PRIVATIONS OF THE SLAVES.
American Slavery As It Is
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839
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 without covering.
Other cruelties may be perpetrated in hot blood and the act 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 OTHERS
|Hon. Alexander Smyth, a slave holder, and for ten years, Member of Congress
from Virginia, in his speech on the Missouri question. Jan 28th, 1820.
||"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, 1739.
||"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
|Rev. John Rankin, of Ripley, Ohio, a native of Tennessee, and for some
year's 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.,
||"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 starving.''
|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 favor.''
|Mr. Eleazar Powell, Chippewa, Beaver Co., Penn., who resided in Mississippi,
||"The food of the slaves was generally corn bread, and sometimes meat or molasses.''
|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 Monday 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 99
out of a 100 of all the slaves in that county saw meat
but once a year, which was on Christmas holidays.”
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 clergymen
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
|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 year.''
|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
|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
||"A peck of corn is their (the slaves,) miserable
subsistence for a week.''
|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 Blacks;''
||"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 Christmas.''
|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, then, power
to sustain labor must be greatly diminished.
|Thomas Clay, Esq. of Georgia, in an address to the Georgia Presbytery,
1834, speaking of the quality of the corn given to the slaves, says,
||"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 consideration.
|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 o'clock.''
|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 preceding testimony.
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,
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 foregoing 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
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 subjected.
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 quart and five gills of corn
for a week's provisions?
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 elevensixteenths 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.
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, page 13.
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 they wish.
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
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,
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 rations.
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 articles.
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 preceding.
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 gruel.
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 insufficient. 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 1⅞
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 soldiers 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 exhausting
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, 1840. 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 by
a skilful physician.
J. H. COUPER
, P. M. NIGHTINGALE.
But we have direct testimony to this point. The late Hon. John Taylor,
of Caroline Co. Virginia, for many years 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 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 convict.”
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 Mississippi, says:
“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”
American Slavery As It Is
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839
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 States of South Carolina.
||"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 120.
||"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 thousands MUST HAVE PERISHED.''
|Hon. Alenxander 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 the 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,
|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 labor,
are then in requisition.''
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 work.''
|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
|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 slave 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 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, over night,
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
every one 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
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
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 Wilkesbarre, says:
“The corn is ground in a handmill by the slave after his task is done—generally there is but one mill on a plantation,
and as but one can grind at a time, the mill is going sometimes very late at night.”
We now present another class of facts and testimony, showing that the slaves
engaged in raising the large staples, are overworked.
In September, 1834, 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 sustaining itself.
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, declraed 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 husbands.”
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 particulars.
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 old!
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 proceding; 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
“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
“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
“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 slaves:
“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
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
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 board.”
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 eight or ten years after they
put them into the field.*
Rev. DOCTOR REED, of London, who went through
Kentucky, Virginia and Maryland in the summer of 1834, gives the following
“I was told confidently and from excellent
authority, that recently at a meeting of planters in South Carolina,
the question was seriously discussed whether the slave is more profitable
to the owner, if well fed, well clothed, and worked lightly, or if made the
most of at once, and exhausted in some eight years.
The decision was in favor of the last alternative. That decision will perhaps
make many shudder. But to my mind this is not the chief evil. The greater
and original evil is considering the slave as property
. If he is only property and my property, then I have some right to ask
how I may make that property most available.”“Visit
to the American Churches,” by Rev. Drs. Reed and Mattheson. Vol. 2.
Rev. JOHN O. CHOULES, recently pastor of the
Baptist Church at New Bedford, Massachusetts, now of Buffalo, New York, made
substantially the following statement in a speech in Boston.
