A JOURNEY in the SEABOARD SLAVE STATES, WITH REMARKS ON THEIR ECONOMY
By Frederick Law Olmstead…
Journey to the Seaboard Slave States
Chapter I – VIRGINIA
Slave Labor – Overseers – A Coal Mine – Negro and English Miners – valuable Servants – Dress and Style of People – Street People – The Great Southern Route and Its Fast Train – One of the Law Givers – Freight Taken – The Slave Trade – Rural Scenery and Rural Life in Virginia – White Laboring People – Bed Time – Settling – The Wilderness – The Meeting House – A Tobacco Plantation – A Free-Labor Farm – Recreational Luxury Among the Slaves –Ingenuity of the Negro – Qualities as a Laborer – Improvement of the Negro in Slavery – Educational Privileges – A Distinguished Divine – How They Are Fed –Lodgings – Clothing
Chapter II –NORTH CAROLINA
Chapter III – SOUTH CAROLINA AND GEORGIA
Nature in Eastern South Carolina – The People – Negro Jodling. “The Carolina Yell”
Chapter IV – LOUISIANA
“Acadians” – “Chicken Thieves” – A Slave Abolitionist
Journey Through Texas
Chapter I – ROUTE THROUGH WESTERN TEXAS
German Farms – A Free-Minded Butcher – Neu-Braunfels – An Evening Far From Texas The San Antonio Road – San Antonio – The Missions – The Environs – The San Antonio Spring – Bathing – Town Life – The Mexicans in Texas – A Pause – A Norther – Neu-Braunfels – The Orphans – History of the German Settlements – Present Appearances
Chapter II – ALONG THE EASTERN COAST
Out of Texas
A Journey in the Back Country
Chapter I – THE VALLEY OF THE LOWER MISSISSIPPI
A Cotton Man – The Landscape-Rose Hedges – The Plantations – “Important to Business Men - Hill-side Cotton Culture – Abandoned Plantations – A Mississippi Fast Man – Education “Swell-Heads” – The Lower Law – Refusing a Noble Title – Where are all the People? – Experience of a Foreign Tourist – Natchez – The Bluff – Labor and Wages – Town and Country – Food of the Slaves – An Overseer at Home – Review of a First-Rate Cotton Plantation – Deserters and Detectives – Driving – Days and hours of Labor
Chapter II – A TENNESSEE SQUIRE
Tennessee Copper Mining – A Smart Yankee – A Colonizationist – How They Talk
The Cotton Kingdom
Chapter I – COTTON AND SLAVERY
Introductory – The Present Crisis
THE labor of this farm was entirely performed by slaves. I did not inquire their number, but I judged there were from twenty to forty. Their “quarters” lined the approach-road to the mansion, and were well-made and comfortable log cabins, about thirty feet long by twenty wide, and eight feet tall, with a high loft and shingle roof. Each, divided in the middle, and having a brick chimney outside the wall at each end, was intended to be occupied by two families. There were square windows closed by wooden ports, having a single pane of glass in the center. The house-servants were neatly dressed, but the field-hands wore very coarse and ragged garments.
During three hours or more in which I was in company with the proprietor, I do not think there were ten consecutive minutes uninterrupted by some of the slaves requiring his personal direction or assistance. He was even obliged three times to leave the dinner-table.
“You see,” said he, smiling, as he came in the last time, “a farmer’s life, in this country, is no sinecure.” This turning the conversation to Slavery, he observed, in answer to a remark of mine, “I only wish your philanthropists would contrive some satisfactory plan to relieve us of it; the trouble and the responsibility of properly taking care of our negroes, you may judge, from what you see yourself here, is anything but enviable. But what can we do that is better? Our free negroes—and, I believe it is the same at the North as it is here—are a miserable set of vagabonds, drunken, vicious, worse off, it is my honest opinion, than those who are retained in slavery. I am satisfied, too, that our slaves are better off as they are, than the majority of your free laboring classes at the North.”
I expressed my doubts.
“Well, they certainly are better off than the English agricultural laborers or, I believe, those of any other Christian country. Free labor might be more profitable to us: I am inclined to think it would be. The slaves are excessively careless and wasteful, and, in various ways—which, without you lived among them, you could hardly be made to understand—subject us to very annoying losses.
“To make anything by farming here, a man has got to live a hard life. You see how constantly I am called upon —and often it is about as bad at night as by-day. Last night I did not sleep a wink till near morning; I am quite worn out with it, and my wife’s health is failing. But I cannot rid myself of it.”
I asked why he did not employ an overseer.
“Because I do not think it right to trust to such men as we have to use, if we use any, for overseers.”
“Is the general character of overseers bad?”
“They are the curse of this country, sir; the worst men in the community. * * * * But lately, I had another sort of fellow offer—a fellow like a dancing-master, with kid gloves, and wrist-bands turned up over his coat-sleeves, and all so nice that I was almost ashamed to talk to him in my old coat and slouched hat. Half a bushel of recommendations he had with him, too. Well, he was not the man for me—not half the gentleman, with all his airs, that Ned here is”— (a black servant, who was bursting with suppressed laughter, behind his chair). ‘Oh, they are interesting creatures, sir,” he continued, “and, with all their faults, have many beautiful traits. I can’t help being attached to them, and I am sure they love us.” In his own case, at least, I did not doubt it; his manner towards them was paternal—familiar and kind; and they came to him like children who have been given some task and constantly are wanting to be encouraged and guided, simply and confidently. At dinner, he frequently addressed the servant familiarly and drew him into our conversation as if he were a family friend, better informed, on some local and domestic points, than himself.
He informed me that able-bodied field-hands were hired out, in this vicinity, at the rate of one hundred dollars a year and their board and clothing. Four able-bodied men that I have employed the last year on my farm in New York, I pay, on an average, one hundred and five dollars each, and board them; they clothe themselves at an expense, I think, of twenty dollars a year;—probably slaves’ clothing costs twice that. They constitute all the force of my farm, hired by the year (except a boy, who goes to school in Winter), and, in my absence, have no overseer except one of themselves, whom I appoint. I pay the fair wages of the market, more than any of my neighbors, I believe, and these are no lower than the average of what I have paid for the last five years. It is difficult to measure the labor performed in a day by one with that of the other, on account of undefined differences in the soil and in the bulk and weight of articles operated upon. But, here, I am shown tools that no man in his senses, with us, would allow a laborer, to whom he was paying wages, to be encumbered with, and the excessive weight and clumsiness of which, I would judge, would make work at least ten per cent greater than those ordinarily used with us. And I am assured that, in the careless and clumsy way they must be used by the slaves, anything lighter or less rude could not be furnished them with good economy, and that such tools as we constantly give our laborers, and find our profit in giving them, would not last out a day in a Virginia corn-field—much lighter and more free from stones though it be than ours.
So, too, when I ask why mules are so universally substituted for horses on the farm, the first reason given, and confessedly the most conclusive one, is that horses cannot bear the treatment they always must get from negroes; horses are always soon foundered or crippled by them, while mules will bear cudgeling and lose a meal now and then and not be materially injured, and they do not take cold or get sick if neglected or overworked. But I do not need to go further than to the window of the room in which I am writing to see, at almost any time, treatment of cattle that would insure the immediate discharge of the driver by almost any farmer owning them at the North.
A COAL MINE-NEGRO AND ENGLISH MINERS.
Yesterday I visited a coal-pit: the majority of the mining laborers are slaves, and uncommonly athletic and fine-looking negroes, but a considerable number of white hands are also employed, and they occupy all the responsible posts. The slaves are, some of them, owned by the Mining Company; but the most are hired of their owners at from $120 to $200 a year, the company boarding and clothing them. (I have the impression that I heard it was customary to give them a certain allowance of money and let them find their own board).
The white hands are mostly English or Welchmen. One of them with whom I conversed told me that he had been here several years; he had previously lived some years at the North. He got better wages here than he had earned at the North, but he was not contented, and did not intend to remain. On pressing him for the reason of his discontent, he said, after some hesitation, that he had rather live where he could be more free; a man had to be too “discreet” here: if one happened to say anything that gave offense, they thought no more of drawing a pistol or a knife upon him, than they would of kicking a dog that was in their way. Not long since, a young English fellow came to the pit, and was put to work along with a gang of negroes. One morning, about a week afterwards, twenty or thirty men called on him and told him that they would allow him fifteen minutes to get out of sight, and if they ever saw him in those parts again they would “give him hell.” They were all armed, and there was nothing for the young fellow to do but to move “right off.”
“What reason did they give him for it?”
“They did not give him any reason.”
“But what had he done?”
“Why I believe they thought he had been too free with the niggers; he wasn’t used to them, you see, sir, and he talked to ’em free like, and they thought he’d make ’em think too much of themselves.”
He said the slaves were very well fed, and well treated —not worked over hard. They were employed night and day, in relays.
The coal from these beds is of special value for gas manufacture, and is shipped for that purpose to all the large towns on the Atlantic sea-board, even to beyond Boston. It is delivered to shipping at Richmond at fifteen cents a bushel: about thirty bushels go to a ton.
The hotel at which I am staying, “the American,” Milberger Smith from New York, proprietor, is a very capital one. I have never, this side the Atlantic, had my comforts provided for better, in my private room, with so little annoyance from the servants. The chamber-servants are negroes, and are accomplished in their business; (the dining-room servants are Irish). A man and a woman attend together upon a few assigned rooms in the hall adjoining which they are constantly in waiting; your bell is answered immediately, your orders are quickly and quietly followed, and your particular personal wants anticipated as much as possible and provided for, as well as the usual offices performed, when you are out. The man becomes your servant while you are in your room; he asks, at night, when he comes to request your boots, at what time he shall come in the morning, and then, without being very exactly punctual, he comes quietly in, makes your fire, sets the boots before it, brushes and arranges your clothes, lays out your linen, arranges your washing and dressing gear, asks if you want anything else of him before breakfast, opens the shutters and goes off to the next room. I took occasion to speak well of him to my neighbor one day, that I might judge whether I was particularly favored.
“Oh yes, ‘ he said, “Henry was a very good boy, very—valuable servant—quite so—would be worth two thousand dollars if he was a little younger—easy.”
At dinner, a respectable-looking, gray-headed man asked another:
“Niggers are going high now, aint they?”
“What would you consider a fair price for a woman thirty years old, with a young-one two years old?”
“Depends altogether on her physical condition, you know.—Has she any other children?”
“Well—I reckon about seven to eight hundred.” “I bought one yesterday—gave six hundred and fifty.” “Well, sir, if she’s tolerable likely, you did well.”
DRESS AND STYLE OF PEOPLE.
What is most remarkable in the appearance of the people of the better class, is their invariably high-dressed condition; look down the opposite side of the table, even at breakfast, and you will probably see thirty men drinking coffee, all in full funeral dress, not an easy coat amongst them. It is the same in the street, and the same with ladies as with gentlemen; silk and satin, under umbrellas, rustle along the side-walk, or skip across it between carriages and the shops, as if they were going to a dinner-party, at eleven o’clock in the morning. The last is only New York repeated, to be sure, but the gentlemen carry it further than in New York, and seem never to indulge in undress.
I have rarely seen a finer assemblage of people than filled the theatre one night, at the benefit of the Bateman children, who are especial favorites of the public here. As the Legislature is in session, I presume there was a fair representation of the Virginians of all parts of the State. A remarkable proportion of the men were very tall and of animated expression—and of the women, fair, refined and serene. The men, however, were very deficient in robustness, and the women, though graceful and attractive, had none of that dignity and stateliness for which the dames of Virginia were formerly much distinguished.
In manners, I notice that between man and man more ceremony and form is sustained in familiar conversation than well-bred people commonly use at the North.
Among the people you see in the streets, full half, I should think, are more or less of negro blood, and a very decent, civil people these seem, in general, to be; more so than the laboring class of whites, among which there are many very ruffianly looking fellows. There is a considerable population of foreign origin, generally of the least valuable class; very dirty German Jews, especially, abound, and their characteristic shops (with their characteristic smells, quite as bad as in Cologne), are thickly set in the narrowest and meanest streets, which seem to be otherwise inhabited mainly by negroes.
Immense wagons, drawn by six mules each, the teamster always riding on the back of the near-wheeler, are a characteristic feature of the streets. Another is the wood-carts; small trucks loaded with about a cord of pine wood, drawn by three mules or horses, one in shafts, and two others, abreast, before him; a negro always riding the shaft-horse and guiding the leaders with a single rein, one pull to turn them to the right and two to the left with a great deal of the whip whichever way they go. The same guiding apparatus, a single line, with branches to each bit, is used altogether upon the long wagon teams. On the canal, a long, narrow, canoe-like boat, perhaps fifty feet long and six wide, and drawing but a foot or two of water, is nearly as common as the ordinary large boats, such as are used on our canals. They come out of some of the small, narrow, crooked streams, connected with the canals, in which a difficult navigation is effected by poling. They are loaded with tobacco, flour and a great variety of raw country produce. The canal boatmen of Virginia seem to be quite as rude, insolent and riotous a class as those of New York, and every facility is evidently afforded them at Richmond for indulging their peculiar appetites and tastes. A great many low eating, and, I should think, drinking shops are frequented chiefly by the negroes. Dancing and other amusements are carried on in these at night.
