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    Chapter 6

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    Chapter 7
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    _Treatment of Slaves on Lloyd's Plantation_

    EARLY REFLECTIONS ON SLAVERY--PRESENTIMENT OF ONE DAY BEING A
    FREEMAN--COMBAT BETWEEN AN OVERSEER AND A SLAVEWOMAN--THE
    ADVANTAGES OF RESISTANCE--ALLOWANCE DAY ON THE HOME PLANTATION--
    THE SINGING OF SLAVES--AN EXPLANATION--THE SLAVES FOOD AND
    CLOTHING--NAKED CHILDREN--LIFE IN THE QUARTER--DEPRIVATION OF
    SLEEP--NURSING CHILDREN CARRIED TO THE FIELD--DESCRIPTION OF THE
    COWSKIN--THE ASH-CAKE--MANNER OF MAKING IT--THE DINNER HOUR--THE
    CONTRAST.

    The heart-rending incidents, related in the foregoing chapter,
    led me, thus early, to inquire into the nature and history of
    slavery. _Why am I a slave? Why are some people slaves, and
    others masters? Was there ever a time this was not so? How did
    the relation commence?_ These were the perplexing questions
    which began now to claim my thoughts, and to exercise the weak
    powers of my mind, for I was still but a child, and knew less
    than children of the same age in the free states. As my
    questions concerning these things were only put to children a
    little older, and little better informed than myself, I was not
    rapid in reaching a solid footing. By some means I learned from
    these inquiries that _"God, up in the sky,"_ made every body; and
    that he made _white_ people to be masters and mistresses, and
    _black_ people to be slaves. This did not satisfy me, nor lessen
    my interest in the subject. I was told, too, that God was good,
    and that He knew what was best for me, and best for everybody.
    This was less satisfactory than the first statement; because it
    came, point blank, against all my notions of goodness. It
    was not good to let old master cut the flesh off Esther, and make
    her cry so. Besides, how did people know that God made black
    people to be slaves? Did they go up in the sky and learn it? or,
    did He come down and tell them so? All was dark here. It was
    some relief to my hard notions of the goodness of God, that,
    although he made white men to be slaveholders, he did not make
    them to be _bad_ slaveholders, and that, in due time, he would
    punish the bad slaveholders; that he would, when they died, send
    them to the bad place, where they would be "burnt up."
    Nevertheless, I could not reconcile the relation of slavery with
    my crude notions of goodness.

    Then, too, I found that there were puzzling exceptions to this
    theory of slavery on both sides, and in the middle. I knew of
    blacks who were _not_ slaves; I knew of whites who were _not_
    slaveholders; and I knew of persons who were _nearly_ white, who
    were slaves. _Color_, therefore, was a very unsatisfactory basis
    for slavery.

    Once, however, engaged in the inquiry, I was not very long in
    finding out the true solution of the matter. It was not _color_,
    but _crime_, not _God_, but _man_, that afforded the true
    explanation of the existence of slavery; nor was I long in
    finding out another important truth, viz: what man can make, man
    can unmake. The appalling darkness faded away, and I was master
    of the subject. There were slaves here, direct from Guinea; and
    there were many who could say that their fathers and mothers were
    stolen from Africa--forced from their homes, and compelled to
    serve as slaves. This, to me, was knowledge; but it was a kind
    of knowledge which filled me with a burning hatred of slavery,
    increased my suffering, and left me without the means of breaking
    away from my bondage. Yet it was knowledge quite worth
    possessing. I could not have been more than seven or eight years
    old, when I began to make this subject my study. It was with me
    in the woods and fields; along the shore of the river, and
    wherever my boyish wanderings led me; and though I was, at that
    time, quite ignorant of the
    existence of the free states, I distinctly remember being, _even
    then_, most strongly impressed with the idea of being a freeman
    some day. This cheering assurance was an inborn dream of my
    human nature a constant menace to slavery--and one which all the
    powers of slavery were unable to silence or extinguish.