“While attending the Baptist Triennial Convention at Richmond,
Virginia, in the spring of 1835, as a delegate from Massachusetts, I had a
conversation on slavery, with an officer of the Baptist Church in that city,
at whose house I was a guest. I asked my host if he did not apprehend that
the slaves would eventually rise and exterminate their masters.
said the gentleman, “I used to apprehend such a catastrophe, but God
has made a providential opening, a merciful safety valve,
and now I do not feel alarmed in the prospect
of what is coming. 'What do you mean, said Mr. Choules, 'by providence opening
a merciful safety valve?' Why, said the gentleman, I will tell you; the slave
traders come from the cotton and sugar plantations of the South and are willing
to buy up more slaves than we can part with. We must keep a stock for the
purpose of rearing slaves, but we part with the most
valuable, and at the same time, the most dangerous,
and the demand is very constant and likely to be so, for when they go to these
southern states, the average existence IS ONLY FIVE YEARS
Monsieur C. C. ROBIN, a highly intelligent French
gentleman, who resided in Louisiana from 1802 to 1806, and published a volume
of travels, gives the following testimony to the over-working of the slaves
“I have been a witness, that after the fatigue of the day, their
labors have been prolonged several hours by the light of the moon; and then,
before they could think of rest, they must pound and cook their corn; and
yet, long before day, an implacable scold, whip in hand, would arouse them
from their slumbers. Thus, of more than
twenty negroes, who in twenty years should have doubled, the number was reduced to four or five.”
In conclusion we add, that slaveholders have in the most public and emphatic
manner declared themselves guilty of barbarous inhumanity toward their slaves
in exacting from them such long continued daily labor.
The Legislatures of Maryland, Virginia and Georgia, have passed laws providing
that convicts in their state prisons and penitentiaries, “shall be employed
in work each day in the year except Sundays, not exceeding eight hours, in the months of November, December, and January; nine hours, in the months of February and October, and ten hours in the rest of the year.” Now contrast this legal exaction of labor from CONVICTS with the
exaction from slaves as established by the preceding testimony. The reader
perceives that the amount of time, in which by the preceding laws of Maryland, Virginia, and Georgia, the convicts
in their prisons are required to labor, is on an average during the
year but little more than NINE HOURS daily. Whereas,
the laws of South Carolina permit the master to compel
his slaves to work FIFTEEN HOURS in the twenty-four,
in summer, and FOURTEEN in the winter—which would
be in winter, from daybreak in the morning until four hours
after sunset!—See 2 Brevard's Digest, 243.
The other slave states, except Louisiana, have no laws
respecting the labor of slaves, consequently if the master should work
his slaves day and night without sleep till they drop dead, he violates no law!
The law of Louisiana provides for the slaves but TWO
AND A HALF HOURS in the twenty-four for “rest!” See law of
Louisiana, act of July 7, 1806, Martin's Digest 6. 10—12.
American Slavery As It Is
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839
We propose to show under this head, that the clothing of the slaves by
day, and their covering by night, are inadequate, either for comfort or decency.
|Hon. T. T. Bouldin, a slave-holder, and member of Congress from Virginia,
in a speech in Congress, Feb. 16, 1835.
||Mr. Bouldin said "he knew that many negroes
had died from exposure to weather,'' and added, "they
are clad in a flimsy fabric, that will turn neither wind
|George Buchanan, M. D., of Baltimore, member of the American Philosophical
Society, in an oration at Baltimore, July 4, 1791.
||"The slaves, naked and starved, often fall victims to the inclemencies of the weather.''
|Wm. Savery of Philadelphia an eminent Minister of the Society of Friends,
who went through the Southern states in 1791, on a religious visit: after
leaving Savannah, Ga., we find the following entry in his journal, 6th, month,
||"We rode through many rice swamps, where the blacks were very numerous,
great droves of these poor slaves, working up to the middle in water, men
and women nearly naked.''
|Rev. John Rankin, of Ripley, Ohio, a native of Tennessee.
||"In every slave-holding state, many slaves suffer
extremely, both while they labor and while they sleep, for want of clothing to keep them warm.''
|John Parrish, late of Philadelphia, a highly esteemed minister in the
Society of Friends, who travelled through the South in 1804.
||"It is shocking to the feelings of humanity, in travelling through some
of those states, to see those poor objects, [slaves,] especially in the inclement
season, in rags, and trembling
with the cold.''
