American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839


American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839


  Mr. HAWLEY is the pastor of the Baptist Church in Colebrook, Litchfield county, Connecticut. He has resided fourteen years in the slave states, North and South Carolina. His character and standing with his own denomination at the south, may be inferred from the fact, that the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina appointed him, a few years since, their general agent to visit the Baptist churches within their bounds, and to secure their co-operation in the objects of the Convention. Mr. H. accepted the appointment, and for some time traveled in that capacity.

  “I rejoice that the Executive Committee of the American Anti-Slavery Society have resolved to publish a volume of facts and testimony relative to the character and workings of American slavery. Having resided fourteen years at the south, I cheerfully comply with your request, to give the result of my observation and experience. And I would here remark, that one may reside at the south for years, and not witness extreme cruelties; a northern man, and one who is not a slaveholder, would be the last to have an opportunity of witnessing the infliction of cruel punishments.


  “A majority of the large plantations are on the banks of rivers, far from the public eye. A great deal of low marshy ground lies in the vicinity of most of the rivers at the south; consequently the main roads are several miles from the rivers, and generally no public road passes the plantations. A stranger traveling on the ridge , would think himself in a miserably poor country; but every two or three miles he will see a road turning off, and leading into the swamp; taking one of those roads, and traveling from two to six miles, he will come to a large gate; passing which, he will find himself in a clearing of several hundred acres of the first quality of land; passing on, he will see 30, or


40, or more slaves—men, women, boys and girls, at their task, every one with a hoe; or, if in cotton picking season, with their baskets. The overseer, with his whip, either riding or standing about among them; or if the weather is hot, sitting under a shade. At a distance, on a little rising ground, if such there be, he will see a cluster of huts, with a tolerable house in the midst, for the overseer. Those huts are from ten to fifteen feet square, built of logs, and covered, not with shingles, but with boards, about four feet long, split out of pine timber with a 'frow.' The floors are very commonly made in this way. Clay is first worked until it is soft; it is then spread upon the ground, about four or five inches thick; when it dries, it becomes nearly as hard as a brick. The crevices between the logs are sometimes filled with the same. These huts generally cost the master nothing—they are commonly built by the negroes at night, and on Sundays. When a slave of a neighboring plantation takes a wife, or to use the phrase common at the south, 'takes up' with one of the women, he builds a hut, and it is called her house. Upon entering these huts, (not as comfortable in many instances as the horse stable,) generally, you will find no chairs, but benches and stools; no table, no bedstead, and no bed, except a blanket or two, and a few rags or moss; in some instances a knife or two, but very rarely a fork. You may also find a pot or skillet, and generally a number of gourds, which serve them instead of bowls and plates. The cruelties practiced on those secluded plantations, the judgment day alone can reveal. Oh, brother, could I summon ten slaves from ten plantations that I could name, and have them give but one year's history of their bondage, it would thrill the land with horror. Those overseers who follow the business of overseeing for a livelihood, are generally the most unprincipled and abandoned of men. Their wages are regulated according to their skill in extorting labor. The one who can make the most bags of cotton, with a given number of hands, is the one generally sought after; and there is a competition among them to see who shall make the largest crop, according to the hands he works. I ask, what must be the condition of the poor slaves, under the unlimited power of such men, in whom, by the long-continued practice of the most heart-rending cruelties, every feeling of humanity has been obliterated? But it may be asked, cannot the slaves have redress by appealing to their masters? In many instances it is impossible, as their masters live hundreds of miles off. There are perhaps thousands in the northern slave states, [and many in the free states,] who own plantations in the southern slave states, and many more spend their summers at the north, or at the various watering places. But what would the slaves gain, if they should appeal to the master? He has placed the overseer over them, with the understanding that he will make as large a crop as possible, and that he is to have entire control, and manage them according to his own judgment. Now, suppose that in the midst of the season, the slaves make complaint of cruel treatment. The master cannot get along without an overseer—it is perhaps very sickly on the plantation—he dare not risk his own life there. Overseers are all engaged at that season, and if he takes part with his slaves against the overseer, he would destroy his authority, and very likely provoke him to leave his service— which would of course be a very great injury to him. Thus, in nineteen cases out of twenty, self-interest would prevent the master from paying any attention to the complaints of his slaves. And, if any should complain, it would of course come to the ears of the overseer, and the complainant would be inhumanly punished for it.


  “The rule, where slaves are hired out, is two suits of clothes per year one pair of shoes, and one blanket; but as it relates to the great body of the slaves, this cannot be called a general rule. On many plantations, the children under ten or twelve years old, go entirely naked—or, if clothed at all, they have nothing more than a shirt. The cloth is of the coarsest kind, far from being durable or warm; and their shoes frequently come to pieces in a few weeks. I have never known any provision made, or time allowed for the washing of clothes. If they wish to wash, as they have generally but one suit, they go after their day's toil to some stream, build a fire, pull off their clothes and wash them in the stream, and dry them by the fire; and in some instances they wear their clothes until they are worn off, without washing. I have never known an instance of a slaveholder putting himself to any expense, that his slaves might have decent clothes for the Sabbath. If, by making baskets, brooms, mats, &c. at night or on Sundays, the slaves can get money enough to buy a Sunday suit, very well. I have never known an instance of a slaveholder furnishing his slaves with stockings or mittens. I know that the slaves suffer much, and no doubt many die in consequence of not being well clothed.


  “In the grain-growing part of the south, the slaves, as it relates to food, fare tolerably well; but in the cotton, and rice-growing, and sugar-making portion, some of them fare badly. I have been on plantations where, from the appearance of the slaves, I should judge they were half-starved. They receive their allowance very commonly on Sunday morning. They are left to cook it as they please, and when they please. Many slaveholders rarely give their slaves meat, and very few give them more food than will keep them in a working condition. They rarely ever have a change of food. I have never known an instance of slaves on plantations being furnished either with sugar, butter, cheese, or milk.


  “If the slaves on plantations were well fed and clothed, and had the stimulus of wages, they could perhaps in general perform their tasks without injury. The horn is blown soon after the dawn of day, when all the hands destined for the field must be 'on the march.' If the field is far from their huts, they take their breakfast with them. They toil till about ten o'clock, when they eat it. They then continue their toil till the sun is set.

  “A neighbor of mine, who has been an overseer in Alabama, informs me, that there they ascertain how much labor a slave can perform in a


day, in the following manner. When they commence a new cotton field, the overseer takes his watch, and marks how long it takes them to hoe one row, and then lays off the task accordingly. My neighbor also informs me, that the slaves in Alabama are worked very hard; that the lash is almost universally applied at the close of the day, if they fail to perform their task in the cotton-picking season. You will see them, with their baskets of cotton, slowly bending their way to the cotton house, where each one's basket is weighed. They have no means of knowing accurately, in the course of the day, how they make progress; so that they are in suspense, until their basket is weighed. Here comes the mother, with her children; she does not know whether herself, or children, or all of them, must take the lash; they cannot weigh the cotton themselves— the whole must be trusted to the overseer. While the weighing goes on, all is still. So many pounds short, cries the overseer, and takes up his whip, exclaiming, 'Step this way, you d—n lazy scoundrel,' or 'bitch.' The poor slave begs, and promises, but to no purpose. The lash is applied until the overseer is satisfied. Sometimes the whipping is deferred until the weighing is all over. I have said that all must be trusted to the overseer. If he owes any one a grudge, or wishes to enjoy the fiendish pleasure of whipping a little, (for some overseers really delight in it,) they have only to tell a falsehood relative to the weight of their basket; they can then have a pretext to gratify their diabolical disposition; and from the character of overseers, I have no doubt that it is frequently done. On all plantations, the male and female slaves fare pretty much alike; those who are with child are driven to their task till within a few days of the time of their delivery; and when the child is a few weeks old, the mother must again go to the field. If it is far from her hut, she must take her babe with her, and leave it in the care of some of the children— perhaps of one not more than four or five years old. If the child cries, she cannot go to its relief; the eye of the overseer is upon her; and if, when she goes to nurse it, she stays a little longer than the overseer thinks necessary, he commands her back to her task, and perhaps a husband and father must hear and witness it all. Brother, you cannot begin to know what the poor slave mothers suffer, on thousands of plantations at the south.

  “I will now give a few facts, showing the workings of the system. Some years since, a Presbyterian minister moved from North Carolina to Georgia. He had a negro man of an uncommon mind. For some cause, I know not what, this minister whipped him most unmercifully. He next nearly drowned him; he then put him in the fence; this is done by lifting up the corner of a 'worm' fence, and then putting the feet through; the rails serve as stocks. He kept him there some time, how long I was not informed, but the poor slave died in a few days; and, if I was rightly informed, nothing was done about it, either in church or state. After some time, he moved back to North Carolina, and is now a member of—Presbytery. I have heard him preach, and have been in the pulpit with him. May God forgive me!

