Part 2 out of 20
blood of their victims, they sometimes _leave them tied, for hours
together, bleeding at every wound_.--Sometimes, after being whipped,
they are bathed with a brine of salt and water. Now and then a master,
but more frequently a mistress who has no husband, will send them to
jail a few days, giving orders to have them whipped, so many lashes,
once or twice a day. Sometimes, after being whipped, some have been
shut up in a dark place and deprived of food, in order to increase
their torments: and I have heard of some who have, in such
circumstances, died of their wounds and starvation.
Such scenes of horror as above described are so common in Georgia that
they attract no attention. To threaten them with death, with breaking
in their teeth or jaws, or cracking their heads, is _common talk_,
when scolding at the slaves.--Those who run away from their masters
and are caught again generally fare the worst. They are generally
lodged in jail, with instructions from the owner to have them cruelly
whipped. Some order the constables to whip them publicly in the
market. Constables at the south are generally savage, brutal men. They
have become so accustomed to catching and whipping negroes, that they
are as fierce as tigers. Slaves who are absent from their yards, or
plantations, after eight o'clock P.M., and are taken by the guard in
the cities, or by the patrols in the country, are, if not called for
before nine o'clock A.M. the next day, secured in prisons; and hardly
ever escape, until their backs are torn up by the cowhide. On
plantations, the _evenings_ usually present scenes of horror. Those
slaves against whom charges are preferred for not having performed
their tasks, and for various faults, must, after work-hours at night,
undergo their torments. I have often heard the sound of the lash, the
curses of the whipper, and the cries of the poor negro rending the
air, late in the evening, and long before day-light in the morning.
It is very common for masters to say to the overseers or drivers, "put
it on to them," "don't spare that fellow," "give that scoundrel one
hundred lashes," &c. Whipping the women when in delicate
circumstances, as they sometimes do, without any regard to their
entreaties or the entreaties of their nearest friends, is truly
barbarous. If negroes could testify, they would tell you of instances
of women being whipped until they have miscarried at the
whipping-post. I heard of such things at the south--they are
undoubtedly facts. Children are whipped unmercifully for the smallest
offences, and that before their mothers. A large proportion of the
blacks have their shoulders, backs, and arms all scarred up, and not a
few of them have had their heads laid open with clubs, stones, and
brick-bats, and with the butt-end of whips and canes--some have had
their jaws broken, others their teeth knocked in or out; while others
have had their ears cropped and the sides of their cheeks gashed out.
Some of the poor creatures have lost the sight of one of their eyes by
the careless blows of the whipper, or by some other violence.
But punishing of slaves as above described, is not the only mode of
torture. Some tie them up in a very uneasy posture, where they must
stand _all night_, and they will then work them hard all day--that is,
work them hard all day and torment them all night. Others punish by
fastening them down on a log, or something else, and strike them on
the bare skin with a board paddle full of holes. This breaks the skin,
I should presume, at every hole where it comes in contact with it.
Others, when other modes of punishment will not subdue them,
_cat-haul_ them--that is, take a cat by the nape of the neck and tail,
or by the hind legs, and drag the claws across the back until
satisfied. This kind of punishment poisons the flesh much worse than
the whip, and is more dreaded by the slave. Some are branded by a hot
iron, others have their flesh cut out in large gashes, to mark them.
Some who are prone to run away, have iron fetters riveted around their
ancles, sometimes they are put only on one foot, and are dragged on
the ground. Others have on large iron collars or yokes upon their
necks, or clogs riveted upon their wrists or ancles. Some have bells
put upon them, hung upon a sort of frame to an iron collar. Some
masters fly into a rage at trifles and knock down their negroes with
their fists, or with the first thing that they can get hold of. The
whiplash-knots, or rawhide, have sometimes by a reckless stroke
reached round to the front of the body and cut through to the bowels.
One slaveholder with whom I lived, whipped one of his slaves one day,
as many, I should think, as one hundred lashes, and then turned the
_butt-end_ and went to beating him over the head and ears, and truly I
was amazed that the slave was not killed on the spot. Not a few
slaveholders whip their slaves to death, and then say that they died
under a "moderate correction." I wonder that ten are not killed where
one is! Were they not much hardier than the whites many more of them
must die than do. One young mulatto man, with whom I was well
acquainted, was killed by his master in his yard with _impunity_. I
boarded at the same time near the place where this glaring murder was
committed, and knew the master well. He had a plantation, on which he
enacted, almost daily, cruel barbarities, some of them, I was
informed, more terrific, if possible, than death itself. Little notice
was taken of this murder, and it all passed off without any action
being taken against the murderer. The masters used to try to make me
whip their negroes. They said I could not get along with them without
flogging them--but I found I could get along better with them by
coaxing and encouraging them than by beating and flogging them. I had
not a heart to beat and kick about those beings; although I had not
grace in my heart the three first years I was there, yet I sympathised
with the slaves. I never was guilty of having but one whipped, and he
was whipped but eight or nine blows. The circumstances were as
follows: Several negroes were put under my care, one spring, _who were
fresh from Congo and Guinea_. I could not understand them, neither
could they me, in one word I spoke. I therefore pointed to them to go
to work; all obeyed me willingly but one--he refused. I told the
driver that he must tie him up and whip him. After he had tied him, by
the help of some others, we struck him eight or nine blows, and he
yielded. I told the driver not to strike him another blow. We untied
him, and he went to work, and continued faithful all the time he was
with me. This one was not a sample, however--many of them have such
exalted views of freedom that it is hard work for the masters to whip
them into brutes, that is to subdue their noble spirits. The negroes
being put under my care, did not prevent the masters from whipping
them when they pleased. But they never whipped much in my presence.
This work was usually left until I had dismissed the hands. On the
plantations, the masters chose to have the slaves whipped in the
presence of all the hands, to strike them with terror.
Numbers of poor slaves run away from their masters; some of whom
doubtless perish in the swamps and other secret places, rather than
return back again to their masters; others stay away until they almost
famish with hunger, and then return home rather than die, while others
who abscond are caught by the negro-hunters, in various ways.
Sometimes the master will hire some of his most trusty negroes to
secure any stray negroes, who come on to their plantations, for many
come at night to beg food of their friends on the plantations. The
slaves assist one another usually when they can, and not be found out
in it. The master can now and then, however, get some of his hands to
betray the runaways. Some obtain their living in hunting after lost
slaves. The most common way is to train up young dogs to follow them.
This can easily be done by obliging a slave to go out into the woods,
and climb a tree, and then put the young dog on his track, and with a
little assistance he can be taught to follow him to the tree, and when
found, of course the dog would bark at such game as a poor negro on a
tree. There was a man living in Savannah when I was there, who kept a
large number of dogs for no other purpose than to hunt runaway
negroes. And he always had enough of this work to do, for hundreds of
runaways are never found, but could he get news soon after one had
fled, he was almost sure to catch him. And this fear of the dogs
restrains multitudes from running off.
When he went out on a hunting excursion, to be gone several days, he
took several persons with him, armed generally with rifles and
followed by the dogs. The dogs were as true to the track of a negro,
if one had passed recently, as a hound is to the track of a fox when
he has found it. When the dogs draw near to their game, the slave must
turn and fight them or climb a tree. If the latter, the dogs will stay
and bark until the pursuer come. The blacks frequently deceive the
dogs by crossing and recrossing the creeks. Should the hunters who
have no dogs, start a slave from his hiding place, and the slave not
stop at the hunter's call, he will shoot at him, as soon as he would
at a deer. Some masters advertise so much for a runaway slave, dead or
alive. It undoubtedly gives such more satisfaction to know that their
property is dead, than to know that it is alive without being able to
get it. Some slaves run away who never mean to be taken alive. I will
mention one. He run off and was pursued by the dogs, but having a
weapon with him he succeeded in killing two or three of the dogs; but
was afterwards shot. He had declared, that he never would be taken
alive. The people rejoiced at the death of the slave, but lamented the
death of the dogs, they were such ravenous hunters. Poor fellow, he
fought for life and liberty like a hero; but the bullets brought him
down. A negro can hardly walk unmolested at the south.--Every colored
stranger that walks the streets is suspected of being a runaway slave,
hence he must be interrogated by every negro hater whom he meets, and
should he not have a pass, he must be arrested and hurried off to
jail. Some masters boast that their slaves would not be free if they
could. How little they know of their slaves! They are all sighing and
groaning for freedom. May God hasten the time!
VII. CONFINEMENT AT NIGHT.
When the slaves have done their day's work, they must be herded
together like sheep in their yards, or on their plantations. They have
not as much liberty as northern men have, who are sent to jail for
debt, for they have liberty to walk a larger yard than the slaves
have. The slaves must all be at their homes precisely at eight
o'clock, P.M. At this hour the drums beat in the cities, as a signal
for every slave to be in his den. In the country, the signal is given
by firing guns, or some other way by which they may know the hour when
to be at home. After this hour, the guard in the cities, and patrols
in the country, being well armed, are on duty until daylight in the
morning. If they catch any negroes during the night without a pass,
they are immediately seized and hurried away to the guard-house, or if
in the country to some place of confinement, where they are kept until
nine o'clock, A.M., the next day, if not called for by that time, they
are hurried off to jail, and there remain until called for by their
master and his jail and guard house fees paid. The guards and patrols
receive one dollar extra for every one they can catch, who has not a
pass from his master, or overseer, but few masters will give their
slaves passes to be out at night unless on some special business:
notwithstanding, many venture out, watching every step they take for
the guard or patrol, the consequence is, some are caught almost every
night, and some nights many are taken; some, fleeing after being
hailed by the watch, are shot down in attempting their escape, others
are crippled for life. I find I shall not be able to write out more at
present. My ministerial duties are pressing, and if I delay this till
the next mail, I fear it will not be in season. Your brother for those
who are in bonds,
* * * * *
NARRATIVE AND TESTIMONY OF SARAH M. GRIMKE.
Miss Grimke is a daughter of the late Judge Grimke, of the Supreme
Court of South Carolina, and sister of the late Hon. Thomas S. Grimke.
As I left my native state on account of slavery, and deserted the home
of my fathers to escape the sound of the lash and the shrieks of
tortured victims, I would gladly bury in oblivion the recollection of
those scenes with which I have been familiar; but this may not, cannot
be; they come over my memory like gory spectres, and implore me with
resistless power, in the name of a God of mercy, in the name of a
crucified Savior, in the name of humanity; for the sake of the
slaveholder, as well as the slave, to bear witness to the horrors of
the southern prison house. I feel impelled by a sacred sense of duty,
by my obligations to my country, by sympathy for the bleeding victims
of tyranny and lust, to give my testimony respecting the system of
American slavery,--to detail a few facts, most of which came under my
_personal observation_. And here I may premise, that the actors in
these tragedies were all men and women of the highest respectability,
and of the first families in South Carolina, and, with one exception,
citizens of Charleston; and that their cruelties did not in the
slightest degree affect their standing in society.