||"They suffer them, both male and female, to go without
clothing at the age of ten and twelve years.''
|Rev. Phineas Smith, Centreville, Allegany, Co., N. Y. Mr. S. has just
returned from a residence of several years at the south, chiefly in Virginia,
Louisiana, and among the American settlers in Texas.
||"The apparel of the slaves, is of the coarsest sort and exceedingly deficient in quantity. I have been on many plantations, where
children of eight and ten years old, were in a state of perfect nudity. Slaves are in general wretchedly clad
|Wm. Ladd, Esq., of Minot, Maine, recently a slaveholder in Florida.
||"They were allowed two suits of clothes a year, viz. one pair of trowsers
with a shirt or frock of osnaburgh for summer; and for winter, one pair of
trowsers, and a jacket of negro cloth, with a baize shirt and a pair of shoes.
Some allowed hats, and some did not; and they were generally, I believe, allowed
one blanket in two years. Garments of similar materials were allowed the women.''
|A Kentucky physician, writing in the Western Medical Reformer, in 1836,
on the diseases peculiar to slaves, says.
||"They are imperfectly clothed both summer and
|Mr. Stephen E. Malthy, Inspector of provisions, Skeneateles, N. Y.,
who resided sometime in Alabama.
||"I was at Huntsville, Alabama, in 1818-19, I frequently saw slaves on
and around the public square, with hardly a rag of clothing
on them, and in a great many instances with but
a single garment both in summer and in winter; generally the only bed. ding
of the slaves was a blanket.''
|Reuben G. Macy, Hudson, N. Y. member of the Society of Friends, who
resided in South Carolina, in 1818 and 19.
||"Their clothing consisted of a pair of trowsers and jacket, made of
'negro cloth.' The women a petticoat, a very short 'short-gown,' and nothing else, the same kind of cloth; some of the women had an old pair
of shoes, but they generally went barefoot.''
|Mr. Lemuel Sapington, of Lancaster, Pa., a native of Maryland, and formerly
||"Their clothing is often made by themselves after night, though sometimes
assisted by the old women, who are no longer able to do out-door work; consequently
it is harsh and uncomfortable. And I have very frequently seen those who had
not attained the age of twelve years go naked.''
|Philemon Bliss, Esq., a lawyer in Elyria, Ohio, who lived in Florida
in 1834 and 35.
||"It is very common to see the younger class of slaves up to eight or
ten without any clothing, and most generally the laboring
men wear no shirts in the warm season. The perfect
nudity of the younger slaves is so familiar to the whites of both sexes, that
they seem to witness it with perfect indifference. I may add that the aged
and feeble often suffer from cold.''
|Richard Macy, a member of the Society of Friends, Hudson, N. Y., who
has lived in Georgia.
||"For bedding each slave was allowed one blanket, in which they rolled themselves up. I examined their houses,
but could not find any thing like a bed.''
|W. C. Gildersleeve, Esq., Wilkesbarre, Pa., a native of Georgia.
||"It is an every day sight to see women as well as men, with no other
covering than a few filthy rags fastened above the hips,
reaching midway to the ankles. I never knew any kind
of covering for the head given. Children of both sexes, from infancy
to ten years are seen in companies on the plantations, in a state of perfect nudity. This was so common that the most refined
and delicate beheld them unmoved.''
|Mr. William Leftwich, a native of Virginia, now a member of the Presbyterian
Church, in Delhi, Ohio.
||"The only bedding of the slaves generally consists of two old blankets.''
Advertisements like the following from the “New Orleans Bee,”
May 31, 1837, are common in the southern papers.
“10 DOLLARS REWARD.—Ranaway, the slave SOLOMON, about 28 years of age; BADLY CLOTHED.
The above reward will be paid on application to FERNANDEZ
& WHITING, No. 20, St. Louis St.
RANAWAY from the subscriber
the negress FANNY, always badly dressed, she is
about 25 or 26 years sold. JOHN MACOIN, 117 S.
