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that vegetables be at all times served with the meat and bread." At the
same time he forbade his slaves to use ardent spirits or to have such about
their houses. Weston wrote: "Great care should be taken that the negroes
should never have less than their regular allowance. In all cases of doubt,
it should be given in favor of the largest quantity. The measure should
not be struck, but rather heaped up over. None but provisions of the best
quality should be used." Telfair specified as follows: "The allowance for
every grown negro, however old and good for nothing, and every young one
that works in the field, is a peck of corn each week and a pint of salt,
and a piece of meat, not exceeding fourteen pounds, per month...The
suckling children, and all other small ones who do not work in the field,
draw a half allowance of corn and salt....Feed everything plentifully, but
waste nothing." He added that beeves were to be killed for the negroes in
July, August and September. Hammond's allowance to each working hand was a
heaping peck of meal and three pounds of bacon or pickled pork every week.
In the winter, sweet potatoes were issued when preferred, at the rate of a
bushel of them in lieu of the peck of meal; and fresh beef, mutton or pork,
at increased weights, were to be substituted for the salt pork from time to
time. The ditchers and drivers were to have extra allowances in meat and
molasses. Furthermore, "Each ditcher receives every night, when ditching, a
dram (jigger) consisting of two-thirds whiskey and one-third water, with as
much asafoetida as it will absorb, and several strings of red peppers added
in the barrel. The dram is a large wine-glass full. In cotton picking time
when sickness begins to be prevalent, every field hand gets a dram in the
morning before leaving for the field. After a soaking rain all exposed to
it get a dram before changing their clothes; also those exposed to the
dust from the shelter and fan in corn shelling, on reaching the quarter at
night; or anyone at any time required to keep watch in the night. Drams are
not given as rewards, but only as medicinal. From the second hoeing, or
early in May, every work hand who uses it gets an occasional allowance of
tobacco, about one sixth of a pound, usually after some general operation,
as a hoeing, plowing, etc. This is continued until their crops are
gathered, when they can provide for themselves." The families, furthermore,
shared in the distribution of the plantation's peanut crop every fall. Each
child was allowed one third as much meal and meat as was given to each
field hand, and an abundance of vegetables to be cooked with their meat.
The cooking and feeding was to be done at the day nursery. For breakfast
they were to have hominy and milk and cold corn bread; for dinner,
vegetable soup and dumplings or bread; and cold bread or potatoes were to
be kept on hand for demands between meals. They were also to have molasses
once or twice a week. Each child was provided with a pan and spoon in
charge of the nurse.

Hammond's clothing allowance was for each man in the fall two cotton
shirts, a pair of woolen pants and a woolen jacket, and in the spring two
cotton shirts and two pairs of cotton pants, with privilege of substitution
when desired; for each woman six yards of woolen cloth and six yards of
cotton cloth in the fall, six yards of light and six of heavy cotton cloth
in the spring, with needles, thread and buttons on each occasion. Each
worker was to have a pair of stout shoes in the fall, and a heavy blanket
every third year. Children's cloth allowances were proportionate and their
mothers were required to dress them in clean clothes twice a week.

In the matter of sanitation, Acklen directed the overseer to see that the
negroes kept clean in person, to inspect their houses at least once a week
and especially during the summer, to examine their bedding and see to its
being well aired, to require that their clothes be mended, "and everything
attended to which conduces to their comfort and happiness." In these
regards, as in various others, Fowler incorporated Acklen's rules in his
own, almost verbatim. Hammond scheduled an elaborate cleaning of the houses
every spring and fall. The houses were to be completely emptied and their
contents sunned, the walls and floors were to be scrubbed, the mattresses
to be emptied and stuffed with fresh hay or shucks, the yards swept and the
ground under the houses sprinkled with lime. Furthermore, every house was
to be whitewashed inside and out once a year; and the negroes must appear
once a week in clean clothes, "and every negro habitually uncleanly in
person must be washed and scrubbed by order of the overseer - the driver and
two other negroes officiating."