From reading the comments of Southern statesmen and newspapers on the crime and misery which sometimes result from the accumulation of poor and ignorant people, with no intelligent masters to take care of them, in our Northern towns, one might get the impression that Southern towns—especially those not demoralized by foreign commerce—were comparatively free from a low and licentious population. From what I have seen, however, I should be now led to think that there was at least as much vice and of what we call rowdyism in Richmond as in any Northern town of its size.
THE GREAT SOUTHERN ROUTE AND ITS FAST TRAIN.
The train was advertised to leave at 3:30 P.M. At that hour the cars were crowded with passengers, and the engineer, punctually at the minute, gave notice that he was at his post, by a long, loud whistle of the locomotive. Five minutes afterwards he gave us an impatient jerk; ten minutes afterwards we advanced three rods; twelve minutes afterwards, returned to first position: continued “backing and filling” upon the bridge over the rapids of the James river for half an hour. At precisely four o’clock, crossed the bridge and fairly started for Petersburg.
Ran twenty miles in exactly an hour and thirty minutes, (thirteen miles an hour; mail train, especially recommended by advertisement as “fast”). Brakes on, three times, for cattle on the track; twenty minutes spent at way-stations. Flat rail. Locomotive built at Philadelphia. I am informed that most of those used on the road—perhaps all those of the slow trains—are made at Petersburg.
At one of the stoppages, smoke was to be seen issuing from the truck of a car. The conductor, on having his attention called to it, nodded his head sagely, took a morsel of tobacco, put his hands in his pocket, looked at the truck as if he would mesmerize it, spat upon it, and then stept upon the platform and shouted “All right! Go ahead!” At the next stoppage, the smoking was furious; conductor bent himself over it with an evidently strong, exercise of his will, but not succeeding to tranquilize the subject at all, he suddenly relinquished the attempt, and, deserting Mesmer for Preisnitz, shouted, “Ho! boy! bring me some water here.” A negro soon brought a quart of water in a tin vessel.
“Hain’t got no oil, Columbus?”
“Hum—go ask Mr. Smith for some: this yer’s a screaking so, I durstn’t go on. You Scott! get some salt. And look here, some of you boys, get me some more water. D’ye hear?”
Salt, oil and water, were .crowded into the box, and, after five minutes longer delay, we went on, the truck still smoking, and the water and oil boiling in the box, until we reached Petersburg. The heat was the result, I suppose, of a neglect of sufficient or timely oiling. While waiting, in a carriage, for the driver to get my baggage, ‘I saw a negro oiling all the trucks of the train; as he proceeded from one to the other, he did not give himself the trouble to elevate the outlet of his oiler, so that a stream of oil costing probably a dollar and a half a gallon was poured out upon the ground the whole length of the train.
ONE OF THE LAW-GIVERS.
While on the bridge at Richmond, the car in which I was seated was over-full–several persons standing; among them one considerably “excited” who informed the company that he was a Member of the House of Delegates, and that he would take advantage of this opportune collection of the people to expose an atrocious attempt on the part of the minority to jump a Bill through the Legislature which was not in accordance with true Democratic principles. He continued for some time to address them in most violent, absurd, profane and meaningless language; the main point of his oration being to demand the popular gratitude for himself for having had the sagacity and courage to prevent the accomplishment of the nefarious design. He afterwards attempted to pass into the ladies’ car, but was dissuaded from doing so by the conductor who prevailed on a young man to give him his seat. Having taken it, he immediately lifted his feet upon the back of the seat before him, resting them upon the shoulders of its occupant. This gentleman turning his head, he begged his pardon; but, hoping it would not occasion him inconvenience, he said he would prefer to keep them there, and did so; soon afterwards falling alseep.
FREIGHT TAKEN—THE SLAVE TRADE.
There were in the train two first-class passenger cars and two freight cars. The latter were occupied by about forty negroes, most of them belonging to traders, who were sending them to the cotton States to be sold. Such kind of evidence of activity in the slave trade of Virginia is to be seen every day; but particulars and statistics of it are not to be obtained by a stranger here. Most gentlemen of character seem to have a special disinclination to converse on the subject; and it is denied, with feeling, that slaves are often reared, as is supposed by the Abolitionists, with the intention of selling them to the traders. It appears to me evident, however, from the manner in which I hear the traffic spoken of incidentally, that the cash value of a slave for sale, above the cost of raising it from infancy to the age at which it commands the highest price, is generally considered among the surest elements of a planter’s wealth. Such a nigger is worth such a price, and such another is too old to learn to pick cotton, and such another will bring so much, when it has grown a little more. I have frequently heard people say, in the street, or the public-houses. That a slave woman is commonly esteemed least for her laboring qualities, most for those qualities which give value to a brood-mare is also constantly made apparent.
A slaveholder writing to me with regard to my cautious statements on this subject, made in the Daily Times, says:—”In the States of Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri, as much attention is paid to the breeding and growth of negroes as to that of horses and mules. Further south, we raise them both for use and for market. Planters command their girls and women (married or unmarried) to have children; and I have known a great many negro girls to be sold off, because they did not have children. A breeding woman is worth from one-sixth to one-fourth more than one that does not breed.”
By comparing the average decennial ratio of slave increase in all the States with the difference in the number of the actual slave-population of the slave-breeding States, as ascertained by the census, it is apparent that the number of slaves exported to the cotton States is considerably more than twenty thousand a year.
While calling on a gentleman occupying an honorable official position at Richmond, I noticed upon his table a copy of Professor Johnson’s Agricultural Tour in the United States. Referring to a paragraph in it, where some statistics of the value of the slaves raised and annually exported from Virginia were given, I asked if he knew how these had been obtained, and whether they were reliable. “No,” he replied; “I don’t know anything about it; but if they are anything unfavorable to the institution of slavery, you may be sure they are false.” This is but an illustration, in extreme, of the manner in which I find a desire to obtain more correct but definite information on the subject of slavery is usually met, by gentlemen otherwise of enlarged mind and generous qualities.
A gentleman who was a member of the “Union Safety Committee” of New York during the excitement which attended the discussion of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, told me that, as he was passing through Virginia this winter, a man entered the car in which he was seated, leading in a negro girl, whose manner and expression__________________________ of face
indicated dread and grief. Thinking she was a criminal, he asked the man what she had done:
“What are you going to do with her?”
“I’m taking her down to Richmond, to be sold.” “Does she belong to you?”
“No; she belongs to—, he raised her.”
“Why does he sell her—has she done anything wrong?” “Done anything? No: she’s no fault, I reckon.
“Then, what does he want to sell for?”
“Sell her for! Why shouldn’t he sell her? He sells one or two every year; wants the money for ’em, I reckon.”
The irritated tone and severe stare with which this was said, my friend took as a caution not to pursue his investigation.
A gentleman with whom I was conversing on the subject of the cost of slave labor in answer to an inquiry—what proportion of all the stock of slaves of an old plantation might be reckoned upon to do full work?—answered that he owned ninety-six negroes; of these, only thirty-five were field-hands, the rest being either too young or too old for hard work. He reckoned his whole force as only equal to twenty-one strong men, or “prime field-hands. But this proportion was somewhat smaller than usual, he added, “because his women were uncommonly good breeders; he did not suppose there was a lot of women anywhere that bred faster than his; he never heard of babies coming so fast as they did on his plantation; it was perfectly surprising; and every one of them, in his estimation, was worth two hundred dollars, as negroes were selling now, the moment it drew breath.”
I asked what he thought might be the usual proportion of workers to slaves supported on plantations throughout the South. On the large cotton and sugar plantations of the more Southern States, it was very high, he replied; because their hands were nearly all bought and picked for work; he supposed, on those, it would be about one-half; but on any old plantation, where the stock of slaves had been an inheritance, and none had been bought or sold, he thought the working force would rarely be more than one-third, at most, of the whole number.
This gentleman was out of health, and told me, with frankness, that such was the trouble and annoyance his negroes occasioned him—although he had an overseer—and so wearisome did he find the lonely life he led on his plantation, that he could not remain upon it; and, as he knew everything would go to the dogs if he did not, he was seriously contemplating to sell out, retaining only his foster-mother and a body-servant. He thought of taking them to Louisiana and, Texas, for sale; but, if he should learn that there was much probability that Lower California would be made a slave State, he supposed it would pay him to wait, as probably, if that should occur, he could take them there and sell them for twice as much as they would now bring in New Orleans. He knew very veil, he said, that, as they were, raising corn and tobacco, they were paying nothing at all like a fair interest on their value.
Mr. Wise is reported to have stated in his electioneering tour when candidate for Governor in 1835, that if slavery were permitted in California, negroes would sell for $5,000 apiece.
Some of his best hands he now rented out to work in a furnace, and for the best of these he had been offered, for next year, two hundred dollars. He did not know whether he ought to let them go, though. They were worked hard, and had too much liberty, and were acquiring bad habits. They earned money by overwork, and spent it for whisky, and got a habit of roaming about and taking care of themselves; because, when they were not at work in the furnace, nobody looked out for them.
I begin to suspect that the great trouble and anxiety of Southern gentlemen is:—How, without quite destroying the capabilities of the negro for any work at all, to prevent him from learning to take care of himself.
RURAL SCENERY AND RURAL LIFE IN VIRGINIA.
PETERSBURG, Dec. 28.—It was early in a fine, mild, bright morning, like the pleasantest we ever have in March, that I alighted from a train of cars at a country Station. Besides the shanty that stood for a station-house there was a small, comfortable farm-house on the right and a country store on the left and around them perhaps fifty acres of cleared land, now much flooded with Muddy water;—all environed by thick woods.
A few negro children, staring as fixedly and posed as lifelessly as if they were really figures “carved in ebony,” stood, lay and lounged on the sunny side of the ranks of locomotive-firewood; a white man smoking a cigar looked out of the door of the store, and another chewing tobacco leaned against a gate-post in front of the farm-house; I advanced to the latter and asked him if I could hire a horse in the neighborhood.
“How d’ye do, sir?” he replied; “I have some horses—none on ’em very good ones, though—rather hard riders; reckon, perhaps, they wouldn’t suit you very well.”
“Thank you; do you think I could find anything better about here?”
“Colonel Gillin, over here to the store, ‘s got a right nice saddle-horse, if he’ll let you take her. I’ll go over there with you, and see if he will. . . . Mornin’, Colonel;—here’s a gentleman that wants to go to Thomas W.’s: couldn’t you let him have your saddle-horse?”
“How do you do, sir; I suppose you’d come back tonight?”
“That’s my intention, but I might be detained till to-morrow, unless it would be inconvenient to you to spare your horse.”
“Well, yes, sir, I reckon you can have her;—Tom!— Tom!—Tom! Now, has that devilish nigger gone again! Tom! Oh, Tom! saddle the filly for this gentleman.— Have you ever been to Mr. W.’s, sir?”
“No, I have not.”
“It isn’t a very easy place for strangers to go to from here; but I reckon I can direct you, so you’ll have no difficulty.”
He accordingly began to direct me; but, the way appeared so difficult to find, I asked him to let me make a written memorandum, and from this memorandum I now repeat the directions he gave me.
“You take this road here—you’ll see where it’s most traveled, and it’s easy enough to keep on it for about a mile; then there’s a fork, and you take the right; pretty soon, you’ll cross a creek and turn to the right—the creek’s been up a good deal lately, and there’s some big trees fallen along there, and, if they ha’n’t got them out of the way, you may have some difficulty in finding where the road is; but you keep bearing off to the right, where it’s the most open [i. e., the wood], and you’ll see it again pretty soon. Then you go on, keeping along in the road—you’ll see where folks have traveled before—for maybe quarter of a mile, and you’ll find a cross-road; you must take that to the left; pretty soon you’ll pass two cabins; one of ’em’s old and all fallen in, the other one’s new, and there’s a white man lives into it: you can’t mistake it. About a hundred yards beyond it, there’s a fork, and you take the left—it turns square off, and it’s fenced for a good bit; keep along by the fence, and you can’t miss it. It’s right straight beyond that till you come to a school-house, there’s a gate opposite to it, and off there there’s a big house - but I don’t reckon you’ll see it neither, for the woods. But somewhere, about three hundred yards beyond the school-house, you’ll find a little road running off to the left through an old field; you take that and keep along in it, and in less than half a mile you’ll find a path going square off to the right; you take that, and keep on it till you pass a little cabin in the woods; ain’t nobody lives there now: then it turns to the left, and when you come to a fence and gate, you’ll see a house there, that’s Mr. George Rivers’ plantation—it breaks in two, and you take the right, and when you come to the end of the fence, turn the corner—don’t keep on, but turn there. Then it’s straight, till you come to the creek again—there’s a bridge there; don’t go over the bridge, but turn to the left and keep along nigh the creek, and pretty soon you’ll see a meeting-house in the woods; you go to that, and you’ll see a path bearing off to the right—it looks as if it was going right away from the creek, but you take it, and pretty soon it’ll bring you to a saw-mill on the creek, up higher a piece; you just cross the creek there, and you’ll find some people at the mill, and they’ll put you right straight on the road to Mr. W.’s.”