A handsome mulatto woman, about 18 or 20 years of age, whose
independent spirit could not brook the degradation of slavery, was in
the habit of running away: for this offence she had been repeatedly
sent by her master and mistress to be whipped by the keeper of the
Charleston work-house. This had been done with such inhuman severity,
as to lacerate her back in a most shocking manner; a finger could not
be laid between the cuts. But the love of liberty was too strong to be
annihilated by torture; and, as a last resort, she was whipped at
several different times, and kept a close prisoner. A heavy iron
collar, with three long prongs projecting from it, was placed round
her neck, and a strong and sound front tooth was extracted, to serve
as a mark to describe her, in case of escape. Her sufferings at this
time were agonizing; she could lie in no position but on her back,
which was sore from scourgings, as I can testify, from personal
inspection, and her only place of rest was the floor, on a blanket.
These outrages were committed in a family where the mistress daily
read the scriptures, and assembled her children for family worship.
She was accounted, and was really, so far as almsgiving was concerned,
a charitable woman, and tender hearted to the poor; and yet this
suffering slave, who was the seamstress of the family, was continually
in her presence, sitting in her chamber to sew, or engaged in her
other household work, with her lacerated and bleeding back, her
mutilated mouth, and heavy iron collar, without, so far as appeared,
exciting any feelings of compassion.
A highly intelligent slave, who panted after freedom with ceaseless
longings, made many attempts to get possession of himself. For every
offence he was punished with extreme severity. At one time he was tied
up by his hands to a tree, and whipped until his back was one gore of
blood. To this terrible infliction he was subjected at intervals for
several weeks, and kept heavily ironed while at his work. His master
one day accused him of a fault, in the usual terms dictated by passion
and arbitrary power; the man protested his innocence, but was not
credited. He again repelled the charge with honest indignation. His
master's temper rose almost to frenzy; and seizing a fork, he made a
deadly plunge at the breast of the slave. The man being far his
superior in strength, caught the arm, and dashed the weapon on the
floor. His master grasped at his throat, but the slave disengaged
himself, and rushed from the apartment, having made his escape, he
fled to the woods; and after wandering about for many months, living
on roots and berries, and enduring every hardship, he was arrested and
committed to jail. Here he lay for a considerable time, allowed
scarcely food enough to sustain life, whipped in the most shocking
manner, and confined in a cell so loathsome, that when his master
visited him, he said the stench was enough to knock a man down. The
filth had never been removed from the apartment since the poor
creature had been immured in it. Although a black man, such had been
the effect of starvation and suffering, that his master declared he
hardly recognized him--his complexion was so yellow, and his hair,
naturally thick and black, had become red and scanty; an infallible
sign of long continued living on bad and insufficient food. Stripes,
imprisonment, and the gnawings of hunger, had broken his lofty spirit
for a season; and, to use his master's own exulting expression, he was
"as humble as a dog." After a time he made another attempt to escape,
and was absent so long, that a reward was offered for him, _dead or
alive_. He eluded every attempt to take him, and his master,
despairing of ever getting him again, offered to pardon him if he
would return home. It is always understood that such intelligence will
reach the runaway; and accordingly, at the entreaties of his wife and
mother, the fugitive once more consented to return to his bitter
bondage. I believe this was the last effort to obtain his liberty. His
heart became touched with the power of the gospel; and the spirit
which no inflictions could subdue, bowed at the cross of Jesus, and
with the language on his lips--"the cup that my father hath given me,
shall I not drink it?" submitted to the yoke of the oppressor, and
wore his chains in unmurmuring patience till death released him. The
master who perpetrated these wrongs upon his slave, was one of the
most influential and honored citizens of South Carolina, and to his
equals was bland, and courteous, and benevolent even to a proverb.
A slave who had been separated from his wife, because it best suited
the convenience of his owner, ran away. He was taken up on the
plantation where his wife, to whom he was tenderly attached, then
lived. His only object in running away was to return to her--no other
fault was attributed to him. For this offence he was confined in the
stocks _six weeks_, in a miserable hovel, not weather-tight. He
received fifty lashes weekly during that time, was allowed food barely
sufficient to sustain him, and when released from confinement, was not
permitted to return to his wife. His master, although himself a
husband and a father, was unmoved by the touching appeals of the
slave, who entreated that he might only remain with his wife,
promising to discharge his duties faithfully; his master continued
inexorable, and he was torn from his wife and family. The owner of
this slave was a professing Christian, in full membership with the
church, and this circumstance occurred when he was confined to his
chamber during his last illness.
A punishment dreaded more by the slaves than whipping, unless it is
unusually severe, is one which was invented by a female acquaintance
of mine in Charleston--I heard her say so with much satisfaction. It
is standing on one foot and holding the other in the hand. Afterwards
it was improved upon, and a strap was contrived to fasten around the
ankle and pass around the neck; so that the least weight of the foot
resting on the strap would choke the person. The pain occasioned by
this unnatural position was great; and when continued, as it sometimes
was, for an hour or more, produced intense agony. I heard this same
woman say, that she had the ears of her waiting maid _slit_ for some
petty theft. This she told me in the presence of the girl, who was
standing in the room. She often had the helpless victims of her
cruelty severely whipped, not scrupling herself to wield the
instrument of torture, and with her own hands inflict severe
chastisement. Her husband was less inhuman than his wife, but he was
often goaded on by her to acts of great severity. In his last illness
I was sent for, and watched beside his death couch. The girl on whom
he had so often inflicted punishment, haunted his dying hours; and
when at length the king of terrors approached, he shrieked in utter
agony of spirit, "Oh, the blackness of darkness, the black imps, I can
see them all around me--take them away!" and amid such exclamations he
expired. These persons were of one of the first families in
A friend of mine, in whose veracity I have entire confidence, told me
that about two years ago, a woman in Charleston with whom I was well
acquainted, had starved a female slave to death. She was confined in a
solitary apartment, kept constantly tied, and condemned to the slow
and horrible death of starvation. This woman was notoriously cruel. To
those who have read the narrative of James Williams I need only say,
that the character of young Larrimore's wife is an exact description
of this female tyrant, whose countenance was ever dressed in smiles
when in the presence of strangers, but whose heart was as the nether
millstone toward her slaves.
As I was traveling in the lower country in South Carolina, a number of
years since, my attention was suddenly arrested by an exclamation of
horror from the coachman, who called out, "Look there, Miss Sarah,
don't you see?"--I looked in the direction he pointed, and saw a human
head stuck up on a high pole. On inquiry, I found that a runaway
slave, who was outlawed, had been shot there, his head severed from
his body, and put upon the public highway, as a terror to deter slaves
from running away.
On a plantation in North Carolina, where I was visiting, I happened
one day, in my rambles, to step into a negro cabin; my compassion was
instantly called forth by the object which presented itself. A slave,
whose head was white with age, was lying in one corner of the hovel;
he had under his head a few filthy rags but the boards were his only
bed, it was the depth of winter, and the wind whistled through every
part of the dilapidated building--he opened his languid eyes when I
spoke, and in reply to my question, "What is the matter?" He said, "I
am dying of a cancer in my side."--As he removed the rags which
covered the sore, I found that it extended half round the body, and
was shockingly neglected. I inquired if he had any nurse. "No,
missey," was his answer, "but de people (the slaves) very kind to me,
dey often steal time to run and see me and fetch me some ting to eat;
if dey did not, I might starve." The master and mistress of this man,
who had been worn out in their service, were remarkable for their
intelligence, and their hospitality knew no bounds towards those who
were of their own grade in society: the master had for some time held
the highest military office in North Carolina, and not long previous
to the time of which I speak, was the Governor of the State.
On a plantation in South Carolina, I witnessed a similar case of
suffering--an aged woman suffering under an incurable disease in the
same miserably neglected situation. The "owner" of this slave was
proverbially kind to her negroes; so much so, that the planters in the
neighborhood said she spoiled them, and set a bad example, which might
produce discontent among the surrounding slaves; yet I have seen this
woman tremble with rage, when her slaves displeased her, and heard her
use language to them which could only be expected from an inmate of
Bridewell; and have known her in a gust of passion send a favorite
slave to the workhouse to be severely whipped.
Another fact occurs to me. A young woman about eighteen, stated some
circumstances relative to her young master, which were thought
derogatory to his character; whether true or false, I am unable to
say; she was threatened with punishment, but persisted in affirming
that she had only spoken the truth. Finding her incorrigible, it was
concluded to send her to the Charleston workhouse and have her whipt;
she pleaded in vain for a commutation of her sentence, not so much
because she dreaded the actual suffering, as because her delicate mind
shrunk from the shocking exposure of her person to the eyes of brutal
and licentious men; she declared to me that death would be preferable;
but her entreaties were vain, and as there was no means of escaping
but by running away, she resorted to it as a desperate remedy, for her
timid nature never could have braved the perils necessarily
encountered by fugitive slaves, had not her mind been thrown into a
state of despair.--She was apprehended after a few weeks, by two
slave-catchers, in a deserted house, and as it was late in the evening
they concluded to spend the night there. What inhuman treatment she
received from them has never been revealed. They tied her with cords
to their bodies, and supposing they had secured their victim, soon
fell into a deep sleep, probably rendered more profound by
intoxication and fatigue; but the miserable captive slumbered not; by
some means she disengaged herself from her bonds, and again fled
through the lone wilderness. After a few days she was discovered in a
wretched hut, which seemed to have been long uninhabited; she was
speechless; a raging fever consumed her vitals, and when a physician
saw her, he said she was dying of a disease brought on by over
fatigue; her mother was permitted to visit her, but ere she reached
her, the damps of death stood upon her brow, and she had only the sad
consolation of looking on the death-struck form and convulsive agonies
of her child.
A beloved friend in South Carolina, the wife of a slaveholder, with
whom I often mingled my tears, when helpless and hopeless we deplored
together the horrors of slavery, related to me some years since the
On the plantation adjoining her husband's, there was a slave of
pre-eminent piety. His master was not a professor of religion, but the
superior excellence of this disciple of Christ was not unmarked by
him, and I believe he was so sensible of the good influence of his
piety that he did not deprive him of the few religious privileges
within his reach. A planter was one day dining with the owner of this
slave, and in the course of conversation observed, that all profession
of religion among slaves was mere hypocrisy. The other asserted a
contrary opinion, adding, I have a slave who I believe would rather
die than deny his Saviour. This was ridiculed, and the master urged to
prove the assertion. He accordingly sent for this man of God, and
peremptorily ordered him to deny his belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The slave pleaded to be excused, constantly affirming that he would
rather die than deny the Redeemer, whose blood was shed for him. His
master, after vainly trying to induce obedience by threats, had him
terribly whipped. The fortitude of the sufferer was not to be shaken;
he nobly rejected the offer of exemption from further chastisement at
the expense of destroying his soul, and this blessed martyr _died in
consequence of this severe infliction_. Oh, how bright a gem will this
victim of irresponsible power be, in that crown which sparkles on the
Redeemer's brow; and that many such will cluster there, I have not the
shadow of a doubt.
