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

Part 2 out of 5

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that ye love one another, even as I have loved you.' Oh, what a shocking
mockery! However, they show their faith at all events, in the declaration
that God is no respecter of persons, since they do not pretend to exclude
from His table those whom they most certainly would not admit to their

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

Monday, 20th.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little Missis Sally,
That's a ruling lady.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yesterday afternoon I received a visit from the wife of our neighbour Dr.
T----. As usual, she exclaimed at my good fortune in having a white woman
with my children when she saw M----, and, as usual, went on to expatiate

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