History teaches the existence of Slavery, from the earliest periods of time.
It is at least coeval with the records of human society. It prevailed in all the greatest and most civilized nations of antiquity. The earliest glimpses Egyptian life exhibit pictures of bandage. The oldest monuments of human labor upon her soil, everlastingly perpetuate both her greatness and the extent of the system of Slavery by which such greatness was achieved.
Abraham, the father of the faithful and founder of the Jewish Nation, was the purchaser and owner of hundreds of Slaves. Babylon and Tyre were markets for the sale of men. The Fir-trees and Cedars of Lebanan were cut and hewed by the servants of Huram, and brought to Joppa in floats by sea; thence carried to Jerusalem by the servants of the king of Israel. The Temple of Solomon was arrayed in all its glory, by the mighty power of this system, directed by the highest wisdom.
In Attica, Laconia, and all the other prominent States of classic Greece, the slave population was greater than the free, and the same was true of Rome in her most virtuous days.
Slavery was established and sanctioned by divine authority; and ever since the decree went forth, that the descendants of Canaan should be "servants of servants," slavery has existed in a variety of forms, and in nearly all nations; until now, in the midst of the nineteenth century, we find ourselves the owners of three and a half millions of this peculiar race, without any agency on our part.
Being thus providentially, as it were, endowed with the responsibilities, as well as advantages, which necessarily arise from this fore-ordained connexion of the races, the management and treatment which shall best subserve the welfare and interest of both, becomes one of the most important practical inquires that can possibly engage our attention.
In attempting an essay upon this subject, we can gather but little aid from the long historical record which we have of the institution for although we learn that slaves were nearly always employed in labor, we yet see no account of how they were clothed, or fed, or find any data of comparative results of different modes of treatment, or labor, whereby we can be guided in our search after a system comprising the greatest benefits. We must therefore rely upon the observation, experience, and practice of the present time, as the only sources of useful and correct information upon the subject.
The writer has been accustom to slavery from his earliest days, and for thirty years has been much interested in their management, both on plantations and public works, and has therefore been prompted by his own interests, as well as inclination, to try every reasonable mode of management, treatment, living, and labor: and the results of a long experience has fully satisfied him, and proven beyond doubt, that the best interest of all parties are most promoted by a kind and liberal treatment on the part of the owner, and the requirement of proper discipline and strict obedience on the part of the slave. Indeed the Creator seems to have planted in the negro an innate principle of protection against the abuse of arbitrary power; and it is this law of nature which imperatively associates the true interest of the owner with the good treatment and comfort of the slave. Hence abuses and harsh treatment carries its own antidote, as all such cases recoil upon the head of the owner. Every attempt to force the slave beyond the limits of reasonable service, by cruelty or hard treatment, so far from extorting more work, only tends to make him
unprofitable, unmanageable; a vexation and a curse.
It being, therefore, so manifestly against the interest of all parties,
as well as opposed to the natural feelings of humanity, and refinement,
and the civilization of the age, a case of cruelty or abuse of a slave
by his owner, is seldom known, and universally condemned
Among the first objects that occupy the attention of the planter, in the settlement of a new place, is the selection of a proper location for his buildings. This should always be done with great care and with an especial view to health. Good water is indispensable, and should be obtained at almost any cost, as without it, there can be no permanent health. It should be obtained from wells or springs, if possible; but if that cannot be done, then proper cisterns should be constructed, and placed to receive the rain water from the buildings, by which means a constant supply of healthy water may be kept on hand.
The houses should be placed, if possible, under the shades of the native forest; but where that cannot be done, the china, or mulberry, or some quick growth should be immediately transplanted, so as to cover the buildings, in some degree, from the rays of the summer's sum. The buildings should be placed about two feet above the ground, so that the air can pass freely under them, and also be well ventilated with doors and windows. They should be sufficiently large, say about sixteen by twenty feet, and but one family should be put in a house: there is nothing more injurious to health or demoralizing in feeling , than crowding them together. They had much better sleep in the open air than in crowded tight houses. Each house or family should be furnished with suitable bedding and blankets, for while a proper outfit costs a few dollars in the beginning, they save twice as much in the end--they add greatly to the comfort and heath of the slave, and enable him much better to perform the labor required.
The allowance now given per week to each hand--men, women, boys, and girls that are large enough to go in the field to work--is five pounds of good clean bacon, and one quart of molasses, with as much good bread as they require; and in the fall or sickly seasons of the year, or on sickly places, the addition of one pint of strong coffee, sweetened with sugar, every morning before going to work. These provisions are given out on some designated night of each week; and for families it is put together; but to single hands it is given to each separately, and they then unite in squads or messes, and have their meat cooked for them, by a woman who is detailed for that purpose, or to keep it to themselves, as they please. Their bread is baked daily in loaves, by a woman who is kept for that duty. Each house or family should have a garden attached for raising their own vegetables.
This mode of allowancing relieves the owner from much trouble in daily supervising their provisions, and is much more satisfactory to a slave. Under this system of treatment a word of complaint in relation to their living is seldom heard. Some planters, however, differ on this subject, and prefer the plan of cooking and eating at one common table; and it is possible, with a small number of hands, and where the owner is willing to devote a good deal of attention to that matter, that he may save a small amount. But it will not be as satisfactory, and he will probably not gain enough to pay for the trouble. Children, of course, must be fed and attended as their wants require: they are not likely to be neglected, as they pay a good interest upon the amount of care and expense bestowed upon them.
Negroes are by nature tyranical in their dispositions; and if allowed, the stronger will abuse the weaker; husbands will often abuse their wives, and mothers their children, so that it becomes a prominent duty of owners and overseers, to keep peace, and prevent quarreling and disputes among them; and summary punishment should follow any violation of this rule.
