Sunday, February 2, 2014

Treatment of Slaves

One can gain significant insight into slaveholders' thoughts by reading submissions to antebellum Southern agricultural journals. My last post came from apparently a Virginia woman, who provided suggestions to her fellow slaveholding housekeepers on how to efficiently manage those enslaved individuals employed in domestic tasks. The Southern Planter, published in Richmond, Virginia, printed it in 1843.

Today's post comes from another planting journal, "The Southern Cultivator, A Monthly Journal, Devoted to the Interests of Southern Agriculture and Designed to Improve both the Soil and the Mind; to Elevate the Character of the Tillers of the Soil, and to Introduce a more Enlightened System of Agriculture." The Southern Cultivator was published in Augusta, Georgia.  This brief submission was provided by an anonymous writer from Wilkinson County, Mississippi. It was published in 1860.

"Treatment of Slaves - Mr. Guerry"

EDITORS SOUTHERN CULTIVATOR - Allow me in a few lines to express my gratification in reading the sensible and gentlemanly article of Mr. Guerry in the current number of the Cultivator.

The article replied to reminded me of the phrase common among a certain class of overseers -"getting their satisfaction out of a negro!" It is this unrelenting, brutalizing drive, drive, watch and whip, that furnishes facts to abolition writers that cannot be disputed, and that are infamous. Mr. Guerry is right - treat your negroes well and he will respond to it with fidelity and honesty; kind words, humane consideration, justness in discipline, unhesitating authority when required, forbearance towards venal offenses, arousing pride of character, recognizing the personality of each one, not only in the week's rations but in the week's work - these make the negro most effective as a worker in the place of his appointment, these make the Institution truly "patriarchal" in character, and rob the phrase of its satire, as used by the Greelyites of Abolitiondom. But it may be said, how can the owner of hundreds of slaves treat them as proposed? God pity the man who owns more than he can intimately know and characteristically govern, either in person or by proxy. If the owner is a full grown man, even if it has to be done by proxy, his spirit will prevail, and the manager of the far-off quarter place will have a perpetual consciousness of responsibility that will, in good degree hold him to his duty. And good men may be obtained for this office and should be. The licentious, profane, the cruel, the false overseer should be kept on the home place or sent to Ohio.

If it were possible, by law, or public opinion, to prevent the acquisition of negroes beyond, say one hundred, the institution would be more efficiently worked; the negro more intrinsically more valuable, because the better cared for and better governed, and the many evils incident to quarter places obviated. But this may never be.

Public opinion however may be so educated to as to put its condemnation upon many things that we know are cancerous and fungous to slavery; that offend pure morals and common humanity; that corrupt the slave and degrade the white man. We may and should make the slave the friend, and so defy scoundrel book-pedlars and Ohio fruit-grafters and the whole crew of John Brown spies and strikers, who make us winter visits annually. B
Wilkinson county, Miss., June, 1860.  

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.    

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