As to schedules of work, the Carolina and Georgia lowlanders dealt in
tasks; all the rest in hours. Telfair wrote briefly: "The negroes to be
tasked when the work allows it. I require a reasonable day's work, well
done - the task to be regulated by the state of the ground and the strength
of the negro." Weston wrote with more elaboration: "A task is as much work
as the meanest full hand can do in nine hours, working industriously....
This task is never to be increased, and no work is to be done over task
except under the most urgent necessity; which over-work is to be reported
to the proprietor, who will pay for it. No negro is to be put into a task
which [he] cannot finish with tolerable ease. It is a bad plan to punish
for not finishing tasks; it is subversive of discipline to leave tasks
unfinished, and contrary to justice to punish for what cannot be done. In
nothing does a good manager so much excel a bad as in being able to discern
what a hand is capable of doing, and in never attempting to make him do
more." In Hammond's schedule the first horn was blown an hour before
daylight as a summons for work-hands to rise and do their cooking and other
preparations for the day. Then at the summons of the plow driver, at first
break of day, the plowmen went to the stables whose doors the overseer
opened. At the second horn, "just at good daylight," the hoe gang set out
for the field. At half past eleven the plowmen carried their mules to a
shelter house in the fields, and at noon the hoe hands laid off for dinner,
to resume work at one o'clock, except that in hot weather the intermission
was extended to a maximum of three and a half hours. The plowmen led the
way home by a quarter of an hour in the evening, and the hoe hands followed
at sunset. "No work," said Hammond, "must ever be required after dark."
Acklen contented himself with specifying that "the negroes must all rise at
the ringing of the first bell in the morning, and retire when the last
bell rings at night, and not leave their houses after that hour unless on
business or called." Fowler's rule was of the same tenor: "All hands should
be required to retire to rest and sleep at a suitable hour and permitted to
remain there until such time as it will be necessary to get out in time to
reach their work by the time they can see well how to work."

Telfair, Fowler and Hammond authorized the assignment of gardens and
patches to such slaves as wanted to cultivate them at leisure times. To
prevent these from becoming a cloak for thefts from the planter's crops,
Telfair and Fowler forbade the growing of cotton in the slaves' private
patches, and Hammond forbade both cotton and corn. Fowler specifically
gave his negroes the privilege of marketing their produce and poultry "at
suitable leisure times." Hammond had a rule permitting each work hand to go
to Augusta on some Sunday after harvest; but for some reason he noted in
pencil below it: "This is objectionable and must be altered." Telfair
and Weston directed that their slaves be given passes on application,
authorizing them to go at proper times to places in the neighborhood. The
negroes, however, were to be at home by the time of the curfew horn about
nine o'clock each night. Mating with slaves on other plantations was
discouraged as giving occasion for too much journeying.

"Marriage is to be encouraged," wrote Hammond, "as it adds to the comfort,
happiness and health of those who enter upon it, besides insuring a greater
increase. Permission must always be obtained from the master before
marriage, but no marriage will be allowed with negroes not belonging to the
master. When sufficient cause can be shewn on either side, a marriage may
be annulled; but the offending party must be severely punished. Where both
are in wrong, both must be punished, and if they insist on separating must
have a hundred lashes apiece. After such a separation, neither can marry
again for three years. For first marriage a bounty of $5.00, to be invested
in household articles, or an equivalent of articles, shall be given. If
either has been married before, the bounty shall be $2.50. A third marriage
shall be not allowed but in extreme cases, and in such cases, or where both
have been married before, no bounty will be given."

"Christianity, humanity and order elevate all, injure none," wrote Fowler,
"whilst infidelity, selfishness and disorder curse some, delude others and
degrade all. I therefore want all of my people encouraged to cultivate
religious feeling and morality, and punished for inhumanity to their
children or stock, for profanity, lying and stealing." And again: "I would
that every human being have the gospel preached to them in its original
purity and simplicity. It therefore devolves upon me to have these
dependants properly instructed in all that pertains to the salvation of
their souls. To this end whenever the services of a suitable person can be
secured, have them instructed in these things. In view of the fanaticism
of the age, it behooves the master or overseer to be present on all
such occasions. They should be instructed on Sundays in the day time if
practicable; if not, then on Sunday night." Acklen wrote in his usual
peremptory tone: "No negro preachers but my own will be permitted to preach
or remain on any of my places. The regularly appointed minister for my
places must preach on Sundays during daylight, or quit. The negroes must
not be suffered to continue their night meetings beyond ten o'clock."
Telfair in his rules merely permitted religious meetings on Saturday nights
and Sunday mornings. Hammond encouraged his negroes to go to church on
Sundays, but permitted no exercises on the plantation beyond singing and
praying. He, and many others, encouraged his negroes to bring him their
complaints against drivers and overseers, and even against their own
ecclesiastical authorities in the matter of interference with recreations.