The Darien (Ga.), Telegraph, of Jan. 24, 1837, in an editorial
article, hitting off the aristocracy of the planters, incidentally lets out
some secrets, about the usual clothing of the slaves.
The editor says,—“The planter looks down, with the most sovereign
contempt, on the merchant and the storekeeper. He deems himself a lord, because
he gets his two or three RAGGED servants, to row him
to his plantation every day, that he may inspect the labor of his hands.”
The following is an extract from a letter lately received from REV. C. S. RENSHAW, of Quincy, Illinois.
“I am sorry to be obliged to give more testimony without the name. An individual in whom I have great confidence, gave
me the following facts. That I am not alone in placing confidence in him,
I subjoin a testimonial from Dr. Richard Eells, Deacon of the Congregational
Church, of Quincy, and Rev. Mr. Fisher, Baptist Minister of Quincy.
“We have been acquainted with the brother who has communicated to
you some facts that fell under his observation, whilst in his native state;
he is a professed follower of our Lord, and we have great confidence in him
as a man of integrity, discretion, and strict Christian principle.
RICHARD EELLS. EZRA FISHER.
Quincy, Jan. 9th, 1839.
American Slavery As It Is
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839
TESTIMONY.—“I lived for thirty
years in Virginia, and have travelled extensively through Fauquier, Culpepper,
Jefferson, Stafford, Albemarle and Charlotte Counties; my remarks apply to
“The negro houses are miserably poor, generally
they are a shelter from neither the wind, the rain, nor the snow, and the
earth is the floor. There are exceptions to this rule, but they are only exceptions;
you may sometimes see puncheon floor, but never, or almost never a plank floor.
The slaves are generally without beds or bedsteads;
some few have cribs that they fasten up for themselves in the corner of the
hut. Their bed-clothes are a nest of rags thrown upon a crib, or in the corner;
sometimes there are three or four families in one small cabin. Where the slaveholders
have more than one family, they put them in the same quarter till it is filled,
then build another. I have seen exceptions to this, when only one family would
occupy a hut, and where were tolerably comfortable bed-clothes.
of the slaves in these counties are miserably
clad. I have
known slaves who went without shoes all winter, perfectly barefoot. The feet
of many of them are frozen. As a general fact the planters do not serve out
to their slaves, drawers, or any under clothing, or vests, or overcoats. Slaves
sometimes, by working at night and on Sundays, get better things than their
masters serve to them.
“Whilst these things are true of field-hands, it is also true that many slaveholders clothe their waiters and coachmen like gentlemen. I do not think there
is any difference between the slaves of professing Christians and others;
at all events, it is so small as to be scarcely noticeable.
have seen men and women at work in the field more than half naked: and more
than once in passing, when the overseer was not near, they would stop and
draw round them a tattered coat or some ribbons of a skirt to hide their nakedness
and shame from the stranger's eye.”
Mr. GEORGE W. WESTGATE, a member of the Congregational
Church in Quincy, Illinois, who has spent the larger part of twelve years
navigating the rivers of the south-western slave states with keel boats, as
a trader, gives the following testimony as to the clothing and lodging of
“In Lower Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana, the clothing of
the slaves is wretchedly poor; and grows worse as you go south, in the order
of the states I have named. The only material is cotton bagging, i.e. bagging
in which cotton is baled, not bagging made of cotton.
In Louisiana, especially in the lower country, I have frequently seen them
with nothing but a tattered coat, not sufficient to hide their nakedness.
In winter their clothing seldom serves the purpose of comfort, and frequently
not even of decent covering. In Louisiana the planters
never think of serving out shoes to slaves. In Mississippi they give
one pair a year generally. I never saw or heard of an instance of masters
allowing them stockings. A small
poor blanket is generally the only bed-clothing, and this they frequently
wear in the field when they have not sufficient clothing to hide their nakedness
or to keep them warm. Their manner of sleeping varies with the season. In
hot weather they stretch themselves anywhere and sleep. As it becomes cool
they roll themselves in their blankets, and lay scattered about the cabin.