  “At Laurel Hill, Richmond county, North Carolina, it was reported that a runaway slave was in the neighborhood. A number of young men took their guns, and went in pursuit. Some of them took their station near the stage road, and kept on the look-out. It was early in the evening—the poor slave came along, when the ambush rushed upon him, and ordered him to surrender. He refused, and kept them off with his club. They still pressed upon him with their guns presented to his breast. Without seeming to be daunted, he caught hold of the muzzle of one of the guns, and came near getting possession of it. At length, retreating to a fence on one side of the road, he sprang over into a corn-field, and started to run in one of the rows. One of the young men stepped to the fence, fired, and lodged the whole charge between his shoulders; he fell, and died in a short time. He died without telling who his master was, or whether he had any, or what his own name was, or where he was from. A hole was dug by the side of the road his body tumbled into it, and thus ended the whole matter.

  “The Rev. Mr. C. a Methodist minister, held as his slave a negro man, who was a member of his own church. The slave was considered a very pious man, had the confidence of his master, and all who knew him, and if I recollect right, he sometimes attempted to preach. Just before the Nat Turner insurrection, in Southampton county, Virginia, by which the whole south was thrown into a panic, this worthy slave obtained permission to visit his relatives, who resided either in Southampton, or the county adjoining. This was the only instance that ever came to my knowledge, of a slave being permitted to go so far to visit his relatives. He went and returned according to agreement. A few weeks after his return, the insurrection took place, and the whole country was deeply agitated. Suspicion soon fixed on this slave. Nat Turner was a Baptist minister, and the south became exceedingly jealous of all negro preachers. It seemed as if the whole community were impressed with the belief that he knew all about it; that he and Nat Turner had concerted an extensive insurrecrection; and so confident were they in this belief, that they took the poor slave, tried him, and hung him. It was all done in a few days. He protested his innocence to the last. After the excitement was over, many were ready to acknowledge that they believed him innocent. He was hung upon suspicion!

  “In R—county, North Carolina, lived a Mr. B. who had the name of being a cruel master. Three or four winters since, his slaves were engaged in clearing a piece of new land. He had a negro girl, about 14 years old, whom he had severely whipped a few days before, for not performing her task. She again failed. The hands left the field for home; she went with them a part of the way, and fell behind; but the negroes thought she would soon be along; the evening passed away, and she did not come. They finally concluded that she had gone back to the new ground, to lie by the log heaps that were on fire. But they were mistaken: she had sat down by the foot of a large pine. She was thinly clad—the night was cold and rainy. In


the morning the poor girl was found, but she was speechless and died in a short time.

  “One of my neighbors sold to a speculator a negro boy, about 14 years old. It was more than his poor mother could bear. Her reason fled, and she became a perfect maniac, and had to be kept in close confinement. She would occasionally get out and run off to the neighbors. On one of these occasions she came to my house. She was indeed a pitiable object. With tears rolling down her cheeks, and her frame shaking with agony, she would cry out, 'don't you hear him—they are whipping him now, and he is calling for me!' This neighbor of mine, who tore the boy away from his poor mother, and thus broke her heart, was a member of the Presbyterian church.

  “Mr. S—, of Marion District, South Carolina, informed me that a boy was killed by the overseer on Mr. P—'s plantation. The boy was engaged in driving the horses in a cotton gin. The driver generally sits on the end of the sweep. Not driving to suit the overseer, he knocked him off with the butt of his whip. His skull was fractured. He died in a short time.

  “A man of my acquaintance in South Carolina, and of considerable wealth, had an only son, whom he educated for the bar; but not succeeding in his profession, he soon returned home. His father having a small plantation three or four miles off, placed his son on it as an overseer. Following the example of his father, as I have good reason to believe, he took the wife of one of the negro men. The poor slave felt himself greatly injured, and expostulated with him. The wretch took his gun, and deliberately shot him. Providentially he only wounded him badly. When the father came, and undertook to remonstrate with his son about his conduct, he threatened to shoot him also! and finally, took the negro woman, and went to Alabama, where he still resided when I left the south.

  “An elder in the Presbyterian church related to me the following.—'A speculator with his drove of negroes was passing my house, and I bought a little girl, nine or ten years old. After a few months, I concluded that I would rather have a plough-boy. Another speculator was passing, and I sold the girl. She was much distressed, and was very unwilling to leave.'—She had been with him long enough to become attached to his own and his negro children, and he concluded by saying, that in view of the little girl's tears and cries, he had determined never to do the like again. I would not trust him, for I know him to be a very avaricious man.

  “While traveling in Anson county, North Carolina, I put up for a night at a private house. The man of the house was not at home when I stopped, but came in the course of the evening, and was noisy and profane, and nearly drunk. I retired to rest, but not to sleep; his cursing and swearing were enough to keep a regiment awake. About midnight he went to his kitchen, and called out his two slaves, a man and woman. His object, he said, was to whip them. They both begged and promised, but to no purpose. The whipping began, and continued for some time. Their cries might have been heard at a distance.

  “I was acquainted with a very wealthy planter, on the Pedee river, in South Carolina, who has since died in consequence of intemperance. It was said that he had occasioned the death of twelve of his slaves, by compelling them to work in water, opening a ditch in the midst of winter. The disease with which they died was a pleurisy.

  “In crossing Pedee river, at Cashway Ferry, I observed that the ferryman had no hair on either side of his head. I asked him the cause. He informed me that it was caused by his master's cane. I said, you have a very bad master. 'Yes, a very bad master.' I understood that he was once a member of Congrese from South Carolina.

  “While traveling as agent for the North Carolina Baptist State Convention, I attended a three days' meeting in Gates county. Friday, the first day, passed off. Saturday morning came, and the pastor of the church, who lived a few miles off, did not make his appearance. The day passed off, and no news from the pastor. On Sabbath morning, he came hobbling along, having but little use of one foot. He soon explained: said he had a hired negro man, who, on Saturday morning, gave him a 'little slack jaw.' Not having a stick at hand, he fell upon him with his fist and foot, and in kicking him, he injured his foot so seriously, that he could not attend meeting on Saturday.

  “Some of the slaveholding ministers at the south, put their slaves under overseers, or hire them out, and then take the pastoral care of churches. The Rev. Mr. B—, formerly of Pennsylvania, had a plantation in Marlborough District, South Carolina, and was the pastor of a church in Darlington District. The Rev. Mr. T—, of Johnson county, North Carolina, has a plantation in Alabama.

  “I was present, and saw the Rev. J— W—, of Mecklenburg county, North Carolina, hire out four slaves to work in the gold mines in Burke county. The Rev. H—M—, of Orange county, sold for $900, a negro man to a speculator, on a Monday of a camp meeting.

  “Runaway slaves are frequently hunted with guns and dogs. I was once out on such an excursion, with my rifle and two dogs. I trust the Lord has forgiven me this heinous wickedness! We did not take the runaways.

  “Slaves are sometimes most unmercifully punished for trifling offences, or mere mistakes.

  “As it relates to amalgamation, I can say, that I have been in respectable families, (so called,) where I could distinguish the family resemblance in the slaves who waited upon the table. I once hired a slave who belonged to his own uncle. It is so common for the female slaves to have white children, that little or nothing is ever said about it. Very few inquiries are made as to who the father is.

  “Thus, brother—, I have given you very briefly, the result, in part, of my observations and experience relative to slavery. You can make what disposition of it you please. I am willing that my name should go to the world with what I have now written.

“Yours affectionately, for the oppressed,


  Colebrook, Connecticut, March 18, 1839.


American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839


  The following is an extract of a letter recently received from CHARLES MARRIOTT of Hudson, New York. Mr. Marriott is an elder in the Religious Society of Friends, and is extensively known and respected.

  “The two following brief statements, are furnished by Richard Macy and Reuben G. Macy, brothers, both of Hudson, New York. They are head carpenters by trade, and have been well known to me for more than thirty years, as esteemed members of the Religious Society of Friends. They inform me that during their stay in South Carolina, a number more similar cases to those here related, came under their notice, which to avoid repetition they omit.