“How far is it all, sir?”
“I reckon it’s about two hours’ ride, when the roads are good, to the saw-mill. Mr. W.’s gate is only a mile or so beyond that, and then you’ve got another mile, or better, after you get to the gate, but you’ll see some nigger-quarters—the niggers belong to Mr. W., and I reckon ther’ll be some of ’em round, and they’ll show you just where to
After reading over my memorandum, and finding it correct, and agreeing with him that I should pay two dollars a day for the mare, we walked out and found her saddled and waiting for me.
I remarked that she was very good-looking.
“Yes, sir; she a’nt a bad filly; out of a mare that came of Lady Rackett by old Lord-knows-who, the best horse we ever had in this part of the country: I expect you have heard of him. Oh! She’s maybe a little playful, but you’ll find her a pleasant riding-horse.”
The filly was just so pleasantly playful and full of well-bred life as to create a joyful, healthy, sympathetic, frolicsome heedlessness in her rider—walking rapidly, and with a sometimes irresistible inclination to dance and bound; making believe she was frightened at all the burnt stumps, and flashes of sun-light on the ice, and, everytime a hog lifted himself up before her, starting back in the most ridiculous manner, as if she had never seen a hog before; bounding over the fallen trees as easily as a lifeboat over a billow; and all the time gracefully playing tricks with her feet, and her ears, and her tail, and evidently enjoying herself just like any child in a half-holiday ramble through the woods, yet never failing to answer to every motion of my hand or my knees as if she were a part of myself. In fact, there soon came to be a real good understanding, if not even something like a merging of identity, between Jane and me (the filly’s name was Jane Gillin); if her feet were not in the stirrups, I am sure I had all the sensation of tripping it on the ground with mine, half the time, and we both entered into each other’s feelings, and moved, and were moved, together, in a way which a two hours’ lecture by a professor of psychology would be insufficient satisfactorily to explain to people who never—but all that’s of no consequence, except that, of course, we soon lost our way.
We were walking along slowly, quietly, musingly—I was fondling her with my hand under her mane, when it suddenly came into my mind: “Why, Jane! It’s a long time since I’ve thought anything about the road—I wonder where we’ve got to.” We stopped and tried to work up our dead-reckoning.
First, we picked our way from the store down to the brook, through a deeply corrugated clay-road; then there was the swamp, with the fallen trees and thick under-wood, beaten down and barked in the miry parts by wagons, making a road for themselves, no traces of which could we find in the harder, pebbly ground. At length when we came on to drier land, and among pine trees, we discovered a clear way cut through them, and a distinct road before us again; and this brought us soon to an old clearing, just beginning to be grown over with pines, in which was the old cabin of rotten logs, one or two of them falling out of rank on the door-side, and the whole concern having a dangerous lurch to one corner, as if too much whisky had been drank in it: then a more recent clearing, with a fenced field and another cabin, the residence of that white man we were told of probably. No white people, however, were to be seen, but two negroes sat .in the mouth of a wigwam, husking maize, and a couple of hungry hounds came bounding over the zigzag, gateless fence, as if they had agreed with each other that they would wait no longer for the return of their master, but would straight-way pull down the first traveler that passed, and have something to eat before they were quite famished. They stopped short, however, when they had got within a good cart-whip’s length of us, and contented themselves with dolefully youping as long as we continued in sight. We turned the corner, following some slight traces of a road, and shortly afterwards met a curious vehicular establishment, probably belonging to the master of the hounds. It consisted of an axle-tree and wheels, and a pair of shafts made of unbarked saplings, in which was harnessed, by attachments of raw-hide and rope, a single small black ox. There was a bit, made of telegraph-wire, in his mouth, by which he was guided, through the mediation of a pair of much knotted rope reins, by a white man—a dignified sovereign, wearing a brimless crown—who sat upon a two-bushel sack, (of meal, I trust, for the hounds’ sake,) balanced upon the axle-tree, and who saluted me with a frank “How are you?” as we came opposite each other.
Soon after this, we reached a small grove of much older and larger pines than we had seen before, with long and horizontally stretching branches, and duller and thinner foliage. In the middle of it was another log-cabin, with a door in one of the gable-ends, a stove-pipe, half-rusted away, protruding from the other, and, in the middle of one of the sides, a small square port-hole, closed by a wooden shutter. This must have been the school-house, hut there were no children then about it, and no appearance of there having been any lately. Near it was a long string of fence and a gate and lane, which gave entrance, ably, to a large plantation, though there was no cultivated land within sight of the road.
I could remember hardly anything after this, except a continuation of pine trees, big, little and medium in size, and hogs, and a black, crooked, burnt sapling, that we had made believe was a snake springing at us and had jumped away from, and then we had gone on at a trot—it must have been some time ago, that—and then I was paying attentions to Jane, and finally my thoughts had gone wool-gathering, and we must have traveled some miles out of our way and—”never mind,” said Jane, lifting her head, and turning in the direction we had been going, “I don’t think it’s any great matter if we are lost; such a fine day—so long since I’ve been out; if you don’t care, I’d just as lief be lost as not; let’s go on and see what we shall come to.”
“Very well, my dear, you know the country better than I do; go where you like; if you’ll risk your dinner, I’m quite ready to go anywhere in your company. It’s quite certain we have not passed any meeting-house, or creek, or saw-mill, or negro-quarters, and, as we have been two hours on the road, it’s evident we are not going straight to Mr. W.’s; I’ll try at least to take note of what we do pass after this,” and I stood up in the stirrups as we walked on, to see what the country around us was.
“Old fields”—a coarse, yellow, sandy soil, bearing scarce anything but pine trees and broom-sedge. In some places, for acres, the pines would not be above five feet high—that was land that had been in cultivation, used up and “turned out,” not more than six or eight years before; then there were patches of every age; sometimes the trees were a hundred feet high. At long intervals, there were fields in which the pine was just beginning to spring in beautiful green plumes from the ground, and was yet hardly noticeable among the dead brown grass and sassafras bushes and blackberry-vines, which nature first sends to hide the nakedness of the impoverished earth.
Of living creatures, for miles, not one was to be seen (not even a crow or a snow-bird), except hogs. These—long, lank, bony, snake-headed, hairy, wild beasts—would come dashing across our path, in packs of from three to a dozen, with short, hasty grunts, almost always at a gallop, and looking neither to right nor left, as if they were in pursuit of a fox and were quite certain to catch him in the next hundred yards; or droves of little pigs would rise up suddenly in the sedge, and scamper off squealing into cover, while their heroic mothers would turn around and make a stand, looking fiercely at us as if they were quite ready to fight if we advanced any further, but always breaking as we came near with a loud boosch!
Once I saw a house, across a large, new old-field, but it was far off, and there was no distinct path leading towards it out of the wagon-track we were following; so we did not go to it, but continued walking steadily on through the old-fields and pine woods for more than an hour longer.
We then arrived at a grove of tall oak trees, in the midst of which ran a brook giving motion to a small gristmill. Back of the mill were two log cabins, and near these a number of negroes in holiday clothes were standing in groups among the trees. When we stopped one of them came towards us. He wore a battered old hat of the cylindrical fashion, stiffly starched shirt-collar cutting his ears, a red cravat and an old black dress coat, thread-bare and a little ragged, but adorned with new brass buttons. He knew Mr. Thomas W., certainly he did; and he reckoned I had come about four miles (he did not know but it might be eight, if I thought so) off the road I had been directed to follow. But that was of no consequence, because he could show me where to go by a straight road—a cross cut—from here, that would make it just as quick for me as if I had gone the way I had intended.
“How far is it from here?” I asked.
“Oh, ‘taint far, sar.”
“How far do you think?”
“Well, massa, I spec—I spec—(looking at my horse) I spec, massa, ef you goes de way, sar, dat I shows you, I reckon it’ll take you—”
“How far is it—how many miles?”
“How many miles, sar? ha! masser, I don ‘zactly reckon I ken tell ou—not ‘cisely, sar—how many miles it is, not ‘zactly, ‘cisely, sar.”
“How is that—you don’t what?”
“I don’t ‘zactly reckon I can give you de drection excise about de miles, sar.”
“Oh! but how many miles do you think it is; is it two miles?”
“Yes, sar; as de roads is now, I tink it is just about two miles. Dey’s long ones, dough, I reckon.”
“Long ones? You think it’s more than two miles, don’t you, then?”
“Yes, sar, I reckon its four or five miles.”
“Four or five! four or five long ones or short ones do you mean?”
“I don’ zactly know, sar, wedder dey is short ones or long ones, sar, but I reckon you find em middlin’ long; I spec you’ll be about two hours ‘fore .you be done gone all de way to mass W.’s.”
He walked on with us a few rods upon a narrow path, until we came to a crossing of the stream; pointing to where it continued on the other side, he assured me that it went right straight to Mr. W.’s plantation. “You juss keep de straight road, master,” he repeated several times, “and it’ll take you right dar, sar.”
He had been grinning and bowing, and constantly touching his hat, or holding it in his hand during our conversation, which I understood to mean that he would thank me for a dime. I gave it to him, upon which he repeated his contortions and his form of direction—”keep de straight road.” I rode through the brook, and he called out again—”you keep dat road right straight and it’ll take you right straight dar.” I rode up the bank and entered the oak wood, and still again heard him enjoining me to “keep dat road right straight.”
Within less than quarter of a mile, there was a fork in the road to the left, which seemed a good deal more traveled than the straight one; nevertheless I kept the latter, and was soon well satisfied that I had done so. It presently led me up a slope out of the oak woods into a dark evergreen forest; and though it was a mere bridle-path, it must have existed, I thought, before the trees began to grow, for it was free of stumps and smooth and clean as a garden walk, and the pines grew thickly up, about four feet apart, on each side of it, their branches meeting just clear of my head and making a dense shade. There was an agreeable, slightly balsamic odor in the air; the path was covered with a deep, elastic mat of pine leaves so that our footstep could hardly be heard; and for a time we greatly enjoyed going along at a lazy, pacing walk of Jane’s. It was noon-day, and had been rather warmer than was quite agreeable on the open road, and I took my hat off and let the living pine leaves brush my hair. But after a while I felt slightly chilly; and when Jane, at the same time, gave a little sympathizing caper, I bent my head down, that the limbs might not hit me, until it nearly rested on her neck, dropped my hands and pressed my knees tightly against her. Away we bounded!
What a glorious gallop Jane had inherited from her noble grandfather!
Out of the cool, dark-green alley, at last, and soon with a more cautious step, down a steep, stony declivity, set with deciduous trees—beech, ash, oak, gum—”gum, beloved of the “minstrels.” A brawling shallow brook at the bottom, into which our path descended, though on the opposite shore was a steep high bank, faced by an impenetrable brake of bush and briar.
Have we been following a path only leading to a watering-place, then? I see no continuance of it. Jane does not hesitate at all; but, as if it was the commonest thing here to take advantage of nature’s engineering in this way, walking into the water, turns her head up stream.
For more than a mile we continued following up the brook, which was all the time walled in by insurmountable banks, overhung by large trees. Sometimes it swept strongly through a deep channel, contracted by boulders; sometimes purled and tinkled over a pebbly slope; and sometimes stood in broad, silent pools, around the edges of which remained a skirt of ice, held there by bushes and long, broken water-grasses. Across the end of one of these, barring our way, a dead trunk had lately fallen. Jane walked up to it and turned her head to the right. “No,” said I, let’s go over.” She turned, and made a step left–No! over,” said I, drawing her back, and touching her with my heels.
Over we went, landing with such a concussion that I. as nearly thrown off. I fell forward upon Jane’s neck; she threw up her head, spurning, my involuntary embrace; and then, with swollen nostrils and flashing eyes, walked rapidly.
“Hope you are satisfied,” said she, as I pulled my coat down; “if not, you had better spur me again.”
“Why, my dear girl, what’s the matter? It was nothing but leather—calf-skin—that I touched you with. I have on spurs—don’t you see?” for she was turning her head to bite my foot. “Now, don’t be foolish.”
“Well, well,” said she, “I’m a good-tempered girl, if I am blood; let’s stop and drink.”