Fighting among the negroes was a common bane of planters. Telfair
prescribed: "If there is any fighting on the plantation, whip all engaged
in it, for no matter what the cause may have been, all are in the wrong."
Weston wrote: "Fighting, particularly amongst women, and obscene or abusive
language, is to be always rigorously punished."

"Punishment must never be cruel or abusive," wrote Acklen, closely followed
by Fowler, "for it is absolutely mean and unmanly to whip a negro from mere
passion and malice, and any man who can do so is utterly unfit to have
control of negroes; and if ever any of my negroes are cruelly or inhumanly
treated, bruised, maimed or otherwise injured, the overseer will be
promptly discharged and his salary withheld." Weston recommended the lapse
of a day between the discovery of an offense and the punishment, and he
restricted the overseer's power in general to fifteen lashes. He continued:
"Confinement (not in the stocks) is to be preferred to whipping; but the
stoppage of Saturday's allowance, and doing whole task on Saturday, will
suffice to prevent ordinary offenses. Special care must be taken to prevent
any indecency in punishing women. No driver or other negro is to be allowed
to punish any person in any way except by order of the overseer and in his
presence." And again: "Every person should be made perfectly to understand
what they are punished for, and should be made to perceive that they are
not punished in anger or through caprice. All abusive language or violence
of demeanor should be avoided; they reduce the man who uses them to a level
with the negro, and are hardly ever forgotten by those to whom they are
addressed." Hammond directed that the overseer "must never threaten a
negro, but punish offences immediately on knowing them; otherwise he will
soon have runaways." As a schedule he wrote: "The following is the order
in which offences must be estimated and punished: 1st, running away; 2d,
getting drunk or having spirits; 3d, stealing hogs; 4th, stealing; 5th,
leaving plantation without permission; 6th, absence from house after
horn-blow at night; 7th, unclean house or person; 8th, neglect of tools;
9th, neglect of work. The highest punishment must not exceed a hundred
lashes in one day, and to that extent only in extreme cases. The whip lash
must be one inch in width, or a strap of one thickness of leather 1-1/2
inches in width, and never severely administered. In general fifteen to
twenty lashes will be a sufficient flogging. The hands in every case must
be secured by a cord. Punishment must always be given calmly, and never
when angry or excited." Telfair was as usual terse: "No negro to have
more than fifty lashes for any offense, no matter how great the crime."
Manigault said nothing of punishments in his general instructions, but sent
special directions when a case of incorrigibility was reported: "You had
best think carefully respecting him, and always keep in mind the important
old plantation maxim, viz: 'never to threaten a negro,' or he will do as
you and I would when at school - he will run. But with such a one, ... if
you wish to make an example of him, take him down to the Savannah jail and
give him prison discipline, and by all means solitary confinement, for
three weeks, when he will be glad to get home again.... Mind then and tell
him that you and he are quits, that you will never dwell on old quarrels
with him, that he has now a clear track before him and all depends on
himself, for he now sees how easy it is to fix 'a bad disposed nigger.'
Then give my compliments to him and tell him that you wrote me of his
conduct, and say if he don't change for the better I'll sell him to a slave
trader who will send him to New Orleans, where I have already sent several
of the gang for misconduct, or their running away for no cause." In one
case Manigault lost a slave by suicide in the river when a driver brought
him up for punishment but allowed him to run before it was administered.[5]

[Footnote 5: _Plantation and Frontier_, II, 32, 94.]