American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839


  “During the winter of 1818 and 19, I resided on an island near the mouth of the Savannah river, on the South Carolina side. Most of the slaves that came under my particular notice, belonged to a widow and her daughter, in whose family I lived. No white man belonged to the plantation. Her slaves were under the care of an overseer who came once a week to give orders, and settled the score laid up against such as their mistress thought deserved punishment, which was from twenty-five to thirty lashes on their naked backs, with a whip which the overseer generally brought with him. This whip had a stout handle about two feet long, and a lash about four and a half feet. From two to four received the above, I believe nearly every week during the winter, sometimes in my presence, and always in my hearing. I examined the backs and shoulders of a number of the men, which were mostly naked while they were about their labor, and found them covered with hard ridges in every direction. One day, while busy in the cotton house, hearing a noise, I ran to the door and saw a colored woman pleading with the overseer, who paid no attention to her cries, but tied her hands together, and passed the rope over a beam, over head, where was a platform for spreading cotton, he then drew the rope as tight as he could, so as to let her toes touch the ground; then stripped her body naked to the waist, and went deliberately to work with his whip, and put on twenty-five or thirty lashes, she pleading in vain all the time. I inquired, the cause of such treatment, and was informed it was for answering her mistress rather 'short.' ”

  “A woman from a neighboring plantation came where I was, on a visit; she came in a boat rowed by six slaves, who, according to the common practice, were left to take care of themselves, and having laid them down in the boat and fallen asleep, the tide fell, and the water filling the stern of the boat, wet their mistresses trunk of clothes. When she discovered it, she called them up near where I was, and compelled them to whip each other, till they all had received a severe flogging. She standing by with a whip in her hand to see that they did not spare each other. Their usual allowance of food was one peck of corn per week, which was dealt out to them every first day of the week, and such as were not there to receive their portion at the appointed time, had to live as they could during the coming week. Each one had the privilege of planting a small piece of ground, and raising poultry for their own use which they generally sold, that is, such as did improve the privilege which were but few. They had nothing allowed them besides the corn, except one quarter of beef at Christmas which a slave brought three miles on his head. They were allowed three days rest at Christmas. Their clothing consisted of a pair of trowsers and jacket, made of whitish woollen cloth called negro cloth. The women had nothing but a petticoat, and a very short short-gown, made of the same kind of cloth. Some of the women had an old pair of shoes, but they generally went barefoot . The houses for the field slaves were about fourteen feet square, built in the coarsest manner, having but one room, without any chimney, or flooring, with a hole at the roof at one end to let the smoke out.

  “Each one was allowed one blanket in which they rolled themselves up. I examined their houses but could not discover any thing like a bed. I was informed that when they had a sufficiency of potatoes the slaves were allowed some; but the season that I was there they did not raise more than were wanted for seed. All their corn was ground in one hand-mill, every night just as much as was necessary for the family, then each one his daily portion, which took considerable time in the night. I often awoke and heard the sound of the mill. Grinding the corn in the night, and in the dark, after their day's labor, and the want of other food, were great hardships.

  “The traveling in those parts, among the islands, was altogether with boats, rowed by from four to ten slaves, which often stopped at our plantation, and staid through the night, when the slaves, after rowing through the day, were left to shift for themselves; and when they went to Savannah with a load of cotton they were obliged to sleep in the open boats, as the law did not allow a colored person to be out after eight o'clock in the evening, without a pass from his master.”

American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839


  “The above account is from my brother. I was at work on Hilton Head about twenty miles north of my brother, during the same winter. The same allowance of one peck of corn for a week, the same kind of houses to live in, and the same method of grinding their corn, and always in the night, and in the dark, was practiced there.

  “A number of instances of severe whipping came under my notice. The first was this:—two men were sent out to saw some blocks out of large live oak timber on which to raise my building. Their saw was in poor order, and they sawed them badly, for which their master stripped them naked and flogged them.

  “The next instance was a boy about sixteen years of age. He had crept into the coach to sleep; after two or three nights he was caught by the coach driver, a northern man, and stripped entirely


naked, and whipped without mercy, his master looking on.

  “Another instance. The overseer, a young white man, had ordered several negroes, a boat's crew, to be on the spot at a given time. One man did not appear until the boat had gone. The overseer was very angry and told him to strip and be flogged; he being slow, was told if he did not instantly strip off his jacket, he, the overseer, would whip it off, which he did in shreds, whipping him cruelly.

  “The man ran into the barrens and it was about a month before they caught him. He was nearly starved, and at last stole a turkey; then another, and was caught.

  “Having occasion to pass a plantation very early one foggy morning, in a boat, we heard the sound of the whip, before we could see, but as we drew up in front of the plantation, we could see the negroes at work in the field. The overseer was going from one to the other causing them to lay down their hoe, strip off their garment, hold up their hands and receive their number of lashes. Thus he went on from one to the other until we were out of sight. In the course of the winter a family came where I was, on a visit from a neighboring island; of course, in a boat with negroes to row them—one of these a barber, told me that he ran away about two years before, and joined a company of negroes who had fled to the swamps. He said they suffered a great deal—were at last discovered by a party of hunters, who fired among them, and caused them to scatter. Himself and one more fled to the coast, took a boat and put off to sea, a storm came on and swamped or upset them, and his partner was drowned, he was taken up by a passing vessel and returned to his master.


  Hudson,12 mo. 29th, 1838.

American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839


  EXTRACT OF A LETTER FROM Mr. WILLIAM SCOTT, a highly respectable citizen of Beaver co. Pennsylvania, dated Jan. 7, 1839.

Chippewa Township, Beaver Co. Pa.

Jan. 7, 1839. {

  “I send you the statement of Mr. Eleazar Powell, who was born, and has mostly resided in this township from his birth. His character for sobriety and truth stands above impeachment.

With sentiments of esteem, I am your friend,


  “In the month of December, 1836, I went to the State of Mississippi to work at my trade, (masonry and bricklaying,) and continued to work in the counties of Adams and Jefferson, between four and five months. In following my business I had an opportunity of seeing the treatment of slaves in several places.

  “In Adams county I built a chimney for a man named Joseph Gwatney; he had forty-five field hands of both sexes. The field in which they worked at that time, lay about two miles from the house; the hands had to cook and eat their breakfast, prepare their dinner, and be in the field at daylight, and continue there till dark. In the evening the cotton they had picked was weighed, and if they fell short of their task they were whipped. One night I attended the weighing— two women fell short of their task, and the master ordered the black driver to take them to the quarters and flog them; one of them was to receive twenty-five lashes and pick a peck of cotton seed. I have been with the overseer several times through the negro quarters. The huts are generally built of split timber, some larger than rails, twelve and a half feet wide and fourteen feet long—some with and some without chimneys, and generally without floors; they were generally without daubing, and mostly had split clapboards nailed on the cracks on the outside, though some were without even that: in some there was a kind of rough bedstead, made from rails, polished with the axe, and put together in a very rough manner, the bottom covered with clapboards, and over that a bundle of worn out clothes. In some huts there was no bedstead at all. The above description applies to the places generally with which I was acquainted, and they were mostly old settlements.

  “In the east part of Jefferson county I built a chimney for a man named—M'Coy; he had forty-seven laboring hands. Near where I was at work, M'Coy had ordered one of his slaves to set a post for a gate. When he came to look at it, he said the slave had not set it in the right place; and ordered him to strip, and lie down on his face; telling him that if he struggled, or attempted to get up, two men, who had been called to the spot, should seize and hold him fast. The slave agreed to be quiet, and M'Coy commenced flogging him on the bare back, with the wagon whip. After some time the sufferer attempted to get up; one of the slaves standing by, seized him by the feet and held him fast; upon which he yielded, and M'Coy continued to flog him ten or fifteen minutes. When he was up, and had put on his trowsers, the blood came through them.

  “About half a mile from M'Coy's was a plantation owned by his step-daughter. The overseer's name was James Farr, of whom it appears Mrs. M'Coy's waiting woman was enamoured. One night, while I lived there, M'Coy came from Natchez, about 10 o'clock at night. He said that Dinah was gone, and wished his overseer to go with him to Farr's lodgings. They went accordingly, one to each door, and caught Dinah as she ran out, she was partly dressed in her mistress's clothes; M'Coy whipped her unmercifully, and she afterwards made her escape. On the next day, (Sabbath), M'Coy came to the overseer's, where I lodged, and requested him and me to look for her, as he was afraid that she had hanged herself. He then gave me the particulars of the flogging. He stated that near Farr's he had made her strip and lie down, and had flogged her until he was tired; that before he reached home he had a second time made her strip, and again flogged her until he was tired; that when he


reached home he had tied her to a peach-tree, and after getting a drink had flogged her until he was thirsty again; and while he went to get a drink the woman made her escape. He stated that he knew, from the whipping he had given her, there must be in her back cuts an inch deep. He showed the place where she had been tied to the tree; there appeared to be as much blood as if a hog had been stuck there. The woman was found on Sabbath evening, near the spring, and had to be carried into the house.

  “While I lived there I heard M'Coy say, if the slaves did not raise him three hundred bales of cotton the ensuing season, he would kill every negro he had.