After this, we soon came to pine woods again. Jane was now for leaving the brook. I let her have her own way, and she soon found a beaten track in the woods. It certainly- was not the “straight road” we had been directed to follow; but its course was less crooked than that of the brook, and after some time it led us out into a more open country, with young pines and inclosed fields. Eventually we came to a gate and lane, which we followed till we came to another cross-lane, leading straight to a farmhouse.
As soon as we turned into the cross-lane, half-a-dozen little negro boys and girls were seen running towards the house to give alarm. We passed a stable with a cattle-pen by its side, opposite which was a vegetable garden enclosed with split palings; then across a running stream of water; then by a small cabin on the right; and a corncrib and large pen, with a number of fatting hogs in it, on the left; then into a large, irregular yard, in the midst of which was the farm-house, before which were now collected three white children, six black ones, two negro women and an old lady with spectacles.
“How dy do, sir?” said the old lady, as we reined up, bowed, and lifted our hat, and put our black foot foremost.
“Thank you, madam, quite well; but I have lost my way to Mr. Thomas W.’s, and will trouble you to tell me how to go from here to get to his house.”
By this time a black man came cautiously walking in from the field back of the house, bringing an axe; a woman, who had been washing clothes in the brook, left her work and came up on the other side, and two more girls climbed up on to a heap of logs that had been thrown upon the ground, near the porch, for fuel. The swine were making a great noise in their pen, as if feeding-time had come; and a flock of turkeys were gobbling so incessantly and loudly that I was not heard. The old lady ordered the turkeys to be driven away, but nobody stirred to do it, and I rode nearer and repeated my request. No better success. “Can’t you shew away them turkeys?” she asked again; but nobody “shewed. A third time I endeavored to make myself understood. “Will you please direct me how to go to Mr. W.’s?”
“No, sir—not here.”
“Excuse- me—I asked if you would direct me to Mr. W.’s.”
“If some of you niggers don’t shew them turkeys, I’ll have you all whipped as soon as your mass John comes home,” exclaimed the old lady, now quite excited. The man with the axe, without moving towards them at all, picked up a billet of wood and threw it at the biggest cock-turkey, who immediately collapsed; and the whole flock scattered, chased by the two girls who had been on the log-heap.
“An’t dat Colonel Gillen’s mare, master?” asked the black man, coming up on my left.
“You want to go to Thomas W.’s?” asked the old lady. “Yes, madam.’
“It’s a good many years since I have been to Thomas W.’s, and I reckon I can’t tell you how to go there now.”
“If master’ll go over to Missy Abler’s, I reckon dey ken tell ’em dah, sar.”
“And how shall I go to Mrs. Abler’s?”
“You want to go to Missy Abler’s; you take dat path right over ‘yond dem bars, dar, by de hog-pen, dat runs along by dat fence into de woods, and dat’ll take you right straight dar.”
“Is you come from Colonel Gillins, massa?” asked the wash-woman.
“Did you see a black man dar, day calls Tom, sar?”
“Tom’s my husband, massa; if you’s gwine back dah, wish you’d tell um, ef you please, sar, dat I wants to see him particklar; will ou, massa?”
“Tank you, massa.”
I bowed to the old lady, and, in turning to ride off, saw two other negro boys who had come out of the woods, and were now leaning over the fence and staring at us as if I was a giant and Jane was a dragoness.
We trotted away, found the path, and in course of a mile had our choice of at least twenty forks to go “straight to Mrs. Abler’s.” At length, cleared land again, fences, stubble-fields and a lane, that took us to a little cabin, which fronted, much to my surprise, upon a broad and well-traveled road. Over the door of the cabin was a sign, ‘done in black, upon a hogshead stave, showing that it was a “GROSERY,” which in Virginia means the same thing as in Ireland—a dram-shop.
I hung the bridle over a rack before the door, and walked in. At one end of the interior was a range of shelves, on which were two decanters, some dirty tumblers, a box of crackers, a canister, and several packages in paper; under the shelves were a table and a barrel. At the other end of the room was a fireplace; near this, a chest, and another range of shelves, on which stood plates and cooking utensils: between these and the grocery end were a bed and a spinning-wheel. Near the spinning-wheel sat a tall, bony, sickly, sullen young woman, nursing a languishing infant. The faculty would not have discouraged either of them from trying hydropathic practice. In a corner of the fire-place sat a man, smoking a pipe. He rose as I entered, walked across to the grocery shelves, turned a chair round at the table, and asked me to take a seat. I excused myself, and requested him to direct me to Mr. W.’s. He had heard of such a man living somewhere about there, but he did not know where. He repeated this, with an oath, when I declined to “take” anything, and added that he had not lived here long and was sorry he had ever come here. It was the worst job for himself ever he did, when he came here, though all he wanted was to just get a living.
I rode on till I came to another house, a very pleasant little house, with a steep, gabled roof, curving at the bottom, and extending over a little gallery, which was entered, by steps, from the road; back of it were stables and negro-cabins, and by its side was a small garden, and beyond that a peach-orchard. As I approached it, a welldressed young man, with an intelligent and pleasant face, came out into the gallery. I asked him if he could direct me to Mr. W.’s. “Thomas W.’s?” he inquired.
“You are not going in the right direction to go to Mr. W.’s. The shortest way you can take to go there is, to go right back to the Court. House.”
I told him I had just come out of the lane by the grocery on to the road. “Ah! well, tell you; you had better turn round, and keep right straight upon this road till you get to the Court House, and anybody can tell you, there, how to go.”
“How far is it, sir?”
“To the Court House?—not above a mile.”
“And to Mr. W.’s?”
“To Mr. W.’s, I should think it was as much as ten miles, and long ones, too.”
I rode to the Court House, which was a plain brick building in the centre of a small square, around which there were twenty or thirty houses, two of them being occupied as stores, one as a saddler’s shop, one had the sign of “Law Office” upon it, two were occupied by physicians, one other looked as if it might be a meeting-house or school-house, or the shop of any mechanic needing much light for his work, and two were “Hotels.” At one of these we stopped, to dine; Jane had “corn and fodder” (they had no oats or hay in the stable), and I had ham and eggs (they had no fresh meat in the house). I had several other things, however, that were very good, besides the company of the landlady, who sat alone with me at the table in a long, dining hall, and was very pretty, amiable and talkative.
In a course of apologies, which came in the place of soup, she gave me the clue to the assemblage of negroes I had seen at the mill. It was Christmas week; all the servants thought they must go for at least one day to have a frolic, and to-day ( as luck would have it, when I was coming,) her cook was off with some others; she did not suppose they’d be back till to-morrow, and then, likely as not, they’d be drunk. She did not think this custom, of letting servants go so at Christmas, was a good one; niggers were not fit to be let to take care of themselves anyhow. It was very bad for them, and she didn’t think it was right. Providence had put the servants into our hands to be looked out for, and she didn’t believe it was intended they should be let to do all sorts of wickedness, if Christmas didn’t come but once a year. She wished for her part it did not come but once in ten years.
(The negroes that were husking maize near the cabin where the White-man lived were no doubt slaves who had hired themselves out by the day during the holiday-week to earn a little money on their own account.)
In regard to the size of the dining hall, and the extent of sheds in the stable-yard, the landlady told me that though at other times they very often did not have a single guest in a day, at “Court time” they always had more than they could comfortably accommodate. I judged also from her manners and the general appearance of the house, as well as from the charges, that at such times the company was of a rather respectable character. The appearance of the other public-house indicated that it expected a less select patronage.
When I left, my direction was to keep on the main road until I came to a fork, about four miles distant, then take the left and keep the best traveled road until I came to a certain house, which was so described that I should know it where I was advised to ask further directions.
The sky was now clouding over; it was growing cold; and we went on as fast as we conveniently could, until we reached the fork in the road. The direction, to keep the best traveled road, was unpleasantly prominent in my mind; it was near sunset, I reflected, and however jolly it might be at twelve o’clock at noon, it would be quite another thing to be knocking about among those fierce hogs in the pine-forest, if I should be lost, at twelve o’clock at night. Besides, as the landlady said about her negroes, I did not think it was right to expose Jane to this danger unnecessarily. A little beyond the fork there was a large, gray, old house, with a grove of tall poplars before it; a respectable, country-gentleman-of-the-old-school look it had.—These old Virginians are proverbially hospitable. —It’s rather impudent; but I hate to go back to the Court House, and I am—I will ride on, and look it in the face, at any rate.
Zig-zag fences up to a large, square yard, growing full of Lombardy poplar sprouts, from the roots of eight or ten old trees, which were planted some fifty years ago, I suppose, in a double row on two sides of the house. At the further end of this yard, beyond the house, a gate opened on the road, and out of this was just then coming a black man.
I inquired of him if there was a house near by at which I could get accommodations for the night. Reckoned his master’d take me in, if I’d ask him. Where was his master? In the house: I could go right in here (at a place where a panel of the paling had fallen over) and see him, if I wanted to. I asked him to hold my horse, and went in.
It was a simple, two-story house, very much like those built by the wealthier class of people in New England villages from fifty to a hundred years ago, except that the chimneys were carried up outside the walls. There was a porch at the front door, and a small wing at one end, in the rear; from this wing to the other end extended a broad gallery.
A dog had been barking at me after I dismounted; and just as I reached the steps of the gallery, a vigorous, middle-aged man, with a rather sullen and suspicious expression of face, came out without any coat on to see what had excited him.
Doubting whether he was the master of the house, I told him that I had come in to inquire if it would be convenient to allow me to spend the night with them. He asked where I came from, where I was going to, and various other questions, until I had given him an epitome of my day’s wonderings and adventures; at the conclusion of which he walked to the end of the gallery to look at my horse; then, without giving me any answer, but muttering indistinctly something about servants, walked into the house, shutting the door behind him!
Well, thought I, this is not very overwhelmingly hospitable. What can it mean?
While I was considering whether he expected me to go without any further talk—his curiosity being, I judged, satisfied—he came out again, and said, “Reckon you can stay, sir, if you’ll take what we’ll give you.” (The good man had been in to consult his wife.) I replied that I would do so, thankfully, and hoped they would not give themselves any unnecessary trouble, or alter their usual family arrangements. I was then invited to come in, but I preferred to see my horse taken care of first. My host called for “Sam,” two or three times, and then said he reckoned all his “people” had gone off, and he would attend to my horse himself. I offered to assist him, and we walked out to the gate, where the ‘negro, not being inclined to wait for my return, had left Jane fastened to a post. Our host conducted us to an old square log-cabin, which had formerly been used for curing tobacco, there being no room for Jane, he said, in the stables proper.
The floor of the tobacco-house was covered with lumber, old plows, scythes and cradles, a part of which had to be removed to make room for the filly to stand. She was then induced, with some difficulty, to enter it through a low; square door-way; saddle and bridle were removed, and she was fastened in a corner by a piece of old plow-line. We then went to a fodder-stack, and pulled out from it several small bundles of maize leaves. Additional feed and water were promised when “some of the niggers” came in; and, after righting up an old door that had fallen from one hinge, and setting a rail against it to keep it in its place, we returned to the house.
My host (whom I will call Mr. Newman) observed that his buildings and fences were a good deal out of order. He had owned the place but a few years and had not had time to make much improvement about the house yet.
Entering the mansion, he took me to a large room on the first floor, gave me a chair, went out and soon returned (now wearing a coat) with two negro girls, one bringing wood and the other some flaming brands. A fire was made with a great deal of trouble, scolding of the girls, bringing in more brands, and blowing with the mouth. When the room had been suffocatingly filled with smoke, and at length a strong bright blaze swept steadily up the chimney, Mr. Newman again went out with the girls, and I was left alone for nearly an hour, with one interruption, when he came in and threw some more wood upon the fire, and said he hoped I would make myself comfortable.
It was a square room, with a door from the hall on one side, and two windows on each of the other sides. The lower part of the walls was wainscoted, and the upper part, with the ceiling, plastered and white-washed. The fire-place and mantle-piece were somewhat carved and were painted black, all the other woodwork, lead color. Blue paper curtains covered the windows; the floor was uncarpeted, and the only furniture in the room was some strong plain chairs, painted yellow, and a Connecticut clock, which did not run. The house had evidently been built for a family of some wealth, and, after having, been deserted by them, lad been bought at a bargain by the present resident, who either had not the capital or the inclination to furnish and occupy it appropriately.
When my entertainer called again, he merely opened the door and said, in the words of an order, but in a tone of advice, “Come get something to eat!” I followed him out into the gallery, and thence through a door at its end into a room in the wing—a family room, and a very comfortable, homely room. A most bountifully spread supper-table stood in the centre, at which was sitting a very neat, pretty little woman, of as silent habits as her husband, but neither bashful nor morose. A very nice little girl sat at her right side, and a peevish, ill-behaved, whining glutton of a boy at her left. I was requested to be seated adjoining the little girl, and the master of the house sat opposite me. The fourth side of the table was unoccupied, though a plate and chair were placed there, as if someone else had been expected.
