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Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation by Frances Anne Kemble

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* * * * *


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

* * * * *










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

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


_January 16, 1863._


Philadelphia: December 1838.

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

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

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

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

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

Yours ever faithfully.

* * * * *

Darien, Georgia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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