    Up to the time of the brutal flogging of my Aunt Esther--for she
    was my own aunt--and the horrid plight in which I had seen my
    cousin from Tuckahoe, who had been so badly beaten by the cruel
    Mr. Plummer, my attention had not been called, especially, to the
    gross features of slavery. I had, of course, heard of whippings
    and of savage _rencontres_ between overseers and slaves, but I
    had always been out of the way at the times and places of their
    occurrence. My plays and sports, most of the time, took me from
    the corn and tobacco fields, where the great body of the hands
    were at work, and where scenes of cruelty were enacted and
    witnessed. But, after the whipping of Aunt Esther, I saw many
    cases of the same shocking nature, not only in my master's house,
    but on Col. Lloyd's plantation. One of the first which I saw,
    and which greatly agitated me, was the whipping of a woman
    belonging to Col. Lloyd, named Nelly. The offense alleged
    against Nelly, was one of the commonest and most indefinite in
    the whole catalogue of offenses usually laid to the charge of
    slaves, viz: "impudence." This may mean almost anything, or
    nothing at all, just according to the caprice of the master or
    overseer, at the moment. But, whatever it is, or is not, if it
    gets the name of "impudence," the party charged with it is sure
    of a flogging. This offense may be committed in various ways; in
    the tone of an answer; in answering at all; in not answering; in
    the expression of countenance; in the motion of the head; in the
    gait, manner and bearing of the slave. In the case under
    consideration, I can easily believe that, according to all
    slaveholding standards, here was a genuine instance of impudence.
    In Nelly there were all the necessary conditions for committing
    the offense. She was a bright mulatto, the recognized wife
    of a favorite "hand" on board Col. Lloyd's sloop, and the mother
    of five sprightly children. She was a vigorous and spirited
    woman, and one of the most likely, on the plantation, to be
    guilty of impudence. My attention was called to the scene, by
    the noise, curses and screams that proceeded from it; and, on
    going a little in that direction, I came upon the parties engaged
    in the skirmish. Mr. Siever, the overseer, had hold of Nelly,
    when I caught sight of them; he was endeavoring to drag her
    toward a tree, which endeavor Nelly was sternly resisting; but to
    no purpose, except to retard the progress of the overseer's
    plans. Nelly--as I have said--was the mother of five children;
    three of them were present, and though quite small (from seven to
    ten years old, I should think) they gallantly came to their
    mother's defense, and gave the overseer an excellent pelting with
    stones. One of the little fellows ran up, seized the overseer by
    the leg and bit him; but the monster was too busily engaged with
    Nelly, to pay any attention to the assaults of the children.
    There were numerous bloody marks on Mr. Sevier's face, when I
    first saw him, and they increased as the struggle went on. The
    imprints of Nelly's fingers were visible, and I was glad to see
    them. Amidst the wild screams of the children--"_Let my mammy
    go"--"let my mammy go_"--there escaped, from between the teeth of
    the bullet-headed overseer, a few bitter curses, mingled with
    threats, that "he would teach the d--d b--h how to give a white
    man impudence." There is no doubt that Nelly felt herself
    superior, in some respects, to the slaves around her. She was a
    wife and a mother; her husband was a valued and favorite slave.
    Besides, he was one of the first hands on board of the sloop, and
    the sloop hands--since they had to represent the plantation
    abroad--were generally treated tenderly. The overseer never was
    allowed to whip Harry; why then should he be allowed to whip
    Harry's wife? Thoughts of this kind, no doubt, influenced her;
    but, for whatever reason, she nobly resisted, and, unlike most of
    the slaves, seemed
    determined to make her whipping cost Mr. Sevier as much as
    possible. The blood on his (and her) face, attested her skill,
    as well as her courage and dexterity in using her nails.
    Maddened by her resistance, I expected to see Mr. Sevier level
    her to the ground by a stunning blow; but no; like a savage bull-
    dog--which he resembled both in temper and appearance--he
    maintained his grip, and steadily dragged his victim toward the
    tree, disregarding alike her blows, and the cries of the children
    for their mother's release. He would, doubtless, have knocked
    her down with his hickory stick, but that such act might have
    cost him his place. It is often deemed advisable to knock a
    _man_ slave down, in order to tie him, but it is considered
    cowardly and inexcusable, in an overseer, thus to deal with a
    _woman_. He is expected to tie her up, and to give her what is
    called, in southern parlance, a "genteel flogging," without any
    very great outlay of strength or skill. I watched, with
    palpitating interest, the course of the preliminary struggle, and
    was saddened by every new advantage gained over her by the
    ruffian. There were times when she seemed likely to get the
    better of the brute, but he finally overpowered her, and
    succeeded in getting his rope around her arms, and in firmly
    tying her to the tree, at which he had been aiming. This done,
    and Nelly was at the mercy of his merciless lash; and now, what
    followed, I have no heart to describe. The cowardly creature
    made good his every threat; and wielded the lash with all the hot
    zest of furious revenge. The cries of the woman, while
    undergoing the terrible infliction, were mingled with those of
    the children, sounds which I hope the reader may never be called
    upon to hear. When Nelly was untied, her back was covered with
    blood. The red stripes were all over her shoulders. She was
    whipped--severely whipped; but she was not subdued, for she
    continued to denounce the overseer, and to call him every vile
    name. He had bruised her flesh, but had left her invincible
    spirit undaunted. Such floggings are seldom repeated by the same
    overseer. They prefer to whip those who are most easily
    whipped. The old doctrine that submission is the very best cure
    for outrage and wrong, does not hold good on the slave
    plantation. He is whipped oftenest, who is whipped easiest; and
    that slave who has the courage to stand up for himself against
    the overseer, although he may have many hard stripes at the
    first, becomes, in the end, a freeman, even though he sustain the
    formal relation of a slave. "You can shoot me but you can't whip
    me," said a slave to Rigby Hopkins; and the result was that he
    was neither whipped nor shot. If the latter had been his fate,
    it would have been less deplorable than the living and lingering
    death to which cowardly and slavish souls are subjected. I do
    not know that Mr. Sevier ever undertook to whip Nelly again. He
    probably never did, for it was not long after his attempt to
    subdue her, that he was taken sick, and died. The wretched man
    died as he had lived, unrepentant; and it was said--with how much
    truth I know not--that in the very last hours of his life, his
    ruling passion showed itself, and that when wrestling with death,
    he was uttering horrid oaths, and flourishing the cowskin, as
    though he was tearing the flesh off some helpless slave. One
    thing is certain, that when he was in health, it was enough to
    chill the blood, and to stiffen the hair of an ordinary man, to
    hear Mr. Sevier talk. Nature, or his cruel habits, had given to
    his face an expression of unusual savageness, even for a slave-
    driver. Tobacco and rage had worn his teeth short, and nearly
    every sentence that escaped their compressed grating, was
    commenced or concluded with some outburst of profanity. His
    presence made the field alike the field of blood, and of
    blasphemy. Hated for his cruelty, despised for his cowardice,
    his death was deplored by no one outside his own house--if indeed
    it was deplored there; it was regarded by the slaves as a
    merciful interposition of Providence. Never went there a man to
    the grave loaded with heavier curses. Mr. Sevier's place was
    promptly taken by a Mr. Hopkins, and the change was quite a
    relief, he being a very different man. He was, in DAY AT THE HOME PLANTATION>all respects, a better man than his
    predecessor; as good as any man can be, and yet be an overseer.
    His course was characterized by no extraordinary cruelty; and
    when he whipped a slave, as he sometimes did, he seemed to take
    no especial pleasure in it, but, on the contrary, acted as though
    he felt it to be a mean business. Mr. Hopkins stayed but a short
    time; his place much to the regret of the slaves generally--was
    taken by a Mr. Gore, of whom more will be said hereafter. It is
    enough, for the present, to say, that he was no improvement on
    Mr. Sevier, except that he was less noisy and less profane.