The two negro girls waited at table, and a negro boy was in the room, who, when I asked for a glass of water, was sent to get it. An old negro woman also frequently came in from the kitchen, with hot biscuit and corn-cake. There was fried fowl, and fried bacon and eggs, and cold ham; there were preserved peaches, and preserved quinces and grapes; there was hot wheaten biscuit, and hot short-cake, and hot corn-cake, and hot griddle cakes, soaked in butter; there was coffee, and there was milk, sour or sweet, whichever I preferred to drink. I really ate more than I wanted, and extolled the corn-cake and the peach preserve, and asked how they were made; but I evidently disappointed my pretty hostess, who said she was afraid there wasn’t anything that suited me,—she feared there wasn’t anything on the table I could eat; and she was sorry I couldn’t make out a supper. And this was about all she would say. I tried to get a free conversation started, but I have myself but poor endowments for such a purpose, and I could obtain little more than very laconic answers to my questions.
Except from the little girl at my side, whose confidence I gained by taking an opportunity, when her mother was engaged, with young hopeful t’other side the coffee-pot, to give her a great lot of quince and grape, and by several times pouring molasses very freely on her cakes and bacon; and finally by feeding Pink out of my hand. (Hopeful had done this first, and then kicked him away, when he came round to Martha and me.) She told me her name, and that she had got a kitten, and that she hated Pink; and that she went to a Sunday-school at the Court House, and that she was going to go to an every-day school next winter—she wasn’t big enough to walk so far now, but she would be then. But Billy said he didn’t mean to go, because he didn’t like to, though Billy was bigger nor she was, a heap. She reckoned when Billy saw Wash. Baker going past every day, and heard how much fun he had every day with the other boys at the school, he would want to go too, wouldn’t he? etc., etc. When supper was ended, I set back my chair to the wall, and took her on my knee; but after she had been told twice not to trouble the gentleman, and I had testified that she didn’t do it, and after several mild hints that I would perhaps find it pleasanter in the sitting-room— (the chairs in the supper-room were the easiest, being country-made, low, and seated with undressed calf-skin), she was called to, out of the kitchen, and Mr. Newman, in the form of advice, but with the tone of command, said—going to the door and opening it for me—”Reckon you’d better walk into the sittin’-room, sir.”
I walked out at this, and said I would go and look at the filly. Mr. Newman called “Sam” again, and Sam, having at that moment arrived at the kitchen-door, was ordered to go and take care of this gentleman’s horse. I followed Sam to the tobacco-house, and gave him to know that he would be properly remembered for any attentions he could give to Jane. He watered her, and brought her a large supply of oats in straw, and some maize on the cob; but he could get no litter, and declared there was no straw on the plantation, though the next morning I saw a large quantity in a heap (not a stack), at a little greater distance than he was willing to go for it, I suppose, at a barn on the opposite side of the road. Having seen her rubbed clean and apparently well contented with her quarters and her supper, I bade her good-night, and returned to the house.
I did not venture again into the supper-room, but went to the sitting-room, where I found Miss Martha Ann and her kitten; I was having a very good time with her, when her father came in and told her she was “troubling the gentleman”; I denied it, and he took a seat by the fire with us, and I soon succeeded in drawing him into a conversation on farming, and the differences in our methods of work at the North and those he was accustomed to.
WHITE LABORING PEOPLE.
I learned that there were no white laboring men here who hired themselves out by the month. The poor white people that had to labor for their living never would work steadily at any employment. “They mostly followed boating”—hiring as hands on the bateaus that navigate the small streams and canals, but never for, a longer term at once than a single trip of a boat, whether that might be long or short. At the end of the trip they were paid by the day. Their wages were from fifty cents to a dollar, varying with the demand and individual capacities. They hardly ever worked on farms except in harvest, when they usually received a dollar a day, sometimes more. In harvest-time, most of the rural mechanics closed their shops and hired out to the farmers at a dollar a day, which would indicate that their ordinary earnings are considerably less than this. At other than harvest-time, the poor white people, who had no trade, would sometimes work for the farmers by the job, not often at any regular agricultural labor, but at getting rails or shingles, or clearing land.
He did not know that they were particular about working with negroes, but no white man would ever do certain kinds of work (such as taking care of cattle, or getting water or wood to be used in the house), and if you should ask a white man you had hired to do such things, he would get mad and tell you he wasn’t a nigger. Poor white girls never hired out to do servants’ work, but they would come and help another white woman about her sewing or quilting, and take wages for it. But these girls were not very respectable generally, and it was not agreeable to have them in your house, though there were some very respectable ladies that would go out to sew. Farmers depended almost’ entirely upon their negroes; it was only when they were hard pushed by their crops that they got white hands to help them any:
Negroes had commanded such high wages lately, to work on railroads and in tobacco-factories, that farmers were tempted to hire out too many of their people, and to undertake to do too much work with those they retained, and thus they were often driven to employ white men, and to give them very high wages by the day, when they found themselves getting much behind-hand with their crops. He had been driven very hard in this way this last season; he had hem so unfortunate as to lose one of his best women, who died in child-bed just before harvest. The loss of the woman and her child, for the child had died also, just at that time, came very hard upon him. He would not have taken a thousand dollars of any man’s money for them. He had had to hire white men to help him, but they were poor sticks and would be half the time drunk,, and you never know what to depend upon with them. One fellow that he had hired, who had agreed to work for him all through harvest, got him to pay him some wages in advance, (he said it was to buy him some clothes with, so he could go to meeting, Sunday, at the Court-House,) and went off the next day, right in the middle of harvest, and he never had seen him since. He had heard of him—he was on a boat—but he didn’t reckon he should ever get his money again.
Of course, he did not see how white laborers were ever going to come into competition with negroes here, at all. You never could depend on white men, and you couldn’t drive them any; they wouldn’t stand it. Slaves were the only reliable laborers—you could command them and make them do what was right.
From the manner in which he always talked of the white laboring people, it was evident that, although he placed them in some sort on an equality with himself, and that in his intercourse with them he wouldn’t think of asserting for himself any superior dignity, or even feel himself to be patronizing them in not doing so, yet he, all the time, recognized them as a distinct and a rather despicable class, and wanted to have as little to do with them as he conveniently could.
I have been once or twice told that the poor white people, meaning those, I suppose, who bring nothing to market to exchange for money but their labor, although they may own a cabin and a little furniture, and cultivate land enough to supply themselves with (maize) bread, are worse off in almost all respects than the slaves. They are said to be extremely ignorant and immoral, as well as indolent and unambitious. That their condition is not as unfortunate by any means as that of negroes, however, is most obvious, since from among them, men sometimes elevate themselves to positions and habits of usefulness, and respectability. They are said to “corrupt” the negroes, and to encourage them to steal, or to work for them at night and on Sundays, and to pay them with liquor, and also to constantly associate licentiously with them. They seem, nevertheless, more than any other portion of the community, to hate and despise the negroes.
In the midst of our conversation, one of the black girls had come into the room and stood still with her head dropped forward, staring at me from under her brows, without saying a word. When she had waited, in this way, perhaps two minutes, her master turned to her and asked what she wanted.
“Miss Matty says Marta Ann go to bed now.”
But Martha Ann refused to budge; after being told once or twice by her father to go with Rose, she came to me and lifted up her hands, I supposed to kiss me and go, but when I reached down, she took hold of my shoulders and climbed up on to my knees. Her father seemed to take no notice of this proceeding, but continued talking about guano; Rose went to a corner of the fire-place, dropped down upon the floor and presently was asleep, leaning her head against the wall. In about half an hour, the other negro girl came to the door, when Mr. Newman abruptly called out, “girl! take that child to bed!” and immediately got up himself and walked out. Rose roused herself and lifted Martha Ann out of my arms, and carried her off fast asleep. Mr. Newman returned holding a small candle in his hand, and, without entering the room, stood at the door and said, “I’ll show you your bed if you are ready, sir.” As he evidently meant, “I am ready to show you to bed if you will not refuse to go,” I followed him up stairs.
Into a large room, again, with six windows, with a fireplace, in which a few brands were smoking, with some wool spread thinly upon the floor in a corner; with a dozen small bundles of tobacco leaves; with a lady’s saddle; with a deep feather-bed, covered with a bright patchwork quilt, on a maple bedstead, and without a single item of any other furniture whatever. Mr. Newman asked if I wanted the candle to undress by, I said yes, if he pleased, and waited a moment for him to set it down: as he did not do so I walked towards him, lifting my hand to take it. “No—I’ll hold it,” said he, and I then perceived that he had no candle-stick, but held the lean little dip in his hand: I remembered also that no candle had been brought into the “sitting-room,” and that while we were at supper only one candle had stood upon the table, which had been immediately extinguished when we rose, the room being lighted only from the fire.
I very quickly undressed and hung my clothes upon a bed-post: Mr. Newman looked on in silence until I had got into bed, when, with an abrupt “good-night, sir,” he went out and shut the door.
It was not until after I had consulted Sam the next morning, that I ventured to consider that my entertainment might be taken as a mere business transaction, and not as “genuine planter’s hospitality,” though this had become rather a ridiculous view of it, after a repetition of the supper, in all respects, had been eaten for breakfast, with equal moroseness on the part of my host and equal quietness on the part of his kind-looking little wife. I was, nevertheless, amused at the promptness with which he replied to my rather hesitating inquiry—what I might pay him for the trouble I had given him—”I reckon a dollar and a quarter will be right, sir.”
I have described, perhaps with tedious prolixity, what adventures befell me, and what scenes I passed through in my first day’s random riding, for the purpose of giving an idea of the uncultivated and unimproved—rather, sadly worn and misused—condition of some parts, and I judge, of a very large part, of all Eastern Virginia, and of the isolated, lonely and dissociable aspect of the dwelling places of a large part of the people.
Much the same general characteristics pervade the Slave States everywhere, except in certain rich regions, or on the banks of some rivers, or in the vicinity of some great routes of travel and transportation, which have occasioned closer settlement or stimulated public spirit. For hours and hours one has to ride through the unlimited, continual, all-shadowing, all-embracing forest, following roads in the making of which no more labor has been given than was necessary to remove the timber which would obstruct the passage of wagons; and even for days and days he may sometimes travel and see never two dwellings of mankind within sight of each other, only at long distances often several miles asunder these isolated plantation patriarchates. If a traveler leaves the main road to go any distance, it is not to be imagined how difficult it is for him to find his way from one house to any other in particular; his only safety is in the fact that, unless there are mountains or swamps in the way, he is not likely to go
The country passed through, in the early part of my second day’s ride, was very similar in general characteristics to that I have already described, only that a rather larger portion of it was cleared, and plantations were more frequent. About eleven o’clock I crossed a bridge and came to the meeting-house I had been expecting to reach by that hour the previous day. It was in the midst of the woods, and the small clearing around it was still dotted with the stumps of the trees out of whose trunks it had been built; for it was a log structure. In one end there was a single square port, closed by a sliding shutter; in the other end were two doors, both standing open. In front of the doors, a rude scaffolding had been made of poles and saplings, extending out twenty feet from the wall of the house, and this had been covered with boughs of trees, the leaves now withered; a few benches, made of split trunks of trees, slightly hewn with the axe, were arranged under this arbor, as if the religious service was sometimes conducted on the outside in preference to the interior of the edifice. Looking in, I saw that a gallery or loft extended from over the doors, across about one-third the length of the house, access to which was had by a ladder. At the opposite end was a square, unpainted pulpit, and on the floor were rows of rude benches. The house was sufficiently lighted by crevices between the upper-logs.
A TOBACCO PLANTATION.
Half an hour after this I arrived at the negro-quarters —a little hamlet of ten or twelve small and dilapidated cabins. Just beyond them was a plain farm-gate, at which several negroes were standing; one of them, a well-made man, with an intelligent countenance and prompt manner, directed me how to find my way to his owner’s house. It was still nearly a mile distant; and yet, until I arrived in its immediate vicinity, I saw no cultivated field, and but one clearing. In the edge of this clearing, a number of negroes, male and female, lay stretched out upon the ground near a small smoking charcoal pit. Their master afterwards informed me that they were burning charcoal for the plantation blacksmith, using the time allowed them for holidays—from Christmas to New Year’s—to earn a little money for themselves in this way. He paid them by the bushel for it. When I said that I supposed he allowed them to take what wood they chose for this purpose, he replied that he had five hundred acres covered with wood, which he would be very glad to have any one burn, or clear off in any way. Cannot some Yankee contrive a method of concentrating some of the valuable properties of this old-field pine, so that they may be profitably brought into use in more cultivated regions? Charcoal is now brought to New York from Virginia; but when made from pine it is not very valuable, and will only bear transportation from the banks of the navigable rivers, whence it can be shipped, at one movement, to New York. Turpentine does not flow in sufficient quantity from this variety of the pine to be profitably collected, and for lumber it is of very small value.
