a control of matings in the interest of industrial
and commercial eugenics, but it is extremely doubtful that any appreciable
number of masters attempted any direct hastening of slave increase. The
whole tone of the community was hostile to such a practice. Masters were
in fact glad enough to leave the slaves to their own inclinations in all
regards so long as the day's work was not obstructed and good order was
undisturbed. They had of course everywhere and at all times an interest
in the multiplication of their slaves as well as the increase of their
industrial aptitudes. Thus William Lee wrote in 1778 concerning his
plantation in Virginia: "I wish particular attention may be paid to rearing
young negroes, and taking care of those grown up, that the number may be
increased as much as possible; also putting several of the most promising
and ingenious lads apprentices to different trades, such as carpenters,
coopers, wheelwrights, sawyers, shipwrights, bricklayers, plasterers,
shoemakers and blacksmiths; some women should also be taught to weave."[6]

[Footnote 4: _Review of the Slave Question_ (Richmond, 1833), p. 17.]

[Footnote 5: See above, p. 272.]

[Footnote 6: W.C. Ford, ed., _Letters of William Lee_ (Brooklyn, 1891), II,
363, 364.]

But even if masters had stimulated breeding on occasion, that would have
created but a partial and one-sided relationship between cost of production
and market price. To make the connection complete it would have been
requisite for them to check slave breeding when prices were low; and even
the abolitionists, it seems, made no assertion to that effect. No, the
market might decline indefinitely without putting an appreciable check upon
the birth rate; and the master had virtually no choice but to rear every
child in his possession. The cost of production, therefore, could not serve
as a nether limit for slave prices at any time.

An upper limit to the price range was normally fixed by the reckoning of a
slave's prospective earnings above the cost of his maintenance. The slave
may here be likened to a mine operated by a corporation leasing the
property. The slave's claim to his maintenance represents the prior claim
of the land-owner to his rent; the master's claim to the annual surplus
represents the equity of the stockholders in the corporation. But the ore
will some day be exhausted and the dividends cease. Purchasers of the stock
should accordingly consider amortization and pay only such price as will
be covered by the discounted value of the prospective dividends during the
life of the mine. The price of the output fluctuates, however, and the
rate of any year's earnings can only be conjectured. Precise reckoning is
therefore impracticable, and the stock will rise and fall in the market in
response to the play of conjectures as to the present value of the total
future earnings applicable to dividends. So also a planter entering the
slave market might have reckoned in advance the prospect of working life
which a slave of given age would have, and the average earnings above
maintenance which might be expected from his labor. By discounting each of
those annual returns at the prevailing rate of interest to determine their
present values, and adding up the resulting sums, he would ascertain the
price which his business prospects would justify him in paying. Having
bought a slave at such a price, an equally thoroughgoing caution would have
led him to take out a life, health and accident insurance policy on the
slave; but even then he must personally have borne the risk of the slave's
running away. In practice the lives of a few slaves engaged in steamboat
operation and other hazardous pursuits were insured,[7] but the total
number of policies taken on their lives, except as regards marine insurance
in the coasting slave trade, was very small. The planters as a rule carried
their own risks, and they generally dispensed with actuarial reckonings in
determining their bids for slaves. About 1850 a rule of thumb was current
that a prime hand was worth a hundred dollars for every cent in the current
price of a pound of cotton. In general, however, the prospective purchaser
merely "reckoned" in the Southern sense of conjecturing, at what price
he could employ an added slave with probable advantage, and made his bid

[Footnote 7: J.C. Nott, in J.B.D. DeBow, ed., _Industrial Resources of the
Southern and Western States_ (New Orleans, 1852), II, 299; F.L. Hoffman, in
_The South in the Building of the Nation_ (Richmond, Va. [1909]), 638-655.
_DeBow's Review_, X, 241, contains an advertisement of a company offering
life and accident insurance on slaves.

A typical policy is preserved in the MSS. division of the Library of
Congress. It was issued Dec. 31, 1851, by the Louisville agent of the
Mutual Benefit Fire and Life Insurance Company of Louisiana, to T.P.
Linthicum of Bairdstown, Ky., insuring for $650 each the lives of Jack, 26
years old and Alexander, 31 years old, for one year, at the rates of 2 and
2-1/2 per cent, respectively, plus one per cent, for permission to employ
the slaves on steamboats during the first half of the period. They were
employed as waiters. Jack died Nov. 20, and the insurance was duly paid.]

A slave's market price was affected by sex, age, physique, mental quality,
industrial training, temper, defects and vices, so far as each of these
could be ascertained. The laws of most of the states presumed a seller's
warrant of health at the time of sale, unless expressly withheld, and in
Louisiana this warrant extended to mental and moral soundness. The period
in which the buyer might apply for redress, however, was limited to a few
months, and the verdicts of juries were uncertain. On the whole, therefore,
if the buyer were unacquainted with the slave's previous career and with
his attitude toward the transfer of possession, he necessarily incurred
considerable risk in making each purchase. But in general the taking of
reasonable precautions would cause the loss through unsuspected vices in
one case to be offset by gains through unexpected virtues in another.

The scale and the trend of slave prices are essential features of the
régime which most economists have ignored and for which the rest have had
too little data. For colonial times the quotations are scant. An historian
of the French West Indies, however, has ascertained from the archives
that whereas the prices ranged perhaps as low as 200 francs for imported
Africans there at the middle of the seventeenth century, they rose to
450 francs by the year 1700 and continued in a strong and steady advance
thereafter, except in war times, until the very eve of the French
Revolution. Typical prices for prime field hands in San Domingo were 650
francs in 1716, 800 in 1728, 1,160 in 1750, 1,400 in 1755, 1,180 in 1764,
1,600 in 1769, 1,860 in 1772, 1,740 in 1777, and 2,200 francs in 1785.[8]

[Footnote 8: Lucien Peytraud, _L'Esclavage aux Antilles Françaises avant
1789_ (Paris, 1897), pp. 122-127.]

In the British West Indies it is apparent from occasional documents that
the trend was similar. A memorial from Barbados in 1689, for example,
recited that in earlier years the planters had been supplied with Africans
at £7 sterling per head, of which forty shillings covered the Guinea cost
and £5 paid the freightage; but now since the establishment of the Royal
African company, "we buy negroes at the price of an engrossed commodity,
the common rate of a good negro on shipboard being twenty pound. And we are
forced to scramble for them in so shameful a manner that one of the great
burdens of our lives is the going to buy negroes. But we must have them; we
cannot be without them."[9] The overthrow of the monopoly, however, brought
no relief. In 1766 the price of new negroes in the West Indies ranged at
about £26;[10] and in 1788-1790 from £41 to £49. At this time the value
of a prime field hand, reared in the islands, was reported to be twice as
great as that of an imported African.[11]

[Footnote 9: _Groans of the Plantations_ (1679), p. 5, quoted in W.
Cunningham, _Growth of English Industry and Commerce_ (Cambridge, 1892),
II, 278, note.]

[Footnote 10: _Abridgement of the Evidence taken before a Committee of the
whole House: The Slave Trade_, no. 2 (London, 1790), p. 37.]

[Footnote 11: "An Old Member of Parliament," _Doubts on the Abolition of
the Slave Trade_ (London, 1790), p. 72, quoting Dr. Adair's evidence in the
_Privy Council Report_, part 3, Antigua appendix no. II].

In Virginia the rise was proportionate. In 1671 a planter wrote of his
purchase of a negro for £26. 10_s_ and said he supposed the price was the
highest ever paid in those parts; but a few years afterward a lot of four
men brought £30 a head, two women the same rate, and two more women £25
apiece; and before the end of the seventeenth century men were being
appraised at £40.[12] An official report from the colony in 1708 noted a
great increase of the slave supply in recent years, but observed that the
prices had nevertheless risen.[13] In 1754 George Washington paid £52 for a
man and nearly as much for a woman; in 1764 he bought a lot at £57 a head;
in 1768 he bought two mulattoes at £50 and £61.15_s_ respectively, a negro
for £66.10_s_, another at public vendue for £72, and a girl for £49.10_s_.
Finally in 1772 he bought five males, one of whom cost £50, another £65, a
third £75, and the remaining two £90 each;[14] and in the same year he was
offered £80 for a slave named Will Shagg whom his overseer described as an
incorrigible runaway.[15]

[Footnote 12: P.A. Bruce, _Economic History of Virginia in the Seventeenth
Century_, II, 88-92.]

[Footnote 13: _North Carolina Colonial Records_, I, 693.]

[Footnote 14: W.C. Ford, _George Washington_ (Paris and New York, 1900),
I, 125-127; _Washington as an Employer and Importer of Labor_ (Brooklyn,

[Footnote 15: S.M. Hamilton, ed., _Letters to Washington_. IV, 127.]

Scattered items which might be cited from still other colonies make the
evidence conclusive that there was a general and substantially continuous
rise throughout colonial times. The advances which occurred in the
principal British West India islands and in Virginia, indeed, were a
consequence of advances elsewhere, for by the middle of the eighteenth
century all of these colonies were already passing the zenith of their
prosperity, whereas South Carolina, Georgia, San Domingo and Brazil, as
well as minor new British tropical settlements, were in course of rapid
plantation expansion. Prices in the several communities tended of course to
be equalized partly by a slender intercolonial slave trade but mainly by
the Guineamen's practice of carrying their wares to the highest of the many
competing markets.

The war for American independence, bringing hard times, depressed all
property values, those of slaves included. But the return of peace brought
prompt inflation in response to exaggerated anticipations of prosperity to
follow. Wade Hampton, for example, wrote to his brother from Jacksonborough
in the South Carolina lowlands, January 30, 1782: "All attempts to purchase
negroes have been fruitless, owing to the flattering state of our affairs
in this quarter."[16] The sequel was sharply disappointing. The indigo
industry was virtually dead, and rice prices, like those of tobacco, did
not maintain their expected levels. The financial experience was described
in 1786 by Henry Pendleton, a judge on the South Carolina bench, in words
which doubtless would have been similarly justified in various other
states: "No sooner had we recovered and restored the country to peace and
order than a rage for running into debt became epidemical.... A happy
speculation was almost every man's object and pursuit.... What a load
of debt was in a short time contracted in the purchase of British
superfluities, and of lands and slaves for which no price was too high if
credit for the purchase was to be obtained!... How small a pittance of the
produce of the years 1783, '4, '5, altho' amounting to upwards of 400,000
sterling a year on an average, hath been applied toward lessening old
burdens!... What then was the consequence? The merchants were driven to the
exportation of gold and silver, which so rapidly followed; ... a diminution
of the value of the capital as well as the annual produce of estates in
consequence of the fallen price; ... the recovery of new debts as well
as old in effect suspended, while the numerous bankruptcies which have
happened in Europe amongst the merchants trading to America, the reproach
of which is cast upon us, have proclaimed to all the trading nations
to guard against our laws and policy, and even against our moral

[Footnote 16: MS. among the Gibbes papers In the capitol at Columbia, S.C.]

[Footnote 17: _Charleston Morning Post_, Dec. 13, 1786 quoted in the
_American Historical Review_, XIV, 537, 538]

The depression continued with increasing severity into the following
decade, when it appears that many of the planters in the Charleston
district were saved from ruin only by the wages happily drawn from the
Santee Canal Company in payment for the work of their slaves in the canal
construction gangs.[18] The conditions and prospects in Virginia at the
same time are suggested by a remark of George Washington in 1794 on slave
investments: "I shall be happily mistaken if they are not found to be a
very troublesome species of property ere many years have passed over our

[Footnote 18: Samuel DuBose, "Reminiscences of St. Stephen's Parish," in
T.G. Thomas, ed., _History of the Huguenots in South Carolina_ (New York,
1887), pp. 66-68.]

[Footnote 19: New York Public Library _Bulletin_, II, 15. This letter has
been quoted at greater length at the beginning of chapter VIII above.]

Prices in this period were so commonly stated in currency of uncertain
depreciation that a definite schedule by years may not safely be made. It
is clear, however, that the range in 1783 was little lower than it had been
on the eve of the war, while in 1795 it was hardly more than half as high.
For the first time in American history, in a period of peace, there was
a heavy and disquieting fall in slave prices. This was an earnest of
conditions in the nineteenth century when advances and declines alternated.
From about 1795 onward the stability of the currency and the increasing
abundance of authentic data permit the fluctuations of prices to be
measured and their causes and effects to be studied with some assurance.

The materials extant comprise occasional travellers' notes, fairly numerous
newspaper items, and quite voluminous manuscript collections of appraisals
and bills of sale, all of which require cautious discrimination in their
analysis.[20] The appraisals fall mainly into two groups: the valuation of
estates in probate, and those for the purpose of public compensation to
the owners of slaves legally condemned for capital crimes. The former were
oftentimes purely perfunctory, and they are generally serviceable only as
aids in ascertaining the ratios of value between slaves of the diverse ages
and sexes. The appraisals of criminals, however, since they prescribed
actual payments on the basis of the market value each slave would have had
if his crime had not been committed, may be assumed under such laws as
Virginia maintained in the premises to be fairly accurate. A file of more
than a thousand such appraisals, with vouchers of payment attached, which
is preserved among the Virginia archives in the State Library at Richmond,
is particularly copious in regard to prices as well as in regard to crimes
and punishments.

[Footnote 20: The difficulties to be encountered in ascertaining the values
at any time and place are exemplified in the documents pertaining to slave
prices in the various states in the year 1815, printed in the _American
Historical Review_, XIX, 813-838. In the gleaning of slave prices I have
been actively assisted by Professor R.P. Brooks of the University of
Georgia and Miss Lillie Richardson of New Orleans.]

The bills of sale recording actual market transactions remain as the chief
and central source of information upon prices. Some thousands of these,
originating in the city of Charleston, are preserved in a single file among
the state archives of South Carolina at Columbia; other thousands are
scattered through the myriad miscellaneous notarial records in the court
house at New Orleans; many smaller accumulations are to be found in
county court houses far and wide, particularly in the cotton belt; and
considerable numbers are in private possession, along with plantation
journals and letters which sometimes contain similar data.

Now these documents more often than otherwise record the sale of slaves
in groups. One of the considerations involved was that a gang already
organized would save its purchaser time and trouble in establishing a new
plantation as a going concern, and therefore would probably bring a higher
gross price than if its members were sold singly. Another motive was that
of keeping slave families together, which served doubly in comporting with
scruples of conscience and inducing to the greater contentment of slaves
in their new employ. The documents of the time demonstrate repeatedly the
appreciation of equanimity as affecting value. But group sales give slight
information upon individual prices; and even the bills of individual
sale yield much less than a statistician could wish. The sex is always
presumable from the slave's name, the color is usually stated or implied,
and occasionally deleterious proclivities are specified, as of a confirmed
drunkard or a persistent runaway; but specifications of age, strength and
talents are very often, one and all, omitted. The problem is how may these
bare quotations of price be utilized. To strike an average of all prices
in any year at any place would be fruitless, since an even distribution of
slave grades cannot be assumed when quotations are not in great volume: the
prices of young children are rarely ascertainable from the bills, since
they were hardly ever sold separately; the prices of women likewise are too
seldom segregated from those of their children to permit anything to be
established beyond a ratio to some ascertained standard; and the prices of
artizans varied too greatly with their skill to permit definite schedules
of them. The only market grade, in fact, for which basic price tabulations
can be made with any confidence is that of young male prime field hands,
for these alone may usually be discriminated even when ages and qualities
are not specified. The method here is to select in the group of bills for
any time and place such maximum quotations for males as occur with any
notable degree of frequency. Artizans, foremen and the like are thereby
generally excluded by the infrequency of their sales, while the
middle-aged, the old and the defective are eliminated by leaving aside the
quotations of lower range. The more scattering bills in which ages
and crafts are given will then serve, when supplemented from probate
appraisals, to establish valuation ratios between these able-bodied
unskilled young men and the several other classes of slaves. Thus, artizans
often brought twice as much as field hands of similar ages, prime women
generally brought three-fourths or four-fifths as much as prime men; boys
and girls entering their teens, and men and women entering their fifties,
brought about half of prime prices for their sexes; and infants were
generally appraised at about a tenth or an eighth of prime. The average
price for slaves of all ages and both sexes, furthermore, was generally
about one-half of the price for male prime field hands. The fluctuation
of prime prices, therefore, measures the rise and fall of slave values in

The accompanying chart will show the fluctuations of the average prices
of prime field hands (unskilled young men) in Virginia, at Charleston, in
middle Georgia, and at New Orleans, a£ well as the contemporary range of
average prices for cotton of middling grade in the chief American market,
that of New York. The range for prime slaves, it will be seen, rose from
about $300 and $400 a head in the upper and lower South respectively in
1795 to a range of from $400 to $600 in 1803, in consequence of the initial
impulse of cotton and sugar production and of the contemporary prohibition
of the African slave trade by the several states. At those levels prices
remained virtually fixed, in most markets, for nearly a decade as an effect
of South Carolina's reopening of her ports and of the hampering of export
commerce by the Napoleonic war. The latter factor prevented even the
congressional stoppage of the foreign slave trade in 1808 from exerting
any strong effect upon slave prices for the time being except in the sugar
district. The next general movement was in fact a downward one of about
$100 a head caused by the War of 1812. At the return of peace the prices
leaped with parallel perpendicularity in all the markets from $400-$500 in
1814 to twice that range in 1818, only to be upset by the world-wide panic
of the following year and to descend to levels of $400 to $600 in 1823.
Then came a new rise in the cotton and sugar districts responding to a
heightened price of their staples, but for once not evoking a sympathetic
movement in the other markets. A small decline then ensuing gave place to
a soaring movement at New Orleans, in response to the great stimulus which
the protective tariff of 1828 gave to sugar production. The other markets
began in the early thirties to make up for the tardiness of their rise; and
as a feature of the general inflation of property values then prevalent
everywhere, slave prices rose to an apex in 1837 of $1,300 in the
purchasing markets and $1,100 in Virginia. The general panic of 1837
began promptly to send them down; and though they advanced in 1839 as a
consequence of a speculative bolstering of the cotton market that year,
they fell all the faster upon the collapse of that project, finding new
levels of rest only at a range of $500-$700. A final advance then set in
at the middle of the forties which continued until the highest levels on
record were attained on the eve of secession and war. [Illustration: PRICES

There are thus in the slave price diagram for the nineteenth century a
plateau, with a local peak rising from its level in the sugar district, and
three solid peaks--all of them separated by intervening valleys, and all
corresponding more or less to the elevations and depressions in the cotton
range. The plateau, 1803-1812, was prevented from producing a peak in the
eastern markets by the South Carolina repeal of the slave trade prohibition
and by the European imbroglio. The first common peak, 1818, and its ensuing
trough came promptly upon the establishment of the characteristic régime of
the ante-bellum period, in which the African reservoir could no longer
be drawn upon to mitigate labor shortages and restrain the speculative
enhancement of slave prices. The trough of the 'twenties was deeper and
broader in the upper and eastern South than elsewhere partly because the
panic of 1819 had brought a specially severe financial collapse there from
the wrecking of mushroom canal projects and the like.[21] It is remarkable
that so wide a spread of rates in the several districts prevailed for so
long a period as here appears. The statistics may of course be somewhat at
fault, but there is reason for confidence that their margin of error is not
great enough to vitiate them.

[Footnote 21: _E. g., The Papers of Archibald D. Murphey_ (North Carolina
Historical Commission _Publications_, Raleigh, 1914), I, 93ff]

The next peak, 1837-1839, was in most respects like the preceding one, and
the drop was quite as sudden and even more severe. The distresses of the
time in the district where they were the most intense were described in a
diary of 1840 by a North Carolinian, who had journeyed southwestward in the
hope of collecting payment for certain debts, but whose personal chagrin
was promptly eclipsed by the spectacle of general disaster. "Speculation,"
said he, "has been making poor men rich and rich men princes." But now "a
revulsion has taken place. Mississippi is ruined. Her rich men are poor,
and her poor men beggars.... We have seen hard times in North Carolina,
hard times in the east, hard times everywhere; but Mississippi exceeds them
all.... Lands ... that once commanded from thirty to fifty dollars per acre
may now be bought for three or five dollars, and that with considerable
improvements, while many have been sold at sheriff's sales at fifty cents
that were considered worth ten to twenty dollars. The people, too, are
running their negroes to Texas and to Alabama, and leaving their real
estate and perishable property to be sold, or rather sacrificed.... So
great is the panic and so dreadful the distress that there are a great many
farms prepared to receive crops, and some of them actually planted, and yet
deserted, not a human being to be found upon them. I had prepared myself to
see hard times here, but unlike most cases, the actual condition of affairs
is much worse than the report."[22]

[Footnote 22: W.H. Wills, "Diary," in the Southern History Association
_Publications_, VIII (Washington, 1904), 35.]

The fall of Mississippi slaves continued, accompanying that of cotton and
even anticipating it in the later phase of the movement, until extreme
depths were reached in the middle forties, though at New Orleans and in the
Georgia uplands the decline was arrested in 1842 at a level of about $700.
The sugar planters began prospering from the better prices established for
their staple by the tariff of that year, and were able to pay more than
panic prices for slaves; but as has been noted in an earlier chapter,
suspicion of fraud in the cases of slaves offered from Mississippi
militated against their purchase. A sugar planter would be willing to pay
considerably more for a neighbor's negro than for one who had come down the
river and who might shortly be seized on a creditor's attachment.

At the middle of the forties, with a rising cotton market, there began
a strong and sustained advance, persisting throughout the fifties and
carrying slave prices to unexampled heights. By 1856 the phenomenon was
receiving comment in the newspapers far and wide. In the early months of
that year the _Republican_ of St. Louis reported field hand sales in
Pike County, Missouri, at from $1,215 to $1,642; the _Herald_ of Lake
Providence, Louisiana, recorded the auction of General L.C. Folk's slaves
at which "negro men ranged from $1,500 to $1,635, women and girls from
$1,250 to $1,550, children in proportion--all cash" and concluded: "Such a
sale, we venture to say, has never been equaled in the state of Louisiana."
In Virginia, likewise, the Richmond _Despatch_ in January told of the sale
of an estate in Halifax County at which "among other enormous prices, one
man brought $1,410 and another $1,425, and both were sold again privately
the same day at advances of $50. They were ordinary field hands, not
considered no. I. in any respect." In April the Lynchburg _Virginian_
reported the sale of men in the auction of a large estate at from $1,120 to
$2,110, with most of the prices ranging midway between; and in August the
Richmond _Despatch_ noted that instead of the customary summer dullness in
the demand for slaves, it was unprecedentedly vigorous, with men's prices
ranging from $1,200 to $1,500.[23]

The _Southern Banner_ of Athens, Georgia, said as early as January, 1855:
"Everybody except the owners of slaves must feel and know that the price
of slave labor and slave property at the South is at present too high when
compared with the prices of everything else. There must ere long be a
change; and ... we advise parties interested to 'stand from under!'"[24]
But the market belied the apprehensions. A neighboring journal noted at the
beginning of 1858, that in the face of the current panic, slave prices
as indicated in newspapers from all quarters of the South held up
astonishingly. "This argues a confidence on the part of the planters that
there is a good time coming. Well," the editor concluded with a hint of
his own persistent doubts, "we trust they may not be deceived in their

The market continued deaf to the Cassandra school. When in March, 1859,
Pierce Butler's half of the slaves from the plantations which his quondam
wife made notorious were auctioned to defray his debts, bidders who
gathered from near and far offered prices which yielded an average rate
of $708 per head for the 429 slaves of all ages.[26] And in January and
February the still greater auction at Albany, Georgia, of the estate of
Joseph Bond, lately deceased, yielded $2,850 for one of the men, about
$1,900 as an average for such prime field hands as were sold separately,
and a price of $958.64 as a general average for the 497 slaves of all ages
and conditions.[27] Sales at similar prices were at about the same time
reported from various other quarters.[28]

[Footnote 23: These items were reprinted in George M. Weston, _Who are and
who may be Slaves in the U.S._ [1856].]