  “Another case of flogging came under my notice:—Philip O. Hughes, sheriff of Jefferson county, had hired a slave to a man, whose name I do not recollect. On a Sabbath day the slave had drank somewhat freely; he was ordered by the tavern keeper, (where his present master had left his horse and the negro,) to stay in the kitchen; the negro wished to be out. In persisting to go out he was knocked down three times; and afterwards flogged until another young man and myself ran about half a mile, having been drawn by the cries of the negro and the sound of the whip. When we came up, a number of men that had been about the tavern, were whipping him, and at intervals would ask him if he would take off his clothes. At seeing them drive down the stakes for a regular flogging he yielded, and took them off. They then flogged him until satisfied. On the next morning I saw him, and his pantaloons were all in a gore of blood.

  “During my stay in Jefferson county, Philip O. Hughes was out one day with his gun—he saw a negro at some distance, with a club in one hand and an ear of corn in the other—Hughes stepped behind a tree, and waited his approach; he supposed the negro to be a runaway, who had escaped about nine months before from his master, living not very far distant. The negro discovered Hughs before he came up, and started to run; he refusing to stop, Hughes fired, and shot him through the arm. Through loss of blood the negro was soon taken and put in jail. I saw his wound twice dressed, and heard Hughes make the above statement.

  “When in Jefferson county I boarded six weeks in Fayette, the county town, with a tavern keeper named James Truly. He had a slave named Lucy, who occupied the station of chamber maid and table waiter. One day, just after dinner, Mrs. Truly took Lucy and bound her arms round a pine sapling behind the house, and commenced flogging her with a riding-whip; and when tired would take her chair and rest. She continued thus, alternately flogging and resting, for at least an hour and a half. I afterwards learned from the bar-keeper, and others, that the woman's offence was that she had bought two candles to set on the table the evening before, not knowing there were yet some in the box. I did not see the act of flogging above related; but it was commenced before I left the house after dinner; and my work not being more than twenty rods from the house, I distinctly heard the cries of the woman all the time, and the manner of tying I had from those who did see it.

  “While I boarded at Truly's, an overseer shot a negro about two miles northwest of Fayette, belonging to a man named Hinds Stuart. I heard Stuart himself state the particulars. It appeared that the negro's wife fell under the overseer's displeasure, and he went to whip her. The negro said she should not be whipped. The overseer then let her go, and ordered him to be seized. The negro, having been a driver, rolled the lash of his whip round his hand, and said he would not be whipped at that time. The overseer repeated his orders. The negro took up a hoe, and none dared to take hold of him. The overseer then went to his coat, that he had laid off to whip the negro's wife, and took out his pistol and shot him dead. His master ordered him to be buried in a hole without a coffin. Stuart stated that he would not have taken two thousand dollars for him. No punishment was inflicted on the overseer.


American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839


  The following is an extract of a letter from two professional gentlemen and their wives, who have lived for some years in a small village in one of the slave states. They are all persons of the highest respectability, and are well known in at least one of the New England states. Their names are with the Executive Committee of the American Anti-Slavery Society; but as the individuals would doubtless be murdered by the slaveholders, if they were published, the Committee feel sacredly bound to withhold them. The letter was addressed to a respected clergyman in New England. The writers say:

  “A man near us owned a valuable slave—his best—most faithful servant. In a gust of passion, he struck him dead with a lever, or stick of wood.

  “During the years '36 and '37, the following transpired. A slave in our neighborhood ran away and went to a place about thirty miles distant. There he was found by his pursuers on horseback, and compelled by the whip to run the distance of thirty miles. It was an exceedingly hot day—and within a few hours after he arrived at the end of his journey the slave was dead.

   “Another slave ran away, but concluded to return. He had proceeded some distance on his return, when he was met by a company of two or three drivers, who raced, whipped and abused him until he fell down and expired. This took place on the Sabbath.” The writer after speaking of another murder of a slave in the neighborhood, without giving the circumstances, say—“There is a powerful New England influence at—“the village where they reside—“We may therefore suppose that there would be as little of barbarian cruelty practiced there as any where;—at least we might suppose that the average amount of cruelty in that vicinity would be sufficiently favorable to the side of slavery.—Describe a circle,


the centre of which shall be—, the residence of the writers, and the radius fifteen miles, and in about one year three, and I think four slaves have been murdered, within that circle, under circumstances of horrid cruelty.—What must have been the amount of murder in the whole slave territory? The whole south is rife with the crime of separating husbands and wives, parents and children.”

American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839


  Mr. IDE is a respected member of the Baptist Church in Sheffield, Caledonia county, Vt.; and recently the Postmaster in that town. He spent a few months at the south in the years 1837 and 8. In a letter to the Rev. Wm. Scales of Lyndon, Vt. written a few weeks since, Mr. Ide writes as follows.

  “In answering the proposed inquiries, I will say first, that although there are various other modes resorted to, whipping with the cowskin is the usual mode of inflicting punishment on the poor slave. I have never actually witnessed a whipping scene, for they are usually taken into some back place for that purpose; but I have often heard their groans and screams while writhing under the lash; and have seen the blood flow from their torn and lacerated skins after the vengeance of the inhuman master or mistress had been glutted. You ask if the woman where I boarded whipped a slave to death. I can give you the particulars of the transaction as they were related to me. My informant was a gentleman—a member of the Presbyterian church in Massachusetts—who the winter before boarded where I did. He said that Mrs. T—had a female slave whom she used to whip unmercifully, and on one occasion, she whipped her as long as she had strength, and after the poor creature was suffered to go, she crawled off into a cellar. As she did not immediately return, search was made, and she was found dead in the cellar, and the horrid deed was kept a secret in the family, and it was reported that she died of sickness. This wretch at the same time was a member of a Presbyterian church. Towards her slaves she was certainly the most cruel wretch of any woman with whom I was ever acquainted—yet she was nothing more than a slaveholder. She would deplore slavery as much as I did, and often told me she was much of an abolitionist as I was. She was constant in the declaration that her kind treatment to her slaves was proverbial. Thought I, then the Lord have mercy on the rest. She has often told me of the cruel treatment of the slaves on a plantation adjoining her father's in the low country of South Carolina. She says she has often seen them driven to the necessity of eating frogs and lizards to sustain life. As to the mode of living generally, my information is rather limited, being with few exceptions confined to the different families where I have boarded. My stopping places at the south have mostly been in cities. In them the slaves are better fed and clothed than on plantations. The house servants are fed on what the families leave. But they are kept short, and I think are oftener whipped for stealing something to eat than any other crime. On plantations their food is principally hommony, as the southerners call it. It is simply cracked corn boiled. This probably constitutes seven-eights of their living. The house-servants in cities are generally decently clothed, and some favorite ones are richly dressed, but those on the plantations, especially in their dress, if it can be called dress, exhibit the most haggard and squalid appearance. I have frequently seen those of both sexes more than two-thirds naked. I have seen from forty to sixty, male and female, at work in a field, many of both sexes with their bodies entirely naked—who did not exhibit signs of shame more than cattle. As I did not go among them much on the plantations, I have had but few opportunities for examining the backs of slaves—but have frequently passed where they were at work, and been occasionally present with them, and in almost every case there were marks of violence on some parts of them—every age, sex and condition being liable to the whip. A son of the gentleman with whom I boarded, a young man about twenty-one years of age, had a plantation and eight or ten slaves. He used to boast almost every night of whipping some of them. One day he related to me a case of whipping an old negro—I should judge sixty years of age. He said he called him up to flog him for some real or supposed offence, and the poor old man, being pious, asked the privilege of praying before he received his punishment. He said he granted him the favor, and to use his own expression, 'The old nigger knelt down and prayed for me, and then got up and took his whipping.' In relation to negro huts, I will say that planters usually own large tracts of land. They have extensive clearings and a beautiful mansion house—and generally some forty or fifty rods from the dwelling are situated the negro cabins, or huts, built of logs in the rudest manner. Some consist of poles rolled up together and covered with mud or clay—many of them not as comfortable as northern pig-sties.”

American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839


  MR. SMITH is now pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Centreville, Allegany county, N. Y. He has recently returned from a residence in the slave states, and the American slave holding setlements in Texas. The following is an extract of a letter lately received from him.

  “You inquire respecting instances of cruelty that have come within my knowledge. I reply.


Avarice and cruelty constitute the very gist of the whole slave system. Many of the enormities committed upon the plantations will not be described till God brings to light the hidden things of darkness, then the tears and groans and blood of innocent men, women and children will be revealed, and the oppressor's spirit must confront that of his victim.