SARAH M. GRIMKE. _Fort Lee, Bergen County, New Jersey, 3rd Month,
TESTIMONY OF THE LATE REV. JOHN GRAHAM of Townsend, Mass., who resided
in S. Carolina, from 1831, to the latter part of 1833. Mr. Graham
graduated at Amherst College in 1829, spent some time at the
Theological Seminary, in New Haven, Ct., and went to South Carolina,
for his health in 1830. He resided principally on the island of St.
Helena, S.C., and most of the time in the family of James Tripp, Esq.,
a wealthy slave holding planter. During his residence at St. Helena,
he was engaged as an instructer, and was most of the time the stated
preacher on the island. Mr. G. was extensively known in Massachusetts;
and his fellow students and instructers, at Amherst College, and at
Yale Theological Seminary, can bear testimony to his integrity and
moral worth. The following are extracts of letters, which he wrote
while in South Carolina, to an intimate friend in Concord,
Massachusetts, who has kindly furnished them for publication.
_Springfield, St. Helena Isl., S.C., Oct. 22, 1832._
"Last night, about one o'clock, I was awakened by the report of a
musket. I was out of bed almost instantly. On opening my window, I
found the report proceeded from my host's chamber. He had let off his
pistol, which he usually keeps by him night and day, at a slave, who
had come into the yard, and as it appears, had been with one of his
house servants. He did not hit him. The ball, taken from a pine tree
the next morning, I will show you, should I be spared by Providence
ever to return to you. The house servant was called to the master's
chamber, where he received 75 lashes, very severe too; and I could not
only hear every lash, but each groan which succeeded very distinctly
as I lay in my bed. What was then done with the servant I know not.
Nothing was said of this to me in the morning and I presume it will
ever be kept from me with care, if I may judge of kindred acts. I
shall make no comment."
In the same letter, Mr. Graham says:--
"You ask me of my hostess"--then after giving an idea of her character
says: "To day, she has I verily believe laid, in a very severe manner
too, more than 300 _stripes_, upon the house servants," (17 in
_Darlington, Court Moons. S.C. March, 28th, 1838._
"I walked up to the Court House to day, where I heard one of the most
interesting cases I ever heard. I say interesting, on account of its
novelty to me, though it had no novelty for the people, as such cases
are of frequent occurrence. The case was this: To know whether two
ladies, present in court, were _white_ or _black_. The ladies were
dressed well, seemed modest, and were retiring and neat in their look,
having blue eyes, black hair, and appeared to understand much of the
etiquette of southern behaviour.
"A man, more avaricious than humane, as is the case with most of the
rich planters, laid a remote claim to those two modest, unassuming,
innocent and free young ladies as his property, with the design of
putting them into the field, and thus increasing his STOCK! As well as
the people of Concord are known to be of a peaceful disposition, and
for their love of good order, I verily believe if a similar trial
should be brought forward there and conducted as this was, the good
people would drive the lawyers out of the house. Such would be their
indignation at their language, and at the mean under-handed manner of
trying to ruin those young ladies, as to their standing in society in
this district, if they could not succeed in dooming them for life to
the degraded condition of slavery, and all its intolerable cruelties.
Oh slavery! if statues of marble could curse you, they would speak. If
bricks could speak, they would all surely thunder out their anathemas
against you, accursed thing! How many white sons and daughters have
bled and groaned under the lash in this sultry climate," &c.
Under date of March, 1832, Mr. G. writes, "I have been doing what I
hope never to be called to do again, and what I fear I have badly
done, though performed to the best of my ability, namely, sewing up a
very bad wound made by a wild hog. The slave was hunting wild hogs,
when one, being closely pursued, turned upon his pursuer, who turning
to run, was caught by the animal, thrown down, and badly wounded in
the thigh. The wound is about five inches long and very deep. It was
made by the tusk of the animal. The slaves brought him to one of the
huts on Mr. Tripp's plantation and made every exertion to stop the
blood by filling the wound with ashes, (their remedy for stopping
blood) but finding this to fail they came to me (there being no other
white person on the plantation, as it is now holidays) to know if I
could stop the blood. I went and found that the poor creature must
bleed to death unless it could be stopped soon. I called for a needle
and succeeded in sewing it up as well as I could, and in stopping the
blood. In a short time his master, who had been sent for came; and
oh, you would have shuddered if you had heard the awful oaths that
fell from his lips, threatening in the same breath "_to pay him for
that_!" I left him as soon as decency would permit, with his hearty
thanks that I had saved him $500! Oh, may heaven protect the poor,
suffering, fainting slave, and show his master his wanton cruelty--oh
Under date of July, 1832, Mr. G. writes, "I wish you could have been
at the breakfast table with me this morning to have seen and heard
what I saw and heard, not that I wish your ear and heart and soul
pained as mine is, with every day's observation 'of wrong and outrage'
with which this place is filled, but that you might have auricular and
ocular evidence of the cruelty of slavery, of cruelties that mortal
language can never describe--that you might see the tender mercies of
a hardened slaveholder, one who bears the name of being _one of the
mildest and most merciful masters of which this island can boast_. Oh,
my friend, another is screaming under the lash, in the shed-room, but
for what I know not. The scene this morning was truly distressing to
me. It was this:--_After the blessing was asked_ at the breakfast
table, one of the servants, a woman grown, in giving one of the
children some molasses, happened to pour out a little more than usual,
though not more than the child usually eats. Her master was angry at
the petty and indifferent mistake, or slip of the hand. He rose from
the table, took both of her hands in one of his, and with the other
began to beat her, first on one side of her head and then on the
other, and repeating this, till, as he said on sitting down at table,
it hurt his hand too much to continue it longer. He then took off his
_shoe_, and with the heel began in the same manner as with his hand,
till the poor creature could no longer endure it without screeches and
raising her elbow as it is natural to ward off the blows. He then
called a great overgrown negro _to hold her hands behind her_ while he
should wreak his vengeance upon the poor servant. In this position he
began again to beat the poor suffering wretch. It now became
intolerable to bear; she _fell, screaming to me for help_. After she
fell, he beat her until I thought she would have died in his hands.
She got up, however, went out and washed off the blood and came in
before we rose from table, one of the most pitiable objects I ever saw
till I came to the South. Her ears were almost as thick as my hand,
her eyes awfully blood-shotten, her lips, nose, cheeks, chin, and
whole head swollen so that no one would have known it was Etta--and
for all this, she had to turn round as she was going out and _thank
her master!_ Now, all this was done while I was sitting at breakfast
with the rest of the family. Think you not I wished myself sitting
with the peaceful and happy circle around your table? Think of my
feelings, but pity the poor negro slave, who not only fans his cruel
master when he eats and sleeps, but bears the stripes his caprice may
inflict. Think of this, and let heaven hear your prayers."
In a letter dated St. Helena Island, S.C., Dec. 3, 1832, Mr. G.
writes, "If a slave here complains to his master, that his task is too
great, his master at once calls him a scoundrel and tells him it is
only because he has not enough to do, and orders the driver to
increase his task, however unable he may be for the performance of it.
I saw TWENTY-SEVEN _whipped at one time_ just because they did not do
more, when the poor creatures were so tired that they could scarcely
drag one foot after the other."
TESTIMONY OF MR. WILLIAM POE
Mr. Poe is a native of Richmond, Virginia, and was formerly a
slaveholder. He was for several years a merchant in Richmond, and
subsequently in Lynchburg, Virginia. A few years since, he emancipated
his slaves, and removed to Hamilton County, Ohio, near Cincinnati;
where he is a highly respected ruling elder in the Presbyterian
church. He says,--
"I am pained exceedingly, and nothing but my duty to God, to the
oppressors, and to the poor down-trodden slaves, who go mourning all
their days, could move me to say a word. I will state to you a _few_
cases of the abuse of the slaves, but time would fail, if I had
language to tell how many and great are the inflictions of slavery,
even in its mildest form.
Benjamin James Harris, a wealthy tobacconist of Richmond, Virginia,
whipped a slave girl fifteen years old to death. While he was whipping
her, his wife heated a smoothing iron, put it on her body in various
places, and burned her severely. The verdict of the coroner's inquest
was, "Died of excessive whipping." He was tried in Richmond, and
acquitted. I attended the trial. Some years after, this same Harris
whipped another slave to death. The man had not done so much work as
was required of him. After a number of protracted and violent
scourgings, with short intervals between, the slave died under the
lash. Harris was tried, and again acquitted, because none but blacks
saw it done. The same man afterwards whipped another slave severely,
for not doing work to please him. After repeated and severe floggings
in quick succession, for the same cause, the slave, in despair of
pleasing him, cut off his own hand. Harris soon after became a
bankrupt, went to New Orleans to recruit his finances, failed, removed
to Kentucky, became a maniac, and died.
A captain in the United States' Navy, who married a daughter of the
collector of the port of Richmond, and resided there, became offended
with his negro boy, took him into the meat house, put him upon a
stool, crossed his hands before him, tied a rope to them, threw it
over a joist in the building, drew the boy up so that he could just
stand on the stool with his toes, and kept him in that position,
flogging him severely at intervals, until the boy became so exhausted
that he reeled off the stool, and swung by his hands until he died.
The master was tried and acquitted.
In Goochland County, Virginia, an overseer tied a slave to a tree,
flogged him again and again with great severity, then piled brush
around him, set it on fire, and burned him to death. The overseer was
tried and imprisoned. The whole transaction may be found on the
records of the court.
In traveling, one day, from Petersburg to Richmond, Virginia, I heard
cries of distress at a distance, on the road. I rode up, and found two
white men, beating a slave. One of them had hold of a rope, which was
passed under the bottom of a fence; the other end was fastened around
the neck of the slave, who was thrown flat on the ground, on his face,
with his back bared. The other was beating him furiously with a large
A slaveholder in Henrico County, Virginia, had a slave who used
frequently to work for my father. One morning he came into the field
with his back completely _cut up_, and mangled from his head to his
heels. The man was so stiff and sore he could scarcely walk. This same
person got offended with another of his slaves, knocked him down, and
struck out one of his eyes with a maul. The eyes of several of his
slaves were injured by similar violence.
In Richmond, Virginia, a company occupied as a dwelling a large
warehouse. They got angry with a negro lad, one of their slaves, took
him into the cellar, tied his hands with a rope, bored a hole though
the floor, and passed the rope up through it. Some of the family drew
up the boy, while others whipped. This they continued until the boy
died. The warehouse was owned by a Mr. Whitlock, on the scite of one
formerly owned by a Mr. Philpot.
Joseph Chilton, a resident of Campbell County, Virginia, purchased a
quart of tanners' oil, for the purpose, as he said, of putting it on
one of his negro's heads, that he had sometime previous pitched or
tarred over, for running away.