[Footnote 24: _Southern Banner_, Jan. 11, 1855, endorsing an editorial of
similar tone in the New York _Express_.]

[Footnote 25: _Southern Watchman_ (Athens, Ga.), Jan. 21, 1858.]

[Footnote 26: _What Became of the Slaves on a Georgia Plantation Auction
Sale of Slaves at Savannah, March 2d and 3d, 1859. A Sequel to Mrs.
Kemble's Journal_ [1863]. This appears to have been a reprint of an
article in the New York _Tribune_. The slaves were sold in family parcels
comprising from two to seven persons each.]

[Footnote 27: MS. record in the Ordinary's office at Macon, Ga. Probate
Returns, vol. 9, pp. 2-7.]

[Footnote 28: Edward Ingle, _Southern Sidelights_ (New York [1896]), p.
294. note.]

Editorial warnings were now more vociferous than before. The _Federal
Union_ of Milledgeville said for example: "There is a perfect fever raging
in Georgia now on the subject of buying negroes.... Men are borrowing money
at exorbitant rates of interest to buy negroes at exorbitant prices. The
speculation will not sustain the speculators, and in a short time we shall
see many negroes and much land offered under the sheriff's hammer, with few
buyers for cash; and then this kind of property will descend to its real
value. The old rule of pricing a negro by the price of cotton by the
pound--that is to say, if cotton is worth twelve cents a negro man is
worth $1,200.00, if at fifteen cents then $1,500.00--does not seem to be
regarded. Negroes are 25 per cent. higher now with cotton at ten and one
half cents than they were two or three years ago when it was worth fifteen
and sixteen cents. Men are demented upon the subject. A reverse will surely

[Footnote 29: _Federal Union_ (Milledgeville, Ga.), Jan. 17, 1860,
reprinted with endorsement in the _Southern Banner_ (Athens, Ga.), Jan. 26,
1860, and reprinted in _Plantation and Frontier_, II, 73, 74.]

The fever was likewise raging in the western South,[30] and it persisted
until the end of 1860. Indeed the peak of this price movement was evidently
cut off by the intervention of war. How great an altitude it might have
reached, and what shape its downward slope would have taken had peace
continued, it is idle to conjecture. But that a crash must have come is
beyond a reasonable doubt.

[Footnote 30: Prices at Lebanon, Tenn., and Franklin, Ky., are given in
_Hunt's Merchants' Magazine_, XI, 774 (Dec., 1859).]

The Charleston _Mercury_[31] attributed the advance of slave prices in the
fifties mainly to the demand of the railroads for labor. This was borne
out in some degree by the transactions of the railroad companies whose
headquarters were in that city. The president of the Charleston and
Savannah Railroad Company, endorsing the arguments which had been advanced
by a writer in _DeBows Review_,[32] recommended in his first annual report,
1855, an extensive purchase of slaves for the company's construction gangs,
reckoning that at the price of $1,000, with interest at 7 per cent. and
life insurance at 2-1/2 per cent. the annual charge would be little more
than half the current cost in wages at $180. The yearly cost of maintenance
and superintendence, reckoned at $20 for clothing, $15 for corn, molasses
and tobacco, $1 for physician's fees, $10 for overseer's wages and $15 for
tools and repairs, he said, would be the same whether the slaves were hired
or bought.[33] How largely the company adopted its president's plan is not
known. For the older and stronger South Carolina Railroad Company, however,
whose lines extended from Charleston to Augusta, Columbia and Camden,
detailed records in the premises are available. This company was created
in 1843 by the merging of two earlier corporations, one of which already
possessed eleven slaves. In February, 1845, the new company bought three
more slaves, two of which cost $400 apiece and the third $686. At the end
of the next year the superintendent reported: "After hands for many years
in the company's service have acquired the knowledge and skill necessary to
make them valuable, the company are either compelled to submit to higher
rates of wages imposed or to pass others at a lower rate of compensation
through the same apprenticeship, with all the hazard of a strike, in their
turn, by the owners."[34] The directors, after studying the problem thus
presented, launched upon a somewhat extensive slave-purchasing programme,
buying one in 1848 and seven in 1849 at uniform prices of $900; one in
1851 at $800 thirty-seven in 1852, all but two of which were procured in a
single purchase from J.C. Sproull and Company, at prices from $512.50 to
$1,004.50, but mostly ranging near $900; and twenty-eight more at various
times between 1853 and 1859, at prices rising to $1,500. Finally, when two
or three years of war had put all property, of however precarious a nature,
at a premium over Confederate currency, the company bought another slave
in August, 1863, for $2,050, and thirty-two more in 1864 at prices ranging
from $2,450 to $6,005.[35] All of these slaves were males. No ages or
trades are specified in the available records, and no statement of the
advantages actually experienced in owning rather than hiring slaves.

[Footnote 31: Reprinted in William Chambers, _American Slavery and Colour_
(London, 1857), P. 207.]

[Footnote 32: _DeBow's Review_, XVII, 76-82.]

[Footnote 33: _Ibid_., XVIII, 404-406.]

[Footnote 34: U.B. Phillips, _Transportation in the Eastern Cotton Belt_
(New York, 1908), p. 205.]

[Footnote 35: South Carolina Railroad Company _Reports_ for 1860 and 1865.]

The Brandon Bank, at Brandon, Mississippi, which was virtually identical
with the Mississippi and Alabama Railroad Company, bought prior to 1839,
$159,000 worth of slaves for railroad employment, but it presumably lost
them shortly after that year when the bank and the railroad together went
bankrupt.[36] The state of Georgia had bought about 190 slaves in and
before 1830 for employment in river and road improvements, but it sold them
in 1834,[37] and when in the late 'forties and the 'fifties it built and
operated the Western and Atlantic Railroad it made no repetition of the
earlier experiment. In the 'fifties, indeed, the South Carolina Railroad
Company was almost unique in its policy of buying slaves for railroad

[Footnote 36: _Niles' Register_, LVI, 130 (April 27, 1839).]

[Footnote 37: U.B. Phillips, _Transportation in the Eastern Cotton Belt_,
pp. 114, 115; W.C. Dawson, _Compilation of Georgia Laws_, p. 399; O.H.
Prince, _Digest of the Laws of Georgia_, p. 742.]

The most cogent reason against such a policy was not that the owned slaves
increased the current charges, but that their purchase involved the
diversion of capital in a way which none but abnormal circumstances could
justify. In the year 1846 when the superintendent of the South Carolina
company made his recommendation, slave prices were abnormally low and
cotton prices were leaping in such wise as to make probable a strong
advance in the labor market. By 1855, however, the price of slaves had
nearly doubled, and by 1860 it was clearly inordinate. The special occasion
for a company to divert its funds or increase its capital obligations had
accordingly vanished, and sound policy would have suggested the sale of
slaves on hand rather than the purchase of more. The state of Louisiana,
indeed, sold in 1860[38] the force of nearly a hundred slave men which it
had used on river improvements long enough for many of its members to have
grown old in the service.[39]

[Footnote 38: Board of Public Works _Report_ for 1860 (Baton Rouge, 1861),
p. 7.]

[Footnote 39: State Engineer's _Report_ for 1856 (New Orleans, 1857), p.

Manufacturing companies here and there bought slaves to man their works,
but in so doing added seriously to the risks of their business. A news item
of 1849 reported that an outbreak of cholera at the Hillman Iron Works near
Clarksville, Tenn., had brought the death of four or five slaves and the
removal of the remainder from the vicinity until the epidemic should have
passed.[40] A more normal episode of mere financial failure was that which
wrecked the Nesbitt Manufacturing Company whose plant was located on Broad
River in South Carolina. To complete its works and begin operations this
company procured a loan of some $92,000 in 1837 from the Bank of the State
of South Carolina on the security of the land and buildings and a hundred
slaves owned by the company. After several years of operation during which
the purchase of additional slaves raised the number to 194, twenty-seven of
whom were mechanics, the company admitted its insolvency. When the mortgage
was foreclosed in 1845 the bank bought in virtually the whole property to
save its investment, and operated the works for several years until a new
company, with a manager imported from Sweden, was floated to take the
concern off its hands.[41]

[Footnote 40: New Orleans _Delta_, Mch. 10, 1849.]

[Footnote 41: _Report of the Special Joint Committee appointed to examine
the Bank of the State of South Carolina_ (Charleston, 1849); _Report of
the President and Directors of the Bank of the State of South Carolina,
November, 1850_ (Columbia, 1850).]

Most of the cotton mills depended wholly upon white labor, though a few
made experiments with slave staffs. One of these was in operation in Maury
County, Tennessee, in 1827,[42] and another near Pensacola, Florida, twenty
years afterward. Except for their foremen, each of these was run by slave
operatives exclusively; and in the latter case, at least, all the slaves
were owned by the company. These comprised in 1847 some forty boys and
girls, who were all fed, and apparently well fed, at the company's
table.[43] The career of these enterprises is not ascertainable. A better
known case is that of the Saluda Factory, near Columbia, South Carolina.
When J. Graves came from New England in 1848 to assume the management of
this mill he found several negroes among the operatives, all of whom were
on hire. His first impulse was to replace all the negroes with whites; but
before this was accomplished the newcomer was quite converted by their
"activity and promptness," and he recommended that the number of black
operatives be increased instead of diminished. "They are easily trained
to habits of industry and patient endurance," he said, "and by the
concentration of all their faculties ... their imitative faculties become
cultivated to a very high degree, their muscles become trained and obedient
to the will, so that whatever they see done they are quick in learning to
do."[44] The company was impelled by Graves' enthusiasm to resort to slave
labor exclusively, partly on hire from their owners and partly by purchase.
At the height of this régime, in 1851, the slave operatives numbered
158.[45] But whether from the incapacity of the negroes as mill hands or
from the accumulation of debt through the purchase of slaves, the company
was forced into liquidation at the close of the following year.[46]

[Footnote 42: _Georgia Courier_ (Augusta, Ga.), Apr. 24, 1828, reprinted in
_Plantation and Frontier_, II, 258.]

[Footnote 43: _DeBow's Review_, IV, 256.]

[Footnote 44: Letter of J. Graves, May 15, 1849, in the Augusta, Ga.,
_Chronicle_, June 1, 1849. Cf. also J.B. D Debow, _Industrial Resources of
the Southern and Western States_ (New Orleans, 1852), II, 339.]

[Footnote 45: _DeBow's Review_, XI, 319, 320.]

[Footnote 46: _Augusta Chronicle_, Jan. 5, 1853.]

Corporations had reason at all times, in fact, to prefer free laborers over
slaves even on hire, for in so doing they escaped liabilities for injuries
by fellow servants. When a firm of contractors, for example, advertised
in 1833 for five hundred laborers at $15 per month to work on the Muscle
Shoals canal in northern Alabama, it deemed it necessary to say that in
cases of accidents to slaves it would assume financial responsibility "for
any injury or damage that may hereafter happen in the process of blasting
rock or of the caving of banks."[47] Free laborers, on the other hand,
carried their own risks. Except when some planter would take a contract for
grading in his locality, to be done under his own supervision in the spare
time of his gang, slaves were generally called for in canal and railroad
work only when the supply of free labor was inadequate.

[Footnote 47: Reprinted in E.S. Abdy, _Journal of a Residence in the United
States_ (London, 1835), II, 109.]

Slaveowners, on the other hand, were equally reluctant to hire their slaves
to such corporations or contractors except in times of special depression,
for construction camps from their lack of sanitation, discipline,
domesticity and stability were at the opposite pole from plantations as
places of slave residence. High wages were no adequate compensation for
the liability to contagious and other diseases, demoralization, and the
checking of the birth rate by the separation of husbands and wives. The
higher the valuation of slave property, the greater would be the strength
of these considerations.

Slaves were a somewhat precarious property under all circumstances. Losses
were incurred not only through disease[48] and flight but also through
sudden death in manifold ways, and through theft. A few items will furnish
illustration. An early Charleston newspaper printed the following: "On the
ninth instant Mr. Edward North at Pon Pon sent a sensible negro fellow to
Moon's Ferry for a jug of rum, which is about two miles from his house;
and he drank to that excess in the path that he died within six or seven
hours."[49] From the Eutaws in the same state a correspondent wrote in 1798
of a gin-house disaster: "I yesterday went over to Mr. Henry Middleton's
plantation to view the dreadful effects of a flash of lightning which the
day before fell on his machine house in which were about twenty negro men,
fourteen of which were killed immediately."[50] In 1828 the following
appeared in a newspaper at New Orleans: "Yesterday towards one o'clock
P.M., as one of the ferry boats was crossing the river with sixteen slaves
on board belonging to General Wade Hampton, with their baggage, a few rods
distant from the shore these negroes, being frightened by the motion of the
boat, all threw themselves on the same side, which caused the boat to fill;
and notwithstanding the prompt assistance afforded, four or five of these
unfortunates perished."[51] In 1839 William Lowndes Yancey, who was then a
planter in South Carolina, lost his whole gang through the poisoning of a
spring on his place, and was thereby bankrupted.[52] About 1858 certain
bandits in western Louisiana abducted two slaves from the home of the Widow
Bernard on Bayou Vermilion. After the lapse of several months they were
discovered in the possession of one Apcher, who was tried for the theft
but acquitted. The slaves when restored to their mistress were put in the
kitchen, bound together by their hands. But while the family was at dinner
the two ran from the house and drowned themselves in the bayou. The
narrator of the episode attributed the impulse for suicide to the taste for
vagabondage and the hatred for work which the negroes had acquired from the

[Footnote 48: For the effect of epidemics _see_ above, pp. 300, 301.]

[Footnote 49: _South Carolina Gazette_, Feb. 12 to 19, 1741.]

[Footnote 50: _Carolina Gazette_ (Charleston), Feb. 4, 1798, supplement.]

[Footnote 51: _Louisiana Courier_, Mch. 3, 1828.]

[Footnote 52: J.W. DuBose, _Life of W.L. Yancey_ (Birmingham, Ala., 1892),
p. 39.]

[Footnote 53: Alexandra Barbe, _Histoire des Comités de Vigilance aux
Attakapas_] (Louisiana, 1861), pp. 182-185.

The governor of South Carolina reported the convictions of five white
men for the crime of slave stealing in the one year;[54] and in the
penitentiary lists of the several states the designation of slave stealers
was fairly frequent, in spite of the fact that the death penalty was
generally prescribed for the crime. One method of their operation was
described in a Georgia newspaper item of 1828 which related that two
wagoners upon meeting a slave upon the road persuaded him to lend a hand in
shifting their load. When the negro entered the wagon they overpowered him
and drove on. When they camped for the night they bound him to the wheel;
but while they slept he cut his thongs and returned to his master.[55] The
greatest activities in this line, however, were doubtless those of the
Murrell gang of desperadoes operating throughout the southwest in the early
thirties with a shrewd scheme for victimizing both whites and blacks. They
would conspire with a slave, promising him his freedom or some other reward
if he would run off with them and suffer himself to be sold to some unwary
purchaser and then escape to join them again.[56] Sometimes they repeated
this process over and over again with the same slave until a threat of
exposure from him led to his being silenced by murder. In the same period a
smaller gang with John Washburn as its leading spirit and with Natchez as
informal headquarters, was busy at burglary, highway and flatboat robbery,
pocket picking and slave stealing.[57] In 1846 a prisoner under arrest at
Cheraw, South Carolina, professed to reveal a new conspiracy for slave
stealing with ramifications from Virginia to Texas; but the details appear
not to have been published.[58]

[Footnote 54: H.M. Henry, _The Police Control of the Slave in South
Carolina_ [1914], pp. 110-112.]

[Footnote 55: _The Athenian_ (Athens, Ga.), Aug. 19, 1828.]

[Footnote 56: H.R. Howard, compiler, _The History of Virgil A. Stewart and
his Adventure in capturing and exposing the great "Western Land Pirate" and
his Gang_ (New York, 1836), pp. 63-68, 104, _et passim_. The truth of these
accounts of slave stealings is vouched for in a letter to the editor of the
New Orleans _Bulletin_, reprinted in the _Federal Union_ (Milledgeville,
Ga.), Nov. 5, 1835.]

[Footnote 57: The manifold felonies of the gang were described by Washburn
in a dying confession after his conviction for a murder at Cincinnati.
Natchez _Courier_, reprinted in the _Louisiana Courier_ (New Orleans), Feb.
28, 1837. Other reports of the theft of slaves appear in the Charleston
_Morning Post and Daily Advertiser_, Nov. 2, 1786; _Southern Banner_
(Athens, Ga.), July 19, 1834, advertisement; _Federal Union_
(Milledgeville, Ga.), July 18, 1835; and the following New Orleans
journals: _Louisiana Gazette_, Apr. 1 and Sept. 10, 1819; _Mercantile
Advertiser_, Sept 29, 1831; _Bee_, Dec. 14, 1841; Mch. 10, 1845, and Aug.
1 and Nov. 11, 1848; _Louisiana Courier_, Mch. 29 and Sept. 18, 1840;
_Picayune_, Aug. 21, 1845.]

[Footnote 58: New Orleans _Commercial Times_, Aug. 26, 1846.]

Certain hostile critics of slavery asserted that in one district or another
masters made reckonings favorable to such driving of slaves at their work
as would bring premature death. Thus Fanny Kemble wrote in 1838, when on
the Georgia coast: "In Louisiana ... 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."[59] The English traveler Featherstonhaugh likewise wrote of
Louisiana in 1844, when he had come as close to it as East Tennessee,
that "the duration of life for a sugar mill hand does not exceed seven
years."[60] William Goodell supported a similar assertion of his own in
1853 by a series of citations. The first of these was to Theodore Weld as
authority, that "Professor Wright" had been told at New York by Dr. Deming
of Ashland, Ohio, a story that Mr. Dickinson of Pittsburg had been told by
Southern planters and slave dealers on an Ohio River steamboat. The tale
thus vouched for contained the assertion that sugar planters found that by
the excessive driving of slaves day and night in the grinding season they
could so increase their output that "they could afford to sacrifice one set
of hands in seven years," and "that this horrible system was now practised
to a considerable extent." The second citation was likewise to Weld for a
statement by Mr. Samuel Blackwell of Jersey City, whose testimonial lay in
the fact of his membership in the Presbyterian church, that while on a tour
in Louisiana "the planters generally declared to him that they were obliged
so to overwork their slaves during the sugar-making season (from eight to
ten weeks) as to use them up in seven or eight years." The third was to the
Rev. Mr. Reed of London who after a tour in Maryland, Virginia and Kentucky
in 1834 published the following: "I was told, confidentially, from
excellent authority, that recently at a meeting of planters in South
Carolina the question was seriously discussed whether the slave is more
profitable to the owner if well fed, well clothed and worked lightly, or if
made the most of at once and exhausted in some eight years. The decision
was in favor of the last alternative"[61] An anonymous writer in 1857
repeated this last item without indication of its date or authority but
with a shortening of the period of exhaustion to "some four or five

[Footnote 59: Frances A. Kemble, _Journal_ (New York, 1863), p. 28.]

[Footnote 60: G.W. Featherstonhaugh, _Excursion Through the Slave States_
(London, 1844), I, 120. Though Featherstonhaugh afterward visited New
Orleans his book does not recur to this topic.]

[Footnote 61: William Goodell, _The American Slave Code in Theory and
Practise_ (New York, 1853), pp. 79-81, citing Theodore Weld, _Slavery as it
is_, p 39, and Mattheson, _Visit to the American Churches_, II, 173.]

[Footnote 62: _The Suppressed Book about Slavery! Prepared for publication
in 1857, never published until the present time_ (New York, 1864), p. 211.]

These assertions, which have been accepted by some historians as valid,
prompt a series of reflections. In the first place, anyone who has had
experience with negro labor may reasonably be skeptical when told that
healthy, well fed negroes, whether slave or free, can by any routine
insistence of the employer be driven beyond the point at which fatigue
begins to be injurious. In the second place, plantation work as a rule had
the limitation of daylight hours; in plowing, mules which could not
be hurried set the pace; in hoeing, haste would imperil the plants by
enhancing the proportion of misdirected strokes; and in the harvest of
tobacco, rice and cotton much perseverance but little strain was involved.
The sugar harvest alone called for heavy exertion and for night work in the
mill. But common report in that regard emphasized the sturdy sleekness as
well as the joviality of the negroes in the grinding season;[63] and even
if exhaustion had been characteristic instead, the brevity of the period
would have prevented any serious debilitating effect before the coming of
the more leisurely schedule after harvest. In fact many neighboring Creole
and Acadian farmers, fishermen and the like were customarily enlisted
on wages as plantation recruits in the months of stress.[64] The sugar
district furthermore was the one plantation area within easy reach of a
considerable city whence a seasonal supply of extra hands might be had to
save the regular forces from injury. The fact that a planter, as reported
by Sir Charles Lyell, failed to get a hundred recruits one year in the
midst of the grinding season[65] does not weaken this consideration. It may
well have been that his neighbors had forestalled him in the wage-labor
market, or that the remaining Germans and Irish in the city refused to take
the places of their fellows who were on strike. It is well established that
sugar planters had systematic recourse to immigrant labor for ditching and
other severe work.[66] It is incredible that they ignored the same recourse
if at any time the requirements of their crop threatened injury to their
property in slaves. The recommendation of the old Roman, Varro, that
freemen be employed in harvesting to save the slaves[67] would apply with
no more effect, in case of need, to the pressing of oil and wine than to
the grinding of sugar-cane. Two months' wages to a Creole, a "'Cajun" or
an Irishman would be cheap as the price of a slave's continued vigor,
even when slave prices were low. On the whole, however, the stress of the
grinding was not usually as great as has been fancied. Some of the regular
hands in fact were occasionally spared from the harvest at its height and
set to plow and plant for the next year's crop.[68]

[Footnote 63: E. g., Olmsted, _Seaboard Slave States_, p. 668.]

[Footnote 64: _DeBow's Review_, XI, 606.]

[Footnote 65: _See_ above, p. 337.]

[Footnote 66: See above, pp. 301, 302.]

[Footnote 67: Varro, _De Re Rustica_, I, XVII, 2.]