  “I will relate a case of torture which occurred on the Brassos while I resided a few miles distant upon the Chocolate Bayou. The case should be remembered as a true illustration of the nature of slavery, as it exists at the south. The facts are these. An overseer by the name of Alexander, notorious for his cruelty, was found dead in the timbered lands of the Brassos. It was supposed that he was murdered, but who perpetrated the act was unknown. Two black men were however seized, taken into the Prairie and put to the torture. A physician by the name of Parrott from Tennessee, and another from New England by the name of Anson Jones, were present on this occasion. The latter gentleman is now the Texan minister plenipotentiary to the United States, and resides at Washington. The unfortunate slaves being stripped, and all things arranged, the torture commenced by whipping upon their bare backs. Six athletic men were employed in this scene of inhumanity, the names of some of whom I well remember. There was one of the name of Brown, and one or two of the name of Patton. Those six executioners were successively employed in cutting up the bodies of these defenceless slaves, who persisted to the last in the avowal of their innocence. The bloody whip was however kept in motion till savage barbarity itself was glutted. When this was accomplished, the bleeding victims were re-conveyed to the inclosure of the mansion house where they were deposited for a few moments. 'The dying groans however incommoding the ladies, they were taken to a back shed where one of them soon expired .* 'The life of the other slave was for a time despaired of, but after hanging over the grave for months, he at length so far recovered as to walk about and labor at light work. These facts cannot be controverted. They were disclosed under the solemnity of an oath, at Columbia, in a court of justice. I was present, and shall never forget them. The testimony of Drs. Parrott and Jones was most appalling. I seem to hear the death-groans of that murdered man. His cries for mercy and protestations of inno/orig> cence fell upon adamantine hearts. The facts above stated, and others in relation to this scene of cruelty came to light in the following manner. The master of the murdered man commenced legal process against the actors in this tragedy for the recovery of the value of the chattel, as one would institute a suit for a horse or an ox that had been unlawfully killed. It was a suit for the recovery of damages merely. No indictment was even dreamed of. Among the witnesses brought upon the stand in the progress of this cause were the physicians, Parrott and Jones above named. The part which they were called to act in this affair was, it is said, to examine the pulse of the victims during the process of torture. But they were mistaken as to the quantum of torture which a human being can undergo and not die under it. Can it be believed that one of these physicians was born and educated in the land of the pilgrims? Yes, in my own native New England. It is even so! The stone-like apathy manifested at the trial of the above cause, and the screams and the death-groans of an innocent man, as developed by the testimony of the witnesses, can never be obliterated from my memory. They form an era in my life, a point to which I look back with horror.

  “Another case of cruelty occurred on the San Bernard near Chance Prairie, where I resided for some time. The facts were these. A slave man fled from his master, (Mr. Sweeny) and being closely pursued by the overseer and a son of the owner, he stepped a few yards in the Bernard and placed himself upon a root, from which there was no possibility of his escape, for he could not swim. In this situation he was fired upon with a blunderbuss loaded heavily with ball and grape shot. The overseer who shot the gun was at a distance of a few feet only. The charge entered the body of the negro near the groin. He was conveyed to the plantation, lingered in inexpressible agony a few days and expired. A physician was called, but medical and surgical skill was unavailing. No notice whatever was taken of this murder by the public authorities, and the murderer was not discharged from the service of his employer.

  “When slaves flee, as they not unfrequently do, to the timbered lands of Texas, they are hunted with guns and dogs.

  “The sufferings of the slave not unfrequently drive him to despair and suicide. At a plantation on the San Bernard, where there were but five slaves, two during the same year committed suicide by drowning.”

American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839


  Mr. Bliss is a highly respectable member of the bar, in Elyria, Lorain Co. Ohio, and member of the Presbyterian church, in that place. He resided in Florida, during the years 1834 and 5.

  The following extracts are from letters, written by Mr. B. in 1835, while residing on a plantation near Tallahassee, and published soon after in the Ohio Atlas; also from letters written in 1836, and published in the New York Evangelist.

  “In speaking of slavery as it is, I hardly know where to begin. The physical condition of the slave is far from being accurately known at the north. Gentlemen traveling in the south can know nothing of it. They must make the south their residence; they must live on plantations, before they can have any opportunity of judging of the


slave. I resided in Augustine five months, and had I not made particular inquiries, which most northern visitors very seldom or never do, I should have left there with the impression that the slaves were generally very well treated, and were a happy people. Such is the report of many northern travelers who have no more opportunity of knowing their real condition than if they had remained at home. What confidence could we place in the reports of the traveler, relative to the condition of the Irish peasantry, who formed his opinion from the appearance of the waiters at a Dublin hotel, or the household servants of a country gentleman? And it is not often on plantations even, that strangers can witness the punishment of the slave. I was conversing the other day with a neighbouring planter, upon the brutal treatment of the slaves which I had witnessed: he remarked, that had I been with him I should not have seen this. “When I whip niggers, I take them out of sight and hearing.” Such being the difficulties in the way of a stranger's ascertaining the treatment of the slaves, it is not to be wondered at that gentlemen, of undoubted veracity, should give directly false statements relative to it. But facts cannot lie, and in giving these I confine myself to what has come under my own personal observation.

  “The negroes commence labor by daylight in the morning, and, excepting the plowboys, who must feed and rest their horses, do not leave the field till dark in the evening. There is a good deal of contention among planters, who shall make the most cotton to the hand, or, who shall drive their negroes the hardest; and I have heard bets made and staked upon the issue of the crops. Col. W. was boasting of his large crops, and swore that 'he made for his force, the largest crops in the country.' He was disputed of course. On riding home in company with Mr. C. the conversation turned upon Col. W. My companion remarked, that though Col. W. had the reputation of making a large crop, yet he could beat him himself, and did do it the last year. I remarked that I considered it no honor to Col. W. to drive his slaves to death to make a large crop. I have heard no more about large crops from him since. Drivers or overseers usually drive the slaves worse than masters.—Their reputation for good overseers depends in a great measure upon the crops they make, and the death of a slave is no loss to them.

  “Of the extent and cruelty of the punishment of the slave, the northern public know nothing. From the nature of the case they can know little, as I have before mentioned,

  “I have seen a woman, a mother, compelled, in the presence of her master and mistress, to hold up her clothes, and endure the whip of the driver on the naked body for more than twenty minutes, and while her cries would have rent the heart of any one, who had not hardened himself to human suffering. Her master and mistress were conversing with apparent indifference. What was her crime? She had a task given her of sewing which she must finish that day. Late at night she finished it; but the stitches were too long, and she must be whipped. The same was repeated three or four nights for the sam offence. I have seen a man tied to a tree, hands and feet, and receive 305 blows with the paddle* on the fleshy parts of the body. Two others received the same kind of punishment at the time, though I did not count the blows. One received 230 lashes. Their crime was stealing mutton. I have frequently heard the shrieks of the slaves, male and female, accompanied by the strokes of the paddle or whip, when I have not gone near the scene of horror. I knew not their crimes, excepting of one woman, which was stealing four potatoes to eat with her bread! The more common number of lashes inflicted was fifty or eighty; and this I saw not once or twice, but so frequently that I can not tell the number of times I have seen it. So frequently that my own heart was becoming so hardened that I could witness with comparative indifference, the female writhe under the lash, and her shrieks and cries for mercy ceased to pierce my heart with that keenness, or give me that anguish which they first caused. It was not always that I could learn their crimes; but of those I did learn, the most common was non-performance of tasks. I have seen men strip and receive from one to three hundred strokes of the whip and paddle. My studies and meditations were almost nightly interrupted by the cries of the victims of cruelty and avarice. Tom, a slave of Col. N. obtained permission of his overseer on Sunday, to visit his son, on a neighboring plantation, belonging in part to his master, but neglected to take a “pass.” Upon its being demanded by the other overseer, he replied that he had permission to come, and that his having a mule was sufficient evidence of it, and if he did not consider it as such, he could take him up. The overseer replied he would take him up; giving him at the same time a blow on the arm with a stick he held in his hand, sufficient to lame it for some time. The negro collared him, and threw him; and on the overseer's commanding him to submit to be tied and whipped, he said he would not be whipped by him but would leave it to massa J. They came to massa J.'s. I was there. After the overseer had related the case as above, he was blamed for not shooting or stabbing him at once.—After dinner the negro was tied, and the whip given to the overseer, and he used it with a severity that was shocking. I know not how many lashes were given, but from his shoulders to his heels there was not a spot unridged! and at almost every stroke the blood flowed. He could not have received less than 300, well laid on. But his offence was great, almost the greatest known, laying hands on a white man! Had he struck the overseer, under any provocation, he would have been in some way disfigured, perhaps by the loss of his cars, in addition to a whipping: or he might have been hung. The most com mon cause of punishments is, not finishing tasks.

  “But it would be tedious mentioning further particulars. The negro has no other inducement to work but the lash; and as man never acts without motive, the lash must be used so long as all other motives are withheld. Hence corporeal punishment is a necessary part of slavery.

  “Punishments for runaways are usually severe.


Once whipping is not sufficient. I have known runaways to be whipped for six or seven nights in succession for one offence. I have known others who, with pinioned hands, and a chain extending from an iron collar on their neck, to the saddle of their master's horse, have been driven at a smart trot, one or two hundred miles, being compelled to ford water courses, their drivers, according to their own confession, not abating a whit in the rapidity of their journey for the ease of the slave. One tied a kettle of sand to his slave to render his journey more arduous.