    I have already referred to the business-like aspect of Col.
    Lloyd's plantation. This business-like appearance was much
    increased on the two days at the end of each month, when the
    slaves from the different farms came to get their monthly
    allowance of meal and meat. These were gala days for the slaves,
    and there was much rivalry among them as to _who_ should be
    elected to go up to the great house farm for the allowance, and,
    indeed, to attend to any business at this (for them) the capital.
    The beauty and grandeur of the place, its numerous slave
    population, and the fact that Harry, Peter and Jake the sailors
    of the sloop--almost always kept, privately, little trinkets
    which they bought at Baltimore, to sell, made it a privilege to
    come to the great house farm. Being selected, too, for this
    office, was deemed a high honor. It was taken as a proof of
    confidence and favor; but, probably, the chief motive of the
    competitors for the place, was, a desire to break the dull
    monotony of the field, and to get beyond the overseer's eye and
    lash. Once on the road with an ox team, and seated on the tongue
    of his cart, with no overseer to look after him, the slave was
    comparatively free; and, if thoughtful, he had time to think.
    Slaves are generally expected to sing as well as to work. A
    silent slave is not liked by masters or overseers. _"Make a
    noise," "make a noise,"_ and _"bear a hand,"_ are the words
    usually addressed to the slaves when there is silence amongst
    them. This may account for the almost constant singing heard
    in the southern states. There was, generally, more or less
    singing among the teamsters, as it was one means of letting the
    overseer know where they were, and that they were moving on with
    the work. But, on allowance day, those who visited the great
    house farm were peculiarly excited and noisy. While on their
    way, they would make the dense old woods, for miles around,
    reverberate with their wild notes. These were not always merry
    because they were wild. On the contrary, they were mostly of a
    plaintive cast, and told a tale of grief and sorrow. In the most
    boisterous outbursts of rapturous sentiment, there was ever a
    tinge of deep melancholy. I have never heard any songs like
    those anywhere since I left slavery, except when in Ireland.
    There I heard the same _wailing notes_, and was much affected by
    them. It was during the famine of 1845-6. In all the songs of
    the slaves, there was ever some expression in praise of the great
    house farm; something which would flatter the pride of the owner,
    and, possibly, draw a favorable glance from him.

