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that thousands of cruelties are practised in this Christian land,
every year, which no eye that ever shed a tear of pity could look

"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

"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
acquainted, 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 flogging 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

"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 run away 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.'"

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, grappling 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, degraded,
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, 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.



The enormities inflicted by slaveholders upon their slaves will never
be discredited except by those who overlook the simple fact, that he
who holds human beings as his bona fide property, _regards_ them as
property, and not as _persons;_ this is his permanent state of mind
toward them. He does not contemplate slaves as human beings,
consequently does not _treat_ them as such; and with entire
indifference sees them suffer privations and writhe under blows,
which, if inflicted upon whites, would fill him with horror and
indignation. He regards that as good treatment of slaves, which would
seem to him insufferable abuse if practiced upon others; and would
denounce that as a monstrous outrage and horrible cruelty, if
perpretated upon white men and women, which he sees every day meted
out to black slaves, without perhaps ever thinking it cruel.
Accustomed all his life to regard them rather as domestic animals, to
hear them stormed at, and to see them cuffed and caned; and being
himself in the constant habit of treating them thus, such practices
have become to him a mere matter of course, and make no impression on
his mind. True, it is incredible that men should treat as _chattels_
those whom they truly regard as _human beings;_ but that they should
treat as chattels and working animals those whom they _regard_ as
such, is no marvel. The common treatment of dogs, when they are in the
way, is to kick them out of it; we see them every day kicked off the
sidewalks, and out of shops, and on Sabbaths out of churches, - yet, as
they are but _dogs_, these do not strike us as outrages; yet, if we
were to see men, women, and children - our neighbors and friends,
kicked out of stores by merchants, or out of churches by the deacons
and sexton, we should call the perpetrators inhuman wretches.

We have said that slaveholders regard their slaves not as human
beings, but as mere working animals, or merchandise. The whole
vocabulary of slaveholders, their laws, their usages, and their entire
treatment of their slaves fully establish this. The same terms are
applied to slaves that are given to cattle. They are called "stock."
So when the children of slaves are spoken of prospectively, they are
called their "increase;" the same term that is applied to flocks and
herds. So the female slaves that are mothers, are called "breeders"
till past child bearing; and often the same terms are applied to the
different sexes that are applied to the males and females among
cattle. Those who compel the labor of slaves and cattle have the same
appellation, "drivers:" the names which they call them are the same
and similar to those given to their horses and oxen. The laws of slave
states make them property, equally with goats and swine; they are
levied upon for debt in the same way; they are included in the same
advertisements of public sales with cattle, swine, and asses; when
moved from one part of the country to another, they are herded in
droves like cattle, and like them urged on by drivers; their labor is
compelled in the same way. They are bought and sold, and separated
like cattle: when exposed for sale, their good qualities are described
as jockies show off the good points of their horses; their strength,
activity, skill, power of endurance, &c. are lauded, - and those who
bid upon them examine their persons, just as purchasers inspect horses
and oxen; they open their mouths to see if their teeth are sound;
strip their backs to see if they are badly scarred, and handle their
limbs and muscles to see if they are firmly knit. Like horses, they
are warranted to be "sound," or to be returned to the owner if
"unsound." A father gives his son a horse and a _slave_; by his will
he distributes among them his race-horses, hounds, game-cocks, and
_slaves_. We leave the reader to carry out the parallel which we have
only begun. Its details would cover many pages.

That slaveholders do not practically regard slaves as _human beings_
is abundantly shown by their own voluntary testimony. In a recent work
entitled, "The South vindicated from the Treason and Fanaticism of
Northern Abolitionists," which was written, we are informed, by
Colonel Dayton, late member of Congress from South Carolina; the
writer, speaking of the awe with which the slaves regard the whites,
says, -

"The northerner looks upon a band of negroes as upon so many _men_,
but the planter or southerner _views them in a very different light._"

Extract from the speech of Mr. SUMMERS, of Virginia, in the
legislature of that state, Jan. 26, 1832. See the Richmond Whig.

"When, in the sublime lessons of Christianity, he (the slaveholder) is
taught to 'do unto others as he would have others do unto him,' HE

PRESIDENT JEFFERSON, in his letter to GOVERNOR COLES, of Illinois,
dated Aug. 25, 1814, asserts, that slaveholders regard their slaves as
brutes, in the following remarkable language.