In cold weather they nestle together with their feet towards the fire, promiscuously.
As a general fact the earth is their only floor and bed—not one in ten
have anything like a bedstead, and then it is a merebunk put up by themselves.”
Mr. GEORGE A. AVERY, an elder in the fourth
Congregational Church, Rochester, N. Y., who spent four years in Virginia,
says, “The slave children, very commonly of both sexes, up to the ages
of eight and ten years, and I think in some instances beyond this age, go
in a state of disgusting nudity. I have often seen
them with their tow shirt (their only article of summer clothing) which, to
all human appearance, had not been taken off from the time it was first put
on, worn off from the bottom upwards, shred by shred, until nothing remained
but the straps which passed over their shoulders,
and the less exposed portions extending a very little way below the arms,
leaving the principal part of the chest, as well as the limbs, entirely uncovered.”
SAMUEL ELLISON, a member of the Society of Friends,
formerly of Southampton Co., Virginia, now of Marlborough, Stark Co., Ohio,
says, “I knew a Methodist who was the owner of a number of slaves. The
children of both sexes, belonging to him, under twelve years of age, were entirely destitute of clothing. I have seen an old man
compelled to labor in the fields, not having rags enough to cover his nakedness.”
REV. H. LYMAN, late pastor of the Free Presbyterian
Church, in Buffalo, N. Y., in describing a tour down and up the Mississippi
river in the winter of 1832-3, says, “At the wood yards where the boats
stop, it is not uncommon to see female slaves employed in carrying wood. Their
dress which was quite uniform was provided without any reference to comfort.
They had no covering for their heads; the stuff which constituted the outer
garment was sackcloth, similar to that in which brown domestic goods are done
up. It was then December, and I thoughout that in such a dress, and being
as they were, without stockings, they must suffer
from the cold.”
Mr. Benjamin Anderson, Colerain, Lancaster Co., Pa., a member of the Society
of Friends, in a recent letter describing a short tour through the northern
part of Maryland in the winter of 1836, thus speaks of a place a few miles
from Chestertown. “About this place there were a number of slaves; very
few, if any, had either stockings or shoes; the weather
was intensely cold, and the ground covered with snow.”
The late Major Stoddard of the United States artillery, who took possession
of Louisiana for the U. S. government, under the cession of 1804, published
a book entitled “Sketches of Louisiana,” in which, speaking of
the planters of Lower Louisiana, he says, “Few of
them allow any clothing to their slaves.”
The following is an extract from the Will of the late celebrated John Randolph
“To my old and faithful servants, Essex and his wife Hetty, I
give and bequeath a pair of strong shoes, a suit of clothes and a blanket
each, to be paid them annually; also an annual hat to Essex.”
No Virginia slaveholder has ever had a better name as a “kind master,”
and “good provider” for his slaves, than John Randolph. Essex
and Hetty were favorite servants, and the memory of
the long uncompensated services of those “old and faithful servants,”
seems to have touched their master's heart. Now as this master was John Randolph, and as those servants were “faithful,” and
favorite servants, advanced in years, and worn out in his service, and as
their allowance was, in their master's eyes, of sufficient moment to constitute
a paragraph in his last will and testament, it is
fair to infer that it would be very liberal, far better
than the ordinary allowance for slaves.
Now we leave the reader to judge what must
be the usual allowance of clothing
to common field slaves in the hands of common masters, when Essex and Hetty,
the “old” and “faithful” slaves of John Randolph,
were provided, in his last will and testament, with but one suit of clothes annually, with but one blanket each for bedding, with no stockings, nor socks, nor cloaks, nor overcoats, nor handkerchiefs, nor towels, and with no change either
of under or outside garments!