    _I am going away to the great house farm,
    O yea! O yea! O yea!
    My old master is a good old master,
    O yea! O yea! O yea!_

    This they would sing, with other words of their own improvising--
    jargon to others, but full of meaning to themselves. I have
    sometimes thought, that the mere hearing of those songs would do
    more to impress truly spiritual-minded men and women with the
    soul-crushing and death-dealing character of slavery, than the
    reading of whole volumes of its mere physical cruelties. They
    speak to the heart and to the soul of the thoughtful. I cannot
    better express my sense of them now, than ten years ago, when, in
    sketching my life, I thus spoke of this feature of my plantation
    experience:

    I did not, when a slave, understand the deep meanings of those
    rude, and apparently incoherent songs. I was myself within the
    circle, so that I neither saw or heard as those without might see
    and hear. They told a tale which was EXPLANATION>then altogether beyond my feeble comprehension; they
    were tones, loud, long and deep, breathing the prayer and
    complaint of souls boiling over with the bitterest anguish.
    Every tone was a testimony against slavery, and a prayer to God
    for deliverance from chains. The hearing of those wild notes
    always depressed my spirits, and filled my heart with ineffable
    sadness. The mere recurrence, even now, afflicts my spirit, and
    while I am writing these lines, my tears are falling. To those
    songs I trace my first glimmering conceptions of the dehumanizing
    character of slavery. I can never get rid of that conception.
    Those songs still follow me, to deepen my hatred of slavery, and
    quicken my sympathies for my brethren in bonds. If any one
    wishes to be impressed with a sense of the soul-killing power of
    slavery, let him go to Col. Lloyd's plantation, and, on allowance
    day, place himself in the deep, pine woods, and there let him, in
    silence, thoughtfully analyze the sounds that shall pass through
    the chambers of his soul, and if he is not thus impressed, it
    will only be because "there is no flesh in his obdurate heart."

    The remark is not unfrequently made, that slaves are the most
    contended and happy laborers in the world. They dance and sing,
    and make all manner of joyful noises--so they do; but it is a
    great mistake to suppose them happy because they sing. The songs
    of the slave represent the sorrows, rather than the joys, of his
    heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is
    relieved by its tears. Such is the constitution of the human
    mind, that, when pressed to extremes, it often avails itself of
    the most opposite methods. Extremes meet in mind as in matter.
    When the slaves on board of the "Pearl" were overtaken, arrested,
    and carried to prison--their hopes for freedom blasted--as they
    marched in chains they sang, and found (as Emily Edmunson tells
    us) a melancholy relief in singing. The singing of a man cast
    away on a desolate island, might be as appropriately considered
    an evidence of his contentment and happiness, as the singing of a
    slave. Sorrow and desolation have their songs, as well as joy
    and peace. Slaves sing more to _make_ themselves happy, than to
    express their happiness.