Mr. W.’s house was an old family mansion, which he had himself remodeled in the Grecian style, and furnished with a large wooden portico. An oak forest had originally occupied the ground where it stood; but this having been cleared and the soil worn out in cultivation by the previous proprietors, pine woods now surrounded it in every direction, a square of a few acres only being kept clear immediately about it. A number of the old oaks still stood in the rear of the house, and, until Mr. W. commenced his improvements, there had been some in its front. These, however, he had cut away, as interfering with the symmetry of his grounds, and in place of them had planted ailanthus trees in parallel rows.
On three sides of the outer part of the cleared square there was a row of large and comfortable-looking negroquarters, stables, tobacco-houses, and other offices, built of logs.
Mr. W. was one of the few large planters, of his vicinity who still made the culture of tobacco their principal business. He said there was a general prejudice against tobacco in all the tidewater region of the State, because it was through the culture of tobacco that the once fertile soils had been impoverished; but he did not believe that, at the present value of negroes, their labor could be applied to the culture of grain with any profit, except under peculiarly favorable circumstances. Possibly, the use of guano might make wheat a paying crop, but he still doubted. He had not used it, himself. Tobacco required fresh land, and was rapidly exhausting, but it returned more money for the labor used upon it than anything else, enough more, in his opinion, to pay for the wearing out of the land. If he was well paid for it, he did not know why he should not wear out his land.
His tobacco-fields were nearly all in a distant and lower part of his plantation; land which had been neglected before his time in a great measure, because it had been sometimes flooded, and was, much of the year, too wet for cultivation. He was draining and clearing it, and it now brought good crops.
He had had an Irish gang draining for him, by contract. He thought a negro could do twice as much work in a day as an Irishman. He had not stood over them and seen them at work, but judged entirely from the amount they accomplished: he thought a good gang of negroes would have got on twice as fast. He was sure they must have “trifled” a great deal, or they would have accomplished more than they had. He complained much, also, of their sprees and quarrels. I asked why he should employ Irishmen, in preference to doing the work with his own hands. “It’s dangerous work [unhealthy?], and a negro’s life is too valuable to be risked at it. If a negro dies, it’s a considerable loss, you know.”
He afterwards said that his negroes never worked so hard as to tire themselves—always were lively, and ready to go off on a frolic at night. He did not think they ever did half a fair day’s work. They could not be made to work hard: they never would lay out their strength freely, and it was impossible to make them do it.
This is just what I have thought when I have seen slaves at work—they seem to go through the motions of labor without putting strength into them. They keep their powers in reserve for their own use at night perhaps.
Mr. W. also said that he cultivated only the coarser and lower-priced sorts of tobacco, because the finer sorts required more pains-taking and discretion than it was possible to make a large gang of negroes use. “You can make a nigger work,” he said, “but you cannot make him think.” Although Mr. W. was very wealthy (or, at least, would be considered so anywhere at the North), and was a gentleman of education, his style of living was very farmer-like, and thoroughly Southern. On their plantations, generally, the Virginia gentlemen seem to drop their full-dress and constrained town-habits, and to live a free, rustic, shooting-jacket life. We dined in a room that extended out, rearwardly, from the house, and which, in a Northern establishment, would have been the kitchen. The cooking was done in a detached log-cabin, and the dishes brought some distance, through the open air, by the servants. The outer door was left constantly open, though there was a fire in an enormous old fire-place, large enough, if it could have been distributed sufficiently, to have lasted a New York seamstress the best part of the winter. By the door, there was indiscriminate admittance to negro-children and fox-hounds, and, on an average, there were four of these, grinning or licking their chops, on either side of my chair, all the time I was at the table. A stout woman acted as head waitress, employing two handsome little mulatto boys as her aids in communicating with the kitchen, from which relays of hot corn-bread, of an excellence quite new to me, were brought at frequent intervals.*
* There is probably some choice in the sort of corn used. The best corn-bread that I have eaten was made simply by wetting coarse meal with pure water, adding only a little salt, and baking in the form of a breakfast-roll. The addition of milk, butter, or eggs, damages it. I speak now from experience—having been, in my second journey in the South, often obliged to make my own bread. The only care required, except not to burn it, is to make sure, if possible—which it was not,, generally, in Texas—that the corn is not mouldy.
There was no other bread, and but one vegetable served—sweet potato, roasted in ashes, and this, I thought, was the best sweet potato, also, that I ever had eaten; but there were four preparations of swine’s flesh, besides fried fowls, fried eggs, cold roast turkey, and opossum, cooked I know not how, but it somewhat resembled baked sucking-pig. The only beverages on the table were milk and whisky.
I was pressed to stay several days with Mr. W., and should have been glad to have accepted such hospitality, had not another engagement prevented. When I was about to leave, an old servant was directed to get a horse and go with me, as guide, to the railroad station at Col. Giffin’s. He followed behind me, and I had great difficulty in inducing him to ride near enough to converse with me. I wished to ascertain from him how old the different stages of the old-field forest-growth, by -the side of our road, might be, but for a long time he was, or pretended to be, unable to comprehend my questions. When he did so, the most accurate information he could give me was, that he reckoned such a field (in which the pines were now some sixty feet high) had been planted with tobacco the year his old master bought him. He thought he was about twenty years old then, and that now he was forty. He had every appearance of being seventy.
He frequently told me there was no need for him to go any further, and that it was a dead, straight road to the station, without any forks. As he appeared very eager to return, I was at length foolish enough to allow myself to be prevailed upon to dispense with his guidance; gave him a quarter of a dollar for his time that I had employed, and went on alone. The road, which for a short distance further was plain enough, soon began to ramify, and, in half an hour, we were stumbling along a dark wood-path, looking eagerly for a house. At length, seeing one across a large clearing, we went through a long lane, opening gates and letting down bars, until we met two negroes, riding a mule, who were going to the plantation near the school-house which we had seen the day before. Following them thither, we knew the rest of the way (Jane gave a bound and neighed, when we struck the old road, showing that she had been lost, as well as I, up to the moment). It was twenty minutes after the hour given-in the timetable for the passage of the train, when I reached the station, but it had not arrived; nor did it make its appearance for a quarter of an hour longer; so I had plenty of time to deliver Tom’s wife’s message and take leave of Jane. I am sorry to say she appeared very indifferent, and seemed to think a good deal more of Tom than of me. Mr. W. had told me that the train would, probably, be half an hour behind its advertised time, and that I had no need to ride with haste, to reach it. I asked Col. Gillin if it would be safe to always calculate on the train being half an hour late: he said it would not; for, although usually that much behind the time-table, it was sometimes half an hour ahead of it. So those who would be safe had commonly to wait an hour. People, therefore, who wished to go not more than twenty miles from home would find it more convenient, and equally expeditious, taking all things into account, to go in their own conveyances—there being but few who lived so near the station that they would not have to employ a horse and servant to get to it.
A FREE-LABOR FARM.
I have been visiting a farm, cultivated entirely by free-labor. The proprietor told me that he was first led to disuse slave-labor, not from any economical considerations, but because he had become convinced that there was an essential wrong in holding men in forced servitude with any other purpose than to benefit them alone, and because he was not willing to allow his own children to be educated as slave-masters. His father had been a large slave-holder, and he felt very strongly the bad influence it had had on his own character. He wished me to be satisfied that Jefferson uttered a great truth when he asserted that slavery was more pernicious to the white race than the black. Although, therefore, a chief part of his inheritance had been in slaves, he had liberated them all.
Most of them had, by his advice, gone to. Africa. These he had frequently heard from. Except a child that had been drowned, they were, at his last account, all alive, in general good health, arid satisfactorily prospering. He had lately received a letter from one of them, who told him that he was “trying to preach the Gospel,” and who had evidently greatly improved, both intellectually and morally, since he left here. With regard to those going North, and the common opinion that they encountered much misery, and would be much better off here, he said that it entirely depended on the general character and habits of the individual; it was true of those who were badly brought up, and who had acquired indolent and vicious habits, especially if they were drunkards, but, if of some intelligence and well-trained, they generally represented themselves to be successful and contented.
He mentioned two remarkable cases, that had come under his own observation, of this kind. One was that of a man who had been free, but, by some fraud and informality of his papers, was reenslaved. He ran away, and afterwards negotiated, by correspondence, with his master, and purchased his freedom. This man he had accidentally met, fifteen years afterwards, in a Northern city; he was engaged in profitable and increasing business, and showed him, by his books, that he was possessed of property to the amount of ten thousand dollars. He was living a great deal more comfortably and wisely than ever his old master had done. The other case was that of a colored woman, who had obtained her freedom, and who became apprehensive that she also was about to be fraudulently made a slave again. She fled to Philadelphia, where she was nearly starved, at first. A little girl, who heard her begging in the streets to be allowed to work for bread, told her that her mother was wanting some washing done, and she followed her home. The mother, not knowing her, was afraid to trust her with the articles to be washed. She prayed so earnestly for the job, however—suggesting that she might be locked into a room until she had completed it—that it was given her.
So she commenced life in Philadelphia. Ten years afterwards he had accidentally met her there; she recognized him immediately, recalled herself to his recollection, manifested the greatest joy at seeing him, and asked him to come to her house, which he found a handsome three-story building, furnished really with elegance; and she pointed out to him, from the window, three houses in the vicinity that she owned and rented. She showed great anxiety to have her children well educated, and was employing the best instructors for them which she could procure in Philadelphia.
This gentleman, notwithstanding his anti-slavery sentiments, by no means favors the running away of slaves, and thinks the Abolitionists have done immense harm to the cause they have at heart. He wishes Northerners would mind their business, and leave Slavery alone, say but little about it—nothing in the present condition of affairs at the South—and never speak of it but in a kind and calm manner. He would not think it right to return a fugitive slave; but he would never assist one to escape. He has several times purchased slaves, generally such as his neighbors were obliged to sell, and who would otherwise have been taken South. This he had been led to do by the solicitation of some of their relatives. He had retained them in his possession until their labor had in some degree returned their cost to him, and he could afford to provide them with the means of going to Africa or the North, and a small means of support after their arrival. Having received some suitable training in his family, they had, without exception, been successful, and had frequently sent him money to purchase the freedom of relatives or friends they had left in slavery.
He considered the condition of slaves to have much improved since the Revolution, and very perceptibly during the last twenty years. The original stock of slaves, the imported Africans, he observed, probably required to be governed with much greater severity, and very little humanity was exercised or thought of with regard to them. The slaves of the present day are of a higher character; in fact, he did not think more than half of them were full-blooded Africans. Public sentiment condemned the man who treated his slaves with cruelty. The owners were mainly men of some cultivation, and felt a family attachment to their slaves, many of whom had been the playmates of their boyhood. Nevertheless, they were frequently punished severely, under the impulse of temporary passion, often without deliberation, and on unfounded suspicion. This was especially the case where they were left to overseers, who, though sometimes men of intelligence and piety, were more often coarse, brutal, and licentious; drinking men, wholly unfitted for the responsibility imposed on them.
He had read “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” [published in 1852]; mentioned several points in which he thought it wrong—that Uncle Tom was too highly painted, for instance; that such a character could not exist in, or spring out of Slavery, and that no gentleman of Kentucky or Virginia would have allowed himself to be in the position with a slave-dealer in which Mr. Shelby is represented—but he acknowledged that cases of cruelty and suffering, equal to any described in it, might be found. In his own neighborhood, some time ago, a man had been whipped to death; and he recollected several that had been maimed for life by harsh and hasty punishment; but the whole community were indignant when such things occurred, and any man guilty of them would be without associates, except of similar character.
The opinions of this gentleman must not, of course, be considered as representative of those of the South in general, by any means; but as to facts, he is a competent and, I believe, a wholly candid and unprejudiced witness. He is much respected and on terms of friendship with all his neighbors, though they do not like his views on this subject. He told me, however, that one of them, becoming convinced of their correctness some time ago, freed his slaves, and moved to Ohio. As to “Uncle Tom,” it is generally criticised very severely and its representations of Slavery indignantly denied. I observe that it is not placarded outside the booksellers’ stores, though the whole fleet of gunboats that have been launched after it show their colors bravely. It must, however, be a good deal read here, as I judge from the frequent allusions I hear made to it.
With regard to the value of slave-labor, this gentleman is confident that, at present, he has the advantage in employing freemen instead of it. It has not been so until of late, the price of slaves having much advanced within ten years, while immigration has made free white laborers more easy to be procured.