In the town of Lynchburg, Virginia, there was a negro man put in
prison, charged with having pillaged some packages of goods, which he,
as head man of a boat, received at Richmond, to be delivered at
Lynchburg. The goods belonged to A.B. Nichols, of Liberty, Bedford
County, Virginia. He came to Lynchburg, and desired the jailor to
permit him to whip the negro, to make him confess, as there was _no
proof against him_. Mr. Williams, (I think that is his name,) a pious
Methodist man, a great stickler for law and good order, professedly a
great friend to the black man, delivered the negro into the hands of
Nichols. Nichols told me that he took the slave, tied his wrists
together, then drew his arms down so far below his knees as to permit
a staff to pass above the arms under the knees, thereby placing the
slave in a situation that he could not move hand or foot. He then
commenced his bloody work, and continued, at intervals, until 500
blows were inflicted. I received this statement from Nichols himself,
who was, by the way, a _son of the land of "steady habits_," where
there are many like him, if we may judge from their writings, sayings,
PRIVATIONS OF THE SLAVES.
We begin with the _food_ of the slaves, because if they are ill
treated in this respect we may be sure that they will be ill treated
in other respects, and generally in a greater degree. For a man
habitually to stint his dependents in their food, is the extreme of
meanness and cruelty, and the greatest evidence he can give of utter
indifference to their comfort. The father who stints his children or
domestics, or the master his apprentices, or the employer his
laborers, or the officer his soldiers, or the captain his crew, when
able to furnish them with sufficient food, is every where looked upon
as unfeeling and cruel. All mankind agree to call such a character
inhuman. If any thing can move a hard heart, it is the appeal of
hunger. The Arab robber whose whole life is a prowl for plunder, will
freely divide his camel's milk with the hungry stranger who halts at
his tent door, though he may have just waylaid him and stripped him of
his money. Even savages take pity on hunger. Who ever went famishing
from an Indian's wigwam? As much as hunger craves, is the Indian's
free gift even to an enemy. The necessity for food is such a universal
want, so constant, manifest and imperative, that the heart is more
touched with pity by the plea of hunger, and more ready to supply that
want than any other. He who can habitually inflict on others the pain
of hunger by giving them insufficient food, can habitually inflict on
them any other pain. He can kick and cuff and flog and brand them, put
them in irons or the stocks, can overwork them, deprive them of sleep,
lacerate their backs, make them work without clothing, and sleep
Other cruelties may be perpetrated in hot blood and the acts regretted
as soon as done--the feeling that prompts them is not a permanent
state of mind, but a violent impulse stung up by sudden provocation.
But he who habitually withholds from his dependents sufficient
sustenance, can plead no such palliation. The fact itself shows, that
his permanent state of mind toward them is a brutal indifference to
their wants and sufferings--A state of mind which will naturally,
necessarily, show itself in innumerable privations and inflictions
upon them, when it can be done with impunity.
If, therefore, we find upon examination, that the slaveholders do not
furnish their slaves with sufficient food, and do thus habitually
inflict upon them the pain of hunger, we have a clue furnished to
their treatment in other respects, and may fairly infer habitual and
severe privations and inflictions; not merely from the fact that men
are quick to feel for those who suffer from hunger, and perhaps more
ready to relieve that want than any other; but also, because it is
more for the interest of the slaveholder to supply that want than any
other; consequently, if the slave suffer in this respect, he must as
the general rule, suffer _more_ in other respects.
We now proceed to show that the slaves have insufficient food. This
will be shown first from the express declarations of slaveholders, and
other competent witnesses who are, or have been residents of slave
states, that the slaves generally are _under-fed._ And then, by the
laws of slave states, and by the testimony of slaveholders and others,
the _kind, quantity_, and _quality,_ of their allowance will be given,
and the reader left to judge for himself whether the slave _must_ not
be a sufferer.
THE SLAVES SUFFER FROM HUNGER--DECLARATIONS OF SLAVE-HOLDERS AND
Hon. Alexander Smyth, a slave holder, and for ten years, Member of
Congress from Virginia, in his speech on the Missouri question. Jan
"By confining the slaves to the Southern states, where crops are
raised for exportation, and bread and meat are purchased, you _doom
them to scarcity and hunger._ It is proposed to hem in the blacks
where they are ILL FED."
Rev. George Whitefield, in his letter, to the slave holders of Md. Va.
N.C. S.C. and Ga. published in Georgia, just one hundred years ago,
"My blood has frequently run cold within me, to think how many of your
slaves _have not sufficient food to eat;_ they are scarcely permitted
to _pick up the crumbs,_ that fall from their master's table."
Rev. John Rankin, of Ripley, Ohio, a native of Tennessee, and for same
years a preacher in slave states.
"Thousands of the slaves are pressed with the gnawings of cruel hunger
during their whole lives."
Report of the Gradual Emancipation Society, of North Carolina, 1826.
Signed Moses Swain, President, and William Swain, Secretary.
Speaking of the condition of slaves, in the eastern part of that
state, the report says,--"The master puts the unfortunate wretches
upon short allowances, scarcely sufficient for their sustenance, so
that a _great part_ of them go _half starved_ much of the time."
Mr. Asa A. Stone, a Theological Student, who resided near Natchez,
Miss., in 1834-5.
"On almost every plantation, the hands suffer more or less from hunger
at some seasons of almost every year. There is always a _good deal of
suffering_ from hunger. On many plantations, and particularly in
Louisiana, the slaves are in a condition of _almost utter famishment,_
during a great portion of the year."
Thomas Clay, Esq., of Georgia, a Slaveholder.
"From various causes this [the slave's allowance of food] is _often_
not adequate to the support of a laboring man."
Mr. Tobias Boudinot, St Albans, Ohio, a member of the Methodist
Church. Mr. B. for some years navigated the Mississippi.
"The slaves down the Mississippi, are _half-starved,_ the boats, when
they stop at night, are constantly boarded by slaves, begging for
something to eat."
President Edwards, the younger, in a sermon before the Conn. Abolition
"The slaves are supplied with barely enough to keep them from
Rev. Horace Moulton, a Methodist Clergyman of Marlboro' Mass., who
lived five years in Georgia.
"As a general thing on the plantations, the slaves suffer extremely
for the want of food."
Rev. George Bourne, late editor of the Protestant Vindicator, N.Y.,
who was seven years pastor of a church in Virginia.
"The slaves are deprived of _needful_ sustenance."
2. KINDS OF FOOD.
Hon. Robert Turnbull, a slaveholder of Charleston, South Carolina.
"The subsistence of the slaves consists, from March until August, of
corn ground into grits, or meal, made into what is called _hominy_, or
baked into corn bread. The other six months, they are fed upon the
sweet potatoe. Meat, when given, is only by way of _indulgence or
Mr. Eleazar Powell, Chippewa, Beaver Co., Penn., who resided in
Mississippi, in 1836-7.
"The food of the slaves was generally corn bread, and _sometimes_ meat
Reuben G. Macy, a member of the Society of Friends, Hudson, N.Y., who
resided in South Carolina.
"The slaves had no food allowed them besides _corn,_ excepting at
Christmas, when they had beef."
Mr. William Leftwich, a native of Virginia, and recently of Madison
Co., Alabama, now member, of the Presbyterian Church, Delhi, Ohio.
"On my uncle's plantation, the food of the slaves, was corn-pone and a
small allowance of meat."
WILLIAM LADD, Esq., of Minot, Me., president of the American Peace
Society, and formerly a slaveholder of Florida, gives the following
testimony as to the allowance of food to slaves.
"The usual food of the slaves was _corn_, with a modicum of salt. In
some cases the master allowed no salt, but the slaves boiled the sea
water for salt in their little pots. For about eight days near
Christmas, i.e., from the Saturday evening before, to the Sunday
evening after Christmas day, they were allowed some _meat_. They
always with one single exception ground their corn in a hand-mill, and
cooked their food themselves."
Extract of a letter from Rev. D.C. EASTMAN, a preacher of the
Methodist Episcopal church, in Fayette county, Ohio.
"In March, 1838, Mr. Thomas Larrimer, a deacon of the Presbyterian
church in Bloomingbury, Fayette county, Ohio, Mr. G.S. Fullerton,
merchant, and member of the same church, and Mr. William A. Ustick, an
elder of the same church, spent a night with a Mr. Shepherd, about 30
miles North of Charleston, S.C., on the Monk's corner road. He owned
five families of negroes, who, he said, were fed from the same meal
and meat tubs as himself, but that 90 out of a 100 of all the slaves
in that county _saw meat but once a year_, which was on Christmas
As an illustration of the inhuman experiments sometimes tried upon
slaves, in respect to the _kind_ as well as the quality and quantity
of their food, we solicit the attention of the reader to the testimony
of the late General Wade Hampton, of South Carolina. General Hampton
was for some time commander in chief of the army on the Canada
frontier during the last war, and at the time of his death, about
three years since, was the largest slaveholder in the United States.
The General's testimony is contained in the following extract of a
letter, just received from a distinguished clergyman in the west,
extensively known both as a preacher and a writer. His name is with
the executive committee of the American Anti-Slavery Society.
"You refer in your letter to a statement made to you while in this
place, respecting the late General Wade Hampton, of South Carolina,
and task me to write out for you the circumstances of the
case--considering them well calculated to illustrate two points in the
history of slavery: 1st, That the habit of slaveholding dreadfully
blunts the feelings toward the slave, producing such insensibility
that his sufferings and death are regarded with indifference. 2d, That
the slave often has insufficient food, both in quantity and quality.
"I received my information from a lady in the west of high
respectability and great moral worth,--but think it best to withhold
her name, although the statement was not made in confidence.
"My informant stated that she sat at dinner once in company with
General Wade Hampton, and several others; that the conversation turned
upon the treatment of their servants, &c.; when the General undertook
to entertain the company with the relation of an experiment he had
made in the feeding of his slaves on cotton seed. He said that he
first mingled one-fourth cotton seed with three-fourths corn, on which
they seemed to thrive tolerably well; that he then had measured out to
them equal quantities of each, which did not seem to produce any
important change; afterwards he increased the quantity of cotton seed
to three-fourths, mingled with one-fourth corn, and then he declared,
with an oath, that 'they died like rotten sheep!!' It is but justice
to the lady to state that she spoke of his conduct with the utmost
indignation; and she mentioned also that he received no countenance
from the company present, but that all seemed to look at each other
with astonishment. I give it to you just as I received it from one who
was present, and whose character for veracity is unquestionable.
"It is proper to add that I had previously formed an acquaintance with
Dr. Witherspoon, now of Alabama, if alive; whose former residence was
in South Carolina; from whom I received a particular account of the
manner of feeding and treating slaves on the plantations of General
Wade Hampton, and others in the same part of the State; and certainly
no one could listen to the recital without concluding that such
masters and overseers as he described must have hearts like the nether
millstone. The cotton seed experiment I had heard of before also, as
having been made in other parts of the south; consequently, I was
prepared to receive as true the above statement, even if I had not
been so well acquainted with the high character of my informant."