[Footnote 68: _E. g_., items for November, 1849, in the plantation diary of
Dr. John P.R. Stone, of Iberville Parish, Louisiana. For the use of this
document, the MS. of which is in the possession of Mr. John Stone Ware,
White-Castle, La., I am indebted to Mr. V. Alton Moody, of the University
of Michigan, now Lieutenant in the American Expeditionary Force in France.]

The further question arises: how could a master who set himself to work a
slave to death in seven years make sure on the one hand that the demise
would not be precipitated within a few months instead, and on the other
that the consequence would not be merely the slave's incapacitation instead
of his death? In the one case a serious loss would be incurred at once; in
the other the stoppage of the slave's maintenance, which would be the only
conceivable source of gain in the premises, would not have been effected,
but the planter would merely have an invalid on his hands instead of a
worker. Still further, the slaves had recourses of their own, even aside
from appeals for legal redress. They might shoot or stab the oppressor,
burn his house, or run away, or resort to any of a dozen other forms of
sabotage. These possibilities the masters knew as well as the slaves. Mere
passive resistance, however, in cases where even that was needed, would
generally prove effective enough.

Finally, if all the foregoing arguments be dismissed as fallacious, there
still remains the factor of slave prices as a deterrent in certain periods.
If when slaves were cheap and their produce dear it might be feasible and
profitable to exhaust the one to increase the other, the opportunity would
surely vanish when the price relations were reversed. The trend of the
markets was very strong in that direction. Thus at the beginning of the
nineteenth century a prime field hand in the upland cotton belt had the
value of about 1,500 pounds of middling cotton; by 1810 this value had
risen to 4,500 pounds; by 1820 to 5,500; by 1830 to 6,000; by 1840 to
8,300; from 1843 to 1853 it was currently about 10,000; and in 1860 it
reached about 16,000 pounds. Comparison of slave values as measured in the
several other staples would show quite similar trends, though these great
appreciations were accompanied by no remotely proportionate increase of
the slaves' industrial capacities. The figures tell their own tale of
the mounting preposterousness of any calculated exhaustion of the human

The tradition in anti-slavery circles was however too strong to die.
Various travelers touring the South, keen for corroborative evidence but
finding none, still nursed the belief that a further search would bring
reward. It was like the rainbow's end, always beyond the horizon. Thus the
two Englishmen, Marshall Hall and William H. Russell, after scrutinizing
many Southern localities and finding no slave exhaustion, asserted that it
prevailed either in a district or in a type of establishment which they had
not examined. Hall, who traveled far in the Southern states and then merely
touched at Havana on his way home, wrote: "In the United States the life of
the slave has been cherished and his offspring promoted. In Cuba the lives
of the slaves have been 'used up' by excessive labour, and increase in
number disregarded. It is said, indeed, that the slave-life did not extend
beyond eight or ten years."[69] Russell recorded his surprise at finding
that the Louisiana planters made no reckoning whatever of the cost of their
slaves' labor, that Irish gangs nevertheless did the ditching, and that the
slave children of from nine to eleven years were at play, "exempted from
that cruel fate which befalls poor children of their age in the mining and
manufacturing districts of England"; and then upon glimpsing the homesteads
of some Creole small proprietors, he wrote: "It is among these men that, at
times, slavery assumes its harshest aspect, and that slaves are exposed to
the severest labor."[70] Johann Schoepf on the other hand while travelling
many years before on the Atlantic seaboard had written: "They who have the
largest droves [of slaves] keep them the worst, let them run naked mostly
or in rags, and accustom them as much as possible to hunger, but exact of
them steady work."[71] That no concrete observations were adduced in any
of these premises is evidence enough, under the circumstances, that the
charges were empty.

[Footnote 69: Marshall Hall, _The Two-fold Slavery of the United States_
(London, 1854), p. 154.]

[Footnote 70: W.H. Russell, _My Diary North and South_ (Boston, 1863), pp.
274, 278.]

[Footnote 71: Johann David Schoepf, _Travels in the Confederation_, A.J.
Morrisson, tr. (Philadelphia, 1911), II, 147. But _see ibid_., pp. 94, 116,
for observations of a general air of indolence among whites and blacks

The capital value of the slaves was an increasingly powerful insurance of
their lives and their health. In four days of June, 1836, Thomas Glover of
Lowndes County, Alabama, incurred a debt of $35 which he duly paid, for
three visits with mileage and prescriptions by Dr. Salley to his "wench
Rina";[72] and in the winter of 1858 Nathan Truitt of Troup County,
Georgia, had medical attendance rendered to a slave child of his to the
amount of $130.50.[73] These are mere chance items in the multitude which
constantly recur in probate records. Business prudence required expenditure
with almost a lavish hand when endangered property was to be saved. The
same consideration applied when famines occurred, as in Alabama in 1828[74]
and 1855.[75] Poverty-stricken freemen might perish, but slaveowners could
use the slaves themselves as security for credits to buy food at famine
prices to feed them.[76] As Olmsted said, comparing famine effects in the
South and in Ireland, "the slaves suffered no physical want--the peasant
starved."[77] The higher the price of slaves, the more stringent the
pressure upon the masters to safeguard them from disease, injury and risk
of every sort.

[Footnote 72: MS. receipt in private possession.]

[Footnote 73: MS. probate records at LaGrange, Ga.]

[Footnote 74: Charleston, _City Gazette_, May 28, 1828.]

[Footnote 75: Olmsted, _Seaboard Slave States_, pp. 707, 708, quoting
contemporary newspapers.]

[Footnote 76: Cf. D.D. Wallace, _Life of Henry Laurens_, p. 429.]

[Footnote 77: Olmsted, _Seaboard Slave States_, p. 244.]

Although this phase of the advancing valuation gave no occasion for regret,
other phases brought a spread of dismay and apprehension. In an essay of
1859 Edmund Ruffin analyzed the effects in Virginia. In the last fifteen
years, he said, the value of slaves had been doubled, solely because of
the demand from the lower South. The Virginians affected fell into three
classes. The first were those who had slaves to be sold, whether through
pressure of debt or in the legal division of estates or in the rare event
of liquidating a surplus of labor. These would receive advantage from high
prices. The second were those who wishing neither to buy nor sell slaves
desired merely to keep their estates intact. These were, of course,
unaffected by the fluctuations. The third were the great number of
enterprising planters and farmers who desired to increase the scale of
their industrial operations and who would buy slaves if conditions were
propitious but were debarred therefrom by the immoderate prices. When these
men stood aside in the bidding the manual force and the earning power of
the commonwealth were depleted. The smaller volume of labor then remaining
must be more thinly applied; land values must needs decline; and the
shrewdest employers must join the southward movement. The draining of
the slaves, he continued, would bring compensation in an inflow of white
settlers only when the removal of slave labor had become virtually complete
and had brought in consequence the most extreme prostration of land
prices and of the incomes of the still remaining remnant of the original
population. The exporting of labor, at whatever price it might be sold, he
likened to a farmer's conversion of his plow teams into cash instead of
using them in his work. According to these views, he concluded, "the
highest prices yet obtained from the foreign purchasers of our slaves have
never left a profit to the state or produced pecuniary benefit to general
interests. And even if prices should continue to increase, as there is good
reason to expect and to dread, until they reach $2000 or more for the best
laborers, or $1200 for the general average of ages and sexes, these prices,
though necessarily operating to remove every slave from Virginia, will
still cause loss to agricultural and general interests in every particular
sale, and finally render the state a desert and a ruin."[78]

[Footnote 78: Edmund Ruffin, "The Effects of High Prices of Slaves," in
_DeBow's Review_, XXVI, 647-657 (June, 1859).]

At Charleston a similar plaint was voiced by L.W. Spratt. In early years
when the African trade was open and slaves were cheap, said he, in the
Carolina lowlands "enterprise found a profitable field, and necessarily
therefore the fortunes of the country bloomed and brightened. But when
the fertilizing stream of labor was cut off, when the opening West had
no further supply to meet its requisitions, it made demands upon the
accumulations of the seaboard. The limited amount became a prize to be
contended for. Land in the interior offered itself at less than one dollar
an acre. Land on the seaboard had been raised to fifty dollars per acre,
and labor, forced to elect between them, took the cheaper. The heirs who
came to an estate, or the men of capital who retired from business, sought
a location in the West. Lands on the seaboard were forced to seek for
purchasers; purchasers came to the seaboard to seek for slaves. Their
prices were elevated to their value not upon the seaboard where lands were
capital but in the interior where the interest upon the cost of labor was
the only charge upon production. Labor therefore ceased to be profitable
in the one place as it became profitable in the other. Estates which were
wealth to their original proprietors became a charge to the descendants
who endeavored to maintain them. Neglect soon came to the relief of
unprofitable care; decay followed neglect. Mansions became tenantless and
roofless. Trees spring in their deserted halls and wave their branches
through dismantled windows. Drains filled up; the swamps returned. Parish
churches in imposing styles of architecture and once attended by a goodly
company in costly equipages, are now abandoned. Lands which had ready sale
at fifty dollars per acre now sell for less than five dollars; and over
all these structures of wealth, with their offices of art, and over
these scenes of festivity and devotion, there now hangs the pall of an
unalterable gloom."[79] In a later essay the same writer dealt with
developments in the 'fifties in more sober phrases which are corroborated
by the census returns. Within the decade, he said, as many as ten thousand
slaves had been drawn from Charleston by the attractive prices of the west,
and the towns of the interior had suffered losses in the same way. The
slaves had been taken in large numbers from all manufacturing employments,
and were now being sold by thousands each year from the rice fields. "They
are as yet retained by cotton and the culture incident to cotton; but as
almost every negro offered in our markets is bid for by the West, the drain
is likely to continue." In the towns alone was the loss offset in any
degree by an inflow of immigration.[80]

[Footnote 79: L.W. Spratt, _The Foreign Slave Trade, the source of
political power, of material progress, of social integrity and of social
emancipation to the South_ (Charleston, 1858), pp. 7, 8.]

[Footnote 80: L.W. Spratt, "Letter to John Perkins of Louisiana," in the
Charleston _Mercury_, Feb. 13, 1861.]

A similar trend as to slaves but with a sharply contrasting effect upon
prosperity was described by Gratz Brown as prevailing in Missouri. The
slave population, said he, is in process of rapid decline except in a dozen
central counties along the Missouri River. "Hemp is the only staple here
left that will pay for investment in negroes," and that can hardly hold
them against the call of the cotton belt. Already the planters of the
upland counties are beginning to send their slaves to southerly markets
in response to the prices there offered. In most parts of Missouri, he
continued, slavery could not be said to exist as a system. It accordingly
served, not as an appreciable industrial agency, but only as a deterrent
hampering the progress of immigration. Brown therefore advocated the
complete extirpation of the institution as a means of giving great impetus
to the state's prosperity.[81]

[Footnote 81: B. Gratz Brown, _Speech in the Missouri Legislature, February
12, 1857 on gradual emancipation in Missouri_ (St. Louis, 1857).]

These accounts are colored by the pro-slavery views of Ruffin and Spratt
and the opposite predilections of Brown. It is clear nevertheless that the
net industrial effects of the exportation of slaves were strikingly
diverse in the several regions. In Missouri, and in Delaware also, where
plantations had never been dominant and where negroes were few, the loss
of slaves was more than counterbalanced by the gain of freemen; in some
portions of Maryland, Virginia and Kentucky the replacement of the one by
the other was at so evenly compensating a rate that the volume of industry
was not affected; but in other parts of those states and in the rural
districts of the rice coast the depletion of slaves was not in any
appreciable measure offset by immigration. This applies also to the older
portions of the eastern cotton belt.

Throughout the northern and eastern South doubts had often been expressed
that slave labor was worth its price. Thus Philip Fithian recorded in his
Virginia diary in 1774 a conversation with Mrs. Robert Carter in which she
expressed an opinion, endorsed by Fithian, "that if in Mr. Carter's or in
any gentleman's estate all the negroes should be sold and the money put to
interest in safe hands, and let the land which the negroes now work lie
wholly uncultivated, the bare interest of the price of the negroes would be
a much greater yearly income than what is now received from their working
the lands, making no allowance at all for the trouble and risk of the
masters as to crops and negroes."[82] In 1824 John Randolph said: "It is
notorious that the profits of slave labor have been for a long time on the
decrease, and that on a fair average it scarcely reimburses the expense of
the slave," and concluded by prophesying that a continuance of the tendency
would bring it about "in case the slave shall not elope from his master,
that his master will run away from him."[83] In 1818 William Elliott
of Beaufort, South Carolina, had written that in the sea-island cotton
industry for a decade past the high valuations of lands and slaves had been
wholly unjustified. On the one hand, said he, the return on investments
was extremely small; on the other, it was almost impossible to relieve an
embarrassed estate by the sale of a part, for the reduction of the scale of
operations would cause a more than proportionate reduction of income.[84]

[Footnote 82: Philip V. Fithian, _Journal and Letters_ (Princeton, 1900),
p. 145.]

[Footnote 83: H.A. Garland, _Life of John Randolph_ (New York 1851), II,

[Footnote 84: _Southern Agriculturist_, I, 151-163.]

The remorseless advance of slave prices as measured in their produce tended
to spread the adverse conditions noted by Elliott into all parts of the
South; and by the close of the 'fifties it is fairly certain that no
slaveholders but those few whose plantations lay in the most advantageous
parts of the cotton and sugar districts and whose managerial ability was
exceptionally great were earning anything beyond what would cover their
maintenance and carrying charges.

Achille Loria has repeatedly expressed the generalization that slaves have
been systematically overvalued wherever the institution has prevailed, and
he has attempted to explain the phenomenon by reference to an economic law
of his own formulation that capitalists always and everywhere exploit labor
by devices peculiarly adapted to each régime in turn. His latest argument
in the premises is as follows: Man, who is by nature dispersively
individualistic, is brought into industrial coordination only by coercion.
Isolated labor if on exceptionally fertile soil or if equipped with
specially efficient apparatus or if supernormal in energy may produce a
surplus income, but ordinarily it can earn no more than a bare subsistence.
Associative labor yields so much greater returns that masters of one sort
or another emerge in every progressive society to replace dispersion with
concentration and to engross most of the accruing enhancement of produce
to themselves as captains of industry. This "persistent and continuous
coercion, compelling them to labour in conformity to a unitary plan or in
accordance with a concentrating design" is commonly in its earlier form
slavery, and slaveholders are thus the first possessors of capital. As
capitalists they become perpetually concerned with excluding the laborers
from the proprietorship of land and the other means of production. So long
as land is relatively abundant this can be accomplished only by keeping
labor enslaved, and enslavement cannot be maintained unless the slaves are
prevented from buying their freedom. This prevention is procured by the
heightening of slave prices at such a rate as to keep the cost of freedom
always greater than the generality of the slaves can pay with their own
accumulated savings or _peculia_. Slave prices in fact, whether in ancient
Rome or in modern America, advanced disproportionately to the advantage
which the owners could derive from the ownership. "This shows that an
element of speculation enters into the valuation of the slave, or that
there is a hypervaluation of the slave. _This is the central phenomenon of_
_slavery_; and it is to this far more than to the indolence of slave labour
that is due the low productivity of slave states, the permanently unstable
equilibrium of the slaveholding enterprise, and its inevitable ruin." The
decline of earnings and of slave prices promotes a more drastic oppression,
as in Roman Sicily, to reduce the slave's _peculium_ and continue the
prevention of his self-purchase. When this device is about to fail of its
purpose the masters may foil the intention of the slaves by changing them
into serfs, attaching the lands to the laborers as an additional thing to
be purchased as a condition of freedom. The value of the man may now
be permitted to fall to its natural level. Finally, when the growth of
population has made land so dear that common laborers in freedom cannot
save enough to buy farms, the occasion for slavery and serfdom lapses.
Laborers may now be freed to become a wage-earning proletariat, to take
their own risks. An automatic coercion replaces the systematic; the labor
stimulus is intensified, but the stress of the employer is diminished. The
laborer does not escape from coercion, but merely exchanges one of its
forms for another.[85]

[Footnote 85: Achille Loria, _The Economic Synthesis_, M. Eden Paul tr.
(London, 1914), PP. 23-26, 91-99.]

Now Loria falls into various fallacies in other parts of his book, as when
he says that southern lands are generally more fertile than northern
and holds that alone, to the exclusion of climate and racial qualities,
responsible for the greater prevalence of slavery ancient and modern in
southerly latitudes; or when he follows Cairnes in asserting that upon the
American slave plantations "the only form of culture practised was spade
culture, merely agglomerating upon a single area of land a number of
isolated laborers"; or when he contends that either slavery or serfdom
since based on force and fraud "destroys the possibility of fiduciary
credit by cancelling the conditions [of trust and confidence] which alone
can foster it." [86] Such errors disturb one's faith. In the presentation
of his main argument, furthermore, he not only exaggerates the cleavage
between capitalists and laborers, the class consciousness of the two groups
and the rationality of capitalistic purpose, but he falls into calamitous
ambiguity and confusion. The central phenomenon of slavery, says he, is
speculation or the overvaluation of the slave. He thereupon assumes that
speculation always means overvaluation, ignoring its downward possibility,
and he accounts for the asserted universal and continuously increasing
overvaluation by reference to the desire of masters to prevent slaves from
buying their freedom. Here he ignores essential historic facts. In American
law a slave's _peculium_ had no recognition; and the proportion of slaves,
furthermore, who showed any firm disposition to accumulate savings for the
purpose of buying their freedom was very small. Where such efforts were
made, however, they were likely to be aided by the masters through
facilities for cash earnings, price concessions and honest accounting
of instalments, notwithstanding the lack of legal requirements in the
premises. Loria's explanation of the "central phenomenon" is therefore
hardly tenable.

[Footnote 86: _Ibid_., pp. 26, 190, 260.]

A far sounder basic doctrine is that of the accountant Gibson, recited
at the beginning of this chapter, that the valuation of a slave is
theoretically determined by the reckoning of his prospective earnings above
the cost of his maintenance. In the actual Southern régime, however, this
was interfered with by several influences. For one thing, the successful
proprietors of small plantations could afford to buy additional slaves at
somewhat more than the price reckoned on _per capita_ earnings, because the
advance of their establishments towards the scale of maximum efficiency
would reduce the proportionate cost of administration. Again, the scale of
slaveholdings was in some degree a measure of social rank, and men were
accordingly tempted by uneconomic motives to increase their trains of
retainers. Both of these considerations stimulated the bidding. On the
other hand conventional morality deterred many proprietors from selling
slaves except under special stress, and thereby diminished the offers in
the market. If the combination of these factors is not adequate as an
explanation, there remain the spirit of inflation characteristic of a new
country and the common desire for tangible investments of a popularly
sanctioned sort. All staple producers were engaged in a venturesome
business. Crops were highly uncertain, and staple prices even more so. The
variability of earnings inured men to the taking of risks and spurred them
to borrow money and buy more of both lands and slaves even at inflated
prices in the hope of striking it rich with a few years' crops. On the
other hand when profits actually accrued, there was nothing available as a
rule more tempting than slaves as investments. Corporation securities were
few and unseasoned; lands were liable to wear out and were painfully slow
in liquidation; but slaves were a self-perpetuating stock whose ownership
was a badge of dignity, whose management was generally esteemed a
pleasurable responsibility, whose labor would yield an income, and whose
value could be realized in cash with fair promptitude in time of need. No
calculated overvaluation by proprietors for the sake of keeping the slaves
enslaved need be invented. Loria's thesis is a work of supererogation.

But whatever may be the true explanation it is clear that slave prices did
rise to immoderate heights, that speculation was kept rife, and that in
virtually every phase, after the industrial occupation of each area had
been accomplished, the maintenance of the institution was a clog upon
material progress. The economic virtues of slavery lay wholly in its making
labor mobile, regular and secure. These qualities accorded remarkably, so
far as they went, with the requirements of the plantation system on the one
hand and the needs of the generality of the negroes on the other. Its vices
were more numerous, and in part more subtle.

The North was annually acquiring thousands of immigrants who came at their
own expense, who worked zealously for wages payable from current earnings,
and who possessed all the inventive and progressive potentialities of
European peoples. But aspiring captains of industry at the South could as
a rule procure labor only by remitting round sums in money or credit which
depleted their working capital and for which were obtained slaves fit only
for plantation routine, negroes of whom little initiative could be expected
and little contribution to the community's welfare beyond their mere
muscular exertions. The negroes were procured in the first instance mainly
because white laborers were not to be had; afterward when whites might
otherwise have been available the established conditions repelled them. The
continued avoidance of the South by the great mass of incoming Europeans in
post-bellum decades has now made it clear that it was the negro character
of the slaves rather than the slave status of the negroes which was chiefly
responsible. The racial antipathy felt by the alien whites, along with
their cultural repugnance and economic apprehensions, intrenched the
negroes permanently in the situation. The most fertile Southern areas when
once converted into black belts tended, and still tend as strongly as ever,
to be tilled only by inert negroes, the majority of whom are as yet perhaps
less efficient in freedom than their forbears were as slaves.

The drain of funds involved in the purchase of slaves was impressive to
contemporaries. Thus Governor Spotswood wrote from Virginia to the British
authorities in 1711 explaining his assent to a £5 tax upon the importation
of slaves. The members of the legislature, said he, "urged what is really
true, that the country is already ruined by the great number of negros
imported of late years, that it will be impossible for them in many years
to discharge the debts already contracted for the purchase of those negroes
if fresh supplys be still poured upon them while their tobacco continues so
little valuable, but that the people will run more and more in debt."[87]
And in 1769 a Charleston correspondent wrote to a Boston journal: "A
calculation having been made of the amount of purchase money of slaves
effected here the present year, it is computed at £270,000 sterling, which
sum will by that means be drained off from this province."[88]

[Footnote 87: Virginia Historical Society _Collections_, I, 52.]

[Footnote 88: Boston _Chronicle_, Mch. 27, 1769.]

An unfortunate fixation of capital was likewise remarked. Thus Sir Charles
Lyell noted at Columbus, Georgia, in 1846 that Northern settlers were
"struck with the difficulty experienced in raising money here by small
shares for the building of mills. 'Why,' say they, 'should all our cotton
make so long a journey to the North, to be manufactured there, and come
back to us at so high a price? It is because all spare cash is sunk here in
purchasing negroes.'" And again at another stage of his tour: "That slave
labour is more expensive than free is an opinion which is certainly gaining
ground in the higher parts of Alabama, and is now professed openly by some
Northerners who have settled there. One of them said to me, 'Half the
population of the South is employed in seeing that the other half do their
work, and they who do work accomplish half what they might do under a
better system.' 'We cannot,' said another,[89] 'raise capital enough for
new cotton factories because all our savings go to buy negroes, or as has
lately happened, to feed them when the crop is deficient."

[Footnote 89: Sir Charles Lyell, _Second Visit to the United States_
(London, 1850), II, 35, 84, 85.]