American Slavery As It Is
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839
THE SLAVES ARE WRETCHEDLY SHELTERED AND
|Mr. Stephen E. Malthy, Inspector of provisions, Skaneateles, N. Y. who
has lived in Alabama.
||"The huts where the slaves slept, generally contained but one apartment, and that without floor.''
|Mr. George A. Avery, elder of the 4th Presbyterian Church, Rochester,
N. Y. who lived four years in Virginia.
||"Amongst all the negro cabins which I saw in Va., I can not call to mind one in which there was any other floor than the earth; any thing that a northern laborer, or mechanic,
white or colored, would call a bed, nor a solitary partition, to separate the sexes.''
|William Ladd, Esq., Minot, Maine. President of the American Peace Society,
formerly a slaveholder in Florida.
||"The dwellings of the slaves were palmetto huts, built by themselves
of stakes and poles, thatched with the palmetto leaf. The door, when they
had any, was generally of the same materials, sometimes boards found on the
beach. They had no floors, no separate apartments,
except the guinea negroes had sometimes a small inclosure for their 'god house.'
These huts the slaves built themselves after task and on Sundays.''
|Rev. Joseph M. Sadd, Pastor Pres. Church, Castile, Greene Co., N. Y.,
who lived in Missouri five years previous to 1837.
||"The slaves live generally in miserable huts, which are without floors, and
have a single apartment only, where both sexes are herded promiscuously together.''
|Mr. George W. Westgate, member of the Congregational Church in Quincy,
Illinois, who has spent a number of years in slave states.
||"On old plantations, the negro quarters are of frame and clapboards,
seldom affording a comfortable shelter from wind or rain; their size varies
from 8 by 10, to 10 by 12, feet, and six or eight feet high; sometimes there
is a hole cut for a window, but I never saw a sash, or glass in any. In the
new country, and in the woods, the quarters are generally built of logs, of
|Mr. Cornelius Johnson, a member of a Christian Church in Farmington,
Ohio. Mr. J. lived in Mississippi in 1837-8.
||"Their houses were commonly built of logs, sometimes they were framed,
often they had no floor, some of them have two apartments, commonly but one;
each of those apartments contained a family. Sometimes these families consisted
of a man and his wife and children, while in other instances persons of both
sexes, were thrown together without any regard to family relationship.''
|The Western Medical Reformer, in an article on the Cachexia Africana
by a Kentucky physician, thus speaks of the huts of the slaves.
||"They are crowded together in a small hut, and sometimes having an imperfect, and sometimes no floor,
and seldom raised from the ground, ill ventilated, and surrounded with filth.''
|Mr. William Leftwich, a native of Virginia, but has resided most of
his life in Madison, Co. Alabama.
||"The dwellings of the slaves are log huts, from 10 to 12 feet square,
often without windows, doors, or floors, they have neither chairs, table,
|Reuben L. Macy of Hudson, N. Y. a member of the Religious Society of
Friends. He lived in South Carolina in 1818-19.
||"The houses for the field slaves were about 14 feet square, built in
the coarsest manner, with one room, without any chim ney
or flooring, with a hole in the roof to let the smoke out.''
|Mr. Lemuel Sapington of Lancaster, Pa. a native of Maryland, formerly
||"The descriptions generally given of negro quarters, are correct; the
quarters are without floors, and not sufficient to keep
off the inclemency of the weather; they are uncomfortable both in summer
|Rev. John Rankin, a native of Tennessee.
||"When they return to their miserable huts at night, they find not there
the means of comfortable rest; but on the cold ground they
must lie without covering, and shiver while they slumber.
|Philemon Bliss, Esq. Elyria, Ohio., who lived in Forida, in 1835.
||"The dwellings of the slaves are usually small open
log huts, with but one apartment and very generally without floors.''
|Mr. W. C. Gildersleeve, Wilkesbarre, Pa., a native of Georgia.
||"Their huts were generally put up without a nail, frequently without
floors, and with a single apartment.''
|Hon. R. J. Turnbull, of South Carolina, a slaveholder.
||"The slaves live in clay cabins.''