  “Various are the instruments of torture devised to keep the slave in subjection. The stocks are sometimes used. Sometimes blocks are filled with pegs and nails, and the slave compelled to stand upon them.

  “While stopping on the plantation of a Mr. C. I saw a whip with a knotted lash lying on the table, and inquired of my companion, who was also an acquaintance of Mr. C.'s, if he used that to whip his negroes? “Oh,” says he, “Mr. C. is not severe with his hands. He never whips very hard. The knots in the lash are so large that he does not usually draw blood in whipping them.”

  “It was principally from hearing the conversation of southern men on the subject, that I judge of the cruelty that is generally practiced toward slaves. They will deny that slaves are generally ill treated; but ask them if they are not whipped for certain offences, which either a freeman would have no temptation to commit, or which would not be an offence in any but a slave, and for non-performance of tasks, they will answer promptly in the affirmative. And frequently have I heard them excuse their cruelty by citing Mr. A. or Mr. B. who is a Christian, or Mr. C. a preacher, or Mr. D. from the north, who “drives his hands tighter, and whips them harder, than we ever do.” Driving negroes to the utmost extent of their ability, with occasionally a hundred lashes or more, and a few switchings in the field if they hang back in the driving seasons, viz: in the hoing and picking months, is perfectly consistent with good treatment!

  “While traveling across the Peninsula in a stage, in company with a northern gentleman, and southern lady, of great worth and piety, a dispute arose respecting the general treatment of slaves, the gentleman contending that their treatment was generally good—'O, no!' interrupted the lady, 'you can know nothing of the treatment they receive on the plantations. People here do whip the poor negroes most cruelly, and many half starve them. You have neither of you had opportunity to know scarcely any thing of the cruelties that are practiced in this country,' and more to the same effect. I met with several others, besides this lady, who appeared to feel for the sins of the land, but they are few and scattered, and not usually of sufficiently stern mould to withstand the popular wave.

  “Masters are not forward to publish their “domestic regulations,” and as neighbors are usually several miles apart, one's observation must be limited. Hence the few instances of cruelty which break out can be but a fraction of what is practised. A planter, a professor of religion, in conversation upon the universality of whipping, remarked that a planter in G—, who had whipped a great deal, at length got tired of it, and invented the following excellent method of punishment, which I saw practised while I was paying him a visit. The negro was placed in a sitting position, with his hands made fast above his head, and feet in the stocks, so that he could not move any part of the body.

  “The master retired, intending to leave him till morning, but we were awakened in the night by the groans of the negro, which were so doleful that we feared he was dying. We went to him, and found him covered with a cold sweat, and almost gone. He could not has lived an hour longer. Mr.—found the 'stocks' such an effective punishment, that it almost superseded the whip.”

  “How much do you give your niggers for a task while hoeing cotton,” inquired Mr. C— of his neighbor Mr. H—.

  H. “I give my men an acre and a quarter, and my women an acre.”*

  C. “Well, that is a fair task. Niggers do a heap better if they are drove pretty tight.”

  H. “O yes, I have driven mine into complete subordination. When I first bought them they were discontented and wished me to sell them, but I soon whipped that out of them; and they now work very contentedly!”

  C. “Does Mary keep up with the rest?”

  H. “No, she does'nt often finish the task alone, she has to get Sam to help her out after he has done his, to save her a whipping . There's no other way but to be severe with them.”

  C. “No other, sir, if you favor a nigger you spoil him.”

  “The whip is considered as necessary on a plantation as the plough; and its use is almost as common. The negro whip is the common teamster's whip with a black leather stock, and a short, fine, knotted lash. The paddle is also frequently used, sometimes with holes bored in the flattened end. The ladies (!) in chastising their domestic servants, generally use the cowhide. I have known some use shovel and tongs. It is, however, more common to commit them to the driver to be whipped. The manner of whipping is as follows: The negro is tied by his hands, and sometimes feet, to a post or tree, and stripped to the skin. The female slave is not always tied. The number of lashes depends upon the character for severity of the master or overseer.

  “Another instrument of torture is sometimes used, how extensively I know not. The negro, or, in the case which came to my knowledge, the negress was compelled to stand barefoot upon a block filled with sharp pegs and nails for two or three hours. In case of sickness, if the master or overseer thinks them seriously ill, they are taken care of, but their complaints are usually not much headed. A physician told me that he was employed by a planter last winter to go to a plantation of his in the country, as many of the negroes were sick. Says he—“I found them in a most miserable condition. The weather was cold, and the negroes were barefoot, with hardly enough of cotton clothing to cover their nakedness. Those who had huts to shelter them


were obliged to build them nights and Sundays. Many were sick and some had died. I had the sick taken to an older plantation of their masters, where they could be made comfortable, and they recovered. I directed that they should not go to work till after sunrise, and should not work in the rain till their health became established. But the overseer refusing to permit it, I declined attending on them farther. I was called,' continued he, 'by the overseer of another plantation to see one of the men. I found him lying by the side of a long in great pain. I asked him how he did, 'O,' says he, 'I'm most dead, can live but little longer.' How long have you been sick? 'I've felt for more than six weeks as though I could hardly stir.' Why didn't you tell your master, you was sick? 'I couldn't see my master, and the overseer always whips us when we complain, I could not stand a whipping.' I did all I could for the poor fellow, but his lungs were rotten. He died in three days from the time he left off work.' The cruelty of that overseer is such that the negroes almost tremble at his name. Yet he gets a high salary, for he makes the largest crop of any other man in the neighborhood, though none but the hardiest negroes can stand it under him. “That man,” says the Doctor “would be hung in my country.” He was a German.

American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839


  Rev. WILLIAM SCALES, of Lyndon, Vermont, has furnished the following testimony, under date of Dec. 15, 1838.

  “I send you an extract from a letter that I have just received, which you may use ad libitum. The letter is from Rev. Wm. A. Chapin, Greensborough, Vermont. To one who is acquainted with Mr. C. his opinion and statements must carry conviction even to the most obstinate and incredulous. He observes, 'I resided, as a teacher, nearly two years in the family of Carroll, Webb, Esq., of Hampstead, New Kent co. about twenty miles from Richmond, Virginia. Mr. Webb had three or four plantations, and was considered one of the two wealthiest men in the county: it was supposed he owned about two hundred slaves. He was a member of the Presbyterian Church, and was elected an elder while I was with him. He was a native of Virginia, but a graduate of a New-England college.

   “ 'The slaves were called in the morning before daylight, I believe at all seasons of the year, that they might prepare their food, and be ready to go to work as soon as it was light enough to see. I know that at the season of husking corn, October and November, they were usually compelled to work late—till 12 or 1 o'clock at night. I know this fact because they accompanied their work with a loud singing of their own sort. I usually retired to rest between 11 and 12 o'clock, and generally heard them at their work as long as I was a wake. The slaves lived in wretched log cabins, of one room each, without floors or windows. I believe the slaves sometimes suffer for want of food. One evening, as I was sitting in the parlor with Mr. W. one of the most resolute of the slaves came to the door, and said, “Master, I am willing to work for you, but I want something to eat.” The only reply was, “Clear yourself.” I learned that the slaves had been without food all day, because the man who was sent to mill could not obtain his grinding. He went again the next day, and obtained his grist, and the slaves had no food till he returned. He had to go about five miles.*

  “I know the slaves were sometimes severely whipped. I saw the backs of several which had numerous scars, evidently caused by long and deep lacerations of the whip; and I have good reason to believe that the slaves were generally in that condition; for I never saw the back of one exposed that was not thus marked,—and from their tattered and scanty clothing their backs were often exposed.”

American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839


  This testimony is communicated in a letter from Mr. Cyrus Pierce, a respectable and well known citizen of Nantucket, Mass. Of the witnesses, Messrs. T. D. M. and F. C. Macy, Mr. Pierce says, “They are both inhabitants of this island, and have resided at the south; they are both worthy men, for whose integrity and intelligence I can vouch unqualifiedly; the former has furnished me with the following statement.