The planters, who were the principal Southern capitalists, trod in a
vicious circle. They bought lands and slaves wherewith to grow cotton,
and with the proceeds ever bought more slaves to make more cotton; and
oftentimes they borrowed heavily on their lands and slaves as collateral in
order to enlarge their scale of production the more speedily. When slave
prices rose the possessors of those in the cotton belt seldom took profit
from the advance, for it was a rare planter who would voluntarily sell his
operating force. When crops failed or prices fell, however, the loans might
be called, the mortgages foreclosed, and the property sold out at panic
levels. Thus while the slaves had a guarantee of their sustenance, their
proprietors, themselves the guarantors, had a guarantee of nothing. By
virtue, or more properly by vice, of the heavy capitalization of the
control of labor which was a cardinal feature of the ante-bellum régime,
they were involved in excessive financial risks.

The slavery system has often been said to have put so great a stigma on
manual labor as to have paralyzed the physical energies of the Southern
white population. This is a great exaggeration; and yet it is true that the
system militated in quite positive degree against the productivity of the
several white classes. Among the well-to-do it promoted leisure by giving
rise to an abnormally large number of men and women who whether actually
or nominally performing managerial functions, did little to bring sweat
to their brows. The proportion of white collars to overalls and of muslin
frocks to kitchen aprons was greater than in any other Anglo-Saxon
community of equal income. The contrast so often drawn between Southern
gentility and Northern thrift had a concrete basis in fact. At the other
extreme the enervation of the poor whites, while mainly due to malaria
and hookworm, had as a contributing cause the limitation upon their
wage-earning opportunity which the slavery system imposed. Upon the middle
class and the yeomanry, which were far more numerous and substantial[90]
than has been commonly realized, the slavery system exerted an economic
influence by limiting the availability of capital and by offering the
temptation of an unsound application of earnings. When a prospering farmer,
for example, wanted help for himself in his fields or for his wife indoors,
the habit of the community prompted him to buy or hire slaves at a greater
cost than free labor would normally have required.[91] The high price of
slaves, furthermore, prevented many a capable manager from exercising his
talents by debarring him from the acquisition of labor and the other means
of large-scale production.

[Footnote 90: D.R. Hundley, _Social Relations in our Southern States_ (New
York, 1860), pp. 91-100, 193-303; John M. Aughey, _The Iron Furnace, or
Slavery and Secession_ (Philadelphia, 1863), p. 231.]

[Footnote 91: F.L. Olmsted, _Journey through Texas_, p. 513.]

Finally, the force of custom, together with the routine efficiency of slave
labor itself, caused the South to spoil the market for its distinctive
crops by producing greater quantities than the world would buy at
remunerative prices. To this the solicitude of the masters for the health
of their slaves contributed. The harvesting of wheat, for example, as a
Virginian planter observed in a letter to his neighbor James Madison, in
the days when harvesting machinery was unknown, required exertion much more
severe than the tobacco routine, and was accordingly, as he put it, "by
no means so conducive to the health of our negroes, upon whose increase
(_miserabile dictu_!) our principal profit depends."[92] The same
letter also said: "Where there is negro slavery there will be laziness,
carelessness and wastefulness. Nor is it possible to prevent them. Severity
increases the evil, and humanity does not lessen it."

[Footnote 92: Francis Corbin to James Madison, Oct. 10, 1819, in the
Massachusetts Historical Society _Proceedings_, XLIII, 263.]

On the whole, the question whether negro labor in slavery was more or less
productive than free negro labor would have been is not the crux of the
matter. The influence of the slaveholding régime upon the whites themselves
made it inevitable that the South should accumulate real wealth more slowly
than the contemporary North. The planters and their neighbors were in the
grip of circumstance. The higher the price of slaves the greater was the
absorption of capital in their purchase, the blacker grew the black belts,
the more intense was the concentration of wealth and talent in plantation
industry, the more complete was the crystallization of industrial society.
Were there any remedies available? Certain politicians masquerading as
economists advocated the territorial expansion of the régime as a means
of relief. Their argument, however, would not stand analysis. On one hand
virtually all the territory on the continent climatically available for the
staples was by the middle of the nineteenth century already incorporated
into slaveholding states; on the other hand, had new areas been available
the chief effects of their exploitation would have been to heighten the
prices of slaves and lower the prices of crops. Actual expansion had in
fact been too rapid for the best interests of society, for it had kept the
population too sparse to permit a proper development of schools and the
agencies of communications.

With a view to increase the power of the South to expand, and for other
purposes mainly political, a group of agitators in the 'fifties raised a
vehement contention in favor of reopening the African slave trade in full
volume. This, if accomplished, would have lowered the cost of labor, but
its increase of the crops would have depressed staple prices in still
greater degree; its unsettling of the slave market would have hurt vested
interests; and its infusion of a horde of savage Africans would have
set back the progress of the negroes already on hand and have magnified
permanently the problems of racial adjustment.

The prohibition of the interstate slave trade was another project for
modifying the situation. It was mooted in the main by politicians alien to
the régime. If accomplished it would have wrought a sharp differentiation
in the conditions within the several groups of Southern states. An analogy
may be seen in the British possessions in tropical America, where,
following the stoppage of the intercolonial slave trade in 1807, a royal
commission found that the average slave prices as gathered from sale
records between 1822 and 1830 varied from a range in the old and stagnant
colonies of £27 4_s_. 11-3/4_d_. in Bermuda, £29 18_s_. 9-3/4_d_. in the
Bahamas, £47 1_s_. in Barbados and £44 15_s_. 2-1/4_d_. in Jamaica, to £105
4_s_., £114 11_s_. and £120 4_s_. 7-1/2_d_ respectively in the new and
buoyant settlements of Trinidad, Guiana and British Honduras.[93] If the
interstate transfer had been stopped, the Virginia, Maryland and Carolina
slave markets would have been glutted while the markets of every
southwestern state were swept bare. Slave prices in the former would have
fallen to such levels that masters would have eventually resorted to
manumission in self-defence, while in the latter all existing checks to the
inflation of prices would have been removed and all the evils consequent
upon the capitalization of labor intensified.

[Footnote 93: _Accounts and Papers_ [of the British Government], 1837-1838,
vol. 48, [p. 329].]

Another conceivable plan would have been to replace slavery at large by
serfdom. This would have attached the negroes to whatever lands they
chanced to occupy at the time of the legislation. By force of necessity it
would have checked the depletion of soils; but by preventing territorial
transfer it would have robbed the negroes and their masters of all
advantages afforded by the virginity of unoccupied lands. Serfdom could
hardly be seriously considered by the citizens of a new and sparsely
settled country such as the South then was.

Finally the conversion of slaves into freemen by a sweeping emancipation
was a project which met little endorsement except among those who ignored
the racial and cultural complications. Financially it would work drastic
change in private fortunes, though the transfer of ownership from the
masters to the laborers themselves need not necessarily have great effect
for the time being upon the actual wealth of the community as a whole.
Emancipation would most probably, however, break down the plantation system
by making the labor supply unstable, and fill the country partly with
peasant farmers and partly with an unattached and floating negro
population. Exceptional negroes and mulattoes would be sure to thrive upon
their new opportunities, but the generality of the blacks could be counted
upon to relax into a greater slackness than they had previously been
permitted to indulge in. The apprehension of industrial paralysis, however,
appears to have been a smaller factor than the fear of social chaos as a
deterrent in the minds of the Southern whites from thoughts of abolition.

The slaveholding régime kept money scarce, population sparse and land
values accordingly low; it restricted the opportunities of many men of both
races, and it kept many of the natural resources of the Southern country
neglected. But it kept the main body of labor controlled, provisioned and
mobile. Above all it maintained order and a notable degree of harmony in a
community where confusion worse confounded would not have been far to
seek. Plantation slavery had in strictly business aspects at least as many
drawbacks as it had attractions. But in the large it was less a business
than a life; it made fewer fortunes than it made men.



Southern households in town as well as in country were commonly large, and
the dwellings and grounds of the well-to-do were spacious. The dearth of
gas and plumbing and the lack of electric light and central heating made
for heavy chores in the drawing of water, the replenishment of fuel and the
care of lamps. The gathering of vegetables from the kitchen garden, the
dressing of poultry and the baking of relays' of hot breads at meal times
likewise amplified the culinary routine. Maids of all work were therefore
seldom employed. Comfortable circumstances required at least a cook and
a housemaid, to which might be added as means permitted a laundress, a
children's nurse, a seamstress, a milkmaid, a butler, a gardener and a
coachman. While few but the rich had such ample staffs as this, none but
the poor were devoid of domestics, and the ratio of servitors to the gross
population was large. The repugnance of white laborers toward menial
employment, furthermore, conspired with the traditional predilection of
householders for negroes in a lasting tenure for their intimate services
and gave the slaves a virtual monopoly of this calling. A census of
Charleston in 1848,[94] for example, enumerated 5272 slave domestics as
compared with 113 white and 27 free colored servants. The slaves were more
numerous than the free also in the semi-domestic employments of coachmen
and porters, and among the dray-men and the coopers and the unskilled
laborers in addition.

[Footnote 94: J.L. Dawson and H.W. DeSaussure, _Census of Charleston for
1848_ (Charleston, 1849), pp. 31-36. The city's population then comprised
some 20,000 whites, a like number of slaves, and about 3,500 free persons
of color. The statistics of occupations are summarized in the accompanying


                          Slaves  |  Free Negroes| Whites
                         Men | Women Men |Women   Men |Women
Domestic servants      1,888 | 3,384   9 | 28      13 | 100
Cooks and
confectioners              7 | 12     18 | 18     ... | 5
Nurses and midwives       ...| 2     ... | 10     ... | 5
Laundresses               ...| 33    ... | 45     ... | ...
Seamstresses and
mantua makers            ... | 24    ... | 196    ... | 125
Milliners                ... | ...   ... | 7      ... | 44
Fruiterers, hucksters
and pedlers              ... | 18      6 | 5       46 | 18
Gardeners                  3 | ...    ...| ...      5 | 1
Coachmen                  15 | ...     4 | ...      2 | ...
Draymen                   67 | ...    11 | ...     13 | ...
Porters                   35 | ...     5 | ...      8 | ...
Wharfingers and
stevedores                 2 | ...     1 | ...     21 | ...
Pilots and sailors        50 | ...     1 | ...    176 | ...
Fishermen                 11 | ...    14 | ...     10 | ...
Carpenters               120 | ...    27 | ...    119 | ...
Masons and
bricklayers               68 | ...    10 | ...     60 | ...
Painters and
plasterers                16 | ...     4 | ...     18 | ...
Tinners                    3 | ...     1 | ...     10 | ...
Ship carpenters
and joiners               51 | ...     6 | ...     52 | ...
Coopers                   61 | ...     2 | ...     20 | ...
Coach makers and
wheelwrights               3 | ...     1 | ...     26 | ...
Cabinet makers             8 | ...   ... | ...     26 | ...
Upholsterers               1 | ...     1 | ...     10 | ...
Gun, copper and
locksmiths                 2 | ...     1 | ...     16 | ...
Blacksmiths and
horseshoers               40 | ...     4 | ...     51 | ...
Millwrights              ... | ...     5 | ...      4 | ...
Boot and shoemakers        6 | ...    17 | ...     30 | ...
Saddle and harness
makers                     2 | ...     1 | ...     29 | ...
Tailors and cap makers    36 | ...    42 | 6       68 | 6
Butchers                   5 | ...     1 | ...     10 | ...
Millers                  ... | ...     1 | ...     14 | ...
Bakers                    39 | ...     1 | ...     35 | 1
Barbers and hairdressers   4 | ...    14 | ...    ... | 6
Cigarmakers                5 | ...     1 | ...     10 | ...
Bookbinders                3 | ...   ... | ...     10 | ...
Printers                   5 | ...   ... | ...     65 | ...
Other mechanics [A]       45 | ...     2 | ...    182 | ...
Apprentices               43 | 8      14 | 7       55 | 5
Unclassified, unskilled
laborers                 838 | 378    19 | 2      192 | ...
Superannuated             38 | 54      1 | 5      ... | ...

[Footnote A: The slaves and free negroes in this group were designated
merely as mechanics. The whites were classified as follows: 3 joiners,
1 plumber, 8 gas fitters, 7 bell hangers, 1 paper hanger, 6 carvers and
gilders, 9 sail makers, 5 riggers, 1 bottler, 8 sugar makers, 43 engineers,
10 machinists, 6 boilermakers, 7 stone cutters, 4 piano and organ builders,
23 silversmiths, 15 watchmakers, 3 hair braiders, 1 engraver, 1 cutler, 3
molders, 3 pump and block makers, 2 turners, 2 wigmakers, 1 basketmaker, 1
bleacher, 4 dyers, and 4 journeymen.

In addition there were enumerated of whites in non-mechanical employments
in which the negroes did not participate, 7 omnibus drivers and 16

On the other hand, although Charleston excelled every other city in the
proportion of slaves in its population, free laborers predominated in all
the other industrial groups, though but slightly in the cases of the masons
and carpenters. The whites, furthermore, heavily outnumbered the free
negroes in virtually all the trades but that of barbering which they
shunned. Among women workers the free colored ranked first as seamstresses,
washerwomen, nurses and cooks, with white women competing strongly in the
sewing trades alone. A census of Savannah in the same year shows a similar
predominance of whites in all the male trades but that of the barbers, in
which there were counted five free negroes, one slave and no whites.[2]
From such statistics two conclusions are clear: first, that the repulsion
of the whites was not against manual work but against menial service;
second, that the presence of the slaves in the town trades was mainly due
to the presence of their fellows as domestics.

[Footnote 2: Joseph Bancroft, _Census of the City of Savannah_ (Savannah,

Most of the slave mechanics and out-of-door laborers were the husbands and
sons of the cooks and chambermaids, dwelling with them on their masters'
premises, where the back yard with its crooning women and romping
vari-colored children was as characteristic a feature as on the
plantations. Town slavery, indeed, had a strong tone of domesticity, and
the masters were often paternalistically inclined. It was a townsman, for
example, who wrote the following to a neighbor: "As my boy Reuben has
formed an attachment to one of your girls and wants her for a wife, this
is to let you know that I am perfectly willing that he should, with your
consent, marry her. His character is good; he is honest, faithful and
industrious." The patriarchal relations of the country, however, which
depended much upon the isolation of the groups, could hardly prevail in
similar degree where the slaves of many masters intermingled. Even for
the care of the sick there was doubtless fairly frequent recourse to such
establishments as the "Surgical Infirmary for Negroes" at Augusta which
advertised its facilities in 1854,[3] though the more common practice, of
course, was for slave patients in town as well as country to be nursed
at home. A characteristic note in this connection was written by a young
Georgia townswoman: "No one is going to church today but myself, as we have
a little negro very sick and Mama deems it necessary to remain at home to
attend to him."[4]

[Footnote 3: _Southern Business Directory_ (Charleston, 1854), I, 289,
advertisement. The building was described as having accommodations for
fifty or sixty patients. The charge for board, lodging and nursing was $10
per month, and for surgical operations and medical attendance "the usual
rates of city practice."]

[Footnote 4: Mary E. Harden to Mrs. Howell Cobb, Athens, Ga., Nov. 13,
1853. MS. in possession of Mrs. A.S. Erwin, Athens, Ga.]

The town régime was not so conducive to lifelong adjustments of masters
and slaves except as regards domestic service; for whereas a planter could
always expand his operations in response to an increase of his field hands
and could usually provide employment at home for any artizan he might
produce, a lawyer, a banker or a merchant had little choice but to hire
out or sell any slave who proved a superfluity or a misfit in his domestic
establishment. On the other hand a building contractor with an expanding
business could not await the raising of children but must buy or hire
masons and carpenters where he could find them.

Some of the master craftsmen owned their staffs. Thus William Elfe, a
Charleston cabinet maker at the close of the colonial period, had title to
four sawyers, five joiners and a painter, and he managed to keep some of
their wives and children in his possession also by having a farm on the
further side of the harbor for their residence and employment.[5] William
Rouse, a Charleston leather worker who closed his business in 1825 when
the supply of tan bark ran short, had for sale four tanners, a currier and
seven shoemakers, with, however, no women or children;[6] and the seven
slaves of William Brockelbank, a plastering contractor of the same city,
sold after his death in 1850, comprised but one woman and no children.[7]
Likewise when the rope walk of Smith, Dorsey and Co. at New Orleans was
offered for sale in 1820, fourteen slave operatives were included without
mention of their families.[8]

[Footnote 5: MS. account book of William Elfe, in the Charleston Library.]

[Footnote 6: Charleston _City Gazette_, Jan. 5, 1826, advertisement.]

[Footnote 7: Charleston _Mercury_, quoted in the Augusta _Chronicle_, Dec.
5, 1850. This news item owed its publication to the "handsome prices"
realized. A plasterer 28 years old brought $2,135; another, 30, $1,805; a
third, 24, $1775; a fourth, 24, $1,100; and a fifth, 20, $730.]

[Footnote 8: _Louisiana Advertiser_ (New Orleans), May 13, 1820,

Far more frequently such laborers were taken on hire. The following are
typical of a multitude of newspaper advertisements: Michael Grantland at
Richmond offered "good wages" for the year 1799 by piece or month for six
or eight negro coopers.[9] At the same time Edward Rumsey was calling for
strong negro men of good character at $100 per year at his iron works in
Botetourt County, Virginia, and inviting free laboring men also to take
employment with him.[10] In 1808 Daniel Weisinger and Company wanted three
or four negro men to work in their factory at Frankfort, Kentucky, saying
"they will be taught weaving, and liberal wages will be paid for their
services."[11] George W. Evans at Augusta in 1818 "Wanted to hire, eight or
ten white or black men for the purpose of cutting wood."[12] A citizen of
Charleston in 1821 called for eight good black carpenters on weekly or
monthly wages, and in 1825 a blacksmith and wheel-wright of the same city
offered to take black apprentices.[13] In many cases whites and blacks
worked together in the same employ, as in a boat-building yard on the Flint
River in 1836,[14] and in a cotton mill at Athens, Georgia, in 1839.[15]

[Footnote 9: _Virginia Gazette_ (Richmond), Nov. 20, 1798.]

[Footnote 10: Winchester, Va., _Gazette_, Jan. 30, 1799.]

[Footnote 11: The _Palladium_ (Frankfort, Ky.), Dec. 1, 1808.]

[Footnote 12: Augusta, Ga., _Chronicle_, Aug. 1, 1818.]

[Footnote 13: Charleston _City Gazette_, Feb. 22, 1825.]

[Footnote 14: _Federal Union_ (Milledgeville, Ga.), Mch. 18, 1836,
reprinted in _Plantation and Frontier_, II, 356.]

[Footnote 15: J.S. Buckingham, _The Slave States of America_ (London,
[1842]), II, 112.]

In some cases the lessor of slaves procured an obligation of complete
insurance from the lessee. An instance of this was a contract between
James Murray of Wilmington in 1743, when he was departing for a sojourn in
Scotland, and his neighbor James Hazel. The latter was to take the three
negroes Glasgow, Kelso and Berwick for three years at an annual hire of £21
sterling for the lot. If death or flight among them should prevent Hazel
from returning any of the slaves at the end of the term he was to reimburse
Murray at full value scheduled in the lease, receiving in turn a bill of
sale for any runaway. Furthermore if any of the slaves were permanently
injured by willful abuse at the hands of Hazel's overseer, Murray was to be
paid for the damage.[16] Leases of this type, however, were exceptional.
As a rule the owners appear to have carried all risks except in regard to
willful injury, and the courts generally so adjudged it where the contracts
of hire had no stipulations in the premises.[17] When the Georgia supreme
court awarded the owner a full year's hire of a slave who had died in the
midst of his term the decision was complained of as an innovation "signally
oppressive to the poorer classes of our citizens--the large majority--who
are compelled to hire servants."[18]

[Footnote 16: Nina M. Tiffany ed., _Letters of James Murray, Loyalist_
(Boston, 1901), pp. 67-69.]

[Footnote 17: J.D. Wheeler, _The Law of Slavery_ (New York, 1837), pp.

[Footnote 18: Editorial in the _Federal Union_ (Milledgeville, Ga.), Dec.
12, 1854.]

The main supply of slaves for hire was probably comprised of the husbands
and sons, and sometimes the daughters, of the cooks and housemaids of the
merchants, lawyers and the like whose need of servants was limited but who
in many cases made a point of owning their slaves in families. On the other
hand, many townsmen whose capital was scant or whose need was temporary
used hired slaves even for their kitchen work; and sometimes the filling of
the demand involved the transfer of a slave from one town to another. Thus
an innkeeper of Clarkesville, a summer resort in the Georgia mountains,
published in the distant newspapers of Athens and Augusta in 1838 his
offer of liberal wages for a first rate cook.[19] This hiring of domestics
brought periodic embarrassments to those who depended upon them. A Virginia
clergyman who found his wife and himself doing their own chores "in the
interval between the hegira of the old hirelings and the coming of the
new"[20] was not alone in his plight. At the same season, a Richmond editor
wrote: "The negro hiring days have come, the most woeful of the year! So
housekeepers think who do not own their own servants; and even this class
is but a little better off than the rest, for all darkeydom must have
holiday this week, and while their masters and mistresses are making fires
and cooking victuals or attending to other menial duties the negroes are
promenading the streets decked in their finest clothes."[21] Even the
tobacco factories, which were constantly among the largest employers of
hired slaves, were closed for lack of laborers from Christmas day until
well into January.[22]

[Footnote 19: _Southern Banner_ (Athens, Ga.), June 21, 1838, advertisement
ordering its own republication in the Augusta _Constitutionalist_.]

[Footnote 20: T.C. Johnson, _Life of Robert L. Dabney_ (Richmond, 1905), p.

[Footnote 21: Richmond _Whig_, quoted in the _Atlanta Intelligencer_, Jan.
5, 1859.]

[Footnote 22: Robert Russell, _North America_ (Edinburgh, 1857), p. 151.]

That the bargain of hire sometimes involved the consent of more than two
parties is suggested by a New Year's colloquy overheard by Robert Russell
on a Richmond street: "I was rather amused at the efforts of a market
gardener to hire a young woman as a domestic servant. The price her owner
put upon her services was not objected to by him, but they could not agree
about other terms. The grand obstacle was that she would not consent to
work in the garden, even when she had nothing else to do. After taking an
hour's walk in another part of town I again met the two at the old bargain.
Stepping towards them, I now learned that she was pleading for other
privileges--her friends and favourites must be allowed to visit her.[23]
At length she agreed to go and visit her proposed home and see how things
looked." That the scruples of proprietors occasionally prevented the
placing of slaves is indicated by a letter of a Georgia woman anent her
girl Betty and a free negro woman, Matilda: "I cannot agree for Betty to
be hired to Matilda--her character is too bad. I know her of old; she is a
drunkard, and is said to be bad in every respect. I would object her being
hired to any colored person no matter what their character was; and if she
cannot get into a respectable family I had rather she came home, and if she
can't work out put her to spinning and weaving. Her relations here beg she
may not be permitted to go to Matilda. She would not be worth a cent at the
end of the year."[24]

The coördination of demand and supply was facilitated in some towns by
brokers. Thus J. de Bellievre of Baton Rouge maintained throughout 1826 a
notice in the local _Weekly Messenger_ of "Servants to hire by the day or
month," including both artizans and domestics; and in the Nashville city
directory of 1860 Van B. Holman advertised his business as an agent for the
hiring of negroes as well as for the sale and rental of real estate.