2. QUANTITY OF FOOD
The legal allowance of food for slaves in North Carolina, is in the
words of the law, "a quart of corn per day." See Haywood's Manual,
525. The legal allowance in Louisiana is more, a barrel [flour barrel]
of corn, (in the ear,) or its equivalent in other grain, and a pint of
salt a month. In the other slave states the amount of food for the
slaves is left to the option of the master.
Thos. Clay, Esq., of Georgia, a slave holder, in his address before
the Georgia Presbytery, 1833.
"The quantity allowed by custom is _a peck of corn a week_!"
The Maryland Journal, and Baltimore Advertiser, May 30, 1788.
"_A single peck of corn a week, or the like measure of rice_, is the
_ordinary_ quantity of provision for a _hard-working_ slave; to which
a small quantity of meat is occasionally, though _rarely_, added."
W.C. Gildersleeve, Esq., a native of Georgia, and Elder in the
Presbyterian Church, Wilksbarre, Penn.
"The weekly allowance to grown slaves on this plantation, where I was
best acquainted, was _one peck of corn_."
Wm. Ladd, of Minot, Maine, formerly a slaveholder in Florida.
"The usual allowance of food was _one quart of corn a day_, to a full
task hand, with a modicum of salt; kind masters allowed _a peck of
corn a week_; some masters allowed no salt."
Mr. Jarvis Brewster, in his "Exposition of the treatment of slaves in
the Southern States," published in N. Jersey, 1815.
"The allowance of provisions for the slaves, is _one peck of corn, in
the grain, per week_."
Rev. Horace Moulton, a Methodist Clergyman of Marlboro, Mass., who
lived five years in Georgia.
"In Georgia the planters give each slave only _one peck of their gourd
seed corn per week_, with a small quantity of salt."
Mr. F.C. Macy, Nantucket, Mass., who resided in Georgia in 1820.
"The food of the slaves was three pecks of potatos a week during the
potato season, and _one peck of corn_, during the remainder of the
Mr. Nehemiah Caulkins, a member of the Baptist Church in Waterford,
Conn., who resided in North Carolina, eleven winters.
"The subsistence of the slaves, consists of _seven quarts of meal_ or
_eight quarts of small rice for one week!_"
William Savery, late of Philadelphia, an eminent Minister of the
Society of Friends, who travelled extensively in the slave states, on
a Religious Visitation, speaking of the subsistence of the slaves,
says, in his published Journal,
"_A peck of corn_ is their (the slaves,) miserable subsistence _for a
The late John Parrish, of Philadelphia, another highly respected
Minister of the Society of Friends, who traversed the South, on a
similar mission, in 1804 and 5, says in his "Remarks on the slavery of
"They allow them but _one peck of meal_, for a whole week, in some of
the Southern states."
Richard Macy, Hudson, N.Y. a Member of the Society of Friends, who has
resided in Georgia.
"Their usual allowance of food was one peck of corn per week, which
was dealt out to them every first day of the week. They had nothing
allowed them besides the corn, except one quarter of beef at
Rev. C.S. Renshaw, of Quincy, Ill., (the testimony of a Virginian).
"The slaves are generally allowanced: a pint of corn meal and a salt
herring is the allowance, or in lieu of the herring a "dab" of fat
meat of about the same value. I have known the sour milk, and clauber
to be served out to the hands, when there was an abundance of milk on
the plantation. This is a luxury not often afforded."
Testimony of Mr. George W. Westgate, member of the Congregational
Church, of Quincy, Illinois. Mr. W. has been engaged in the low
country trade for twelve years, more than half of each year,
principally on the Mississippi, and its tributary streams in the
south-western slave states.
"_Feeding is not sufficient_,--let facts speak. On the coast, i.e.
Natchez and the Gulf of Mexico, the allowance was one barrel of ears
of corn, and a pint of salt per month. They may cook this in what
manner they please, but it must be done after dark; they have no day
light to prepare it by. Some few planters, but only a few, let them
prepare their corn on Saturday afternoon. Planters, overseers, and
negroes, have told me, that in _pinching times_, i.e. when corn is
high, they did not get near that quantity. In Miss., I know some
planters who allowed their hands three and a half pounds of meat per
week, when it was cheap. Many prepare their corn on the Sabbath, when
they are not worked on that day, which however is frequently the case
on sugar plantations. There are very many masters on "the coast" who
will not suffer their slaves to come to the boats, because they steal
molasses to barter for meat; indeed they generally trade more or less
with stolen property. But it is impossible to find out what and when,
as their articles of barter are of such trifling importance. They
would often come on board our boats to beg a bone, and would tell how
badly they were fed, that they were almost starved; many a time I have
set up all night, to prevent them from stealing something to eat."
3. QUALITY OF FOOD.
Having ascertained the kind and quantity of food allowed to the
slaves, it is important to know something of its _quality_, that we
may judge of the amount of sustenance which it contains. For, if their
provisions are of an inferior quality, or in a damaged state, their
power to sustain labor must be greatly diminished.
Thomas Clay, Esq. of Georgia, from an address to the Georgia
Presbytery, 1834, speaking of the quality of the corn given to the
"There is _often a defect here_."
Rev. Horace Moulton, a Methodist clergyman at Marlboro, Mass. and
five years a resident of Georgia.
"The food, or 'feed' of slaves is generally of the _poorest_ kind."
The "Western Medical Reformer," in an article on the diseases peculiar
to negroes, by a Kentucky physician, says of the diet of the slaves;
"They live on a coarse, _crude, unwholesome diet_."
Professor A.G. Smith, of the New York Medical College; formerly a
physician in Louisville, Kentucky.
I have myself known numerous instances of large families of _badly
fed_ negroes swept off by a prevailing epidemic; and it is well known
to many intelligent planters in the south, that the best method of
preventing that horrible malady, _Chachexia Africana_, is to feed the
negroes with _nutritious_ food.
4. NUMBER AND TIME OF MEALS EACH DAY.
In determining whether or not the slaves suffer for want of food, the
number of hours intervening, and the labor performed between their
meals, and the number of meals each day, should be taken into
Philemon Bliss, Esq., a lawyer in Elyria, Ohio, and member of the
Presbyterian church, who lived in Florida, in 1834, and 1835.
"The slaves go to the field in the morning; they carry with them corn
meal wet with water, and at _noon_ build a fire on the ground and bake
it in the ashes. After the labors of the day are over, they take their
_second_ meal of ash-cake."
President Edwards, the younger.
"The slaves eat _twice_ during the day."
Mr. Eleazar Powell, Chippewa, Beaver county, Penn., who resided in
Mississippi in 1836 and 1837.
"The slaves received _two_ meals during the day. Those who have their
food cooked for them get their breakfast about eleven o'clock, and
their other meal _after night_."
Mr. Nehemiah Caulkins, Waterford, Conn., who spent eleven winters in
"The _breakfast_ of the slaves was generally about _ten or eleven_
Rev. Phineas Smith, Centreville, N.Y., who has lived at the south some
"The slaves have usually _two_ meals a day, viz: at eleven o'clock
and at night."
Rev. C.S. Renshaw, Quincy, Illinois--the testimony of a Virginian.
"The slaves have _two_ meals a day. They breakfast at from ten to
eleven, A.M., and eat their supper at from six to nine or ten at
night, as the season and crops may be."
The preceding testimony establishes the following points.
1st. That the slaves are allowed, in general, _no meat_. This appears
from the fact, that in the _only_ slave states which regulate the
slaves' rations _by law_, (North Carolina and Louisiana,) the _legal
ration_ contains _no meat_. Besides, the late Hon. R.J. Turnbull, one
of the largest planters in South Carolina, says expressly, "meat, when
given, is only by the way of indulgence or favor." It is shown also by
the direct testimony recorded above, of slaveholders and others, in
all parts of the slaveholding south and west, that the general
allowance on plantations is corn or meal and salt merely. To this
there are doubtless many exceptions, but they are _only_ exceptions;
the number of slaveholders who furnish meat for their _field-hands_,
is small, in comparison with the number of those who do not. The
house slaves, that is, the cooks, chambermaids, waiters, &c.,
generally get some meat every day; the remainder bits and bones of
their masters' tables. But that the great body of the slaves, those
that compose the field gangs, whose labor and exposure, and consequent
exhaustion, are vastly greater than those of house slaves, toiling as
they do from day light till dark, in the fogs of the early morning,
under the scorchings of mid-day, and amid the damps of evening, are
_in general_ provided with _no meat_, is abundantly established by the
Now we do not say that meat _is necessary_ to sustain men under hard
and long continued labor, nor that it is _not_. This is not a treatise
on dietetics; but it is a notorious fact, that the medical faculty in
this country, with very few exceptions, do most strenuously insist
that it is necessary; and that working men in all parts of the country
do _believe_ that meat is indispensable to sustain them, even those
who work within doors, and only ten hours a day, every one knows.
Further, it is notorious, that the slaveholders themselves _believe_
the daily use of meat to be absolutely necessary to the comfort, not
merely of those who labor, but of those who are idle, as is proved by
the fact of meat being a part of the daily ration of food provided for
convicts in the prisons, in every one of the slave states, except in
those rare cases where meat is expressly prohibited, and the convict
is, by _way of extra punishment_ confined to bread and water; he is
occasionally, and for a little time only, confined to bread and water;
that is, to the _ordinary diet_ of slaves, with this difference in
favor of the convict, his bread is made for him, whereas the slave is
forced to pound or grind his own corn and make his own bread, when
exhausted with toil.
The preceding testimony shows also, that _vegetables_ form generally
no part of the slaves' allowance. The _sole_ food of the majority is
_corn_: at every meal--from day to day--from week to week--from month
to month, _corn_. In South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, the sweet
potato is, to a considerable extent, substituted for corn during a
part of the year.
2d. The preceding testimony proves conclusively, that the _quantity of
food_ generally allowed to a full-grown field-hand, is a peck of corn
a week, or a fraction over a quart and a gill of corn a day. The legal
ration of North Carolina is _less_--in Louisiana it is _more_. Of the
slaveholders and other witnesses, who give the fore-going testimony,
the reader will perceive that no one testifies to a larger allowance
of corn than a peck for a week; though a number testify, that within
the circle of their knowledge, _seven_ quarts was the usual allowance.
Frequently a small quantity of meat is added; but this, as has already
been shown, is not the general rule for _field-hands_. We may add,
also, that in the season of "pumpkins," "cimblins," "cabbages,"
"greens," &c., the slaves on small plantations are, to some extent,
furnished with those articles.