    It is the boast of slaveholders, that their slaves enjoy more of
    the physical comforts of life than the peasantry of any country
    in the world. My experience contradicts this. The men and the
    women slaves on Col. Lloyd's farm, received, as their monthly
    allowance of food, eight pounds of pickled pork, or their
    equivalent in fish. The pork was often tainted, and the fish was
    of the poorest quality--herrings, which would bring very little
    if offered for sale in any northern market. With their pork or
    fish, they had one bushel of Indian meal--unbolted--of which
    quite fifteen per cent was fit only to feed pigs. With this, one
    pint of salt was given; and this was the entire monthly allowance
    of a full grown slave, working constantly in the open field, from
    morning until night, every day in the month except Sunday, and
    living on a fraction more than a quarter of a pound of meat per
    day, and less than a peck of corn-meal per week. There is no
    kind of work that a man can do which requires a better supply of
    food to prevent physical exhaustion, than the field-work of a
    slave. So much for the slave's allowance of food; now for his
    raiment. The yearly allowance of clothing for the slaves on this
    plantation, consisted of two tow-linen shirts--such linen as the
    coarsest crash towels are made of; one pair of trowsers of the
    same material, for summer, and a pair of trowsers and a jacket of
    woolen, most slazily put together, for winter; one pair of yarn
    stockings, and one pair of shoes of the coarsest description.
    The slave's entire apparel could not have cost more than eight
    dollars per year. The allowance of food and clothing for the
    little children, was committed to their mothers, or to the older
    slavewomen having the care of them. Children who were unable to
    work in the field, had neither shoes, stockings, jackets nor
    trowsers given them. Their clothing consisted of two coarse tow-
    linen shirts--already described--per year; and when these failed
    them, as they often did, they went naked until the next allowance
    day. Flocks of little children from five to ten years old, might
    be seen on Col. Lloyd's plantation, as destitute of clothing as
    any little heathen on the west coast of Africa; and this, not
    merely during the summer months, but during the frosty weather of
    March. The little girls were no better off than the boys; all
    were nearly in a state of nudity.

    As to beds to sleep on, they were known to none of the field
    hands; nothing but a coarse blanket--not so good as those used in
    the north to cover horses--was given them, and this only to the
    men and women. The children stuck themselves in holes and
    corners, about the quarters; often in the corner of the huge
    chimneys, with their feet in the ashes to keep them warm. The
    want of beds, however, was not considered a very great privation.
    Time to sleep was of far greater importance, for, when the day's
    work is done, most of the slaves have their washing, mending and
    cooking to do; and, having few or none of the ordinary facilities
    for doing such things, very many of their sleeping hours are
    consumed in necessary preparations for the duties of the coming
    day.

    The sleeping apartments--if they may be called such--have little
    regard to comfort or decency. Old and young, male and female,
    married and single, drop down upon the common clay floor, each
    covering up with his or her blanket,--the only protection they
    have from cold or exposure. The night, however, is shortened at
    both ends. The slaves work often as long as they can see, and
    are late in cooking and mending for the coming day; and, at the
    first gray streak of morning, they are summoned to the field by
    the driver's horn.

    More slaves are whipped for oversleeping than for any other
    fault. Neither age nor sex finds any favor. The overseer stands
    at the quarter door, armed with stick and cowskin, ready to whip
    any who may be a few minutes behind time. When the horn is
    blown, there is a rush for the door, and the hindermost one is
    sure to get a blow from the overseer. Young mothers who worked
    in the field, were allowed an hour, about ten o'clock in the
    morning, to go home to nurse their children. Sometimes they were
    compelled to take their children with them, and to leave them in
    the corner of the fences, to prevent loss of time in nursing
    them. The overseer generally rides about the field on horseback.
    A cowskin and a hickory stick are his constant companions. The
    cowskin is a kind of whip seldom seen in the northern states.
    It is made entirely of untanned, but dried, ox hide, and is about
    as hard as a piece of well-seasoned live oak. It is made of
    various sizes, but the usual length is about three feet. The
    part held in the hand is nearly an inch in thickness; and, from
    the extreme end of the butt or handle, the cowskin tapers its
    whole length to a point. This makes it quite elastic and
    springy. A blow with it, on the hardest back, will gash the
    flesh, and make the blood start. Cowskins are painted red, blue
    and green, and are the favorite slave whip. I think this whip
    worse than the "cat-o'nine-tails." It condenses the whole
    strength of the arm to a single point, and comes with a spring
    that makes the air whistle. It is a terrible instrument, and is
    so handy, that the overseer can always have it on his person, and
    ready for use. The temptation to use it is ever strong; and an
    overseer can, if disposed, always have cause for using it. With
    him, it is literally a word and a blow, and, in most cases, the
    blow comes first.