  “During the winter of 1832—3, I resided on the island of St. Simon, Glynn county, Georgia. There are several extensive cotton plantations on the island. The overseer of the plantation on


that part of the island where I resided was a Georgian—a man of stern character, and at times cruelly abusive to his slaves. I have often been witness of the abuse of his power. In South Carolina and Georgia, on the low lands, the cultivation is chiefly of rice. The land where it is raised is often inundated, and the labor of preparing it, and raising a crop, is very arduous. Men and women are in the field from earliest dawn to dark—often without hats, and up to their arm-pits in mud and water. At St. Simon's, cotton was the staple article. Ocra, the driver, usually waited on the overseer to receive orders for the succeeding day. If any slave was insolent, or negligent, the driver was authorized to punish him with the whip, with as many blows as the magnitude of the crime justified. He was frequently cautioned, upon the peril of his skin, to see that all the negroes were off to the field in the morning. 'Ocra,' said the overseer, one evening, to the driver, 'if any pretend to be sick, send me word—allow no lazy wench or fellow to skulk in the negro house.' Next morning, a few minutes after the departure of the hands to the field, Ocra was seen hastening to the house of the overseer. He was soon in his presence. 'Well, Ocra, what now?' Nothing, sir, only Rachel says she sick—can't go to de field to-day.' 'Ah, sick, is she? I'll see to her; you may be off. She shall see if I am longer to be fooled with in this way. Here, Christmas, mix these salts—bring them to me at the negro house.' And seizing his whip, he made off to the negro settlement. Having a strong desire to see what would be the result, I followed him. As I approached the negro house, I heard high words. Rachel was stating her complaint—children were crying from fright—and the overseer threatening. Rachel.—'I can't work to-day—I'm sick.' Overseer.—' But you shall work, if you die for it. Here, take these salts. Now move off—quick— let me see your face again before night, and, by G—d, you shall smart for it. Be off—no begging—not a word;'—and he dragged her from the house, and followed her 20 or 30 rods, threatening. The woman did not reach the field. Overcome by the exertion of walking, and by agitation, she sunk down exhausted by the road side—was taken up, and carried back to the house, where an abortion occurred, and her life was greatly jeoparded.

  “It was no uncommon sight to see a whole family, father, mother, and from two to five children, collected together around their piggin of hommony, or pail of potatoes, watched by the overseer. One meal was always eaten in the field. No time was allowed for relaxation.

  “It was not unusual for a child of five or six years to perform the office of nurse—because the mother worked in a remote part of the field, and was not allowed to leave her employment to take care of her infant. Want of proper nutriment induces sickness of the worst type.

  “No matter what the nature of the service, a peck of corn, dealt out on Sunday, must supply the demands of nature for a week.

   “The Sabbath, on a southern plantation, is a mere nominal holiday. The slaves are liable to be called upon at all times, by those who have authority over them.

  “When it rained, the slaves were allowed to collect under a tree until the shower had passed. Seldom, on a week day, were they permitted to go to their huts during rain; and even had this privilege been granted, many of those miserable habitations were in so dilapidated a condition, that they would afford little or no protection. Negro huts are built of logs, covered with boards or thatch, having no flooring, and but one apartment, serving all the purposes of sleeping, cooking, &c. Some are furnished with a temporary loft. I have seen a whole family herded together in a loft ten feet by twelve. In cold weather, they gather around the fire, spread their blankets on the ground , and keep as comfortable as they can. Their supply of clothing is scanty—each slave being allowed a Holland coat and pantaloons, of the coarsest manufacture, and one pair of cowhide shoes. The women, enough of the same kind of cloth for one frock. They have also one pair of shoes. Shoes are given to the slaves in the winter only. In summer, their clothing is composed of osnaburgs. Slaves on different plantations are not allowed without a written permission, to visit their fellow bondsmen, under penalty of severe chastisement. I witnessed the chastisement of a young male slave, who was found lurking about the plantation, and could give no other account of himself, than that he wanted to visit some of his acquaintance. Fifty lashes was the penalty for this offence. I could not endure the dreadful shrieks of the tortured slave, and rushed away from the scene.”

  The remainder of this testimony is furnished by Mr. F. C. MACY.

  “I went to Savannah in 1820. Sailing up the river, I had my first view of slavery. A large number of men and women, with a piece of board on their heads, carrying mud, for the purpose of dyking, near the river. After tarrying a while in Savannah, I went down to the sea islands of De Fuskee and Hilton Head, where I spent six months. Negro houses are small, built of rough materials, and no floor. Their clothing, (one suit,) coarse; which they received on Christmas day. Their food was three pecks of potatoes per week, in the potatoe season, and one peck of corn the remainder of the year. The slaves carried with them into the field their meal, and a gourd of water. They cooked their hommony in the field, and ate it with a wooden paddle Their treatment was little better than that of brutes. Whipping was nearly an every-day practice. On Mr. M—'s plantation, at the island De Fuskee, I saw an old man whipped; he was about 60. He had no clothing on, except a shirt. The man that inflicted the blows was Flim, a tall and stout man. The whipping was very severe. I inquired into the cause. Some vegetables had been stolen from his master's garden, of which he could give no account. I saw several women whipped, some of whom were in very delicate circumstances. The case of one I will relate. She had been purchased in Charleston, and separated from her husband. On her passage to Savannal, or rather to the island, she was delivered of a child; and in about three weeks after this, she appeared to be deranged. She would leave her work, go into the woods, and sing


Her master sent for her, and ordered the driver to whip her. I was near enough to hear the strokes.

  “I have known negro boys, partly by persuasion, and partly by force, made to strip off their clothing and fight for the amusement of their masters. They would fight until both got to crying.

  “One of the planters told me that his boat had been used without permission. A number of his negroes were called up, and put in a building that was lathed and shingled. The covering could be easily removed from the inside. He called one out for examination. While examining this one, he discovered another negro, coming out of the roof He ordered him back: he obeyed. In a few moments he attempted it again. The master took deliberate aim at his head, but his gun missed fire. He told me he should probably have killed him, had his gun gone off. The negro jumped and run. The master took aim again, and fired; but he was so far distant, that he received only a few shots in the calf of his leg. After several days he returned, and received a severe whipping.

  “Mr. B—, planter at Hilton Head, freely confessed, that he kept one of his slaves as a mistress. She slept in the same room with him. This, I think, is a very common practice.”

American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839


  The following letter was written to Mr. ARTHUR TAPPAN , of New York, in the summer of 1833. As the name of the writer cannot be published with safety to himself, it is withheld.

  The following testimonials, from Mr. TAPPAN, Professor WRIGHT, and THOMAS RITTER, M. D. of New York, establish the trust-worthiness and high respectability of the writer.

  “I received the following letters from the south during the year 1833. They were written by a gentleman who had then resided some years in the slave states. Not being at liberty to give the writer's name, I cheerfully certify that he is a gentleman of established character, a graduate of Yale College, and a respected minister of the gospel.


  “My acquaintance with the writer of the following letter commenced, I believe, in 1823, from which time we were fellow students in Yale College till 1826. I have occasionally seen him since. His character, so far as it has come within my knowledge, has been that of an upright and remarkably candid man. I place great confidence both in his habits of careful and unprejudiced observation and his veracity.

E. WRIGHT, jun.

  New York, April 13, 1839.”

  “I have been acquainted with the writer of the following letter about twelve years, and know him to be a gentleman of high respectability, integrity, and piety. We were fellow students in Yale College, and my opportunities for judging of his character, both at that time and since our graduation, have been such, that I feel myself fully warranted in making the above unequivocal declaration.


  “104, Cherry street, New York.”

“NATCHEZ, 1833.

  “It has been almost four years since came to the south-west; and although I have been told, from month to month, that I should soon wear off my northern prejudices, and probably have slaves of my own, yet my judgment in regard to oppression, or my prejudices, if they are pleased so to call them, remain with me still. I judge still from those principles which were fixed in my mind at the north; and a residence at the south has not enabled me so to pervert truth, as to make injustice appear justice.

  “I have studied the state of things here, now for years, coolly and deliberately, with the eye of an uninterested looker on; and hence I may not be altogether unprepared to state to you some facts, and to draw conclusions from them.

  “Permit me then to relate what I have seen; and do not imagine that these are all exceptions to the general treatment, but rather believe that thousands of cruelties are practised in this Christian land, every year, which no eye that ever shed a tear of pity could look upon.

  “Soon after my arrival I made an excursion into the country, to the distance of some twenty miles. And as I was passing by a cotton field, where about fifty negroes were at work, I was inclined to stop by the road side to view a scene which was then new to me. While I was, in my mind, comparing this mode of labor with that of my own native place, I heard the driver, with a rough oath, order one that was near him, who seemed to be laboring to the extent of his power, to “lie down.” In a moment he was obeyed; and he commenced whipping the offender upon his naked back, and continued, to the amount of about twenty lashes, with a heavy raw-hide whip, the crack of which might have been heard more than half a mile. Nor did the females escape; for although I stopped scarcely fifteen minutes, no less than three were whipped in the same manner, and that so severely, I was strongly inclined to interfere.

  “You may be assured, sir, that I remained not unmoved: I could no longer look on such cruelty, but turned away and rode on, while the echoes of the lash were reverberating in the woods around me. Such scenes have long since become familiar to me. But then the full effect was not lost; and I shall never forget, to my latest day, the mingled feelings of pity, horror, and indignation that took possession of my mind. I involuntarily exclaimed, O God of my fathers, how dost thou permit such things to defile our land! Be merciful to us! and visit us not in justice, for all our iniquities and the iniquities of our fathers!