"Nursed and educated in the daily habit of seeing the degraded
condition, both bodily and mental, of these unfortunate beings [the

Having shown that slaveholders regard their slaves as mere working
animals and cattle, we now proceed to show that their actual treatment
of them, is _worse_ than it would be if they were brutes. We repeat
Whoever heard of cows or sheep being deliberately tied up and beaten
and lacerated till they died? or horses coolly tortured by the hour,
till covered with mangled flesh, or of swine having their legs tied
and being suspended from a tree and lacerated with thongs for hours,
or of hounds stretched and made fast at full length, flayed with
whips, red pepper rubbed into their bleeding gashes, and hot brine
dashed on to aggravate the torture? Yet just such forms and degrees of
torture are _daily_ perpetrated upon the slaves. Now no man that knows
human nature will marvel at this. Though great cruelties have always
been inflicted by men upon brutes, yet incomparably the most horrid
ever perpetrated, have been those of men upon _their own species_. Any
leaf of history turned over at random has proof enough of this. Every
reflecting mind perceives that when men hold _human beings_ as
_property_, they must, from the nature of the case, treat them worse
than they treat their horses and oxen. It is impossible for _cattle_
to excite in men such tempests of fury as men excite in each other.
Men are often provoked if their horses or hounds refuse to do, or
their pigs refuse to go where they wish to drive them, but the feeling
is rarely intense and never permanent. It is vexation and impatience,
rather than settled rage, malignity, or revenge. If horses and dogs
were intelligent beings, and still held as property, their opposition
to the wishes of their owners, would exasperate them immeasurably more
than it would be possible for them to do, with the minds of brutes.
None but little children and idiots get angry at sticks and stones
that lie in their way or hurt them; but put into sticks and stones
intelligence, and will, and power of feeling and motion, while they
remain as now, articles of property, and what a towering rage would
men be in, if bushes whipped them in the face when they walked among
them, or stones rolled over their toes when they climbed hills! and
what exemplary vengeance would be inflicted upon door-steps and
hearth-stones, if they were to move out of their places, instead of
lying still where they were put for their owners to tread upon. The
greatest provocation to human nature is _opposition to its will_. If a
man's will be resisted by one far _below_ him, the provocation is
vastly greater, than when it is resisted by an acknowledged superior.
In the former case, it inflames strong passions, which in the latter
lie dormant. The rage of proud Haman knew no bounds against the poor
Jew who would not do as he wished, and so he built a gallows for him.
If the person opposing the will of another, be so far below him as to
be on a level with chattels, and be actually held and used as an
article of property; pride, scorn, lust of power, rage and revenge
explode together upon the hapless victim. The idea of _property_
having a will, and that too in opposition to the will of its _owner_,
and counteracting it, is a stimulant of terrible power to the most
relentless human passions and from the nature of slavery, and the
constitution of the human mind, this fierce stimulant must, with
various degrees of strength, act upon slaveholders almost without
ceasing. The slave, however abject and crushed, is an intelligent
being: he has a _will_, and that will cannot be annihilated, _it will
show itself_; if for a moment it is smothered, like pent up fires when
vent is found, it flames the fiercer. Make intelligence _property_,
and its manager will have his match; he is met at every turn by an
_opposing will_, not in the form of down-right rebellion and defiance,
but yet, visibly, an _ever-opposing will_. He sees it in the
dissatisfied look, and reluctant air and unwilling movement; the
constrained strokes of labor, the drawling tones, the slow hearing,
the feigned stupidity, the sham pains and sickness, the short memory;
and he _feels_ it every hour, in innumerable forms, frustrating his
designs by a ceaseless though perhaps invisible countermining. This
unceasing opposition to the will of its 'owner,' on the part of his
rational 'property,' is to the slaveholder as the hot iron to the
nerve. He raves under it, and storms, and gnashes, and smites; but the
more he smites, the hotter it gets, and the more it burns him.
Further, this opposition of the slave's will to his owner's, not only
excites him to severity, that he may gratify his rage, but makes it
necessary for him to use violence in breaking down this
resistance - thus subjecting the slave to additional tortures. There is
another inducement to cruel inflictions upon the slave, and a
necessity for it, which does not exist in the case of brutes.
Offenders must be made an example to others, to strike them with
terror. If a slave runs away and is caught, his master flogs him with
terrible severity, not merely to gratify his resentment, and to keep
him from running away again, but as a warning to others. So in every
case of disobedience, neglect, stubbornness, unfaithfulness,
indolence, insolence, theft, feigned sickness, when his directions are
forgotten, or slighted, or supposed to be, or his wishes crossed, or
his property injured, or left exposed, or his work ill-executed, the
master is tempted to inflict cruelties, not merely to wreak his own
vengeance upon him, and to make the slave more circumspect in future,
but to sustain his authority over the other slaves, to restrain them
from like practices, and to preserve his own property.

A multitude of facts, illustrating the position that slaveholders
treat their slaves _worse_ than they do their cattle, will occur to
all who are familiar with slavery. When cattle break through their
owners' inclosures and escape, if found, they are driven back and
fastened in again; and even slaveholders would execrate as a wretch,
the man who should tie them up, and bruise and lacerate them for
straying away; but when _slaves_ that have escaped are caught, they
are flogged with the most terrible severity. When herds of cattle are
driven to market, they are suffered to go in the easiest way, each by
himself; but when slaves are driven to market, they are fastened

Online LibraryAmerican Anti-Slavery SocietyThe Anti-Slavery Examiner, Omnibus → online text (page 159 of 236)