Now, without entering upon the vexed question of how much food is
necessary to sustain the human system, under severe toil and exposure,
and without giving the opinions of physiologists as to the
insufficiency or sufficiency of the slaves' allowance, we affirm that
all civilized nations have, in all ages, and in the most emphatic
manner, declared, that _eight quarts of corn a week_, (the usual
allowance of our slaves,) is utterly insufficient to sustain the human
body, under such toil and exposure as that to which the slaves are
To show this fully, it will be necessary to make some estimates, and
present some statistics. And first, the northern reader must bear in
mind, that the corn furnished to the slaves at the south, is almost
invariably the _white gourd seed_ corn, and that a quart of this kind
of corn weighs five or six ounces _less_ than a quart of "flint corn,"
the kind generally raised in the northern and eastern states;
consequently a peck of the corn generally given to the slaves, would
be only equivalent to a fraction more than six quarts and a pint of
the corn commonly raised in the New England States, New York, New
Jersey, &c. Now, what would be said of the northern capitalist, who
should allow his laborers but _six quarts and five gills of corn for a
Further, it appears in evidence, that the corn given to the slaves is
often _defective_. This, the reader will recollect, is the voluntary
testimony of Thomas Clay, Esq., the Georgia planter, whose testimony
is given above. When this is the case, the amount of actual nutriment
contained in a peck of the "gourd seed," may not be more than in five,
or four, or even three quarts of "flint corn."
As a quart of southern corn weighs at least five ounces less than a
quart of northern corn, it requires little arithmetic to perceive,
that the daily allowance of the slave fed upon that kind of corn,
would contain about one third of a pound less nutriment than though
his daily ration were the same quantity of northern corn, which would
amount, in a year, to more than a hundred and twenty pounds of human
sustenance! which would furnish the slave with his full allowance of a
peck of corn a week for two months! It is unnecessary to add, that
this difference in the weight of the two kinds of corn, is an item too
important to be overlooked. As one quart of the southern corn weighs
one pound and eleven-sixteenths of a pound, it follows that it would
be about one pound and six-eighths of a pound. We now solicit the
attention of the reader to the following unanimous testimony, of the
civilized world, to the utter insufficiency of this amount of food to
sustain human beings under labor. This testimony is to be found in the
laws of all civilized nations, which regulate the rations of soldiers
and sailors, disbursements made by governments for the support of
citizens in times of public calamity, the allowance to convicts in
prisons, &c. We will begin with the United States.
The daily ration for each United States soldier, established by act of
Congress, May 30, 1796. was the following: one pound of beef, one
pound of bread, half a gill of spirits; and at the rate of one quart
of salt, two quarts of vinegar, two pounds of soap, and one pound of
candles to every hundred rations. To those soldiers "who were on the
frontiers," (where the labor and exposure were greater,) the ration
was one pound two ounces of beef and one pound two ounces of bread.
Laws U.S. vol. 3d, sec. 10, p. 431.
After an experiment of two years, the preceding ration being found
_insufficient_, it was increased, by act of Congress, July 16, 1798,
and was as follows: beef one pound and a quarter, bread one pound two
ounces; salt two quarts, vinegar four quarts, soap four pounds, and
candles one and a half pounds to the hundred rations. The preceding
allowance was afterwards still further increased.
The _present daily ration_ for the United States' soldiers, is, as we
learn from an advertisement of Captain Fulton, of the United States'
army, in a late number of the Richmond (Va.) Enquirer, as follows: one
and a quarter pounds of beef, one and three-sixteenths pounds of
bread; and at the rate of _eight quarts of beans, eight pounds of
sugar_, four pounds of coffee, two quarts of salt, four pounds of
candles, and four pounds of soap, to every hundred rations.
We have before us the daily rations provided for the emigrating Ottawa
Indians, two years since, and for the emigrating Cherokees last fall.
They were the same--one pound of fresh beef, one pound of flour, &c.
The daily ration for the United States' navy, is fourteen ounces of
bread, half a pound of beef, six ounces of pork, three ounces of rice,
three ounces of peas, one ounce of cheese, one ounce of sugar, half an
ounce of tea, one-third of a gill molasses.
The daily ration in the British army is one and a quarter pounds of
beef, one pound of bread, &c.
The daily ration in the French army is one pound of beef, one and a
half pounds of bread, one pint of wine, &c.
The common daily ration for foot soldiers on the continent, is one
pound of meat, and one and a half pounds of bread.
The _sea ration_ among the Portuguese, has become the usual ration in
the navies of European powers generally. It is as follows: "one and a
half pounds of biscuit, one pound of salt meat, one pint of wine, with
some dried fish and onions."
PRISON RATIONS.--Before giving the usual daily rations of food allowed
to convicts, in the principal prisons in the United States, we will
quote the testimony of the "American Prison Discipline Society," which
is as follows:
"The common allowance of food in the penitentiaries, is equivalent to
ONE POUND OF MEAT, ONE POUND OF BREAD, AND ONE POUND OF VEGETABLES PER
DAY. It varies a little from this in some of them, but it is generally
equivalent to it." First Report of American Prison Discipline Society,
The daily ration of food to each convict, in the principal prisons in
this country, is as follows:
In the New Hampshire State Prison, one and a quarter pounds of meal,
and fourteen ounces of beef, for _breakfast and dinner;_ and for
supper, a soup or porridge of potatos and beans, or peas, the
_quantity not limited_.
In the Vermont prison, the convicts are allowed to eat _as much as
In the Massachusetts' penitentiary, one and a half pounds of bread,
fourteen ounces of meat, half a pint of potatos, and one gill of
molasses, or one pint of milk.
In the Connecticut State Prison, one pound of beef, one pound of
bread, two and a half pounds of potatos, half a gill of molasses, with
salt, pepper, and vinegar.
In the New York State Prison, at Auburn, one pound of beef, twenty-two
ounces of flour and meal, half a gill of molasses; with two quarts of
rye, four quarts of salt, two quarts of vinegar, one and a half ounces
of pepper, and two and a half bushels of potatos to every hundred
In the New York State Prison at Sing Sing, one pound of beef, eighteen
ounces of flour and meal, besides potatos, rye coffee, and molasses.
In the New York City Prison, one pound of beef, one pound of flour;
and three pecks of potatos to every hundred rations, with other small
In the New Jersey State Prison, one pound of bread, half a pound of
beef, with potatos and cabbage, (quantity not specified,) one gill of
molasses, and a bowl of mush for supper.
In the late Walnut Street Prison, Philadelphia, one and a half pounds
of bread and meal, half a pound of beef, one pint of potatos, one gill
of molasses, and half a gill of rye, for coffee.
In the Baltimore prison, we believe the ration is the same with the
In the Pennsylvania Eastern Penitentiary, one pound of bread and one
pint of coffee for breakfast, one pint of meat soup, with potatos
without limit, for dinner, and mush and molasses for supper.
In the Penitentiary for the District of Columbia, Washington city, one
pound of beef, twelve ounces of Indian meal, ten ounces of wheat
flour, half a gill of molasses; with two quarts of rye, four quarts of
salt, four quarts of vinegar, and two and a half bushels of potatos to
every hundred rations.
RATIONS IN ENGLISH PRISONS.--The daily ration of food in the
Bedfordshire Penitentiary, is _two pounds of bread;_ and if at hard
labor, _a quart of soup for dinner._
In the Cambridge County House of Correction, three pounds of bread,
and one pint of beer.
In the Millbank General Penitentiary, one and a half pounds of bread,
one pound of potatos, six ounces of beef, with half a pint of broth
In the Gloucestershire Penitentiary, one and a half pounds of bread,
three-fourths of a pint of peas, made into soup, with beef, quantity
not stated. Also gruel, made of vegetables, quantity not stated, and
one and a half ounces of oatmeal mixed with it.
In the Leicestershire House of Correction, two pounds of bread, and
three pints of gruel; and when at hard labor, one pint of milk in
addition, and twice a week a pint of meat soup at dinner, instead of
In the Buxton House of Correction, one and a half pounds of bread, one
and a half pints of gruel, one and a half pints of soup, four-fifths
of a pound of potatos, and two-sevenths of an ounce of beef.
Notwithstanding the preceding daily ration in the Buxton Prison is
about double the usual daily allowance of our slaves, yet the visiting
physicians decided, that for those prisoners who were required to work
the tread-mill, it was _entirely sufficient_. This question was
considered at length, and publicly discussed at the sessions of the
Surry magistrates, with the benefit of medical advice; which resulted
in "large additions" to the rations of those who worked on the
tread-mill. See London Morning Chronicle, Jan. 13, 1830.
To the preceding we add the _ration of the Roman slaves_. The monthly
allowance of food to slaves in Rome was called "Dimensum." The
"Dimensum" was an allowance of wheat or of other grain, which
consisted of five _modii_ a month to each slave. Ainsworth, in his
Latin Dictionary estimates the _modius_, when used for the measurement
of grain, at _a peck and a half_ our measure, which would make the
Roman slave's allowance _two quarts of grain a day_, just double the
allowance provided for the slave by _law_ in North Carolina, and _six_
quarts more per week than the ordinary allowance of slaves in the
slave states generally, as already established by the testimony of
slaveholders themselves. But it must by no means be overlooked that
this "dimensum," or _monthly_ allowance, was far from being the sole
allowance of food to Roman slaves. In _addition_ to this, they had a
stated _daily_ allowance (_diarium_) besides a monthly allowance of
_money_, amounting to about a cent a day.
Now without further trenching on the reader's time, we add, compare
the preceding daily allowances of food to soldiers and sailors in this
and other countries; to convicts in this and other countries; to
bodies of emigrants rationed at public expense; and finally, with the
fixed allowance given to Roman slaves, and we find the states of this
Union, the _slave_ states as well as the free, the United States'
government, the different European governments, the old Roman empire,
in fine, we may add, the _world_, ancient and modern, uniting in the
testimony that to furnish men at hard labor from daylight till dark
with but 1-1/2 lbs. of _corn_ per day, their sole sustenance, is to
MURDER THEM BY PIECE-MEAL. The reader will perceive by examining the
preceding statistics that the _average daily_ ration throughout this
country and Europe exceeds the usual slave's allowance _at least a
pound a day_; also that one-third of this ration for soldiers and
convicts in the United States, and for solders and sailors in Europe
is _meat_, generally beef; whereas the allowance of the mass of our
slaves is corn, only. Further, the convicts in our prisons are
sheltered from the heat of the sun, and from the damps of the early
morning and evening, from cold, rain, &c.; whereas, the great body of
the slaves are exposed to all of these, in their season, from daylight
till dark; besides this, they labor more hours in the day than
convicts, as will be shown under another head, and are obliged to
prepare and cook their own food after they have finished the labor of
the day, while the convicts have theirs prepared for them. These, with
other circumstances, necessarily make larger and longer draughts upon
the strength of the slave, produce consequently greater exhaustion,
and demand a larger amount of food to restore and sustain the laborer
than is required by the convict in his briefer, less exposed, and less
That the slaveholders themselves regard the usual allowance of food to
slaves as insufficient, both in kind and quantity, for hard-working
men, is shown by the fact, that in all the slave states, we believe
without exception, _white_ convicts at hard labor, have a much
_larger_ allowance of food than the usual one of slaves; and generally
more than _one third_ of this daily allowance is meat. This conviction
of slaveholders shows itself in various forms. When persons wish to
hire slaves to labor on public works, in addition to the inducement of
high wages held out to masters to hire out their slaves, the
contractors pledge themselves that a certain amount of food shall be
given the slaves, taking care to specify a _larger_ amount than the
usual allowance, and a part of it _meat_.