American Slavery As It Is
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839
V. TREATMENT OF THE SICK.
THE SLAVES SUFFER FROM INHUMAN NEGLECT
In proof of this we subjoin the following testimony:
Rev. Dr. CHANNING of Boston, who once resided
in Virginia, relates the following fact in his work on slavery, page 163,
“I cannot forget my feelings on visiting a hospital belonging
to the plantation of a gentleman highly esteemed for his
virtues, and whose manners and conversation expressed much benevolence and conscientiousness. When I entered with him the hospital,
the first object on which my eye fell was a young woman, very ill, probably
approaching death. She was stretched on the floor. Her head rested on something
like a pillow; but her body and limbs were extended on
the hard boards. The owner, I doubt not, had at least as much kindness
as myself; but he was so used to see the slaves living without common comforts,
that the idea of unkindness in the present instance did not enter his mind.”
This dying young woman “was stretched on the floor”—“her body and limbs extended
upon the hard boards,”—and yet her master “was highly esteemed
for his virtues,” and his general demeanor produced upon Dr. Channing
the impression of “benevolence and conscientiousness.” If the sick and dying female slaves of such
a master, suffer such barbarous neglect, whose heart does not fail him,
at the thought of that inhumanity, exercised by the majority
of slaveholders, towards their aged, sick, and dying victims.
The following testimony is furnished by SARAH M.
GRIMKE, a sister of the late Hon. Thomas S. Grimké, of Charleston,
“When the Ladies' Benevolent Society in Charleston, S. C., of
which I was a visiting commissioner, first went into operation, we were applied
to for the relief of several sick and aged colored persons; one case I particularly
remember, of an aged woman who was dreadfully burnt from having fallen into
the fire; she was living with some free blacks who had taken her in out of
compassion. On inquiry, we found that nearly all the
colored persons who had solicited aid, were slaves,
who being no longer able to work for their “owners,” were thus
inhumanly cast out in their sickness and old age, and must have perished,
but for the kindness of their friends.
“I was once visiting a
sick slave in whose spiritual welfare peculiar circumstances had led me to
be deeply interested. I knew that she had been early seduced from the path
of virtue, as nearly all the female slaves are. I knew also that her mistress,
though a professor of religion, had never taught her a single precept of Christianity,
yet that she had had her severely punished for this departure from them, and
that the poor girl was then ill of an incurable
disease, occasioned partly by her own misconduct, and partly by the cruel
treatment she had received, in a situation that called for tenderness and
care. Her heart seemed truly touched with repentance for her sins, and she
was inquiring, “What shall I do to be saved?” I was sitting by
her as she lay on the floor upon a blanket, and was trying to establish her
trembling spirit in the fulness of Jesus, when I heard the voice of her mistress
in loud and angry tones, as she approached the door. I read in the countenance
of the prostrate sufferer, the terror which she felt at the prospect of seeing
her mistress. I knew my presence would be very unwelcome, but staid, hoping
that it might restrain, in some measure, the passions of the mistress. In
this, however, I was mistaken; she passed me without apparently observing
that I was there, and seated herself on the other side of the sick slave.
She made no inquiry how she was, but in a tone of anger commenced a tirade
of abuse, violently reproaching her with her past misconduct, and telling
her in the most unfeeling manner, that eternal destruction awaited her. No
word of kindness escaped her. What had then roused her temper I do not know.
She continued in this strain several minutes, when I attempted to soften her
by remarking, that—was very ill, and she ought not thus to torment her,
and that I believed Jesus had granted her forgiveness. But I might as well
have tried to stop the tempest in its career, as to calm the infuriated passions
nurtured by the exercise of arbitrary power. She looked at me with ineffable
scorn, and continued to pour forth a torrent of abuse and reproach. Her helpless
victim listened in terrified silence, until nature could endure no more, when
she uttered a wild shriek, and casting on her tormentor a look of unutterable
agony, exclaimed, 'Oh, mistress, I am dying!' This appeal arrested her attention,
and she soon left the room, but in the same spirit with which she entered
it. The girl survived but a few days, and, I believe, saw her mistress no more.”