He has heretofore had some difficulty in obtaining hands when he needed them, and has suffered a good deal from the demoralizing influence of adjacent slave-labor, the men, after a few months’ residence, inclining to follow the customs of the slaves with regard to the amount of work they should do in a day, or their careless mode of operation. He has had white and black Virginians, sometimes Germans, and latterly Irish. Of all these, he has found the Irish on the whole the best. The poorest have been the native white Virginians; next, the free blacks: and though there have been exceptions, he has not generally paid these as high as one hundred dollars a year, and has thought them less worth their wages than any he has had. At present, he has two white natives and two free colored men, but both the latter were brought up in his family, and are worth twenty dollars a year more than the average. The free black, he thinks, is generally worse than the slave, and so is the poor white man. He also employs, at present, four Irish hands, and is expecting two more to arrive, who have been recommended to him, and sent for by those he has. He pays the Irishmen $120 a year, and boards them. He has had them for $100; but these are all excellent men, and well worth their price. They are less given to drinking than any men he has ever had; and one of them first suggested improvements to him in his farm, that he is now carrying out with prospects of considerable advantage. House-maids, Irish girls, he pays $3 and $6 a month.
He does not apprehend that in future he shall have any difficulty in obtaining steady and reliable men, that will accomplish much more work than any slaves. There are some operations, such as carting and spreading dung, and all work with the fork, spade, or shovel, at which his Irishmen will do, he thinks, over fifty per cent. more in a day than any negroes he has ever blown. On the whole, he is satisfied that at present free-labor is more profitable than slave-labor, though his success is not so evident that he would be willing to have attention particularly called to it. His farm, moreover, is now in a transition state from one system of husbandry to another, and appearances are temporarily more unfavorable on that account.
The wages paid for slaves, when they are hired for agricultural labor, do not differ at present, he says, from those which he pays for his free laborers. In both cases the hiring party boards the laborer, but, in addition to money and board, the slave-employer has to furnish clothing, and is subject, without redress, to any losses which may result from the carelessness or malevolence of the slave. He also has to lose his time if he is unwell, or when from any cause he is absent or unable to work.
The slave, if he is indisposed to work, and especially if he is not treated well, or does not like the master who has hired him, will sham sickness—even make himself sick or lame—that he need not work. But a more serious loss frequently arises, when the slave, thinking he is worked too hard, or being angered by punishment or unkind treatment, “getting the sulks,” takes to “the swamp,” and comes back when he has a mind to. Often this will not be till the year is up for which he is engaged, when he will return to his owner, who, glad to find his property safe, and that it has not died in the swamp, or gone to Canada, forgets to punish him, and immediately sends him for another year to a new master.
“But, meanwhile, how does the negro support life in the swamp?” I asked.
“Oh, he gets sheep and pigs and calves, and fowls and turkeys; sometimes they will kill a small cow. We have often seen the fires, where they were cooking them, through the woods, in the swamp yonder. If it is cold, he will crawl under a fodderstack, or go into the cabins with some of the other negroes, and in the same way, you see, he can get all the corn, or almost anything else he wants.
“He steals them from his master?”
“From any one; frequently from me. I have had many a sheep taken by them.”
“It is a common thing, then?”
“Certainly it is, very common, and the loss is sometimes exceedingly provoking. One of my neighbors here was going to build, and hired two mechanics for a year. Just as he was ready to put his house up, the two men, taking offense at something, both ran away, and did not come back at all till their year was out, and then their owner immediately hired them out again to another man.”
These negroes “in the swamp,” he said, were often hunted after, but it was very difficult to find them, and, if caught, they would run again, and the other negroes would hide and assist them. Dogs to track them he had never known to be used in Virginia.
RECREATION AND LUXURY AMONG THE SLAVES.
SATURDAY, Dec. 25. From Christmas to New-Year’s Day, most of the slaves, except house servants, enjoy a freedom from Labor; and Christmas is especially holiday, or Saturnalia, with them. The young ones began last night firing crackers, and I do not observe that they axe engaged in any other amusement to-day; the older ones are generally getting drunk, and making business for the police. I have seen large gangs coming in from the country, and these contrast much in their general appearance with the town negroes. The latter are dressed expensively, and frequently more elegantly than the whites. They seem to be spending money freely, and I observe that they, and even the slaves that wait upon me at the hotel, often have watches, and other articles of value.
The slaves have a good many ways of obtaining “spending money,” which, though in law belonging to their owner, as the property of a son under age does to his father, they are never dispossessed of, and use for their own gratification, with even less restraint than a wholesome regard for their health and more condition may be thought to require. A Richmond paper, complaining of the liberty allowed to slaves in this respect, as calculated to foster an insubordinate spirit, speaks of their “champagne suppers.” The police broke into a gambling cellar a few nights since, and found about twenty negroes at “high play,” with all the usual accessories of a first-class “Hell.” It is mentioned that, among the number taken to the watch-house, and treated with lashes the next morning, there were some who had previously enjoyed a high reputation for piety, and others of a very elegant or foppish appearance.
Passing two negroes in the street, I heard the following:
Workin’ in a tobacco factory all de year roun, an’ come Christmas, only twenty dollars! Workin’ mighty hard, too—up to 12 o’clock o’ night very often—an’ then to hab a nigger oberseah!”
“Yes—dat’s it, yer see. Wouldn’t care if ‘twarnt for dat. Nothin’ but a dirty nigger! Orderin’ ‘round, jes’ as if he was a wite man!”
It is the custom of tobacco manufacturers to hire slaves and free negroes at a certain rate of wages per year. A task of 45 lbs. per day is given them to work up, and all that they choose to do more than this they are paid for—payment being made once a fortnight; and invariably this over-wages is used by the slave for himself, and is usually spent in drinking, licentiousness and gambling. The man was grumbling that he had saved but $20 to spend at the holidays. One of the manufacturers offered to show me, by his books, that nearly all gained by overwork $5 a month, many $20, and some as much as $28.
INGENUITY OF THE NEGRO.
Sitting with a company of smokers last night, one of them, to show me the manner in which a slave of any ingenuity or cunning would manage to avoid working for master’s profit, narrated the following anecdote. He was executor of an estate in which, among other negroes, there was one very smart man, who, he knew perfectly well, ought to be earning for the estate $150 a year, and who could do it if he chose, yet whose wages for a year, being let out by the day or job, had amounted to but $18, while he had paid for medical attendance upon him $45. Having failed in every other way to make him earn anything he proposed to him that he should purchase his freedom and go to Philadelphia, where he had a brother. He told him if he would earn a certain sum ($400 I believe), and pay it over to the estate for himself, he would give him his free papers. The man agreed to the arrange- ment, and by his overwork in a tobacco factory, and some assistance from his free brother, soon paid the sum agreed upon, and was sent to Philadelphia. A few weeks afterwards he met him in the street, and asked him why he had returned. “Oh, I don’t like dat Philadelphy, massa; ant no chance for colored folks dere; spec’ if I’d been a runaway, de wite folks dere take care o’ me; but I couldn’t git anythin’ to do, so I jis borrow ten dollar of my broder, and cum back to old Virginny.”
“But you, know the law forbids your return. I wonder that you are not afraid to be seen here; I should think Mr.—(an officer of police) would take you up.”
“Oh! I look out for dat, Massr, I juss hire myself out to Mr.—himself, ha! Ha! He tink I your boy.”
And so it proved, the officer, thinking that he was permitted to hire himself out, and tempted by the low wages at which he offered himself, had neglected to ask for his written permission, and had engaged him for a year. He still lived with the officer, and was an active, healthy, good servant to him.
QUALITIES AS A LABORER.
A well-informed capitalist and slave-holder remarked, that negroes could not be employed in cotton factories. I said that I understood they were so in Charleston, and some other places at the South.
“It may be so, yet,” he answered, “but they will have to give it up.”
The reason was, he said, that the negro could never he trained to exercise judgment; he cannot be made to use his mind; he always depends on machinery doing its own work, and cannot be made to watch it. He neglects it until something is broken or there is great waste. “We have tried reward and punishments, but it makes no difference. It’s his nature and you cannot change it. All men are indolent and have a disinclination to labor, but this is a great deal stronger in the African, race than in any other. In working niggers, we must always calculate that they will not labor at all except to avoid punishment, and they will never do more than just enough to save themselves from being punished, and no amount of punishment will prevent their working carelessly and indifferently. It always seems on the plantation as if they took pains to break all the tools and spoil all the cattle that they possibly can, even when they know they’ll be directly punished for it.”
As to rewards, he said, “They only want to support life, they will not work for anything more; and in this country it would be hard to prevent their getting that.” I thought this opinion of the power of rewards was not exactly confirmed by ‘the narrative we had just heard, but I said nothing. “If you could move,” he continued, “all the white people from the whole seaboard district of Virginia and give it up to the negroes that are on it now, just leave them to themselves, in ten years time there would not be an acre of land cultivated, and nothing would be produced, except what grew spontaneously.”
The Hon. Willoughby Newton, by the way, seems to think that if it had not been for the introduction of guano, a similar desolation would have soon occurred without the Africanization of the country. He is reported to have said:
“I look upon the introduction of guano, and the success attending its application to our barren lands, in the light of a special interposition of Divine Providence, to save the northern neck of Virginia from reverting entirely into its former state of wilderness and utter desolation. Until the discovery of guano—more valuable to us than the mines of California—I looked upon the possibility of renovating our soil, of ever bringing it to a point capable of producing remunerating crops, as utterly hopeless. Our up-lands were all worn out, and our bottom-lands fast failing, and if it had not been for guano to revive our last hope, a few years more and the whole country must have been deserted by all who desired to increase their own wealth, or advance the cause of civilization by a proper cultivation of the earth.”
IMPROVEMENT OF THE NEGRO IN SLAVERY.
“But are they not improving?” said I; “that is a point in which I am much interested, and I should be glad to know what is your observation? Have they not, as a race, improved during the last hundred years, do you not think?”
“Oh, yes indeed, very greatly. During my, time—I can remember how they were forty years ago—they have improved two thousand per cent! Don’t you think so?” he asked another gentleman.
“And you may find them now, on the isolated old plantations in the back country, just as I recollect them when I was a boy, stupid and moping, and with no more intelligence than when they first came from Africa. But all about where the country is much settled their condition is vastly ameliorated. They are treated much better, they are fed better, and they have much greater educational privileges.”
“Educational privileges?” I asked, in surprise.
“I mean by preaching and religious instruction. They have the Bible read to them a great deal, and there is preaching for them all over the country. They have preachers of their own; right smart ones they are, too, some of them.”
“Do they?” said I. “I thought that was not allowed by law.”
“Well, it is not—that is, they are not allowed to have meetings without some white man is present. They must not preach unless a white man hears what they say. However, they do. On my plantation, they always have a meeting on Sundays, and I have sometimes, when I have been there, told my overseer,—`You must go up there to the meeting, you know the law requires it;’ and he would start as if he was going, but would lust look in and go by; he wasn’t going to wait for them.’
A DISTINGUISHED DIVINE.
He then spoke of a minister, whom he owned, and described him as a very intelligent man. He knew almost the whole of the Bible by heart. He was a fine-looking man—a fine head and a very large frame. He had been a sailor, and had been in New Orleans and New York, and many foreign ports. “He could have left me at any time for twenty years, if he had wished to,” he said. “I asked him once how he would like to live in New York? Oh, he did not like New York at all! niggers were not treated well there—there was more distinction made between them and white folks than there was here. ‘Oh, dey ain’t no place in de worl like Ole Virginny for niggers, massa,’ says he.
Another gentleman gave similar testimony.
HOW THEY ARE FED.
I said I supposed that they were much better off, more improved intellectually, and more kindly treated in Virginia than further South. He said I was mistaken in both respects—that in Louisiana, especially, they were more intelligent, because the amalgamation of the races was much greater, and they were treated with more familiarity by the whites; besides which, the laws of Louisiana were much more favorable to them. For instance, they required the planter to give slaves 200 pounds of pork a year: and he gave a very apt anecdote showing the effect of this law, but which, at the same time, made it evident that a Virginian may be accustomed to neglect providing sufficient food for his force, and that they sometimes suffer greatly for want of it. I was assured, however, that this was very rare—that, generally, the slaves were well provided for—always allowed a sufficient quantity of meal, and, generally, of pork—were permitted to raise pigs and poultry, and in summer could always grow as many vegetables as they wanted, It was observed, however, that they frequently neglect to provide for themselves in this way, and live mainly on meal and bacon. If a man does not provide well for his slaves, it soon becomes known, he gets the name of a “nigger-killer,” and loses the respect of the community.