The following advertisement is an illustration. We copy it from the
"Daily Georgian," Savannah, Dec. 14, 1838.
The Contractors upon the Brunswick and Alatamaha Canal are desirous to
hire a number of prime Negro Men, from the 1st October next, for
fifteen months, until the 1st January, 1810. They will pay at the rate
of eighteen dollars per month for each prime hand.
These negroes will be employed in the excavation of the Canal. They
will be provided with _three and a half pounds of pork or bacon, and
ten quarts of gourd seed corn per week_, lodged in comfortable
shantees and attended constantly a skilful physician. J.H. COUPER,
But we have direct testimony to this point. The late Hon. John Taylor,
of Caroline Co. Virginia, for a long time Senator in Congress, and for
many years president of the Agricultural Society of the State, says in
his "Agricultural Essays," No. 30, page 97, "BREAD ALONE OUGHT NEVER
TO BE CONSIDERED A SUFFICIENT DIET FOR SLAVES EXCEPT AS A PUNISHMENT."
He urges upon the planters of Virginia to give their slaves, in
addition to bread, "salt meat and vegetables," and adds, "we shall be
ASTONISHED to discover upon trial, that this great comfort to them is
a profit to the master."
The Managers of the American Prison Discipline Society, in their third
Report, page 58, say, "In the Penitentiaries generally, in the United
States, the animal food is equal to one pound of meat per day for each
Most of the actual suffering from hunger on the part of the slaves, is
in the sugar and cotton-growing region, where the crops are exported
and the corn generally purchased from the upper country. Where this is
the case there cannot but be suffering. The contingencies of bad
crops, difficult transportation, high prices, &c. &c., naturally
occasion short and often precarious allowances. The following extract
from a New Orleans paper of April 26, 1837, affords an illustration.
The writer in describing the effects of the money pressure in
"They, (the planters,) are now left without provisions and the means
of living and using their industry, for the present year. In this
dilemma, planters whose crops have been from 100 to 700 bales, find
themselves forced to sacrifice many of their slaves in order to get
the common necessaries of life for the support of themselves and the
rest of their negroes. In many places, heavy planters compel their
slaves to fish for the means of subsistence, rather than sell them at
such ruinous rates. There are at this moment THOUSANDS OF SLAVES in
Mississippi, that KNOW NOT WHERE THE NEXT MORSEL IS TO COME FROM. The
master must be ruined to save the wretches from being STARVED."
THE SLAVES ARE OVERWORKED.
This is abundantly proved by the number of hours that the slaves are
obliged to be in the field. But before furnishing testimony as to
their hours of labor and rest, we will present the express
declarations of slaveholders and others, that the slaves are severely
driven in the field.
The Senate and House of Representatives of the State of South
"Many owners of slaves, and others who have the management of slaves,
_do confine them so closely at hard labor that they have not
sufficient time for natural rest_.--See 2 Brevard's Digest of the Laws
of South Carolina, 243."
History of Carolina.--Vol. I, page 190.
"So _laborious_ is the task of raising, beating, and cleaning rice,
that had it been possible to obtain European servants in sufficient
numbers, _thousands and tens of thousands_ MUST HAVE PERISHED."
Hon. Alexander Smyth, a slaveholder, and member of Congress from
Virginia, in his speech on the "Missouri question," Jan. 28, 1820.
"Is it not obvious that the way to render their situation _more
comfortable_, is to allow them to be taken where there is not the same
motive to force the slave to INCESSANT TOIL that there is in the
country where cotton, sugar, and tobacco are raised for exportation.
It is proposed to hem in the blacks _where they are_ HARD WORKED,
that they may be rendered unproductive and the race be prevented from
increasing. * * * The proposed measure would be EXTREME CRUELTY to the
blacks. * * * You would * * * doom them to HARD LABOR."
"Travels in Louisiana," translated from the French by John Davies,
"At the rolling of sugars, an interval of from two to three months,
they _work both night and day_. Abridged of their sleep, they _scarce
retire to rest during the whole period_."
The Western Review, No. 2,--article "Agriculture of Louisiana."
"The work is admitted to be severe for the hands, (slaves,) requiring
when the process is commenced to be _pushed night and day_."
W.C. Gildersleeve, Esq., a native of Georgia, elder of the
Presbyterian church, Wilkesbarre, Penn.
"_Overworked_ I know they (the slaves) are."
Mr. Asa A. Stone, a theological student, near Natchez, Miss., in 1834
"Every body here knows _overdriving_ to be one of the most common
occurrences, the planters do not deny it, except, perhaps, to
Philemon Bliss, Esq., a lawyer of Elyria, Ohio, who lived in Florida
in 1834 and 1835.
"During the cotton-picking season they usually labor in the field
during the whole of the daylight, and then spend a good part of the
night in ginning and baling. The labor required is very frequently
excessive, and speedily impairs the constitution."
Hon. R.J. Turnbull of South Carolina, a slaveholder, speaking of the
harvesting of cotton, says:
"_All the pregnant women_ even, on the plantation, and weak and
_sickly_ negroes incapable of other labour, are then _in
HOURS OF LABOR AND REST.
Asa A. Stone, theological student, a classical teacher near Natchez,
"It is a general rule on all regular plantations, that the slaves be
in the field as _soon as it is light enough for them to see to work_,
and remain there until it is _so dark that they cannot see_."
Mr. Cornelius Johnson, of Farmington, Ohio, who lived in Mississippi
a part of 1837 and 1838.
"It is the common rule for the slaves to be kept at work _fifteen
hours in the day_, and in the time of picking cotton a certain number
of pounds is required of each. If this amount is not brought in at
night, the slave is whipped, and the number of pounds lacking is added
to the next day's job; this course is often repeated from day to day."
W.C. Gildersleeve, Esq., Wilkesbarre, Penn, a native of Georgia. "It
was customary for the overseers to call out the gangs _long before
day_, say three o'clock, in the winter, while dressing out the crops;
such work as could be done by fire light (pitch pine was abundant,)
Mr. William Leftwich, a native of Virginia and son of a
slaveholder--he has recently removed to Delhi, Hamilton County, Ohio.
"_From dawn till dark_, the slaves are required to bend to their
Mr. Nehemiah Caulkins, Waterford, Conn., a resident in North Carolina
"The slaves are obliged to work _from daylight till dark_, as long as
they can see."
Mr. Eleazar Powel, Chippewa, Beaver county, Penn., who lived in
Mississippi in 1836 and 1837.
"The slaves had to cook and eat their breakfast and be in the field by
_daylight, and continue there till dark_."
Philemon Bliss, Esq., a lawyer in Elyria, Ohio, who resided in Florida
in 1834 and 1835.
"The slaves commence labor _by daylight_ in the morning, and do not
leave the field _till dark_ in the evening."
"Travels in Louisiana," page 87.
"Both in summer and winter the slave must _be in the field by the
first dawning of day_."
Mr. Henry E. Knapp, member of a Christian church in Farmington, Ohio,
who lived in Mississippi in 1837 and 1838.
"The slaves were made to work, from _as soon as they could see_ in the
morning, till as late as they could see at night. Sometimes they were
made to work till nine o'clock at night, in such work as they could
do, as burning cotton stalks, &c."
A New Orleans paper, dated March 23, 1826, says: "To judge from the
activity reigning in the cotton presses of the suburbs of St. Mary,
and the _late hours_ during which their slaves work, the cotton trade
was never more brisk."
Mr. GEORGE W. WESTGATE, a member of the Congregational Church at
Quincy, Illinois, who lived in the south western slaves states a
number of years says, "the slaves are driven to the field in the
morning _about four o'clock_, the general calculation is to get them
at work by daylight; the time for breakfast is between nine and ten
o'clock, this meal is sometimes eaten '_bite and work_,' others allow
fifteen minutes, and this is the only rest the slave has while in the
field. I have never known a case of stopping for an hour, in
Louisiana; in Mississippi the rule is milder, though entirely subject
to the will of the master. On cotton plantations, in cotton picking
time, that is from October to Christmas, each hand has a certain
quantity to pick, and is flogged if his task is not accomplished;
their tasks are such as to keep them all the while busy."
The preceding testimony under this head has sole reference to the
actual labor of the slaves _in the field_. In order to determine how
many hours are left for sleep, we must take into the account, the time
spent in going to and from the field, which is often at a distance of
one, two and sometimes three miles; also the time necessary for
pounding, or grinding their corn, and preparing, overnight, their food
for the next day; also the preparation of tools, getting fuel and
preparing it, making fires and cooking their suppers, if they have
any, the occasional mending and washing of their clothes, &c. Besides
this, as everyone knows who has lived on a southern plantation, many
little errands and _chores_ are to be done for their masters and
mistresses, old and young, which have accumulated during the day and
been kept in reserve till the slaves return from the field at night.
To this we may add that the slaves are _social_ beings, and that
during the day, silence is generally enforced by the whip of the
overseer or driver. When they return at night, their pent up social
feelings will seek vent, it is a law of nature, and though the body
may be greatly worn with toil, this law cannot be wholly stifled.
Sharers of the same woes, they are drawn together by strong
affinities, and seek the society and sympathy of their fellows; even
"_tired_ nature" will joyfully forego for a time needful rest, to
minister to a want of its being equally permanent and imperative as
the want of sleep, and as much more profound, as the yearnings of the
higher nature surpass the instincts of its animal appendage.
[Footnote 3: We do not mean that they are not suffered to _speak_, but,
that, as conversation would be a hindrance to labour, they are
generally permitted to indulge in it but little.]
All these things make drafts upon _time_. To show how much of the
slave's time, which is absolutely indispensable for rest and sleep, is
necessarily spent in various labors after his return from the field at
night, we subjoin a few testimonies.
Mr. CORNELIUS JOHNSON, Farmington, Ohio, who lived in Mississippi in
the years 1837 and 38, says:
"On all the plantations where I was acquainted, the slaves were kept
in the field till dark; after which, those who had to grind their own
corn, had that to attend to, get their supper, attend to other family
affairs of their own and of their master, such as bringing water,
washing, clothes, &c. &c., and be in the field as soon as it was
sufficiently light to commence work in the morning."