As to rewards, Hammond was the only one of these writers to prescribe them
definitely. His head driver was to receive five dollars, the plow driver
three dollars, and the ditch driver and stock minder one dollar each every
Christmas day, and the nurse a dollar and the midwife two dollars for every
actual increase of two on the place. Further, "for every infant thirteen
months old and in sound health, that has been properly attended to, the
mother shall receive a muslin or calico frock."

"The head driver," Hammond wrote, "is the most important negro on the
plantation, and is not required to work like other hands. He is to
be treated with more respect than any other negro by both master and
overseer....He is to be required to maintain proper discipline at all
times; to see that no negro idles or does bad work in the field, and to
punish it with discretion on the spot....He is a confidential servant, and
may be a guard against any excesses or omissions of the overseer." Weston,
forbidding his drivers to inflict punishments except at the overseer's
order and in his presence, described their functions as the maintenance of
quiet in the quarter and of discipline at large, the starting of the slaves
to the fields each morning, the assignment and supervision of tasks,
and the inspection of "such things as the overseer only generally
superintends." Telfair informed his overseer: "I have no driver. You are to
task the negroes yourself, and each negro is responsible to you for his own
work, and nobody's else."

Of the master's own functions Hammond wrote in another place: "A planter
should have all his work laid out, days, weeks, months, seasons and years
ahead, according to the nature of it. He must go from job to job without
losing a moment in turning round, and he must have all the parts of his
work so arranged that due proportion of attention may be bestowed upon each
at the proper time. More is lost by doing work out of season, and doing it
better or worse than is requisite, than can readily be supposed. Negroes
are harassed by it, too, instead of being indulged; so are mules, and
everything else. A halting, vacillating, undecided course, now idle, now
overstrained, is more fatal on a plantation than in any other kind of
business - ruinous as it is in any."[6]

[Footnote 6: Letter of Hammond to William Gilmore Simms, Jan. 21, 1841,
from Hammond's MS. copy in the Library of Congress.]

In the overseer all the virtues of a master were desired, with a deputy's
obedience added. Corbin enjoined upon his staff that they "attend their
business with diligence, keep the negroes in good order, and enforce
obedience by the example of their own industry, which is a more effectual
method in every respect than hurry and severity. The ways of industry," he
continued, "are constant and regular, not to be in a hurry at one time and
do nothing at another, but to be always usefully and steadily employed.
A man who carries on business in this manner will be prepared for every
incident that happens. He will see what work may be proper at the distance
of some time and be gradually and leisurely preparing for it. By this
foresight he will never be in confusion himself, and his business, instead
of a labor, will be a pleasure to him." Weston wrote: "The proprietor
wishes particularly to impress upon the overseer the criterions by which
he will judge of his usefullness and capacity. First, by the general
well-being of all the negroes; their cleanly appearance, respectful
manners, active and vigorous obedience; their completion of their tasks
well and early; the small amount of punishment; the excess of births over
deaths; the small number of persons in hospital; and the health of the
children. Secondly, the condition and fatness of the cattle and mules; the
good repair of all the fences and buildings, harness, boats, flats and
ploughs; more particularly the good order of the banks and trunks, and the
freedom of the fields from grass and volunteer [rice]. Thirdly, the amount
and quality of the rice and provision crops.... The overseer is expressly
forbidden from three things, viz.: bleeding, giving spirits to any negro
without a doctor's order, and letting any negro on the place have or keep
any gun, powder or shot." One of Acklen's prohibitions upon his overseers
was: "Having connection with any of my female servants will most certainly
be visited with a dismissal from my employment, and no excuse can or will
be taken."