Mr. GEORGE A. AVERY, an elder of a Presbyterian
church in Rochester, N. Y., who lived some years in Virginia, gives the following:
“The manner of treating the sick slaves, and especially in chronic cases, was to my mind peculiarly revolting. My
opportunities for observation in this department were better than in, perhaps,
any other, as the friend under whose direction I commenced my medical studies,
enjoyed a high reputation as a surgeon. I rode considerably
with him in his practice, and assisted in the surgical operations and dressings
from time to time. In confirmed cases of disease, it was common for the master
to place the subject under the care of a physician or surgeon, at whose expense
the patient should be kept, and if death ensued to the patient, or the disease
was not cured, no compensation was to be made, but if cured a bonus of
one, two, or three hundred dollars
was to be given. No provision was made against the barbarity
or neglect of the physician, &c. I have
seen fifteen or twenty of these helpless sufferers
crowded together in the true spirit of slaveholding inhumanity, like the “brutes
that perish,” and driven from time to time like
brutes into a common yard, where they had to suffer any and every operation
and experiment, which interest, caprice, or professional curiosity might prompt, —unrestrained
by law, public sentiment, or the claims of common humanity.”
Rev. WILLIAM T. ALLAN, son of Rev. Dr. Allan,
a slaveholder, of Huntsville, Alabama, says in a letter now before us:
“Colonel Robert H. Watkins, of Laurence county, Alabama, who owned
about three hundred slaves, after employing a physician among them for some
time, ceased to do so, alleging as the reason, that it was cheaper to lose
a few negroes every year than to pay a physician. This Colonel Watkins was
a Presidential elector in 1836.”
A. A. GUTHRIE, Esq., elder in the Presbyterian
church at Putnam, Muskingum county, Ohio, furnishes the testimony which follows.
“A near female friend of mine in company with another young lady,
in attempting to visit a sick woman on Washington's Bottom, Wood county, Virginia,
missed the way, and stopping to ask directions of a group of colored children
on the outskirts of the plantation of Francis Keen, Sen., they were told to
ask 'aunty, in the house.' On entering the hut, says my informant, I beheld
such a sight as I hope never to see again; its sole occupant was a female
slave of the said Keen—her whole wearing apparel consisted of a frock,
made of the coarsest tow cloth, and so scanty, that it could not have been
made more tight around her person. In the hut there was neither table, chair,
nor chest—a stool and a rude fixture in one corner, were all its furniture.
On this last were a little straw and a few old remnants of what had been bedding—all
thus situated had been for more than a day in travail,
without any assistance, any nurse, or any kind of proper provision—during
the night she said some fellow slave woman would stay with her, and the aforesaid
children through the day. From a woman, who was a slave of Keen's at the same
time, my informant learned, that this poor woman suffered for three days,
and then died—when too late to save her life her master sent assistance.
It was understood to be a rule of his, to neglect his women entirely in such
times of trial, unless they previously came and informed him, and asked for
Rev. PHINEAS SMITH, of Centreville, N. Y., who
has resided four years at the south, says: “Often when the slaves are
sick, their accustomed toil is exacted from them. Physicians are rarely called
for their benefit.”
Rev. HORACE MOULTON, a minister of the Methodist
Episcopal church in Marlborough, Mass., who resided a number of years in Georgia,
“Another dark side of slavery is the neglect of the aged and sick. Many when sick, are suspected
by their masters of feigning sickness, and are therefore
whipped out to work after disease has got fast hold of them; when the masters
learn, that they are really sick, they are in many instances left alone in
their cabins during work hours; not a few of the slaves are left to die without
having one friend to wipe off the sweat of death. When the slaves are sick,
the masters do not, as a general thing, employ physicians, but “doctor”
them themselves, and their mode of practice in almost all cases is to bleed
and give salts. When women are confined they have no physician, but are committed
to the care of slave midwives. Slaves complain very little when sick, when
they die they are frequently buried at night without much ceremony, and in
many instances without any; their coffins are made by nailing together rough
boards, frequently with their feet sticking out at the end, and sometimes
they are put into the ground without a coffin or box of any kind.