[Footnote 23: _Ibid_.]

[Footnote 24: Letter of Mrs. S.R. Cobb, Cowpens, Ga., Jan. 9 1843, to
her daughter-in-law at Athens. MS. in the possession of Mrs. A.S. Erwin,
Athens, Ga.]

Slave wages, generally quoted for the year and most frequently for
unskilled able-bodied hands, ranged materially higher, of course, in the
cotton belt than in the upper South. Women usually brought about half
the wages of men, though they were sometimes let merely for the keep of
themselves and their children. In middle Georgia the wages of prime men
ranged about $100 in the first decade of the nineteenth century, dropped to
$60 or $75 during the war of 1812, and then rose to near $150 by 1818. The
panic of the next year sent them down again; and in the 'twenties they
commonly ranged between $100 and $125. Flush times then raised them in
such wise that the contractors digging a canal on the Georgia coast found
themselves obliged in 1838 to offer $18 per month together with the
customary weekly rations of three and a half pounds of bacon and ten quarts
of corn and also the services of a staff physician as a sort of substitute
for life and health insurance.[25] The beginning of the distressful
'forties eased the market so that the town of Milledgeville could get its
street gang on a scale of $125;[26] at the middle of the decade slaveowners
were willing to take almost any wages offered; and in its final year the
Georgia Railroad paid only $70 to $75 for section hands. In 1850, however,
this rate leaped to $100 and $110, and caused a partial substitution of
white laborers for the hired slaves;[27] but the brevity of any relief
procured by this recourse is suggested by a news item from Chattanooga in
1852 reporting that the commonest labor commanded a dollar a day, that
mechanics were all engaged far in advance, that much building was perforce
being postponed, and that all persons who might be seeking employment were
urged to answer the city's call.[28] By 1854 the continuing advance began
to discommode rural employers likewise. A Norfolk newspaper of the time
reported that the current wages of $150 for ordinary hands and $225 for
the best laborers, together with life insurance for the full value of
the slaves, were so high that prudent farmers were curtailing their
operations.[29] At the beginning of 1856 the wages in the Virginia tobacco
factories advanced some fifteen per cent. over the rates of the preceding
year;[30] and shortly afterward several of these establishments took refuge
in the employment of white women for their lighter processes.[31] In 1860
there was a culmination of this rise of slave wages throughout the South,
contemporaneous with that of their purchase prices. First-rate hands
were engaged by the Petersburg tobacco factories at $225;[32] and in
northwestern Louisiana the prime field hands in a parcel of slaves hired
for the year brought from $300 to $360 each, and a blacksmith $430.[33] The
general average then prevalent for prime unskilled slaves, however, was
probably not much above two hundred dollars. While the purchase price of
slaves was wellnigh quadrupled in the three score years of the nineteenth
century, slave wages were little more than doubled, for these were of
course controlled not by the fluctuating hopes and fears of what the
distant future might bring but by the sober prospect of the work at hand.

[Footnote 25: Advertisement in the Savannah newspapers, reprinted in J.S.
Buckingham, _Slave States_ (London, 1842), I, 137.]

[Footnote 26: MS. minutes of the board of aldermen, in the town hall at
Milledgeville, Ga. Item dated Feb. 23, 1841.]

[Footnote 27: Georgia Railroad Company _Report_ for 1850, p. 13.]

[Footnote 28: Chattanooga _Advertiser_, quoted in the Augusta _Chronicle_,
June 6, 1852.]

[Footnote 29: Norfolk _Argus_, quoted in _Southern Banner_ (Athens, Ga.),
Jan. 12, 1854.]

[Footnote 30: Richmond _Dispatch_, Jan., 1856, quoted in G.M. Weston, _Who
are and who may be Slaves in the U.S._ (caption).]

[Footnote 31: _Hunt's Merchants' Magazine_, XL, 522.]

[Footnote 32: Petersburg _Democrat_, quoted by the Atlanta _Intelligencer_,
Jan., 1860.]

[Footnote 33: _DeBow's Review_, XXIX, 374.]

The proprietors of slaves for hire appear to have been generally as much
concerned with questions of their moral and physical welfare as with the
wages to be received, for no wage would compensate for the debilitation of
the slave or his conversion into an inveterate runaway. The hirers in their
turn had the problem, growing more intense with the advance of costs, of
procuring full work without resorting to such rigor of discipline as
would disquiet the owners of their employees. The tobacco factories found
solution in piece work with bonus for excess over the required stint. At
Richmond in the middle 'fifties this was commonly yielding the slaves from
two to five dollars a month for their own uses; and these establishments,
along with all other slave employers, suspended work for more than a week
at the Christmas season.[34]

[Footnote 34: Robert Russell, _North America_, p. 152.]

The hiring of slaves from one citizen to another did not meet all the needs
of the town industry, for there were many occupations in which the regular
supervision of labor was impracticable. Hucksters must trudge the streets
alone; and market women sit solitary in their stalls. If slaves were to
follow such callings at all, and if other slaves were to utilize their
talents in keeping cobbler and blacksmith shops and the like for public
patronage,[35] they must be vested with fairly full control of their own
activities. To enable them to compete with whites and free negroes in the
trades requiring isolated and occasional work their masters early and
increasingly fell into the habit of hiring many slaves to the slaves
themselves, granting to each a large degree of industrial freedom in return
for a stipulated weekly wage. The rates of hire varied, of course, with the
slave's capabilities and the conditions of business in their trades. The
practice brought friction sometimes between slaves and owners when wages
were in default. An instance of this was published in a Charleston
advertisement of 1800 announcing the auction of a young carpenter and
saying as the reason of the sale that he had absconded because of a deficit
in his wages.[36] Whether the sale was merely by way of punishment or
was because the proprietor could not give personal supervision to the
carpenter's work the record fails to say. The practice also injured the
interests of white competitors in the same trades, who sometimes bitterly
complained;[37] it occasionally put pressure upon the slaves to fill
out their wages by theft; and it gave rise in some degree to a public
apprehension that the liberty of movement might be perverted to purposes of
conspiracy. The law came to frown upon it everywhere; but the device was
too great a public and private convenience to be suppressed.

[Footnote 35: _E. g_., "For sale: a strong, healthy Mulatto Man, about
24 years of age, by trade a blacksmith, and has had the management of a
blacksmith shop for upwards of two years" Advertisement in the Alexandria,
Va., _Times and Advertiser_, Sept. 26, 1797.]

[Footnote 36: Charleston _City Gazette_, May 12, 1800.]

[Footnote 37: _E. g., Plantation and Frontier_, II, 367.]

To procure the enforcement of such laws a vigilance committee was proposed
at Natchez in 1824;[38] but if it was created it had no lasting effect.
With the same purpose newspaper campaigns were waged from time to time.
Thus in the spring of 1859 the _Bulletin_ of Columbia, South Carolina, said
editorially: "Despite the laws of the land forbidding under penalty the
hiring of their time by slaves, it is much to be regretted that the
pernicious practice still exists," and it censured the citizens who were
consciously and constantly violating a law enacted in the public interest.
The nearby Darlington _Flag_ endorsed this and proposed in remedy that
the town police and the rural patrols consider void all tickets issued by
masters authorizing their slaves to pass and repass at large, that all
slaves found hiring their time be arrested and punished, and that their
owners be indicted as by law provided. The editor then ranged further.
"There is another evil of no less magnitude," said he, "and perhaps the
foundation of the one complained of. It is that of transferring slave labor
from its legitimate field, the cultivation of the soil, into that of the
mechanic arts.... Negro mechanics are an ebony aristocracy into which
slaves seek to enter by teasing their masters for permission to learn a
trade. Masters are too often seduced by the prospect of gain to yield their
assent, and when their slaves have acquired a trade are forced to the
violation of the law to realize their promised gain. We should therefore
have a law to prevent slave mechanics going off their masters' premises to
work. Let such a law be passed, and ... there will no longer be need of a
law to prohibit slaves hiring their own time," The _Southern Watchman_ of
Athens, Georgia, reprinted all of this in turn, along with a subscriber's
communication entitled "free slaves." There were more negroes enjoying
virtual freedom in the town of Athens, this writer said, than there were
_bona fide_ free negroes in any ten counties of the district. "Everyone who
is at all acquainted with the character of the slave race knows that they
have great ideas of liberty, and in order to get the enjoyment of it they
make large offers for their time. And everyone who knows anything of the
negro knows that he won't work unless he is obliged to.... The negro thus
set free, in nine cases out of ten, idles away half of his time or gambles
away what he does make, and then relies on his ingenuity in stealing to
meet the demands pay day inevitably brings forth; and this is the way our
towns are converted into dens of rogues and thieves."[39]

[Footnote 38: Natchez _Mississippian_, quoted in _Le Courrier de la
Louisiane_ (New Orleans), Aug. 25, 1854.]

[Footnote 39: _Southern Watchman_ (Athens, Ga.), Apr. 20, 1859.]

These arguments had been answered long before by a citizen of Charleston.
The clamor, said he, was intended not so much to guard the community
against theft and insurrection as to diminish the competition of slaves
with white mechanics. The strict enforcement of the law would almost
wholly deprive the public of the services of jobbing slaves, which were
indispensable under existing circumstances. Let the statute therefore be
left in the obscurity of the lawyers' bookshelves, he concluded, to be
brought forth only in case of an emergency.[40] And so such laws were left
to sleep, despite the plaints of self-styled reformers.

[Footnote 40: Letter to the editor in the Charleston _City Gazette_, Nov.
1, 1825. To similar effect was an editorial in the Augusta _Chronicle_,
Oct. 16, 1851.]

That self-hire may often have led to self-purchase is suggested by an
illuminating letter of Billy Procter, a slave at Americus, Georgia, in 1854
to Colonel John B. Lamar of whom something has been seen in a foregoing
chapter. The letter, presumably in the slave's own hand, runs as follows:
"As my owner, Mr. Chapman, has determined to dispose of all his Painters, I
would prefer to have you buy me to any other man. And I am anxious to get
you to do so if you will. You know me very well yourself, but as I wish
you to be fully satisfied I beg to refer you to Mr. Nathan C. Monroe, Dr.
Strohecker and Mr. Bogg. I am in distress at this time, and will be until I
hear from you what you will do. I can be bought for $1000--and I think that
you might get me for 50 Dolls less if you try, though that is Mr. Chapman's
price. Now Mas John, I want to be plain and honest with you. If you will
buy me I will pay you $600 per year untill this money is paid, or at any
rate will pay for myself in two years.... I am fearfull that if you do not
buy me, there is no telling where I may have to go, and Mr. C. wants me to
go where I would be satisfied,--I promise to serve you faithfully, and I
know that I am as sound and healthy as anyone you could find. You will
confer a great favour, sir, by Granting my request, and I would be
very glad to hear from you in regard to the matter at your earliest

[Footnote 41: MS. in the possession of Mrs. A.S. Erwin, Athens, Ga.,
printed in _Plantation and Frontier_, II, 41. The writer must have been
well advanced in years or else highly optimistic. Otherwise he could not
have expected to earn his purchase price within two years.]

The hiring of slaves by one citizen to another prevailed to some extent
in country as well as town, and the hiring of them to themselves was
particularly notable in the forest labors of gathering turpentine and
splitting shingles[42]; but slave hire in both its forms was predominantly
an urban resort. On the whole, whereas the plantation system cherished
slavery as a wellnigh fundamental condition, town industry could tolerate
it only by modifying its features to make labor more flexibly responsive to
the sharply distinctive urban needs.

[Footnote 42: Olmsted, _Seaboard Slave States_, pp. 153-155.]

As to routine control, urban proprietors were less complete masters even
of slaves in their own employ than were those in the country. For example,
Morgan Brown of Clarksville, Tennessee, had occasion to publish the
following notice: "Whereas my negroes have been much in the habit of
working at night for such persons as will employ them, to the great injury
of their health and morals, I therefore forbid all persons employing them
without my special permission in writing. I also forbid trading with them,
buying from or selling to them, without my written permit stating the
article they may buy or sell. The law will be strictly enforced against
transgressors, without respect to persons[43]."

[Footnote 43: _Town Gazette and Farmers' Register_ (Clarksville, Tenn.),
Aug. 9, 1819, reprinted in _Plantation and Frontier_, II, 45, 46.]

When broils occurred in which slaves were involved, the masters were likely
to find themselves champions rather than judges. This may be illustrated by
two cases tried before the town commissioners of Milledgeville, Georgia,
in 1831. In the first of these Edward Gary was ordered to bring before the
board his slave Nathan to answer a charge of assault upon Richard Mayhorn,
a member of the town patrol, and show why punishment should not be
inflicted. On the day set Cary appeared without the negro and made a
counter charge supported by testimony that Mayhorn had exceeded his
authority under the patrol ordinance. The prosecution of the slave was
thereupon dropped, and the patrolman was dismissed from the town's employ.
The second case was upon a patrol charge against a negro named Hubbard,
whose master or whose master's attorney was one Wiggins, reciting an
assault upon Billy Woodliff, a slave apparently of Seaborn Jones. Billy
being sworn related that Hubbard had come to the door of his blacksmith
shop and "abused and bruised him with a rock." Other evidence revealed that
Hubbard's grievance lay in Billy's having taken his wife from him. "The
testimony having been concluded, Mr. Wiggins addressed the board in a
speech containing some lengthy, strengthy and depthy argument: whereupon
the board ordered that the negro man Hubbard receive from the marshall ten
lashes, moderately laid on, and be discharged."[44] Even in the maintenance
of household discipline masters were fain to apply chastisement vicariously
by having the town marshal whip their offending servants for a small fee.

[Footnote 44: MS. archives in the town hall at Milledgeville, Ga., selected
items from which are printed in the American Historical Association
_Report_ for 1903, I, 468, 469.]

The variety in complexion, status and attainment among town slaves led to a
somewhat elaborate gradation of colored society. One stratum comprised the
fairly numerous quadroons and mulattoes along with certain exceptional
blacks. The men among these had a pride of place as butlers and coachmen,
painters and carpenters; the women fitted themselves trimly with the
cast-off silks and muslins of their mistresses, walked with mincing tread,
and spoke in quiet tones with impressive nicety of grammar. This element
was a conscious aristocracy of its kind, but its members were more or less
irked by the knowledge that no matter how great their merits they could not
cross the boundary into white society. The bulk of the real negroes on the
other hand, with an occasional mulatto among them, went their own way, the
women frankly indulging a native predilection for gaudy colors, carrying
their burdens on their heads, arms akimbo, and laying as great store in
their kerchief turbans as their paler cousins did in their beflowered
bonnets. The men of this class wore their shreds and patches with an
easy swing, doffed their wool hats to white men as they passed, called
themselves niggers or darkies as a matter of course, took the joys and
sorrows of the day as they came, improvised words to the music of their
work, and customarily murdered the Queen's English, all with a true if
humble nonchalance and a freedom from carking care.

The differentiation of slave types was nevertheless little more than
rudimentary; for most of those who were lowliest on work days assumed
a grandiloquence of manner when they donned their holiday clothes. The
gayeties of the colored population were most impressive to visitors from
afar. Thus Adam Hodgson wrote of a spring Sunday at Charleston in 1820: "I
was pleased to see the slaves apparently enjoying themselves on this day in
their best attire, and was amused with their manners towards each other.
They generally use Sir and Madam in addressing each other, and make the
most formal and particular inquiries after each other's families."[45] J.S.
Buckingham wrote at Richmond fifteen years afterward: "On Sundays, when the
slaves and servants are all at liberty after dinner, they move about in
every thoroughfare, and are generally more gaily dressed than the whites.
The females wear white muslin and light silk gowns, with caps, bonnets,
ribbons and feathers; some carry reticules on the arm and many are seen
with parasols, while nearly all of them carry a white pocket-handkerchief
before them in the most fashionable style. The young men among the
slaves wear white trousers, black stocks, broad-brimmed hats, and carry
walking-sticks; and from the bowings, curtseying and greetings in the
highway one might almost imagine one's self to be at Hayti and think that
the coloured people had got possession of the town and held sway, while the
whites were living among them by sufferance."[46] Olmsted in his turn found
the holiday dress of the slaves in many cases better than the whites,[47]
and said their Christmas festivities were Saturnalia. The town ordinances,
while commonly strict in regard to the police of slaves for the rest of the
year, frequently gave special countenance to negro dances and other festive
assemblies at Christmas tide.

[Footnote 45: Adam Hodgson, _Letters from North America_, I, 97.]

[Footnote 46: J.S. Buckingham, _Slave States_, II, 427.]

[Footnote 47: _Seaboard Slave States_, pp. 101, 103. Cf. also _DeBow's
Review_, XII, 692, and XXVIII, 194-199.]

Even in work-a-day seasons the laxity of control gave rise to occasional
complaint. Thus the acting mayor of New Orleans recited in 1813, among
matters needing correction, that loitering slaves were thronging the grog
shops every evening and that negro dances were lasting far into the night,
in spite of the prohibitions of the law.[48] A citizen of Charleston
protested in 1835 against another and more characteristic form of
dissipation. "There are," said he, "sometimes every evening in the week,
funerals of negroes accompanied by three or four hundred negroes ... who
disturb all the inhabitants in the neighborhood of burying grounds in Pitt
street near Boundary street. It appears to be a jubilee for every slave in
the city. They are seen eagerly pressing to the place from all quarters,
and such is frequently the crowd and noise made by them that carriages
cannot safely be driven that way."[49]

[Footnote 48: _Plantation and Frontier_, II, 153.]

[Footnote 49: Letter of a citizen in the _Southern Patriot_, quoted in H.M.
Henry, _Police Control of the Slave in South Carolina_ (Emory, Va., 1914),
p. 144.]

The operations of urban constables and police courts are exemplified in
some official statistics of Charleston. In the year ending September 1,
1837, the slave arrests, numbering 768 in all, were followed in 138 cases
by prompt magisterial discharge, by fines in 309 cases, and by punishment
in the workhouse or by remandment for trial on criminal charges in 264
of the remainder. The mayor said in summary: "Of the 573 slaves fined or
committed to the workhouse nearly the whole were arrested for being out at
night without tickets or being found in the dram shops or other unlawful
places. The fines imposed did not in general exceed $1, and where corporal
punishment was inflicted it was always moderate. It is worthy to remark
that of the 460 cases reported by the marshals for prosecution but 22 were
prosecuted, the penalties having been voluntarily paid in 303 cases, and in
118 cases having been remitted, thus preventing by a previous examination
421 suits." Arrests of colored freemen in the same period numbered 78, of
which 27 were followed by discharge, 36 by fine or whipping, 5 by sentence
to the workhouse, and 10 by remandment.

In the second year following, the slave and free negro arrests for being
"out after the beating of the tattoo without tickets, fighting and rioting
in the streets, following military companies, walking on the battery
contrary to law, bathing horses at forbidden places, theft, or other
violation of the city and state laws" advanced for some unexplained reason
to an aggregate of 1424. Of those taken into custody 274 were discharged
after examination, 330 were punished in the workhouse, 33 were prosecuted
or delivered to warrant, 26 were fined or committed until the fines were
paid, for 398 the penalties were paid by their owners or guardians, 115
were runaways who were duly returned to their masters or otherwise disposed
of according to law, and the remaining 252 were delivered on their owners'

[Footnote 50: Official reports quoted in H.M. Henry, _The Police Control of
Slaves in South Carolina_, pp. 49, 50.]

At an earlier period a South Carolina law had required the public whipping
of negro offenders at prominent points on the city streets, but
complaints of this as distressing to the inhabitants[51] had brought its
discontinuance. For the punishment of misdemeanants under sentences to hard
labor a treadmill was instituted in the workhouse;[52] and the ensuing
substitution of labor for the lash met warm official commendation.[53]

[Footnote 51: _Columbian Herald_ (Charleston), June 26, 1788.]

[Footnote 52: Charleston _City Gazette_, Feb. 2, 1826.]

[Footnote 53: Grand jury presentments, _ibid_., May 15, 1826.]

In church affairs the two races adhered to the same faiths, but their
worship tended slowly to segregate. A few negroes habitually participated
with the whites in the Catholic and Episcopal rituals, or listened to the
long and logical sermons of the Presbyterians. Larger numbers occupied the
pews appointed for their kind in the churches of the Methodist and Baptist
whites, where the more ebullient exercises comported better with their own
tastes. But even here there was often a feeling of irksome restraint. The
white preacher in fear of committing an indiscretion in the hearing of
the negroes must watch his words though that were fatal to his impromptu
eloquence; the whites in the congregation must maintain their dignity when
dignity was in conflict with exaltation; the blacks must repress their own
manifestations the most severely of all, to escape rebuke for unseemly
conduct.[54] An obvious means of relief lay in the founding of separate
congregations to which the white ministers occasionally preached and in
which white laymen often sat, but where the pulpit and pews were commonly
filled by blacks alone. There the sable exhorter might indulge his peculiar
talent for "'rousements" and the prayer leader might beseech the Almighty
in tones to reach His ears though afar off. There the sisters might sway
and croon to the cadence of sermon and prayer, and the brethren spur the
spokesman to still greater efforts by their well timed ejaculations. There
not only would the quaint melody of the negro "spirituals" swell instead of
the more sophisticated airs of the hymn book, but every successful sermon
would be a symphony and every prayer a masterpiece of concerted rhythm.

[Footnote 54: A Methodist preacher wrote of an episode at Wilmington: "On
one occasion I took a summary process with a certain black woman who in
their love-feast, with many extravagant gestures, cried out that she was
'young King Jesus,' I bade her take her seat, and then publicly read her
out of membership, stating that we would not have such wild fanatics
among us, meantime letting them all know that such expressions were even
blasphemous. Poor Aunt Katy felt it deeply, repented, and in a month I took
her back again. The effect was beneficial, and she became a rational
and consistent member of the church." Joseph Travis, _Autobiography_
(Nashville, 1855), pp. 71, 72.]