    As a general rule, slaves do not come to the quarters for either
    breakfast or dinner, but take their "ash cake" with them, and eat
    it in the field. This was so on the home plantation; probably,
    because the distance from the quarter to the field, was sometimes
    two, and even three miles.

    The dinner of the slaves consisted of a huge piece of ash cake,
    and a small piece of pork, or two salt herrings. Not having
    ovens, nor any suitable cooking utensils, the slaves mixed their
    meal with a little water, to such thickness that a spoon would
    stand erect in it; and, after the wood had burned away to coals
    and ashes, they would place the dough between oak leaves and lay
    it carefully in the ashes, completely covering it; hence, the
    bread is called ash cake. The surface of this peculiar bread is
    covered with ashes, to the depth of a sixteenth part of an inch,
    and the ashes, certainly, do not make it very grateful to the
    teeth, nor render it very palatable. The bran, or coarse part of
    the meal, is baked with the fine, and bright scales run through
    the bread. This bread, with its ashes and bran,
    would disgust and choke a northern man, but it is quite liked by
    the slaves. They eat it with avidity, and are more concerned
    about the quantity than about the quality. They are far too
    scantily provided for, and are worked too steadily, to be much
    concerned for the quality of their food. The few minutes allowed
    them at dinner time, after partaking of their coarse repast, are
    variously spent. Some lie down on the "turning row," and go to
    sleep; others draw together, and talk; and others are at work
    with needle and thread, mending their tattered garments.
    Sometimes you may hear a wild, hoarse laugh arise from a circle,
    and often a song. Soon, however, the overseer comes dashing
    through the field. _"Tumble up! Tumble up_, and to _work,
    work,"_ is the cry; and, now, from twelve o'clock (mid-day) till
    dark, the human cattle are in motion, wielding their clumsy hoes;
    hurried on by no hope of reward, no sense of gratitude, no love
    of children, no prospect of bettering their condition; nothing,
    save the dread and terror of the slave-driver's lash. So goes
    one day, and so comes and goes another.

    But, let us now leave the rough usage of the field, where vulgar
    coarseness and brutal cruelty spread themselves and flourish,
    rank as weeds in the tropics; where a vile wretch, in the shape
    of a man, rides, walks, or struts about, dealing blows, and
    leaving gashes on broken-spirited men and helpless women, for
    thirty dollars per month--a business so horrible, hardening and
    disgraceful, that, rather, than engage in it, a decent man would
    blow his own brains out--and let the reader view with me the
    equally wicked, but less repulsive aspects of slave life; where
    pride and pomp roll luxuriously at ease; where the toil of a
    thousand men supports a single family in easy idleness and sin.
    This is the great house; it is the home of the LLOYDS! Some idea
    of its splendor has already been given--and, it is here that we
    shall find that height of luxury which is the opposite of that
    depth of poverty and physical wretchedness that we have just now
    been contemplating. But, there is this difference in the two
    extremes; viz: that in the case of the slave, the miseries
    and hardships of his lot are imposed by others, and, in the
    master's case, they are imposed by himself. The slave is a
    subject, subjected by others; the slaveholder is a subject, but
    he is the author of his own subjection. There is more truth in
    the saying, that slavery is a greater evil to the master than to
    the slave, than many, who utter it, suppose. The self-executing
    laws of eternal justice follow close on the heels of the evil-
    doer here, as well as elsewhere; making escape from all its
    penalties impossible. But, let others philosophize; it is my
    province here to relate and describe; only allowing myself a word
    or two, occasionally, to assist the reader in the proper
    understanding of the facts narrated.
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