Slaves are also a people that enjoy religious privileges. Many of them place much value upon it, and to every reasonable extent, that advantage should be allowed them. They are never injured by preaching, but thousands become wiser and better people, and more trustworthy servants, by their attendance at church. Religious services should be provided and encouraged, on every plantation. A zealous and vehement style, both in doctrine and manner, is best adapted to their temperament; they are good believers in mysteries and miracles; ready converts, and adhere with much pertinacity to their opinions when formed.
No card playing, or gambling of any description should be allowed, under severe penalties. And the Maine liquor law should be rigidly enforced on every estate.
A bountiful supply of red pepper should be cultivated, and kept on hand, and used freely, in damp sections, where sore throats are apt to prevail, and also in fall complaints. It acts by creating a glow over the whole body, without any narcotic effect; it produces general arterial excitement, and prevents in considerable degree, that languor and apathy of the system, which renders it so susceptible to chills and fevers; it may be given in any way or form which their taste or fancy may dictate.
The writer does not suppose that the foregoing views are entirely new or novel, for a large portion of his fellow citizens have more or less experience upon the subject. But it is only by thus compiling our experience, with what we can glean from others, and carefully comparing results, and drawing correct inferences, that the great problem can be solved, of how the reciprocal duties between master and slave can be best discharged, so as to promote the greatest good to the greatest number of all concerned.
Furthermore, by communicating our actual experience, and daily practice, upon this subject, to the public, it may, perchance, remove some of the wild delusions and erroneous impressions which exist in the minds of a portion of the Northern people, and which can only exist, from a want of correct information. Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, a recent writer of much distinction and ability, but wholly unacquainted practically with the institution, has unfortunately given to the world, in her recent book, "Uncle Tom's Cabin," a variety of sketches of fancy, in relation to the treatment of the negroes of the South, which only exists in a prolific imagination, frenzied by the visionary horrors of slavery, and the terrible misrepresentations and falsehoods, which have been imposed upon her for truths. She has undoubtedly been much deceived ; and has aimed a blow at slavery, and slave holders, without stopping to consider from whence the institution came, or suggesting any reasonable mode to remedy what she calls the evil.
It is truly unfortunate, both for the public and the slave, that such books should emanate from high places. They are well calculated to excite the sympathies, and distress the mind of many honest and worthy people, over the supposed cruelties, and abuses of the blacks, that do not exist in reality. And it does injury to the slave, by making it the duty of owners, to prevent the circulation of the book among them, and requiring a more rigid police for that purpose. And in prohibiting this work, they are apt to be deprived of other books of a religious character, which they might enjoy at pleasure, if these incendiary works were not in circulation. The professed objects of such efforts, are to benefit the slave, but the practical result is to do him an injury.
Under this system of management and treatment, which I have attempted to detail, and which differs but little from the common practice of the country in its main features; the owner receives a good income upon the property, and the slaves are generally a happy and contented people.
They have but few cares on their minds, and no provision to make for to-morrow.--The thought of a starving family never disturbs their dreams, for they have the strongest guarentee in the direct interest of their owner, that they will be provided for, both in food and raiment.
The slave also knows, that if he is sick, he will be properly attended to, that he may the sooner recover, and resume his duties; that if his children are sick, they too will be taken care of, for the money they are soon to be worth. As long as owners are governed by their interest, the slaves have good security for a comfortable support.
Will Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, turn her talents and attention for a moment to a comparative examination of the situation and condition of the negro, in his own free native country, and on the plantation of the South? In the former, it is true, he has the name of freedom, but the name is all; he has none of the privileges, comforts, or necessaries of civilized life; and in the scale of intelligence, ranges but little above the wild beast of the forest, while the negro of the South has the name of slavery, but is in reality comparatively free, and in the enjoyment of christian privileges in civilized society, with a protection and support secured to him by the direct interest of his master. A complete investigation and correct information would certainly modify the extreme views of the fair authoress herself, and go very far to satisfy every friend of the Ethiopian race that the situation and condition of the slaves of this country, are far superior and preferable to that of their brethren in their native land.
It is well known, that some few years ago, William Thompson, from Scotland, traveled through this sectioned of the United States, and labored a considerable time for his living; and upon his return home published a history of his journey, which was received as authority where he was known, and in which he states, that "he had witnessed slavery in most of the slave-holding States; that he had lived for weeks among negroes on cotton plantations; and he asserts that he never beheld one fifth of the real suffering that he had seen among the laboring poor in England." And he further says: That the members of the same family of negroes are not so much scattered, as are those of the working men in Scotland, whose necessities compel them to separate at an age when the American slave is running about gathering health and strength.
And another eminent writer of extensive information in regard to the negroes in Africa, says: The greatest blessing that could be bestowed upon them, would be to transport them across the Atlantic to the shores of America. Though they might be perpetual bondsmen, still they would emerge from darkness into light--from barbarism to civilization--from idolatry to christianity--in short from death to life.
Then it may well be asked, of what has the slave of the South, or his true friend, to complain?
There is no country, and no place upon the face of this earth, where the negro race have such security for a wholesome living, as the slaves in the United States.
In view, then, of all these things, both the slave and the master have reason to be satisfied with their lot. And while duty and obedience should be required of the slave, the master should "render unto the Caesar the things that are Caesar's," and should ever hold in remembrance the divine precept; "master's give unto your servants that which is just and equal, knowing that ye also have a master in heaven, and ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children. They shall be your bondsmen forever: but thou shalt not rule over them with rigor, but shall fear thy God."