In some cases the withdrawal of the blacks had the full character of
secession. An example in this line had been set in Philadelphia when
some of the negroes who had been attending white churches of various
denominations were prompted by the antipathy of the whites and by the
ambition of the colored leaders to found, in 1791, an African church with
a negro minister. In the course of a few years this was divided into
congregations of the several sects. Among these the Methodists prospered
to such degree that in 1816 they launched the African Methodist Episcopal
Church, with congregations in Baltimore and other neighboring cities
included within its jurisdiction.[55] Richard Allen as its first bishop
soon entered into communication with Morris Brown and other colored
Methodists of Charleston who were aggrieved at this time by the loss of
their autonomy. In former years the several thousand colored Methodists,
who outnumbered by tenfold the whites in the congregations there, had
enjoyed a quarterly conference of their own, with the custody of their
collections and with control over the church trials of colored members; but
on the ground of abuses these privileges were cancelled in 1815. A secret
agitation then ensued which led on the one hand to the increase of the
negro Methodists by some two thousand souls, and on the other to the visit
of two of their leaders to Philadelphia where they were formally ordained
for Charleston pastorates. When affairs were thus ripened, a dispute as
to the custody of one of their burial grounds precipitated their intended
stroke in 1818. Nearly all the colored class leaders gave up their papers
simultaneously, and more than three-quarters of their six thousand
fellows withdrew their membership from the white Methodist churches. "The
galleries, hitherto crowded, were almost completely deserted," wrote a
contemporary, "and it was a vacancy that could be _felt_. The absence of
their responses and hearty songs were really felt to be a loss to those so
long accustomed to hear them.... The schismatics combined, and after
great exertion succeeded in erecting a neat church building.... Their
organization was called the African Church," and one of its ministers was
constituted bishop. Its career, however, was to be short lived, for the
city authorities promptly proceeded against them, first by arresting a
number of participants at one of their meetings but dismissing them with a
warning that their conduct was violative of a statute of 1800 prohibiting
the assemblage of slaves and free negroes for mental instruction without
the presence of white persons; next by refusing, on the grounds that both
power and willingness were lacking, a plea by the colored preachers for a
special dispensation; and finally by the seizure of all the attendants at
another of their meetings and the sentencing of the bishop and a dozen
exhorters, some to a month's imprisonment or departure from the state,
others to ten lashes or ten dollars' fine. The church nevertheless
continued in existence until 1822 when in consequence of the discovery of a
plot for insurrection among the Charleston negroes the city government had
the church building demolished. Morris Brown moved to Philadelphia, where
he afterward became bishop of the African Church, and the whole Charleston
project was ended.[56] The bulk of the blacks returned to the white
congregations, where they soon overflowed the galleries and even the
"boxes" which were assigned them at the rear on the main floors. Some of
the older negroes by special privilege then took seats forward in the main
body of the churches, and others not so esteemed followed their example in
such numbers that the whites were cramped for room. After complaints on
this score had failed for several years to bring remedy, a crisis came
in Bethel Church on a Sunday in 1833 when Dr. Capers was to preach. More
whites came than could be seated the forward-sitting negroes refused
to vacate their seats for them; and a committee of young white members
forcibly ejected these blacks At a "love-feast" shortly afterward one of
the preachers criticized the action of the committee thereby giving the
younger element of the whites great umbrage. Efforts at reconciliation
failing, nine of the young men were expelled from membership, whereupon
a hundred and fifty others followed them into a new organization which
entered affiliation with the schismatic Methodist Protestant Church.[57]
Race relations in the orthodox congregations were doubtless thereafter more

[Footnote 55: E.R. Turner, _The Negro in Pennsylvania_ (Washington, 1911),
pp. 134-136.]

[Footnote 56: Charleston _Courier_, June 9, 1818; Charleston _City
Gazette_, quoted in the _Louisiana Gazette_ (New Orleans), July 10, 1818;
J.L.E.W. Shecut, _Medical and Philosophical Essays_ (Charleston, 1819),
p. 34; C.F. Deems ed., _Annals of Southern Methodism for 1856_ (Nashville
[1857]), pp. 212-214, 232; H.M. Henry, _Police Control of the Slave in
South Carolina_, p. 142.]

[Footnote 57: C.F. Deems ed., _Annals of Southern Methodism for 1856_, pp.

In most of the permanent segregations the colored preachers were ordained
and their congregations instituted under the patronage of the whites.
At Savannah as early as 1802 the freedom of the slave Henry Francis was
purchased by subscription, and he was ordained by white ministers at the
African Baptist Church. After a sermon by the Reverend Jesse Peter of
Augusta, the candidate "underwent a public examination respecting his faith
in the leading doctrines of Christianity, his call to the sacred ministry
and his ideas of church government. Giving entire satisfaction on these
important points, he kneeled down, when the ordination prayer with
imposition of hands was made by Andrew Bryant The ordained ministers
present then gave the right hand of fellowship to Mr. Francis, who was
forthwith presented with a Bible and a solemn charge to faithfulness by Mr.
Holcombe."[58] The Methodists were probably not far behind the Baptists in
this policy. The Presbyterians and Episcopalians, with much smaller numbers
of negro co-religionists to care for, followed the same trend in later
decades. Thus the presbytery of Charleston provided in 1850, at a cost of
$7,700, a separate house of worship for its negro members, the congregation
to be identified officially with the Second Presbyterian Church of the
city. The building had a T shape, the transepts appropriated to the use of
white persons. The Sunday school of about 180 pupils had twenty or thirty
white men and women as its teaching staff.[59]

[Footnote 58: Henry Holcombe ed., _The Georgia Analytical Repository_ (a
Baptist magazine of Savannah, 1802), I, 20, 21. For further data concerning
Francis and other colored Baptists of his time see the _Journal of Negro
History_, I, 60-92.]

[Footnote 59: J.H. Thornwell, D.D., _The Rights and Duties of Masters: a
sermon preached at the dedication of a church erected at Charleston, S.C.
for the benefit and instruction of the colored population_ (Charleston,

Such arrangements were not free from objection, however, as the
Episcopalians of Charleston learned about this time. To relieve the
congestion of the negro pews in St. Michael's and St. Philip's, a separate
congregation was organized with a few whites included in its membership.
While it was yet occupying temporary quarters in Temperance Hall, a mob
demolished Calvary Church which was being built for its accommodation. When
the proprietor of Temperance Hall refused the further use of his premises
the congregation dispersed. The mob's action was said to be in protest
against the doings of the "bands" or burial societies among the Calvary

[Footnote 60: _Public Proceedings relating to Calvary Church and the
Religious Instruction of Slaves_ (Charleston, 1850).]

The separate religious integration of the negroes both slave and free was
obstructed by the recurrent fear of the whites that it might be perverted
to insurrectionary purposes. Thus when at Richmond in 1823 ninety-two free
negroes petitioned the Virginia legislature on behalf of themselves and
several hundred slaves, reciting that the Baptist churches used by the
whites had not enough room to permit their attendance and asking sanction
for the creation of a "Baptist African Church," the legislature withheld
its permission. In 1841, however, this purpose was in effect accomplished
when it was found that a negro church would not be in violation of the law
provided it had a white pastor. At that time the First Baptist Church
of Richmond, having outgrown its quarters, erected a new building to
accommodate its white members and left its old one to the negroes. The
latter were thereupon organized as the African Church with a white minister
and with the choice of its deacons vested in a white committee. In 1855,
when this congregation had grown to three thousand members, the
Ebenezer church was established as an offshoot, with a similar plan of

[Footnote 61: J.B. Earnest, _The Religious Development of the Negro in
Virginia_ (Charlottesville, 1914), pp. 72-83. For the similar trend of
church segregation in the Northern cities see J.W. Cromwell, _The Negro in
American History_ (Washington, 1914). pp. 61-70.]

At Baltimore there were in 1835 ten colored congregations, with slave and
free membership intermingled, several of which had colored ministers;[62]
and by 1847 the number of churches had increased to thirteen or more,
ten of which were Methodist.[63] In 1860 there were two or more colored
congregations at Norfolk; at Savannah three colored churches were paying
salaries of $800 to $1000 to their colored ministers,[64] and in Atlanta
a subscription was in progress for the enlargement of the negro church
building to relieve its congestion.[65] By this time a visitor in virtually
any Southern city might have witnessed such a scene as William H. Russell
described at Montgomery:[66] "As I was walking ... I perceived a crowd
of very well-dressed negroes, men and women, in front of a plain brick
building which I was informed was their Baptist meeting-house, into which
white people rarely or never intrude. These were domestic servants, or
persons employed in stores, and their general appearance indicated much
comfort and even luxury. I doubted if they all were slaves. One of my
companions went up to a woman in a straw hat, with bright red and green
ribbon trimmings and artificial flowers, a gaudy Paisley shawl, and
a rainbow-like gown blown out over her yellow boots by a prodigious
crinoline, and asked her 'Whom do you belong to?' She replied, 'I b'long to
Massa Smith, sar.'"

[Footnote 62: _Niles' Register_, XLIX, 72.]

[Footnote 63: J.R. Brackett, _The Negro in Maryland_, p. 206.]

[Footnote 64: D.R. Hundley, _Social Relations in our Southern States_ (New
York, 1860), pp. 350, 351.]

[Footnote 65: Atlanta _Intelligencer_, July 13, 1859, editorial commending
the purpose.]

[Footnote 66: W.H. Russell, _My Diary North and South_ (Boston, 1863), p.



In the colonial period slaves were freed as a rule only when generous
masters rated them individually deserving of liberty or when the negroes
bought themselves. Typical of the time were the will of Thomas Stanford of
New Jersey in 1722 directing that upon the death of the testator's wife
his negro man should have his freedom if in the opinion of three neighbors
named he had behaved well,[1] and a deed signed by Robert Daniell of
South Carolina in 1759 granting freedom to his slave David Wilson in
consideration of his faithful service and of £600 currency in hand paid.[2]
So long as this condition prevailed, in which the ethics of slaveholding
were little questioned, the freed element remained extremely small.

[Footnote 1: _New Jersey Archives_, XXIII, 438.]

[Footnote 2: MS. among the probate records at Charleston.]

The liberal philosophy of the Revolution, persisting thereafter in spite of
reaction, not only wrought the legal disestablishment of slavery throughout
the North, but prompted private manumissions far and wide.[3] Thus Philip
Graham of Maryland made a deed in 1787 reciting his realization that the
holding of his "fellow men in bondage and slavery is repugnant to the
golden law of God and the unalienable right of mankind as well as to
every principle of the late glorious revolution which has taken place in
America," and converting his slaves into servants for terms, the adults
to become free at the close of that year and the children as they reached
maturity.[4] In the same period, upon his coming of age, Richard Randolph,
brother of the famous John, wrote to his guardian: "With regard to the
division of the estate, I have only to say that I want not a single negro
for any other purpose than his immediate liberation. I consider every
individual thus unshackled as the source of future generations, not to say
nations, of freemen; and I shudder when I think that so insignificant an
animal as I am is invested with this monstrous, this horrid power."[5]
The Randolph estate, however, was so cumbered with debts that the desired
manumissions could not then be made. At Richard's death in 1796 he left a
will of the expected tenor, providing for a wholesale freeing as promptly
as it could legally be accomplished by the clearance of the mortgage.[6] In
1795 John Stratton of Norfolk, asserting his "full persuassion that freedom
is the natural right of all men," set free his able-bodied slave, Peter
Wakefield.[7] Robert K. Moore of Louisville mingled thrift with liberalism
by setting free in 1802 two pairs of married slaves because of his
conviction that involuntary servitude was wrong, and at the same time
binding them by indenture to serve him for some fourteen years longer in
consideration of certain small payments in advance and larger ones at the
ends of their terms.[8]

[Footnote 3: These were restricted for a time in North Carolina, however,
by an act of 1777 which recited the critical and alarming state of public
affairs as its occasion.]

[Footnote 4: MS. transcript in the file of powers of attorney, I, 243,
among the county records at Louisville, Ky.]

[Footnote 5: H.A. Garland, _Life of John Randolph of Roanoke_ (New York,
1851), I, 63.]

[Footnote 6: _DeBow's Review_, XXIV, 285-290.]

[Footnote 7: MS. along with many similar documents among the deed files at
Norfolk, Va.]

[Footnote 8: MSS. in the powers of attorney files, II, 118, 122, 127, at
Louisville, Ky.]

Manumissions were in fact so common in the deeds and wills of the men of
'76 that the number of colored freemen in the South exceeded thirty-five
thousand in 1790 and was nearly doubled in each of the next two decades.
The greater caution of their successors, reinforced by the rise of slave
prices, then slackened the rate of increase to twenty-five and finally to
ten per cent. per decade. Documents in this later period, reverting to the
colonial basis, commonly recited faithful service or self purchase rather
than inherent rights as the grounds for manumission. Liberations on a large
scale, nevertheless, were not wholly discontinued. John Randolph's will set
free nearly four hundred in 1833;[9] Monroe Edwards of Louisiana manumitted
160 by deed in 1840;[10] and George W.P. Custis of Virginia liberated his
two or three hundred at his death in 1857.[11]

[Footnote 9: Garland, _Life of Randolph_, II, 150, 151.]

[Footnote 10: _Niles' Register_, LXIII, 245.]

Still other large proprietors while not bestowing immediate liberty made
provisions to bring it after the lapse of years. Prominent among these were
three Louisianians. Julien Poydras, who died in 1824, ordered his executors
to sell his six plantations with their respective staffs under contracts to
secure the manumission of each slave after twenty-five years of service
to the purchaser, together with an annual pension of $25 to each of those
above sixty years of age; and years afterward a nephew of the testator
procured an injunction from the supreme court of the state estopping the
sale of some of the slaves by one of their purchasers in such way as would
hazard the fulfilment of the purpose.[12] Stephen Henderson, a Scotch
immigrant who had acquired several sugar plantations, provided as follows,
by will made in 1837 and upheld by the courts: ten and twenty slaves
respectively were to be chosen by lot at periods five and ten years after
his death to be freed and sent to Liberia, and at the end of twenty-five
years the rest were to fare likewise, but any who refused to be deported
were to be kept as apprentices on the plantations.[13] John McDonogh, the
most thrifty citizen of New Orleans in his day, made a unique bargain with
his whole force of slaves, about 1825, by which they were collectively to
earn their freedom and their passage to Liberia by the overtime work of
Saturday afternoons. This labor was to be done in McDonogh's own service,
and he was to keep account of their earnings. They were entitled to draw
upon this fund upon approved occasions; but since the contract was with the
whole group of slaves as a unit, when one applied for cash the others must
draw theirs _pro rata_, thereby postponing the common day of liberation.
Any slaves violating the rules of good conduct were to be sold by the
master, whereupon their accrued earnings would revert to the fund of the
rest. The plan was carried to completion on schedule, and after some delay
in embarkation they left America in 1842, some eighty in number, with
their late master's benediction. In concluding his public narration in the
premises McDonogh wrote: "They have now sailed for Liberia, the land of
their fathers. I can say with truth and heartfelt satisfaction that a more
virtuous people does not exist in any country."[14]

[Footnote 11: _Daily True Delta_ (New Orleans), Dec. 19, 1857.]

[Footnote 12: Poydras _vs_. Mourrain, in _Louisiana Reports_, IX, 492. The
will is quoted in the decision.]

[Footnote 13: _Niles' Register_, LXVIII, 361. The original MS. is filed in
will book no. 6 in the New Orleans court house.]

[Footnote 14: J.T. Edwards ed., _Some Interesting Papers of John McDonogh_
(McDonoghville, Md., 1898), pp. 49-58.]

Among more romantic liberations was that of Pierre Chastang of Mobile who,
in recognition of public services in the war of 1812 and the yellow fever
epidemic of 1819 was bought and freed by popular subscription;[15] that of
Sam which was provided by a special act of the Georgia legislature in 1834
at a cost of $1,800 in reward for his having saved the state capitol from
destruction by fire;[16] and that of Prince which was attained through the
good offices of the United States government. Prince, after many years as
a Mississippi slave, wrote a letter in Arabic to the American consul at
Tangier in which he recounted his early life as a man of rank among the
Timboo people and his capture in battle and sale overseas. This led Henry
Clay on behalf of the Adams administration to inquire at what cost he
might be bought for liberation and return. His master thereupon freed him
gratuitously, and the citizens of Natchez raised a fund for the purchase of
his wife, with a surplus for a flowing Moorish costume in which Prince
was promptly arrayed. The pair then departed, in 1828, for Washington _en
route_ for Morocco, Prince avowing that he would soon send back money for
the liberation of their nine children.[17]

[Footnote 15: D.W. Mitchell, _Ten Years in the United States_ (London,
1862), p. 235.]

[Footnote 16: Georgia Senate _Journal_ for 1834, p. 25. At a later period
the Georgia legislature had occasion to reward another slave, Ransom by
name, who while hired from his master by the state had heroically saved
the Western and Atlantic Railroad bridge over the Chattahoochee River
from destruction by fire. Since official sentiment was now hostile to
manumission, it was resolved in 1849 that he be bought by the state and
ensured a permanent home; and in 1853 a further resolution directed the
chief engineer of the state-owned railroad to pay him just wages during
good behavior. Georgia _Acts, 1849-1850_, pp. 416, 417; _1853-1854_, pp.
538, 539. Old citizens relate that a house was built for Ransom on the
Western and Atlantic right of way in Atlanta which he continued to occupy
until his death many years after the Civil War. For these data I am
indebted to Mr. J. Groves Cohen, Secretary of the Western and Atlantic
Railroad Commission, Atlanta, Ga.]

[Footnote 17: "Letter from a Gentleman of Natchez to a Lady of Cincinnati,"
in the _Georgia Courier_ (Augusta), May 22, 1828. For a similar instance in
colonial Maryland see the present work, p. 31.]

Most of the negroes who procured freedom remained in the United States,
though all of those who gained it by flight and many of those manumitted
had to shift their location at the time of changing their status. At least
one of the fugitives, however, made known his preference for his native
district in a manner which cost him his liberty. After two years in Ohio
and Canada he returned to the old plantation in Georgia, where he was
welcomed with a command to take up the hoe. Rejecting this implement, he
proposed to buy himself if a thousand dollars would suffice. When his
master, declining to negotiate, ordered him into custody he stabbed one of
the negroes who seized him. At the end of the episode the returned wanderer
lay in jail; but where his money was, or whether in truth he had any, is
not recorded.[18] Among some of those manumitted and sent out of their
original states as by law required, disappointment and homesickness were
distressingly keen. A group of them who had been carried to New York in
1852 under the will of a Mr. Cresswell of Louisiana, found themselves in
such misery there that they begged the executor to carry them back, saying
he might keep them as slaves or sell them--that they had been happy before
but were wretched now.[19]

[Footnote 18: Cassville, Ga., _Standard_, May 31, 1858, reprinted in the
_Federal Union_ (Milledgeville, Ga.), June 8, 1858.]

[Footnote 19: _DeBow's Review_, XIV, 90.]

The slaves manumitted for meritorious service and those who bought
themselves formed together an element of substantial worth in the Southern
free colored population. Testamentary endorsement like that which Abel
P. Upshur gave on freeing his man David Rich--"I recommend him in the
strongest manner to the respect, esteem and confidence of any community in
which he may live"[20]--are sufficiently eloquent in the premises. Those
who bought themselves were similarly endorsed in many instances, and the
very fact of their self purchase was usually a voucher of thrift and
sobriety. Many of those freed on either of these grounds were of mixed
blood; and to them were added the mulatto and quadroon children set free by
their white fathers, with particular frequency in Louisiana, who by virtue
oftentimes of gifts in lands, goods and moneys were in the propertied class
from the time of their manumission. The recruits joining the free colored
population through all of these channels tended, together with their
descendants, to be industrious, well-mannered and respected members of

[Footnote 20: William C. Nell, _The Colored Patriots of the American
Revolution_ (Boston, 1855), pp. 215, 216. For a similar item see Garland's
_Randolph_, p. 151.]

Each locality was likely to have some outstanding figure among these. In
Georgia the most notable was Austin Dabney, who as a mulatto youth served
in the Revolutionary army and attached himself ever afterward to the white
family who saved his life when he had been wounded in battle. The Georgia
legislature by special act gave him a farm; he was welcomed in the tavern
circle of chatting lawyers whenever his favorite Judge Dooly held court
at his home village; and once when the formality of drawing his pension
carried him to Savannah the governor of the state, seeing him pass, dragged
him from his horse and quartered him as a guest in his house.[21] John
Eady of the South Carolina lowlands by a like service in the War for
Independence earned a somewhat similar recognition which he retained
throughout a very long life.[22]

[Footnote 21: George R. Giltner, _Sketches of Some of the First Settlers of
Upper Georgia_ (New York, 1855), pp. 212-215.]

[Footnote 22: Diary of Thomas P. Porcher. MS. in private possession.]

Others were esteemed rather for piety and benevolence than for heroic
services. "Such," wrote Bishop Capers of the Southern Methodist Church,
"were my old friends Castile Selby and John Bouquet of Charleston, Will
Campbell and Harry Myrick of Wilmington, York Cohen of Savannah, and others
I might name. These I might call remarkable for their goodness. But I use
the word in a broader sense for Henry Evans, who was confessedly the father
of the Methodist church, white and black, in Fayetteville, and the best
preacher of his time in that quarter." Evans, a free-born full-blooded
black, as Capers went on to relate, had been a shoemaker and licensed
preacher in Virginia, but while journeying toward Charleston in search
of better employment he had been so struck by the lack of religion and
morality among the negroes in Fayetteville that he determined upon their
conversion as his true mission in life. When the town authorities dispersed
his meetings he shifted his rude pulpit into the woods outside their
jurisdiction and invited surveillance by the whites to prove his lack
of offence. The palpable improvement in the morals of his followers led
erelong to his being invited to preach within the town again, where the
white people began to be numerous among his hearers. A regular congregation
comprising members of both races was organized and a church building
erected. But the white attendance grew so large as to threaten the crowding
out of the blacks. To provide room for these the side walls of the
church were torn off and sheds built on either flank; and these were the
conditions when Capers himself succeeded the aged negro in its pulpit in
1810 and found him on his own score an inspiration. Toward the ruling race,
Capers records, Evans was unfailingly deferential, "never speaking to a
white but with his hat under his arm; never allowing himself to be seated
in their houses.... 'The whites are kind to me and come to hear me preach,'
he would say, 'but I belong to my own sort and must not spoil them.' And
yet Henry Evans was a Boanerges; and in his duty feared not the face of
man." [23]

[Footnote 23: W.W. Wightman, _Life of William Capers_ (Nashville, 1858),
pp. 124-129.]

In the line of intellectual attainment and the like the principal
figures lived in the eighteenth century. One of them was described in a
contemporary news item which suggests that some journalists then were akin
to their successors of more modern times. "There is a Mr. St. George,
a Creole, son to the French governor of St. Domingo, now at Paris, who
realizes all the accomplishments attributed by Boyle and others to the
Admirable Creighton of the Scotch. He is so superior at the sword that
there is an edict of the Parliament of Paris to make his engagement in any
duel actual death. He is the first dancer (even before the Irish Singsby)
in the world. He plays upon seven instruments of music, beyond any other
individual. He speaks twenty-six languages, and maintains public thesises
in each. He walks round the various circles of science like the master of
each; and strange to be mentioned to white men, this Mr. St. George is a
mulatto, the son of an African mother."[24] Less happy was the career of
Francis Williams of Jamaica, a plaything of the human gods. Born of negro
parents who had earned special privilege in the island, he was used by the
Duke of Montague in a test of negro mental capacity and given an education
in an English grammar school and at Cambridge University. Upon his return
to Jamaica his patron sought his appointment as a member of the governor's
council but without success; and he then became a schoolmaster and a poet
on occasion in the island capital. Williams described himself with some
pertinence as "a white man acting under a black skin." His contempt for
his fellow negroes and particularly for the mulattoes made him lonely,
eccentric, haughty and morose. A Latin panegyric which is alone available
among his writings is rather a language exercise than a poem.[25] On
the continent Benjamin Banneker was an almanac maker and somewhat of an
astronomer, and Phyllis Wheatley of Boston a writer of verses. Both
were doubtless more noted for their sable color than for their positive
qualities. The wonder of them lay in their ambition and enterprise, not in
their eminence among scientific and literary craftsmen at large.[26] Such
careers as these had no equivalent in the nineteenth century until its
closing decades when Booker T. Washington, Paul Laurence Dunbar and W.E.B.
DuBois set new paces in their several courses of endeavor.