Hammond described the functions as follows: "The overseer will never be
expected to work in the field, but he must always be with the hands when
not otherwise engaged in the employer's business.... The overseer must
never be absent a single night, nor an entire day, without permission
previously obtained. Whenever absent at church or elsewhere he must be on
the plantation by sundown without fail. He must attend every night and
morning at the stables and see that the mules are watered, cleaned and fed,
and the doors locked. He must keep the stable keys at night, and all the
keys, in a safe place, and never allow anyone to unlock a barn, smoke-house
or other depository of plantation stores but himself. He must endeavor,
also, to be with the plough hands always at noon." He must also see that
the negroes are out promptly in the morning, and in their houses after
curfew, and must show no favoritism among the negroes. He must carry on all
experiments as directed by the employer, and use all new implements and
methods which the employer may determine upon; and he must keep a full
plantation diary and make monthly inventories. Finally, "The negroes must
be made to obey and to work, which may be done, by an overseer who attends
regularly to his business, with very little whipping. Much whipping
indicates a bad tempered or inattentive manager, and will not be allowed."
His overseer might quit employment on a month's notice, and might be
discharged without notice. Acklen's dicta were to the same general effect.

As to the relative importance of the several functions of an overseer, all
these planters were in substantial agreement. As Fowler put it: "After
taking proper care of the negroes, stock, etc., the next most important
duty of the overseer is to make, if practicable, a sufficient quantity of
corn, hay, fodder, meat, potatoes and other vegetables for the consumption
of the plantation, and then as much cotton as can be made by requiring good
and reasonable labor of operatives and teams." Likewise Henry Laurens,
himself a prosperous planter of the earlier time as well as a statesman,
wrote to an overseer of whose heavy tasking he had learned: "Submit to
make less rice and keep my negroes at home in some degree of happiness in
preference to large crops acquired by rigour and barbarity to those poor
creatures." And to a new incumbent: "I have now to recommend to you the
care of my negroes in general, but particularly the sick ones. Desire Mrs.
White not to be sparing of red wine for those who have the flux or bad
loosenesses; let them be well attended night and day, and if one wench is
not sufficient add another to nurse them. With the well ones use gentle
means mixed with easy authority first - if that does not succeed, make
choice of the most stubborn one or two and chastise them severely but
properly and with mercy, that they may be convinced that the end of
correction is to be amendment," Again, alluding to one of his slaves
who had been gathering the pennies of his fellows: "Amos has a great
inclination to turn rum merchant. If his confederate comes to that
plantation, I charge you to discipline him with thirty-nine sound lashes
and turn him out of the gate and see that he goes quite off."[7]

[Footnote 7: D.D. Wallace, _Life of Henry Laurens_, pp. 133, 192.]

The published advice of planters to their fellows was quite in keeping with
these instructions to overseers. About 1809, for example, John Taylor, of
Caroline, the leading Virginian advocate of soil improvement in his day,
wrote of the care and control of slaves as follows: "The addition of
comfort to mere necessaries is a price paid by the master for the
advantages he will derive from binding his slave to his service by a
ligament stronger than chains, far beneath their value in a pecuniary
point of view; and he will moreover gain a stream of agreeable reflections
throughout life, which will cost him nothing." He recommended fireproof
brick houses, warm clothing, and abundant, varied food. Customary plenty
in meat and vegetables, he said, would not only remove occasions for
pilfering, but would give the master effective power to discourage it; for
upon discovering the loss of any goods by theft he might put his whole
force of slaves upon a limited diet for a time and thus suggest to the
thief that on any future occasion his fellows would be under pressure
to inform on him as a means of relieving their own privations. "A daily
allowance of cyder," Taylor continued, "will extend the success of this
system for the management of slaves, and particularly its effect of
diminishing corporal punishments. But the reader is warned that a stern
authority, strict discipline and complete subordination must be combined
with it to gain any success at all."[8]

[Footnote 8: John Taylor, of Caroline County, Virginia, _Arator, Being
a Series of Agricultural Essays_ (2d ed., Georgetown, D. C, 1814), pp.

Another Virginian's essay, of 1834, ran as follows: Virginia negroes are
generally better tempered than any other people; they are kindly, grateful,
attached to persons and places, enduring and patient in fatigue and
hardship, contented and cheerful. Their control should be uniform and
consistent, not an alternation of rigor and laxity. Punishment for real
faults should be invariable but moderate. "The best evidence of the good
management of slaves is the keeping up of good discipline with little or

Online LibraryUlrich Bonnell PhillipsAmerican Negro Slavery A Survey of the Supply, Employment and Control of Negro Labor as Determined by the Plantation Regime → online text (page 25 of 48)