  “As I passed on I soon found that I had escaped from one horrible scene only to witness another. A planter with whom I was well acquanted, had caught a negro without a pass. And at the moment I was passing by, he was in the act of fastening


his feet and hands to the trees, having previously made him take off all his clothing except his trowsers. When he had sufficiently secured this poor creature, he beat him for several minutes with a green switch more than six feet long; while he was writhing with anguish, endeavoring in vain to break the cords with which he was bound, and incessantly crying out, “Lord, master! do pardon me this time! do, master, have mercy!” These expressions have recurred to me a thousand times since; and although they came from one that is not considered among the sons of men, yet I think they are well worthy of remembrance, as they might lead a wise man to consider whether such shall receive mercy from the righteous Judge, as never showed mercy to their fellow men.

  “At length I arrived at the dwelling of a planter of my acquaintance, with whom I passed the night. At about eight o'clock in the evening I heard the barking of several dogs, mingled with the most agonizing cries that I ever heard from any human being. Soon after the gentleman came in, and began to apologize, by saying that two of his runaway slaves had just been brought home; and as he had previously tried every species of punishment upon them without effect, he knew not what else to add, except to set his blood hounds upon them. 'And,' continued he, 'one of them has been so badly bitten that he has been trying to die. I am only sorry that he did not; for then I should not have been further troubled with him. If he lives I intend to send him to Natchez or to New Orleans, to work with the ball and chain.'

  “From this last remark I understood that private individuals have the right of thus subjecting their unmanageable slaves. I have since seen numbers of these 'ball and chain' men, both in Natchez and New Orleans, but I do not know whether there were any among them except the state convicts.

  “As the summer was drawing towards a close, and the yellow fever beginning to prevail in town, I went to reside some months in the country. This was the cotton picking season, during which, the planters say, there is a greater necessity for logging than at any other time. And I can assure you, that as I have sat in my window night after night, while the cotton was being weighed, I have heard the crack of the whip, without much intermission, for a whole hour, from no less than three plantations, some of which were a full mile distant.

  “I found that the slaves were kept in the field from daylight until dark; and then, if they had not gathered what the master or overseer thought sufficient, they were subjected to the lash.

  “Many by such treatment are induced to runaway and take up their lodging in the woods. I do not say that all who run away are thus closely pressed, but I do know that many are; and I have known no less than a dozen desert at a time from the same plantation, in consequence of the overseer's forcing them to work to the extent of their power, and then whipping them for not having done more.

  “But suppose that they run away—what is to become of them in the forest? If they cannot steal they must perish of hunger—if the nights are cold, their feet will be frozen; for if they make a fire they may be discovered, and be shot at. If they attempt to leave the country, their chance of success is about nothing. They must return, be whipped—if old offenders, wear the collar, perhaps be branded, and fare worse than before.

  “Do you believe it, sir, not six months since, I saw a number of my Christian neighbors packing up provisions, as I supposed for a deer hunt; but as I was about offering myself to the party, I learned that their powder and balls were destined to a very different purpose: it was, in short, the design of the party to bring home a number of runaway slaves, or to shoot them if they should not be able to get possession of them in any other way.

  “You will ask, Is not this murder? Call it, sir, by what name you please, such are the facts:— many are shot every year, and that too while the masters say they treat their slaves well.

  “But let me turn your attention to another species of cruelty. About a year since I knew a certain slave who had deserted his master, to be caught, and for the first time fastened to the stocks. In those same stocks, from which at midnight I have heard cries of distress, while the master slept, and was dreaming, perhaps, of drinking wine and of discussing the price of cotton. On the next morning he was chained in an immovable posture, and branded in both cheeks with red hot stamps of iron. Such are the tender mercies of men who love wealth, and are determined to obtain it at any price.

  “Suffer me to add another to the list of enormities, and I will not offend you with more.

  “There was, some time since, brought to trial in this town a planter residing about fifteen miles distant, for whipping his slave to death. You will suppose, of course, that he was punished. No, sir, he was acquitted, although there could be no doubt of the fact. I heard the tale of murder from a man who was acquainted with all the circumstances. 'I was,' said he, 'passing along the road near the burying-ground of the plantation, about nine o'clock at night, when I saw several lights gleaming through the woods; and as I approached, in order to see what was doing, I beheld the coroner of Natchez, with a number of men, standing around the body of a young female, which by the torches seemed almost perfectly white. On inquiry I learned that the master had so unmercifully beaten this girl that she died under the operation: and that also he had so severely punished another of his slaves that he was but just alive.' ”

American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839

  We here rest the case for the present, so far as respects the presentation of facts showing the condition of the slaves, and proceed to consider the main objections which are usually employed to weaken such testimony, or wholly to set it aside. But before we enter upon the examination of specific objections, and introductory to them, we remark,—

  1. That the system of slavery must be a system of horrible cruelty, follows of necessity, from the fact that two millions seven hundred thousand human beings are held by force, and used as articles


of property. Nothing but a heavy yoke, and an iron one, could possibly keep so many necks in the dust. That must be a constant and mighty pressure which holds so still such a vast army; nothing could do it but the daily experience of severities, and the ceaseless dread and certainty of the most terrible inflictions if they should dare to toss in their chains.

  2. Were there nothing else to prove it a system of monstrous cruelty, the fact that FEAR is the only motive with which the slave is plied during his whole existence, would be sufficient to brand it with execration as the grand tormentor of man. The slave's susceptibility of pain is the sole fulcrum on which slavery works the lever that moves him. In this it plants all its stings; here it sinks its hot irons; cuts its deep gashes; flings its burning embers, and dashes its boiling brine and liquid fire: into this it strikes its cold flesh hooks, grapgling irons, and instruments of nameless torture; and by it drags him shrieking to the end of his pilgrimage. The fact that the master inflicts pain upon the slave not merely as an end to gratify passion, but constantly as a means of extorting labor, is enough of itself to show that the system of slavery is unmixed cruelty.

  3. That the slaves must suffer frequent and terrible inflictions, follows inevitably from the character of those who direct their labor. Whatever may be the character of the slaveholders themselves, all agree that the overseers are, as a class, most abandoned, brutal, and desperate men. This is so well known and believed that any testimony to prove it seems needless. The testimony of Mr. WIRT, late Attorney General of the United States, a Virginian and a slaveholder, is as follows. In his life of Patrick Henry, p. 36, speaking of the different classes of society in Virginia, he says,—“Last and lowest a feculum, of beings called 'overseers'—the most abject, degradded, unprincipled race, always cap in hand to the dons who employ them, and furnishing materials for the exercise of their pride, insolence, and spirit of domination.”

  Rev. PHINEAS SMITH, of Centreville, New-York, who has resided some years at the south, says of overseers—

  “It need hardly be added that overseers are in general ignorant, unprincipled and cruel, and in such low repute that they are not permitted to come to the tables of their employers; yet they have the constant control of all the human cattle that belong to the master.

  “These men are continually advancing from their low station to the higher one of masters. These changes bring into the possession of power a class of men of whose mental and moral qualities I have already spoken.”

  Rev. HORACE MOULTON, of Marlboro', Massachusetts, who lived in Georgia several years, says of them,—

  “The overseers are generally loose in their morals; it is the object of masters to employ those whom they think will get the most work out of their hands,—hence those who whip and torment the slaves the most are in many instances called the best overseers. The masters think those whom the slaves fear the most are the best. Quite a portion of the masters employ their own slaves as overseers, or rather they are called drivers; these are more subject to the will of the masters than the white overseers are; some of them are as lordly as an Austrian prince, and sometimes more cruel even than the whites.”

  That the overseers are, as a body, sensual, brutal, and violent men is proverbial. The tender mercies of such men must be cruel.

  4. The ownership of human beings necessarily presupposes an utter disregard of their happiness. He who assumes it monopolizes their whole capital, leaves them no stock on which to trade and out of which to make happiness. Whatever is the master's gain is the slave's loss, a loss wrested from him by the master, for the express purpose of making it his own gain; this is the master's constant employment—forcing the slave to toil— violently wringing from him all he has and all he gets, and using it as his own;—like the vile bird that never builds its nest from materials of its own gathering, but either drives other birds from theirs and takes possession of them, or tears them in pieces to get the means of constructing their own. This daily practice of forcibly robbing others, and habitually living on the plunder, cannot but beget in the mind the habit of regarding the interests and happiness of those whom it robs, as of no sort of consequence in comparison with its own; consequently whenever those interests and this happiness are in the way of its own gratification, they will be sacrificed without scruple. He who cannot see this would be unable to feel it, if it were seen.