[Footnote 24: News item dated Philadelphia, Mch. 28, in the _Georgia State
Gazette and Independent Register_ (Augusta), May 19, 1787.]

[Footnote 25: Edward Long, _History of Jamaica_ (London, 1774), II,
447-485; T.H. MacDermott, "Francis Williams," in the _Journal of Negro
History_, II, 147-159. The Latin poem is printed in both of these

[Footnote 26: John W. Cromwell, _The Negro in American History_
(Washington, 1914), pp. 77-97.]

Of a more normal but less conspicuous type was Jehu Jones, the colored
proprietor of one of Charleston's most popular hotels who lived in the same
manner as his white patrons, accumulated property to the value of some
forty thousand dollars, and maintained a reputation for high business
talent and integrity.[27] At New Orleans men of such a sort were quite
numerous. Prominent among them by reason of his wealth and philanthropy was
Thomy Lafon, a merchant and money lender who systematically accumulated
houses and lots during a lifetime extending both before and after the
Civil War and whose possessions when he died at the age of eighty-two were
appraised at nearly half a million dollars.[28] Prosperity and good repute,
however, did not always go hand in hand. The keeper of the one good tavern
in the Louisiana village of Bayou Sara in 1831 was a colored woman of whom
Anne Royall wrote: "This _nigger_ or mulatto was rich, owned the tavern and
several slaves, to whom she was a great tyrant. She owned other valuable
property and a great deal of money, as report said; and doubtless it is
true. She was very insolent, and, I think, drank. It seems one Tague [an
Irishman], smitten with her charms and her property, made love to her
and it was returned, and they live together as man and wife. She was the
ugliest wench I ever saw, and, if possible, he was uglier, so they were
well matched."[29] One might ascribe the tone of this description to the
tartness of Mrs. Royall's pen were it not that she recorded just afterward
that a body-servant of General Ripley who was placed at her command in St.
Francisville was "certainly the most accomplished servant I ever saw."[30]

[Footnote 27: W.C. Nell, _Colored Patriots_, pp. 244, 245.]

[Footnote 28: New Orleans _Picayune_, Dec. 23, 1893. His many charitable
bequests are scheduled in the _Picayune_ of a week later.]

[Footnote 29: Anne Royall, _Southern Tour_ (Washington, 1831), pp. 87-89.]

[Footnote 30: _Ibid_., p. 91.]

The property of colored freemen oftentimes included slaves. Such instances
were quite numerous in pre-revolutionary San Domingo; and some in
the British West Indies achieved notoriety through the exposure of
cruelties.[31] On the continent a negro planter in St. Paul's Parish, South
Carolina, was reported before the close of the eighteenth century to have
two hundred slaves as well as a white wife and son-in-law, and the returns
of the first federal census appear to corroborate it.[32] In Louisiana
colored planters on a considerable scale became fairly numerous. Among them
were Cyprien Ricard who bought at a sheriff's sale in 1851 an estate in
Iberville Parish along with its ninety-one slaves for nearly a quarter of
a million dollars; Marie Metoyer of Natchitoches Parish had fifty-eight
slaves and more than two thousand acres of land when she died in 1840;
Charles Roques of the same parish died in 1854 leaving forty-seven slaves
and a thousand acres; and Martin Donato of St. Landry dying in 1848
bequeathed liberty to his slave wife and her seven children and left them
eighty-nine slaves and 4,500 arpents of land as well as notes and mortgages
to a value of $46,000.[33] In rural Virginia and Maryland also there were
free colored slaveholders in considerable numbers.[34]

[Footnote 31: Reverend Charles Peters, _Two Sermons Preached at Dominica,
with an appendix containing minutes of evidence of three trials_ (London,
1802), pp. 36-49.]

[Footnote 32: LaRochefoucauld-Liancourt, _Travels in the United States_
(London, 1799), p. 602, giving the negro's name as Pindaim. The census
returns of 1790 give no such name, but they list James Pendarvis in a group
comprising a white man, a free colored person and 123 slaves, and also a
Mrs. Persons, free colored, with 136 slaves. She may have been Pindaim's
(or Pendarvis') mulatto daughter, while the white man listed in the
Pendarvis item was perhaps her husband or an overseer. _Heads of Families
at the First Census of the United States: South Carolina_ (Washington,
1908), pp. 35, 37.]

[Footnote 33: For these and other data I am indebted to Professor E.P.
Puckett of Central College, Fayette, Mo., who has permitted me to use his
monograph, "_Free Negroes in Louisiana_," in manuscript. The arpent was the
standard unit of area in the Creole parishes of Louisiana, the acre in the
parishes of Anglo-American settlement.]

[Footnote 34: Calvin D. Wilson, "Black Masters," in the _North American
Review_, CLXXXI, 685-698, and "Negroes who owned Slaves," in the _Popular
Science Monthly_, LXXXI, 483-494; John H. Russell, "Colored Freemen as
Slave Owners in Virginia," in the _Journal of Negro History_, I, 233-242.]

Slaveholdings by colored townsmen were likewise fairly frequent. Among the
360 colored taxpayers in Charleston in 1860, for example, 130, including
nine persons described as of Indian descent, were listed as possessing 390
slaves.[35] The abundance of such holdings at New Orleans is evidenced by
the multiplicity of applications from colored proprietors for authority
to manumit slaves, with exemption from the legal requirement that the new
freedmen must leave the state.[36] A striking example of such petitions was
that presented in 1832 by Marie Louise Bitaud, free woman of color,
which recited that in the preceding year she had bought her daughter and
grandchild at a cost of $700; that a lawyer had now told her that in view
of her lack of free relatives to inherit her property, in case of death
intestate her slaves would revert to the state; that she had become alarmed
at this prospect; and she accordingly begged permission to manumit them
without their having to leave Louisiana. The magistrates gave their consent
on condition that the petitioner furnish a bond of $500 to insure the
support and education of the grandson until his coming of age. This was
duly done and the formalities completed.[37]

[Footnote 35: _List of the Taxpayers of Charleston for 1860_(Charleston,
1861), part 2.]

[Footnote 36: Many of these are filed in the record books of manumissions
in the archive rooms of the New Orleans city hall. Some were denied on the
ground that proof was lacking that the slaves concerned were natives of
the state or that they would be self-supporting in freedom; others were

[Footnote 37: For the use of this MS. petition with its accompanying
certificates I am indebted to Mr. J.F. Schindler of New York.]

Evidence of slaveholdings by colored freemen occurs also in the bills of
sale filed in various public archives. One of these records that a citizen
of Charleston sold in 1828 a man slave to the latter's free colored sister
at a price of one dollar, "provided he is kindly treated and is never sold,
he being an unfortunate individual and requiring much attention." In the
same city a free colored man bought a slave sailmaker for $200.[38] At
Savannah in 1818 Richard Richardson sold a slave woman and child for $800
to Alex Hunter, guardian of the colored freeman Louis Mirault, in trust for
him; and in 1833 Anthony Ordingsell, free colored, having obtained through
his guardian an order of court, sold a slave woman to the highest bidder
for $385.[39]

[Footnote 38: MSS. in the files of slave sales in the South Carolina
archives at Columbia.]

[Footnote 39: MSS. among the county archives at Savannah, Ga.]

It is clear that aside from the practice of holding slave relatives as a
means of giving them virtual freedom, an appreciable number of colored
proprietors owned slaves purely as a productive investment. It was
doubtless a group of these who sent a joint communication to a New Orleans
newspaper when secession and war were impending: "The free colored
population (native) of Louisiana ... own slaves, and they are dearly
attached to their native land, ... and they are ready to shed their blood
for her defence. They have no sympathy for abolitionism; no love for the
North, but they have plenty for Louisiana.... They will fight for her in
1861 as they fought in 1814-'15.... If they have made no demonstration it
is because they have no right to meddle with politics, but not because they
are not well disposed. All they ask is to have a chance, and they will
be worthy sons of Louisiana."[40] Oral testimony gathered by the present
writer from old residents in various quarters of the South supports the
suggestion of this letter that many of the well-to-do colored freemen
tended to prize their distinctive position so strongly as to deplore any
prospect of a general emancipation for fear it would submerge them in the
great black mass.

[Footnote 40: Letter to the editor, signed "A large number of them," in the
New Orleans _Daily Delta_, Dec. 28, 1860. Men of this element had indeed
rendered service under Jackson in the defence of the city against Pakenham,
as Louisianians well knew.]

The types discussed thus far were exceptional. The main body of the free
negroes were those who whether in person or through their mothers had been
liberated purely from sentiment and possessed no particular qualifications
for self-directed careers. The former slaves of Richard Randolph who were
colonized in accordance with his will as petty landed proprietors near
Farmville, Virginia, proved commonly thriftless for half a century
afterward;[41] and Olmsted observed of the Virginia free negroes in general
that their poverty was not due to the lack of industrial opportunity.[42]
Many of those in the country were tenants. George Washington found one of
them unprofitable as such;[43] and Robert Carter in 1792 rented farms to
several in spite of his overseer's remonstrance that they had no adequate
outfit of tools and teams, and against his neighbors' protests.[44] Not a
few indeed were mere squatters on waste lands. A Georgia overseer reported
in 1840 that several such families had made clearings in the woods of
the plantation under his charge, and proposed that rent be required of
them;[45] and travellers occasionally came upon negro cabins in fields
which had been abandoned by their proprietors.[46] The typical rural family
appears to have tilled a few acres on its own account, and to have been
willing to lend a hand to the whites for wages when they needed service.
It was this readiness which made their presence in many cases welcome in a
neighborhood. A memorial signed by thirty-eight citizens of Essex County,
Virginia, in 1842 in behalf of a freedman might be paralleled from the
records of many another community: "We would be glad if he could be
permitted to remain with us and have his freedom, as he is a well disposed
person and a very useful man in many respects. He is a good carpenter, a
good cooper, a coarse shoemaker, a good hand at almost everything that is
useful to us farmers."[47] Among the free negroes on the seaboard there was
a special proclivity toward the water pursuits of boating, oystering and
the like.[48] In general they found a niche in industrial society much on
a level with the slaves but as free as might be from the pressure of
systematic competition.

[Footnote 41: F.N. Watkins, "The Randolph Emancipated Slaves," in _DeBow's
Review_, XXIV, 285-290.]

[Footnote 42: _Seaboard Slave States_, p. 126.]

[Footnote 43: S.M. Hamilton ed., _Letters to Washington_, IV, 239.]

[Footnote 44: Carter MSS. in the Virginia Historical Society.]

[Footnote 45: _Plantation and Frontier_, II, 155.]

[Footnote 46: _E. g_., F. Cumming, _Tour to the West_, reprinted in
Thwaites ed., _Early Western Travels_, IV, 336.]

[Footnote 47: J.H. Russell, _The Free Negro in Virginia_, p. 153.]

[Footnote 48: _Ibid_., p. 150.]

Urban freemen had on the average a somewhat higher level of attainment than
their rural fellows, for among them was commonly a larger proportion of
mulattoes and quadroons and of those who had demonstrated their capacity
for self direction by having bought their own freedom. Recruits of some
skill in the crafts, furthermore, came in from the country, because of
the advantages which town industry, in sharp contrast with that of the
plantations, gave to free labor. A characteristic state of affairs is shown
by the official register of free persons of color in Richmond County,
Georgia, wherein lay the city of Augusta, for the year 1819[49]. Of the
fifty-three men listed, including a planter and a steamboat pilot, only
seven were classed as common laborers, while all the rest had specific
trades or employments. The prosperity of the group must have been but
moderate, nevertheless, for virtually all its women were listed as workers
at washing, sewing, cooking, spinning, weaving or market vending; and
although an African church in the town had an aged sexton, its minister
must have drawn most of his livelihood from some week-day trade, for no
designation of a preacher appears in the list. At Charleston, likewise,
according to the city census of 1848, only 19 free colored men in a total
of 239 listed in manual occupations were unclassified laborers, while the
great majority were engaged in the shop and building trades. The women
again were very numerous in sewing and washing employments, and an
appreciable number of them were domestic servants outright.[50]

[Footnote 49: _Augusta Chronicle_, Mch. 13, 1819, reprinted in _Plantation
and Frontier_, II, 143-147.]

[Footnote 50: Dawson and DeSaussure, _Census of Charleston for 1848_,
summarized in the table given on p. 403 of the present work.]

In the compendium of the United States census of 1850 there are printed in
parallel columns the statistics of occupations among the free colored males
above fifteen years of age in the cities of New York and New Orleans. In
the Northern metropolis there were 3337 enumerated, and in the Southern
1792. The former had 4 colored lawyers and 3 colored druggists while the
latter had none of either; and the colored preachers and doctors were 21
to 1 and 9 to 4 in New York's favor. But New Orleans had 4 colored
capitalists, 2 planters, 11 overseers, 9 brokers and 2 collectors, with
none of any of these at New York; and 64 merchants, 5 jewelers and 61
clerks to New York's 3, 3 and 7 respectively, and 12 colored teachers to 8.
New York had thrice New Orleans' number of colored barbers, and twice as
many butchers; but her twelve carpenters and no masons were contrasted
with 355 and 278 in these two trades at New Orleans, and her cigar makers,
tailors, painters, coopers, blacksmiths and general mechanics were not in
much better proportion. One-third of all New York's colored men, indeed,
were unskilled laborers and another quarter were domestic servants, not to
mention the many cooks, coachmen and other semi-domestic employees, whereas
at New Orleans the unskilled were but a tenth part of the whole and no male
domestics were listed. This showing, which on the whole is highly favorable
to New Orleans, is partly attributable to the more than fourfold excess
of mulattoes over the blacks in its free population, in contrast with a
reversed proportion at New York; for the men of mixed blood filled all the
places above the rank of artisan at New Orleans, and heavily preponderated
in virtually all the classes but that of unskilled laborers. New York's
poor showing as regards colored craftsmen, however, was mainly due to the
greater discrimination which its white people applied against all who had a
strain of negro blood.

This antipathy and its consequent industrial repression was palpably more
severe at the North in general than in the South. De Tocqueville remarked
that "the prejudice which repels the negroes seems to increase in
proportion as they are emancipated." Fanny Kemble, in her more vehement
style, wrote of the negroes in the North: "They are not slaves indeed,
but they are pariahs, debarred from every fellowship save with their own
despised race, scorned by the lowest white ruffian in your streets, not
tolerated 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.... 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 learned to turn
the very name of their race into an insult and a reproach."[51] Marshall
Hall expressed himself as "utterly at a loss to imagine the source of that
prejudice which subsists against him [the negro] in the Northern states, a
prejudice unknown in the South, where the domestic relations between the
African and the European are so much more intimate."[52] Olmsted recorded
a conversation which he had with a free colored barber on a Red River
steamboat who had been at school for a year at West Troy, New York: "He
said that colored people could associate with whites much more easily
and comfortably at the South than at the North; this was one reason he
preferred to live at the South. He was kept at a greater distance from
white people, and more insulted on account of his color, at the North than
in Louisiana."[53] And at Richmond Olmsted learned of a negro who after
buying his freedom had gone to Philadelphia to join his brother, but had
promptly returned. When questioned by his former owner this man said: "Oh,
I don't like dat Philadelphy, massa; an't no chance for colored folks dere.
Spec' if I'd been a runaway de wite folks dere take care o' me; but I
couldn't git anythin' to do, so I jis borrow ten dollar of my broder an'
cum back to old Virginny."[54] In Ohio, John Randolph's freedmen were
prevented by the populace from colonizing the tract which his executors had
bought for them in Mercer County and had to be scattered elsewhere in the
state;[55] in Connecticut the citizens of New Haven resolved in a public
meeting in 1831 that a projected college for negroes in that place would
not be tolerated, and shortly afterward the townsmen of Canterbury broke up
the school which Prudence Crandall attempted to establish there for colored
girls. The legislatures of various Northern states, furthermore, excluded
free immigrants as well as discriminating sharply against those who were
already inhabitants. Wherever the negroes clustered numerously, from Boston
to Philadelphia and Cincinnati, they were not only brow-beaten and excluded
from the trades but were occasionally the victims of brutal outrage whether
from mobs or individual persecutors.[56]

[Footnote 51: Frances Anne Kemble, _Journal_ (London, 1863), p. 7.]

[Footnote 52: Marshall Hall, _The Two-fold Slavery of the United States_
(London, 1854), p. 17.]

[Footnote 53: _Seaboard Slave States_, p. 636.]

[Footnote 54: _Ibid_., p. 104.]

[Footnote 55: F.U. Quillin, _The Color Line in Ohio_ (Ann Arbor, Mich.), p.
20; _Plantation and Frontier_, II, 143.]

[Footnote 56: J.P. Gordy, _Political History of the United States_ (New
York, 1902), II, 404, 405; John Daniels, _In Freedom's Birthplace_ (Boston,
1914), pp. 25-29; E.R. Turner, _The Negro in Pennsylvania_ (Washington,
1911), pp. 143-168, 195-204, containing many details; F.U. Quillin, _The
Color Line in Ohio_, pp. 11-87; C.G. Woodson, "The Negroes of Cincinnati
Prior to the Civil War," in the _Journal of Negro History_, I, 1-22; N.D.
Harris, _Negro Slavery in Illinois_ (Chicago, 1906), pp. 226-240.]

In the South, on the other hand, the laws were still more severe but the
practice of the white people was much more kindly. Racial antipathy was
there mitigated by the sympathetic tie of slavery which promoted an
attitude of amiable patronage even toward the freedmen and their
descendants.[57] The tone of the memorials in which many Southern townsmen
petitioned for legal exemptions to permit specified free negroes to remain
in their communities[58] found no echo from the corresponding type of
commonplace unromantic citizens of the North. A few Southern petitions were
of a contrasting tenor, it is true, one for example presented to the city
council of Atlanta in 1859: "We feel aggrieved as Southern citizens that
your honorable body tolerates a negro dentist (Roderick Badger) in our
midst; and in justice to ourselves and the community it ought to be abated.
We, the residents of Atlanta, appeal to you for justice."[59] But it may
readily be guessed that these petitioners were more moved by the interest
of rival dentists than by their concern as Southern citizens. Southern
protests of another class, to be discussed below, against the toleration
of colored freedmen in general, were prompted by considerations of public
security, not by personal dislike.

[Footnote 57: Cf. N.S. Shaler, _The Neighbor_ (Boston, 1904), pp. 166,

[Footnote 58: _E. g_., J.H. Russell, _The Free Negro in Virginia_, pp.

[Footnote 59: J.H. Martin, _Atlanta and its Builders_ ([Atlanta,] 1902), I,

Although the free colored numbers varied greatly from state to state,
their distribution on the two sides of Mason and Dixon's line maintained
a remarkable equality throughout the antebellum period. The chief
concentration was in the border states of either section. At the one
extreme they were kept few by the chill of the climate; at the other
by stringency of the law and by the high prices of slave labor which
restrained the practice of manumission. Wherever they dwelt, they lived
somewhat precariously upon the sufferance of the whites, and in a more or
less palpable danger of losing their liberty.

Not only were escaped slaves liable to recapture anywhere within the United
States, but those who were legally free might be seized on fraudulent
claims and enslaved in circumvention of the law, or they might be kidnapped
outright. One of those taken by fraud described his experience and
predicament as follows in a letter from "Boonvill Missouria" to the
governor of Georgia: "Mr. Coob Dear Sir I have Embrast this oppertuniny of
Riting a few Lines to you to inform you that I am sold as a Slave for 14
hundard dolars By the man that came to you Last may and told you a Pack
of lies to get you to Sine the warrant that he Brought that warrant was a
forged as I have heard them say when I was Coming on to this Countrey and
Sir I thought that I would write and see if I could get you to do any thing
for me in the way of Getting me my freedom Back a Gain if I had some Papers
from the Clarkes office in the City of Milledgeville and a little Good
addvice in a Letter from you or any kind friend that I could get my freedom
a Gain and my name can Be found on the Books of the Clarkes office Mr Bozal
Stulers was Clarke when I was thear last and Sir a most any man can City
that I Charles Covey is lawfuley a free man ... But at the same time I do
not want you to say any thing about this to any one that may acquaint my
Preseant mastear of these things as he would quickly sell me and there
fore I do not want this known and the men that came after me Carried me to
Mempears tenessee and after whiping me untill my Back was Raw from my rump
to the Back of my neck sent me to this Place and sold me Pleas to ancer
this as soon as you Can and Sir as soon as I can Get my time Back I will
pay you all charges if you will Except of it yours in beast Charles Covey
Borned and Raized in the City of Milledgeville and a Blacksmith by trade
and James Rethearfurd in the City of Macon is my Laller [lawyer?] and can
tell you all about these things."[60]

[Footnote 60: Letter of Charles Covey to Howell Cobb, Nov. 30, 1853. MS. in
the possession of Mrs. A.S. Erwin, Athens, Ga., for the use of which I am
indebted to Professor R.P. Brooks of the University of Georgia. For
another instance in which Cobb's aid was asked see the American Historical
Association _Report_ for 1911, II, 331-334.]

In a few cases claims of ownership were resurrected after a long lapse.
That of Alexander Pierre, a New Orleans negro who had always passed as
free-born, was the consequence of an affray in which he had worsted another
black. In revenge the defeated combatant made the fact known that Pierre
was the son of a blind girl who because of her lack of market value had
been left by her master many years before to shift for herself when he had
sold his other slaves and gone to France. Thereupon George Heno, the heir
of the departed and now deceased proprietor, laid claim to the whole Pierre
group, comprising the blind mother, Alexander himself, his sister, and
that sister's two children. Whether Heno's proceedings at law to procure
possession succeeded or failed is not told in the available record.[61] In
a kindred case not long afterward, however, the cause of liberty triumphed.
About 1807 Simon Porche of Point Coupée Parish had permitted his slave
Eulalie to marry his wife's illegitimate mulatto half-brother; and
thereafter she and her children and grand-children dwelt in virtual
freedom. After Porche's death his widow, failing in an attempt to get
official sanction for the manumission of Eulalie and her offspring and
desiring the effort to be renewed in case of her own death, made a nominal
sale of them to a relative under pledge of emancipation. When this man
proved recreant and sold the group, now numbering seventeen souls, and
the purchasers undertook possession, the case was litigated as a suit for
freedom. Decision was rendered for the plaintiff, after appeal to the state
supreme court, on the ground of prescriptive right. This outcome was in
strict accord with the law of Louisiana providing that "If a master shall
suffer a slave to enjoy his liberty for ten years during his residence in
this state, or for twenty years while out of it, he shall lose all right of
action to recover possession of the said slave, unless said slave shall be
a runaway or fugitive."[62]

[Footnote 61: New Orleans _Daily Delta_, May 25, 1849.]