Mr. GEORGE W. WESTGATE, of Quincy, Illinois, who has spent several
years in the south western slave states, says:
"Their time, after full dark until four o'clock in the morning is
their own; this fact alone would seem to say they have sufficient
rest, but there are other things to be considered; much of their
making, mending and washing of clothes, preparing and cooking food,
hauling and chopping wood, fixing and preparing tools, and a variety
of little nameless jobs must be done between those hours."
PHILEMON BLISS, Esq. of Elyria, Ohio, who resided in Florida in 1834
and 5, gives the following testimony:
"After having finished their field labors, they are occupied till nine
or ten o'clock in doing _chores_, such as grinding corn, (as all the
corn in the vicinity is ground by hand,) chopping wood, taking care of
horses, mules, &c., and a thousand things necessary to be done on a
large plantation. If any extra job is to be done, it must not hinder
the 'niggers' from their work, but must be done in the night."
W.C. GILDERSLEEVE, Esq., a native of Georgia, an elder of the
Presbyterian Church at Wilkes-barre, Pa. says:
"The corn is ground in a handmill by the slave _after his task is
done_--generally there is but one mill on the plantation, and as but
one can grind at a time, the mill is going sometimes _very late at
We now present another class of facts and testimony, showing that the
slaves engaged in raising the large staples, are _overworked_.
In September, 1831, the writer of this had an interview with JAMES G.
BIRNEY, Esq., who then resided in Kentucky, having removed with his
family from Alabama the year before. A few hours before that
interview, and on the morning of the same day, Mr. B. had spent a
couple of hours with Hon. Henry Clay, at his residence, near
Lexington. Mr. Birney remarked, that Mr. Clay had just told him, he
had lately been led to mistrust certain estimates as to the increase
of the slave population in the far south west--estimates which he had
presented, I think, in a speech before the Colonization Society. He
now believed, that the births among the slaves in that quarter were
_not equal to the deaths_--and that, of course, the slave population,
independent of immigration from the slave-selling states, was _not
Among other facts stated by Mr. Clay, was the following, which we copy
_verbatim_ from the original memorandum, made at the time by Mr.
Birney, with which he has kindly furnished us.
"Sept. 16, 1834.--Hon. H. Clay, in a conversation at his own house, on
the subject of slavery, informed me, that Hon. Outerbridge Horsey,
formerly a senator in Congress from the state of Delaware, and the
owner of a sugar plantation in Louisiana, declared to him, that his
overseer worked his hands so closely, that one of the women brought
forth a child whilst engaged in the labors of the field.
"Also, that a few years since, he was at a brick yard in the environs
of New Orleans, in which one hundred hands were employed; among them
were from _twenty to thirty young women_, in the prime of life. He was
told by the proprietor, that there had _not been a child born among
them for the last two or three years, although they all had
The preceding testimony of Mr. Clay, is strongly corroborated by
advertisements of slaves, by Courts of Probate, and by executors
administering upon the estates of deceased persons. Some of those
advertisements for the sale of slaves, contain the names, ages,
accustomed employment, &c., of all the slaves upon the plantation of
the deceased. These catalogues show large numbers of young men and
women, almost all of them between twenty and thirty-eight years old;
and yet the number of young children is _astonishingly small_. We have
laid aside many lists of this kind, in looking over the newspapers of
the slaveholding states; but the two following are all we can lay our
hands on at present. One is in the "Planter's Intelligencer,"
Alexandria, La., March 22, 1837, containing one hundred and thirty
slaves; and the other in the New Orleans Bee, a few days later, April
8, 1837, containing fifty-one slaves. The former is a "Probate sale"
of the slaves belonging to the estate of Mr. Charles S. Lee, deceased,
and is advertised by G.W. Keeton, Judge of the Parish of Concordia,
La. The sex, name, and age of each slave are contained in the
advertisement which fills two columns. The following are some of the
The whole number of slaves is _one hundred and thirty_. Of these,
_only three are over forty years old_. There are _thirty-five females_
between the ages of _sixteen and thirty-three_, and yet there are only
THIRTEEN children under the age of _thirteen years!_
It is impossible satisfactorily to account for such a fact, on any
other supposition, than that these thirty-five females were so
overworked, or underfed, or both, as to prevent child-bearing.
The other advertisement is that of a "Probate sale," ordered by the
Court of the Parish of Jefferson--including the slaves of Mr. William
Gormley. The whole number of slaves is fifty-one; the sex, age, and
accustomed labors of each are given. The oldest of these slaves is but
_thirty-nine years old_: of the females, _thirteen_ are between the
ages of sixteen and thirty-two, and the oldest female is but
_thirty-eight_--and yet there are but _two children under eight years
Another proof that the slaves in the south-western states are
over-worked, is the fact, that so few of them live to old age. A large
majority of them are _old_ at middle age, and few live beyond
fifty-five. In one of the preceding advertisements, out of one hundred
and thirty slaves, only _three_ are over forty years old! In the
other, out of fifty-one slaves, only _two_ are over _thirty-five_; the
oldest is but thirty-nine, and the way in which he is designated in
the advertisement, is an additional proof, that what to others is
"middle age," is to the slaves in the south-west "old age:" he is
advertised as "_old_ Jeffrey."
But the proof that the slave population of the south-west is so
over-worked that it cannot _supply its own waste_, does not rest upon
mere inferential evidence. The Agricultural Society of Baton Rouge,
La., in its report, published in 1829, furnishes a labored estimate of
the amount of expenditure necessarily incurred in conducting "a
well-regulated sugar estate." In this estimate, the annual net loss
of slaves, over and above the supply by propagation, is set down at
TWO AND A HALF PER CENT! The late Hon. Josiah S. Johnson, a member of
Congress from Louisiana, addressed a letter to the Secretary of the
United States' Treasury, in 1830, containing a similar estimate,
apparently made with great care, and going into minute details. Many
items in this estimate differ from the preceding; but the estimate of
the annual _decrease_ of the slaves on a plantation was the same--TWO
AND A HALF PER CENT!
The following testimony of Rev. Dr. Channing, of Boston, who resided
some time in Virginia, shows that the over-working of slaves, to such
an extent as to abridge life, and cause a decrease of population, is
not confined to the far south and south-west.
"I heard of an estate managed by an individual who was considered as
singularly successful, and who was able to govern the slaves without
the use of the whip. I was anxious to see him, and trusted that some
discovery had been made favorable to humanity. I asked him how he was
able to dispense with corporal punishment. He replied to me, with a
very determined look, 'The slaves know that the work _must_ be done,
and that it is better to do it without punishment than with it.' In
other words, the certainty and dread of chastisement were so impressed
on them, that they never incurred it.
"I then found that the slaves on this well-managed estate, _decreased_
in number. I asked the cause. He replied, with perfect frankness and
ease, 'The gang is not large enough for the estate.' In other words,
they were not equal to the work of the plantation, and, yet were _made
to do it_, though with the certainty of abridging life.
"On this plantation the huts were uncommonly convenient. There was an
unusual air of neatness. A superficial observer would have called the
slaves happy. Yet they were living under a severe, subduing
discipline, and were _over-worked_ to a degree that _shortened
life_."--_Channing on Slavery_, page 162, first edition.
PHILEMON BLISS, Esq., a lawyer of Elyria, Ohio, who spent some time in
Florida, gives the following testimony to the over-working of the
"It is not uncommon for hands, in hurrying times, beside working all
day, to labor half the night. This is usually the case on sugar
plantations, during the sugar-boiling season; and on cotton, during
its gathering. Beside the regular task of picking cotton, averaging of
the short staple, when the crop is good, 100 pounds a day to the hand,
the ginning (extracting the seed,) and baling was done in the night.
Said Mr. ---- to me, while conversing upon the customary labor of
slaves, 'I work my niggers in a hurrying time till 11 or 12 o'clock at
night, and have them up by four in the morning.'
"Beside the common inducement, the desire of gain, to make a large
crop, the desire is increased by that spirit of gambling, so common at
the south. It is very common to _bet_ on the issue of a crop. A.
lays a wager that, from a given number of hands, he will make more
cotton than B. The wager is accepted, and then begins the contest; and
who bears the burden of it? How many tears, yea, how many broken
constitutions, and premature deaths, have been the effect of this
spirit? From the desperate energy of purpose with which the gambler
pursues his object, from the passions which the practice calls into
exercise, we might conjecture many. Such is the fact. In Middle
Florida, a _broken-winded_ negro is more common than a _broken-winded_
horse; though usually, when they are declared unsound, or when their
constitution is so broken that their recovery is despaired of, they
are exported to New Orleans, to drag out the remainder of their days
in the cane-field and sugar house. I would not insinuate that all
planters gamble upon their crops; but I mention the practice as one of
the common inducements to 'push niggers.' Neither would I assert that
all planters drive the hands to the injury of their health. I give it
as a _general_ rule in the district of Middle Florida, and I have no
reason to think that negroes are driven worse there than in other
fertile sections. People there told me that the situation of the
slaves was far better than in Mississippi and Louisiana. And from
comparing the crops with those made in the latter states, and for
other reasons, I am convinced of the truth of their statements."
DR. DEMMING, a gentleman of high respectability, residing in Ashland,
Richland county, Ohio, stated to Professor Wright, of New York city,
"That during a recent tour at the south, while ascending the Ohio
river, on the steamboat Fame, he had an opportunity of conversing with
a Mr. Dickinson, a resident of Pittsburg, in company with a number of
cotton-planters and slave-dealers, from Louisiana, Alabama, and
Mississippi, Mr. Dickinson stated as a fact, that the sugar planters
upon the sugar coast in Louisiana had ascertained, that, as it was
usually necessary to employ about _twice_ the amount of labor during
the boiling season, that was required during the season of raising,
they could, by excessive driving, day and night, during the boiling
season, accomplish the whole labor _with one set of hands_. By
pursuing this plan, they could afford _to sacrifice a set of hands
once in seven years!_ He further stated that this horrible system was
now practised to a considerable extent! The correctness of this
statement was substantially admitted by the slaveholders then on
The late MR. SAMUEL BLACKWELL, a highly respected citizen of Jersey
city, opposite the city of New York, and a member of the Presbyterian
church, visited many of the sugar plantations in Louisiana a few years
since: and having for many years been the owner of an extensive sugar
refinery in England, and subsequently in this country, he had not only
every facility afforded him by the planters, for personal inspection
of all parts of the process of sugar-making, but received from them
the most unreserved communications, as to their management of their
slaves. Mr. B., after his return, frequently made the following
statement to gentlemen of his acquaintance,--"That the planters
generally declared to him, that they were _obliged_ so to over-work
their slaves during the sugar-making season, (from eight to ten
weeks,) as to use _them up_ in seven or eight years. For, said they,
after the process is commenced, it must be pushed without cessation,
night and day; and we cannot afford to keep a sufficient number of
slaves to do the _extra_ work at the time of sugar-making, as we could
not profitably employ them the rest of the year."
It is not only true of the sugar planters, but of the slaveholders
generally throughout the far south and south west, that they believe
it for their interest to wear out the slaves by excessive toil in