[Footnote 62: E.P. Puckett, "The Free Negro in Louisiana" (MS.), citing the
New Orleans _True Delta_, Dec. 16, 1854.]

Kidnappings without pretense of legal claim were done so furtively that
they seldom attained record unless the victims had recourse to the courts;
and this was made rare by the helplessness of childhood in some cases and
in others by the fear of lashes. Indeed when complexion gave presumption of
slave status, as it did, and custody gave color of ownership, the prospect
of redress through the law was faint unless the services of some white
friend could be enlisted. Two cases made conspicuous by the publication of
elaborate narratives were those of Peter Still and Solomon Northrup. The
former, kidnapped in childhood near Philadelphia, served as a slave some
forty years in Kentucky and northern Alabama, until with his own savings he
bought his freedom and returned to his boyhood home. The problem which he
then faced of liberating his wife and three children was taken off his
hands for a time by Seth Concklin, a freelance white abolitionist who
volunteered to abduct them. This daring emancipator duly went to Alabama
in 1851, embarked the four negroes on a skiff and carried them down the
Tennessee and up the Ohio and the Wabash until weariness at the oars drove
the company to take the road for further travel. They were now captured
and the slaves were escorted by their master back to the plantation; but
Concklin dropped off the steamboat by night only to be drowned in the Ohio
by the weight of his fetters. Adopting a safer plan, Peter now procured
endorsements from leading abolitionists and made a soliciting tour of New
York and New England by which he raised funds enough to buy his family's
freedom. At the conclusion of the narrative of their lives Peter and his
wife were domestics in a New Jersey boardinghouse, one of their two
sons was a blacksmith's apprentice in a neighboring town, the other had
employment in a Pennsylvania village, and the daughter was at school in

[Footnote 63: Kate E.R. Pickard, _The Kidnapped and the Ransomed, being the
personal recollections of Peter Still and his wife Vina after forty years
of slavery_ (Syracuse, 1856). The dialogue in which the book abounds is,
of course, fictitious, but the outlines of the narrative and the documents
quoted are presumably authentic.]

Solomon Northrup had been a raftsman and farmer about Lake Champlain until
in 1841 when on the ground of his talent with the fiddle two strangers
offered him employment in a circus which they said was then at Washington.
Going thither with them, he was drugged, shackled, despoiled of his free
papers, and delivered to a slave trader who shipped him to New Orleans.
Then followed a checkered experience as a plantation hand on the Red River,
lasting for a dozen years until a letter which a friendly white carpenter
had written for him brought one of his former patrons with an agent's
commission from the governor of New York. With the assistance of the local
authorities Northrup's identity was promptly established, his liberty
procured, and the journey accomplished which carried him back again to his
wife and children at Saratoga.[64]

[Footnote 64: [David Wilson ed.], _Narrative of Solomon Northrup_ (New
York, 1853). Though the books of this class are generally of dubious value
this one has a tone which engages confidence. Its pictures of plantation
life and labor are of particular interest.]

A third instance, but of merely local notoriety, was that of William
Houston, who, according to his own account was a British subject who had
come from Liverpool as a ship steward in 1840 and while at New Orleans had
been offered passage back to England by way of New York by one Espagne de
Blanc. But upon reaching Martinsville on the up-river voyage de Blanc had
ordered him off the boat, set him to work in his kitchen, taken away his
papers and treated him as his slave. After five years there Houston was
sold to a New Orleans barkeeper who shortly sold him to a neighboring
merchant, George Lynch, who hired him out. In the Mexican war Houston
accompanied the American army, and upon returning to New Orleans was sold
to one Richardson. But this purchaser, suspecting a fault of title, refused
payment, whereupon in 1850 Richardson sold Houston at auction to J.F.
Lapice, against whom the negro now brought suit under the aegis of the
British consul. While the trial was yet pending a local newspaper printed
his whole narrative that it might "assist the plaintiff to prove his
freedom, or the defendant to prove he is a slave."[65]

[Footnote 65: New Orleans _Daily Delta_, June 1, 1850.]

Societies were established here and there for the prevention of kidnapping
and other illegal practices in reducing negroes to slavery, notable among
which for its long and active career was the one at Alexandria.[66]
Kidnapping was, of course, a crime under the laws of the states generally;
but in view of the seeming ease of its accomplishment and the potential
value of the victims it may well be thought remarkable that so many
thousands of free negroes were able to keep their liberty. In 1860 there
were 83,942 of this class in Maryland, 58,042 in Virginia, 30,463 in North
Carolina, 18,467 in Louisiana, and 250,787 in the South at large.

[Footnote 66: Alexandria, Va., _Advertiser_, Feb. 22, 1798, notice of the
society's quarterly meeting; J.D. Paxton, _Letters on Slavery_ (Lexington,
Ky., 1833), p. 30, note.]

A few free negroes were reduced by public authority to private servitude,
whether for terms or for life, in punishment for crime. In Maryland under
an act of 1858 eighty-nine were sold by the state in the following two
years, four of them for life and the rest for terms, after convictions
ranging from arson to petty larceny.[67] Some others were sold in various
states under laws applying to negro vagrancy, illegal residence, or even to
default of jail fees during imprisonment as fugitive suspects.

[Footnote 67: J.R. Brackett, _The Negro in Maryland_, pp. 231, 232.]

A few others voluntarily converted themselves into slaves. Thus Lucinda who
had been manumitted under a will requiring her removal to another state
petitioned the Virginia legislature in 1815 for permission, which was
doubtless granted, to become the slave of the master of her slave husband
"from whom the benefits and privileges of freedom, dear and flattering
as they are, could not induce her to be separated."[68] On other grounds
William Bass petitioned the South Carolina general assembly in 1859,
reciting "That as a free negro he is preyed upon by every sharper with whom
he comes in contact, and that he is very poor though an able-bodied
man, and is charged with and punished for every offence, guilty or not,
committed in his neighborhood; that he is without house or home, and lives
a thousand times harder and in more destitution than the slaves of many
planters in this district." He accordingly asked permission by special act
to become the slave of Philip W. Pledger who had consented to receive
him if he could lawfully do so.[69] To provide systematically for such
occasions the legislatures of several states from Maryland to Texas enacted
laws in the middle and late fifties authorizing free persons of color at
their own instance and with the approval of magistrates in each case to
enslave themselves to such masters as they might select.[70] The Virginia
law, enacted at the beginning of 1856, safeguarded the claims of any
creditors against the negro by requiring a month's notice during which
protests might be entered, and it also required the prospective master
to pay to the state half the negro's appraised value. Among the Virginia
archives vouchers are filed for sixteen such enslavements, in widely
scattered localities.[71] Most of the appraisals in these cases ranged from
$300 to $1200, indicating substantial earning capacity; but the valuations
of $5 for one of the women and of $10 for a man upwards of seventy years
old suggest that some of these undertakings were of a charitable nature.
An instance in the general premises occurred in Georgia, as late as July,
1864, when a negro freeman in dearth of livelihood sold himself for five
hundred dollars, in Confederate currency of course, to be paid to his free
wife.[72] Occasionally a free man of color would seek a swifter and surer
escape from his tribulations by taking his own life;[73] but there appears
to be no reason to believe that suicides among them were in greater ratio
than among the whites.

[Footnote 68: _Plantation and Frontier_, II, 161, 162.]

[Footnote 69: _Ibid_., II, 163, 164.]

[Footnote 70: In the absence of permissive laws the self-enslavement of
negroes was invalid. Texas Supreme Court _Reports_, XXIV, 560. And a negro
who had deeded his services for ninety-nine years was adjudged to retain
his free status, though the contract between him and his employer was not
thereby voided. North Carolina Supreme Court _Reports_, LX, 434.]

[Footnote 71: MSS. in the Virginia State Library.]

[Footnote 72: American Historical Association _Report_ for 1904, p. 577.]

[Footnote 73: An instance is given in the _Louisiana Courier_ (New
Orleans), Aug. 26, 1830, and another in the New Orleans _Commercial
Advertiser_, Oct. 25, 1831. The motives are not stated.]

Invitations to American free negroes to try their fortunes in other lands
were not lacking. Facilities for emigration to Liberia were steadily
maintained by the Colonization Society from 1819 onward;[74] the Haytian
government under President Boyer offered special inducements from that
republic in 1824;[75] in 1840 an immigration society in British Guiana
proffered free transportation for such as would remove thither;[76] and in
1859 Hayti once more sent overtures, particularly to the French-speaking
colored people of Louisiana, promising free lands to all who would come as
well as free transportation to such as could not pay their passage.[77] But
these opportunities were seldom embraced. With the great bulk of those to
whom they were addressed the dread of an undiscovered country from whose
bourne few travellers had returned puzzled their wills, as it had done
Hamlet's, and made them rather bear those ills they had than to fly to
others that they knew not of.

[Footnote 74: J.H.T. McPherson, _History of Liberia_ (Johns Hopkins
University _Studies_, IX, no. 10).]

[Footnote 75: _Correspondence relative to the Emigration to Hayti of the
Free People of Colour in the United States, together with the instructions
to the agent sent out by President Boyer_ (New York, 1824); _Plantation and
Frontier_, II, 155-157.]

[Footnote 76: _Inducements to the Colored People of the United States
to Emigrate to British Guiana, compiled from statements and documents
furnished by Mr. Edward Carberry, agent of the immigration society of
British Guiana and a proprietor in that colony_. By "A friend to the
Colored People" (Boston, 1840); The _Liberator_ (Boston), Feb. 28, 1840,

[Footnote 77: E.P. Puckett, "The Free Negro in Louisiana" (MS.), citing the
New Orleans _Picayune_, July 16, 1859, and Oct. 21 and 23, 1860.]

Their caste, it is true, was discriminated against with severity. Generally
at the North and wholly at the South their children were debarred from the
white schools and poorly provided with schools of their own.[78] Exclusion
of the adults from the militia became the general rule after the close of
the war of 1812. Deprivation of the suffrage at the South, which was made
complete by the action of the constitutional convention of North Carolina
in 1835 and which was imposed by numerous Northern states between 1807
and 1838,[79] was a more palpable grievance against which a convention
of colored freemen at Philadelphia in 1831 ineffectually protested.[80]
Exclusion from the jury boxes and from giving testimony against whites was
likewise not only general in the South but more or less prevalent in the
North as well. Many of the Southern states, furthermore, required license
and registration as a condition of residence and imposed restrictions upon
movement, education and occupations; and several of them required the
procurement of individual white guardians or bondsmen in security for good

[Footnote 78: The schooling facilities are elaborately and excellently
described and discussed in C.G. Woodson, _The Education of the Negro Prior
to 1861_ (New York, 1915).]

[Footnote 79: Emil Olbrich, _The Development of Sentiment for Negro
Suffrage to 1860_ (University of Wisconsin _Bulletin_, Historical Series,
III, no, I).]

[Footnote 80: _Minutes and Proceedings of the First Annual Convention of
the People of Colour, held in Philadelphia from the sixth to the eleventh
of June_, 1831 (Philadelphia, 1831).]

These discriminations, along with the many private rebuffs and oppressions
which they met, greatly complicated the problem of social adjustment which
colored freemen everywhere encountered. It is not to be wondered that some
of them developed criminal tendencies in reaction and revolt, particularly
when white agitators made it their business to stimulate discontent.
Convictions for crimes, however, were in greatest proportionate excess
among the free negroes of the North. In 1850, for example, the colored
inmates in the Southern penitentiaries, including slaves, bore a ratio
to the free colored population but half as high as did the corresponding
prisoners in the North to the similar population there. These ratios were
about six and eleven times those prevalent among the Southern and Northern
whites respectively.[81] This nevertheless does not prove an excess of
actual depravity or criminal disposition in any of the premises, for the
discriminative character of the laws and the prejudice of constables,
magistrates and jurors were strong contributing factors. Many a free negro
was doubtless arrested and convicted in virtually every commonwealth under
circumstances in which white men went free. The more severe industrial
discrimination at the North, which drove large numbers to an alternative of
destitution or crime, was furthermore contributive to the special excess of
negro criminality there.

[Footnote 81: The number of convicts for every 10,000 of the respective
populations was about 2.2 for the whites and 13.0 for the free colored
(with slave convicts included) at the South, and 2.5 for the whites and
28.7 for the free colored at the North. _Compendium of the Seventh Census_,
p. 166. See also _Southern Literary Messenger_, IX, 340-352; _DeBow's
Review_, XIV, 593-595; David Christy, _Cotton Is King_ (Cincinnati, 1855),
p. 153; E.R. Turner, _The Negro in Pennsylvania_, pp. 155-158.]

In some instances the violence of mobs was added to the might of the law.
Such was the case at Washington in 1835 when following on the heels of a
man's arrest for the crime of possessing incendiary publications and his
trial within the jail as a precaution to keep him from the mob's clutches,
a new report was spread that Beverly Snow, the free mulatto proprietor of
a saloon and restaurant between Brown's and Gadsby's hotels, had spoken in
slurring terms of the wives and daughters of white mechanics as a class.
"In a very short time he had more customers than both Brown and Gadsby--but
the landlord was not to be found although diligent search was made all
through the house. Next morning the house was visited by an increased
number of guests, but Snow was still absent." The mob then began to search
the houses of his associates for him. In that of James Hutton, another free
mulatto, some abolition papers were found. The mob hustled Hutton to a
magistrate, returned and wrecked Snow's establishment, and then held an
organized meeting at the Center Market where an executive committee was
appointed with a view to further activity. Meanwhile the city council held
session, the mayor issued a proclamation, and the militia was ordered out.
Mobs gathered that night, nevertheless, but dispersed after burning a negro
hut and breaking the windows of a negro church.[82] Such outrages appear to
have been rare in the distinctively Southern communities where the racial
subordination was more complete and the antipathy correspondingly fainter.

[Footnote 82: Washington _Globe_, about August 14, reprinted in the _North
Carolina Standard_, Aug. 27, 1835.]

Since the whites everywhere held the whip hand and nowhere greatly
refrained from the use of their power, the lot of the colored freeman
was one hardly to be borne without the aid of habit and philosophy. They
submitted to the régime because it was mostly taken as a matter of course,
because resistance would surely bring harsher repression, and because there
were solaces to be found. The well-to-do quadroons and mulattoes had
reason in their prosperity to cherish their own pride of place and carry
themselves with a quiet conservative dignity. The less prosperous blacks,
together with such of their mulatto confrères as were similarly inert,
had the satisfaction at least of not being slaves; and those in the South
commonly shared the humorous lightheartedness which is characteristic of
both African and Southern negroes. The possession of sincere friends among
the whites here and there also helped them to feel that their lives lay in
fairly pleasant places; and in their lodges they had a refuge peculiarly
their own.

The benevolent secret societies of the negroes, with their special stress
upon burial ceremonies, may have had a dim African origin, but they were
doubtless influenced strongly by the Masonic and other orders among the
whites. Nothing but mere glimpses may be had of the history of these
institutions, for lowliness as well as secrecy screened their careers.
There may well have been very many lodges among illiterate and moneyless
slaves without leaving any tangible record whatever. Those in which the
colored freemen mainly figured were a little more affluent, formal and
conspicuous. Such organizations were a recourse at the same time for mutual
aid and for the enhancement of social prestige. The founding of one of
them at Charleston in 1790, the Brown Fellowship Society, with membership
confined to mulattoes and quadroons, appears to have prompted the free
blacks to found one of their own in emulation.[83] Among the proceedings
of the former was the expulsion of George Logan in 1817 with a consequent
cancelling of his claims and those of his heirs to the rights and benefits
of the institution, on the ground that he had conspired to cause a
free black to be sold as a slave.[84] At Baltimore in 1835 there were
thirty-five or forty of these lodges, with memberships ranging from
thirty-five to one hundred and fifty each.[85]

[Footnote 83: T.D. Jervey, _Robert Y. Hayne and His Times_ (New York,
1909), p. 6.]

[Footnote 84: _Ibid_., pp. 68, 69.]

[Footnote 85: _Niles' Register_, XLIX, 72.]

The tone and purpose of the lodges may be gathered in part from the
constitution and by-laws of one of them, the Union Band Society of New
Orleans, founded in 1860. Its motto was "Love, Union, Peace"; its officers
were president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, marshal, mother, and
six male and twelve female stewards, and its dues fifty cents per month.
Members joining the lodge were pledged to obey its laws, to be humble to
its officers, to keep its secrets, to live in love and union with fellow
members, "to go about once in a while and see one another in love," and to
wear the society's regalia on occasion. Any member in three months' arrears
of dues was to be expelled unless upon his plea of illness or poverty a
subscription could be raised in meeting to meet his deficit. It was the
duty of all to report illnesses in the membership, and the function of the
official mother to delegate members for the nursing. The secretary was to
see to the washing of the sick member's clothes and pay for the work from
the lodge's funds, as well as the doctor's fees. The marshal was to have
charge of funerals, with power to commandeer the services of such members
as might be required. He might fee the officiating minister to the extent
of not more than $2.50, and draw pay for himself on a similar schedule.
Negotiations with any other lodge were provided for in case of the death of
a member who had fellowship also in the other for the custody of the corpse
and the sharing of expense; and a provision was included that when a lodge
was given the body of an outsider for burial it would furnish coffin,
hearse, tomb, minister and marshal at a price of fifty dollars all
told.[86] The mortuary stress in the by-laws, however, need not signify
that the lodge was more funereal than festive. A negro burial was as
sociable as an Irish wake.

[Footnote 86: _The By-laws and Constitution of the Union Band Society of
Orleans, organised July 22, 1860: Love, Union, Peace_ (Caption).]

Doubtless to some extent in their lodges, and certainly to a great degree
in their daily affairs, the lives of the free colored and the slaves
intermingled. Colored freemen, except in the highest of their social
strata, took free or slave wives almost indifferently. Some indeed appear
to have preferred the unfree, either because in such case the husband would
not be responsible for the support of the family or because he might engage
the protection of his wife's master in time of need.[87] On the other hand
the free colored women were somewhat numerously the prostitutes, or in more
favored cases the concubines, of white men. At New Orleans and thereabouts
particularly, concubinage, along with the well known "quadroon balls," was
a systematized practice.[88] When this had persisted for enough generations
to produce children of less than octoroon infusion, some of these doubtless
cut their social ties, changed their residence, and made successful though
clandestine entrance into white society. The fairness of the complexions of
some of those who to this day take the seats assigned to colored passengers
in the street cars of New Orleans is an evidence, however, that "crossing
the line" has not in all such breasts been a mastering ambition.

[Footnote 87: J.H. Russell, _The Free Negro in Virginia_, pp. 130-133.]

[Footnote 88: Albert Phelps, _Louisiana_ (Boston, 1905), pp. 212, 213.]

The Southern whites were of several minds regarding the free colored
element in their midst. Whereas laboring men were more or less jealously
disposed on the ground of their competition, the interest and inclination
of citizens in the upper ranks was commonly to look with favor upon those
whose labor they might use to advantage. On public grounds, however, these
men shared the general apprehension that in case tumult were plotted, the
freedom of movement possessed by these people might if their services were
enlisted by the slaves make the efforts of the whole more formidable. One
of the Charleston pamphleteers sought to discriminate between the mulattoes
and the blacks in the premises, censuring the indolence and viciousness
of the latter while praising the former for their thrift and sobriety and
contending that in case of revolt they would be more likely to prove allies
of the whites.[89] This distinction, however, met no general adoption. The
general discussion at the South in the premises did not concern the
virtues and vices of the colored freemen on their own score so much as the
influence exerted by them upon the slaves. It is notable in this connection
that the Northern dislike of negro newcomers from the South on the ground
of their prevalent ignorance, thriftlessness and instability[90] was more
than matched by the Southern dread of free negroes from the North. A
citizen of New Orleans wrote characteristically as early as 1819:[91]
"It is a melancholy but incontrovertible fact that in the cities of
Philadelphia, New York and Boston, where the blacks are put on an equality
with the whites, ... they are chiefly noted for their aversion to labor
and proneness to villainy. Men of this class are peculiarly dangerous in
a community like ours; they are in general remarkable for the boldness of
their manners, and some of them possess talents to execute the most wicked
and deep laid plots."

[Footnote 89: [Edwin C. Holland], _A Refutation of the Calumnies circulated
against the Southern and Western States respecting the institution and
existence of Slavery among them_. By a South Carolinian (Charleston, 1822),
pp. 84, 85.]

[Footnote 90: E.R. Turner, _The Negro in Pennsylvania_, p. 158.]

[Footnote 91: Letter to the editor in the _Louisiana Gazette_, Aug. 12,



The negroes were in a strange land, coercively subjected to laws and
customs far different from those of their ancestral country; and by being
enslaved and set off into a separate lowly caste they were largely deprived
of that incentive to conformity which under normal conditions the hope of
individual advancement so strongly gives. It was quite to be expected that
their conduct in general would be widely different from that of the whites
who were citizens and proprietors. The natural amenability of the blacks,
however, had been a decisive factor in their initial enslavement, and the
reckoning which their captors and rulers made of this was on the whole well
founded. Their lawbreaking had few distinctive characteristics, and gave no
special concern to the public except as regards rape and revolt.

Records of offenses by slaves are scant because on the one hand they were
commonly tried by somewhat informal courts whose records are scattered and
often lost, and on the other hand they were generally given sentences
of whipping, death or deportation, which kept their names out of the
penitentiary lists. One errs, however, in assuming a dearth of serious
infractions on their part and explaining it by saying, "under a strict
slave régime there can scarcely be such a thing as crime";[1] for
investigation reveals crime in abundance. A fairly typical record in the
premises is that of Baldwin County, Georgia, in which the following trials
of slaves for felonies between 1812 and 1832 are recounted: in 1812
Major was convicted of rape and sentenced to be hanged. In 1815 Fannie
Micklejohn, charged with the murder of an infant was acquitted; and Tom,
convicted of murdering a fellow slave was sentenced to branding on each
cheek with the letter M and to thirty-nine lashes on his bare back on each
of three successive days, after which he was to be discharged. In 1816
John, a slave of William McGeehee, convicted of the theft of a $100 bill
was sentenced to whipping in similar fashion. In 1818 Aleck was found
guilty of an assault with intent to murder, and received sentence of fifty
lashes on three days in succession. In 1819 Rodney was capitally sentenced
for arson. In 1821 Peter, charged with murdering a slave, was convicted of
manslaughter and ordered to be branded with M on the right cheek and to be
given the customary three times thirty-nine lashes; and Edmund, charged
with involuntary manslaughter, was dismissed on the ground that the court
had no cognizance of such offense. In 1822 Davis was convicted of assault
upon a white person with intent to kill, but his sentence is not recorded.
In or about the same year John, a slave of William Robertson, convicted of
burglary but recommended to mercy, was sentenced to be branded with T on
the r