The general allowance of food was thought to be a peck and a half of meal, and three pounds of bacon a week. This, it was observed, is as much meal as they can eat, but they would be glad to have more bacon; sometimes they receive four pounds, but it is oftener that they get less than three. It is distributed to them on Saturday nights; or, on the better-managed plantations, sometimes, on Wednesday, to prevent their using it extravagantly, or selling it for whisky on Sunday. This distribution is called the drawing,” and is made by the overseer to all the heads of families or single negroes. Except on the smallest plantations, where the cooking is done in the house of the proprietor, there is a cook-house, furnished with a large copper for boilin ,and an oven. Every night the negroes take their “mess,’ for the next day’s breakfast and dinner, to the cook, to be prepared for the next day. Custom varies as to the time it is served out to them; sometimes at morning and noon, at other times at noon and night. Each negro marks his meat by cuts, so that he shall know it from the rest, and they observe each other’s rights with regard to this, punctiliously.
After breakfast has been eaten early in the cabins, at sunrise or a little before in’ winter, and perhaps a little later in summer, they go to the field. At noon dinner is brought to them, and, unless the work presses, they are allowed two hours’ rest. Very punctually at sunset they stop work and are at liberty, except that a squad is detached once a week for shelling corn, to go to the mill for the next week’s drawing of meal. Thus they work in the field about eleven hours a day on an average. Returning to the cabins, wood “ought to have been” carted for them; but if it has not been, they then go to the woods and “tote” it home for themselves. They then make a fire—a big, blazing fire at this season, for the supply of fuel is unlimited—and cook their own supper, which will be a bit of bacon fried, often with eggs, corn-bread baked in the spider after the bacon, to absorb the fat, and perhaps some sweet potatoes roasted in the ashes. Immediately after supper they go to sleep, often lying on the floor or a bench in preference to a bed. About two o’clock they very generally rouse up and cook and eat, or eat cold, what they call their “mornin’ bit”; then sleep again till breakfast.
I think the slaves generally (no one denies that there are exceptions) have plenty to eat; probably are fed better than the proletarian class of any other part of the world. I think that they generally save from their ration of meal. My informant said that commonly as much as five bushels of meal was sent to town by his hands every week, to be sold for them. Upon inquiry, he almost always found that it belonged to only two or three individuals, who had traded for it with the rest; he added that too often the exchange was for whisky, which, against his rules, they obtained of some rascally white people in the neighborhood, and kept concealed. They were very fond of whisky, and sometimes much injured themselves with it.
To show me how well they were supplied with eggs, he said that once a vessel came to anchor, becalmed, off his place, and the captain came to him and asked leave to purchase some eggs of his people. He gave him permission, and called the cook to collect them for him. The cook asked how many she should bring. “Oh, all you can get,” he answered—and she returned after a time, with several boys assisting her, bringing nearly two bushels, all the property of the slaves, and which they were willing to sell at four cents a dozen.
One of the smokers explained to me that it is very bad economy not to allow an abundant supply of food to “a man’s force.” The negroes are fond of good living, and, if not well provided for, know how to provide for them-self. It is also but simple policy to have them well lodged and clothed. If they do not have comfortable cabins and sufficient clothing, they will take cold, and be laid up. He lost a very valuable negro, once, from having neglected to provide him with shoes.
The houses of the slaves are usually log-cabins, of various degrees of comfort and commodiousness. At one end there is a great open fire-place, which is exterior to the wall of the house, being made of clay in an inclosure, about eight feet square and high, of logs. The chimney is sometimes of brick, but more commonly of lath or split sticks, laid up like log-work and plastered with mud. They enjoy great roaring fires, and, as the common fuel is pitch pine, the cabin, at night when the door is open, seen from a distance, appears like a fierce furnace. The chimneys often catch fire, and the cabin is destroyed. Very little precaution can be taken against this danger.*
* “AN INGENIOUS NEGRO.—In Lafayette, Miss., a few days ago, a negro, who, with his wife and three children, occupied a hut upon the plantation of Col. Peques, was very much annoyed by fleas. Believing that they congregated in great numbers beneath his house, he resolved to destroy them by fire; and accordingly, one night when his family were asleep, he raised a plank in the floor of his cabin, and, procuring an armful of shucks, scattered them on the ground beneath and lighted them. The consequence was, that the cabin was consumed, and the whole family, with the exception of the man who lighted the fire, was burned to death.”—Journal of Commerce.
Several cabins are placed near together, and they are called “the quarters.” On a plantation of moderate size there will be but one “quarters.” The situation chosen for it has reference to convenience of obtaining water from springs and fuel from the woods. On some of the James River plantations there are larger houses, boarded and made ornamental. In these eight families, each having a distinct sleeping-room and lock-up closets, and every two having a common kitchen or living-room, are accommodated.
As to the clothing of the slaves on the plantations, they are said to be usually furnished by their owners or masters, every year, each with a coat and trousers, of a coarse woolen or woolen and cotton stuff (mostly made, especially for this purpose, in Providence, R. I.), for Winter, trousers of cotton osnaburghs for Summer, sometimes with a jacket also of the same; two pairs of strong shoes, or one pair of strong boots and one of lighter shoes for harvest; three shirts; one blanket, and one felt hat.
The women have two dresses of striped cotton, three shifts, two pairs of shoes, etc. The women lying-in are kept at knitting short sacks, from cotton which, in Southern Virginia, is usually raised, for this purpose, on the farm, and these are also given to the negroes. They also purchase clothing for themselves, and, I notice especially, are well supplied with handkerchiefs which the men frequently, and the women nearly always, wear on their heads. On Sundays and holidays they usually look very smart, but when at, work, very ragged and slovenly.
At the conclusion of our bar-room session, some time after midnight, as we were retiring to our rooms, our progress, up stairs and along the corridors was several times impeded, by negroes lying fast asleep, in their usual clothes only, upon the floor. I asked why they were not abed, and was answered by a gentleman, that negroes never wanted to go to bed; they always preferred to sleep upon the floor.
THE largest and best hotel in Norfolk had been closed, shortly before I was there, from want of sufficient patronage to sustain it, and I was obliged to go to another house which, though quite pretending, was very shamefully kept. The landlord paid scarcely the smallest attention to the wants of his guests, turned his back when inquiries were made of him, and replied insolently to complaints and requests. His slaves were far his superiors in manners and morals; but, not being one quarter in number what were needed, and consequently not being able to obey one quarter of the orders that were given them, their only study was to disregard, as far as they would be allowed to, all requisitions upon their time and labor. The smallest service could only be obtained by bullying or bribing. I had to make a bargain for every clean towel that I got during my stay.
I was first put in a very small room, in a corner of the house; next under the roof. The weather being stormy, and the roof leaky, water was frequently dripping from the ceiling upon the bed and driving in at the window, so as to stand in pools upon the floor. There was no fire-place in the room; the ladies’ parlor was usually crowded by ladies and their friends, among whom I had no acquaintance, and as it was freezing cold, I was obliged to spend most of my time in the stinking bar-room, where the landlord all the time sat with his boon companions, smoking and chewing and talking obscenely.
This crew of old reprobates frequently exercised their indignation upon Mrs. Stowe, and other “Infidel abolitionists;” and on Sunday, having all attended church, afterwards mingled with their ordinary ribaldry laudations of the “evangelical” character of the sermons they had heard.
On the night I arrived, I was told that I would be provided, the next morning, with a room in which I could have a fire, and a similar promise was given me every twelve hours, for five days, before I obtained it; then, at last, I had to share it with two strangers.
When I left, the same petty sponging operation was practiced upon me as at Petersburg. The breakfast, for which half a dollar had been paid, was not ready until an hour after I had been called; and, when ready, consisted of cold salt fish; dried slices of bread and tainted butter; coffee, evidently made the day before and half re-warmed; no milk, the milkman not arriving so early in the morning, the servant said; and no sooner was I seated then the choice was presented to me, by the agitated book-keeper, of going without such as this, or of losing the train and so being obliged to stay in the house twenty-four hours longer.
Of course I dispensed with the breakfast, and hurried off with the porter, who was to take my baggage on a wheel-barrow to the station. The station was across the harbor, in Portsmouth. Notwithstanding all the haste I could communicate to him, we reached the ferry-landing just as the boat left, too late by three seconds. I looked at my watch; it lacked but twenty minutes of the time at which the landlord and the book-keeper and the breakfast-table waiter and the rail-road company’s advertisements had informed me that the train left. “Nebber mine, masser,” said the porter, “dey wont go widout ‘ou—Baltimore boat haant ariv yet, dey doan go till dat come in, sueh.”
Somewhat relieved by this assurance, and by the arrival of others at the, landing, who evidently expected to reach the train, I went into the market and bought a breakfast from the cake and fruit stalls of the negro-women.
In twenty minutes the ferry-boat returned, and after waiting some time at the landing, put out again; but when midway across the harbor, the wheels ceased to revolve, and for fifteen minutes we drifted with the tide. The fireman had been asleep, the fires had got low, and the steam given out. I observed that the crew, including the master or pilot, and the engineer, were all negroes.
We reached the rail-road station about half an hour after the time at which the train should have left. There were several persons prepared for traveling, waiting about it, but there was no sign of a departing train, and the ticket-office was not open. I paid the porter, sent him back, and was added to the number of the waiters.
The delay was for the Baltimore boat, which arrived in an hour after the time the train was advertised, unconditionally, to start, and the first forward movement was more than an hour and a half behind time. A brakeman told me this delay was not very unusual, and that an hour’s waiting might be commonly calculated upon with safety.
The distance from Portsmouth to Weldon, N. C., eighty miles, was run in three hours and twenty minutes —twenty-five miles an hour. The road, which was formerly a very poor and unprofitable one, was bought up a few years ago, mainly, I believe, by Boston capital, and reconstructed in a substantial manner. The grades are light, and there are few curves. Fare a cents a mile.
At a way-station, a trader had ready a company of negroes intended to be shipped South; but the “servants’ car” being quite full already, they were obliged to be left for another train. As we departed from the station, I stood upon the platform of the rear car with two other men. One said to the other:—
“That’s a good lot of niggers.”
“Damn’d good; I only wished they belonged to me.”
I entered the car and took a seat, and presently they followed, and sat near me. Continuing their conversation thus commenced, they spoke of their bad luck in life. One appeared to have been a bar-keeper; the other an overseer. One said the highest wages he had ever been paid were two hundred dollars a year, and that year he hadn’t laid up a cent. Soon after, the other, speaking with much energy and bitterness, said:
“I wish to God old Virginny was free of all the niggers.” “It would be a good thing if she was.”
“Yes, sir; and, I tell you, it would be a damn’d good thing for us, poor fellows.”
“I reckon it would, myself.”
When we stopped at Weldon, a man was shouting from a stage-coach, passengers for Gaston! Hurry up! Stage is waiting!” As he repeated this the third time, I threw up to him my two valises, and proceeded to climb to the box, to take my seat.
“You are in a mighty hurry, aint ye!!”
“Didn’t you say the stage was waiting?”
“If ye’r going ter get any dinner to-day, you’d better get it here; won’t have much other chance. Be right smart about it, too.”
“Then you are not going yet?”
“You can get yer dinner, if ye want to.”
“You’ll call me, will you, when you are ready to go?” “I shan’t go without ye, ye needn’t be afeard—go ‘long and get yer dinner; this is the place, if anywar;—don’t want to go without yer dinner, do ye?”
Before arriving at Weldon, a handbill, distributed by the proprietors of this inn, had been placed in my hands, from which I make the following extracts:
“We pledge our word of honor as gentlemen, that if the fare at our table be inferior to that on the table of our enterprising competitor, we will not receive a cent from the traveler, but relinquish our claims to pay, as a merited forfeit, for what we would regard as a wanton imposition upon the rights and claims of the unsuspecting traveler.
“We have too much respect for the Ladies of our House, to make even a remote allusion to their domestic duties in a public circular. It will not, however, be regarded indelicate in us to say, that the duties performed by them have been, and are satisfactory to us, and, as far as we know, to the public. And we will only add, in this connection, that we take much pleasure in superintending both our “Cook-House” and table in person, and in administering in person to the wants of our guests.
“We have made considerable improvement in our House of late, and those who wish to remain over at Weldon, will find, with us, airy rooms, clean beds, brisk fires, and attentive and orderly servants, with abundance of FRESH OYSTERS during the season, and every necessary and luxury that money can procure.
“It is not our wish to deceive strangers nor others; and if, on visiting our House, they do not find things as here represented, they can publish us to the world as impostors, and the ignominy will be ours.”
Going in to the house, I found most of the passengers by the train at dinner, and the few negro boys and girls in too much of a hurry to pay attention to any one in particular. The only palatable viand within my reach was some cold sweet-potatoes; of these I made a slight repast, paid the landlord, who stood like a sentry in the doorway, half a dollar, and in fifteen minutes, by my watch, from the time I had entered, went out, anxious to make sure of my seat on the box, for the coach was so small that but one passenger could be conveniently carried outside. The coach was gone.
“Oh, yes, sir,” said the landlord, hardly disguising his satisfaction; “gone—yes, sir, some time ago; you was in to dinner, was you, sir—pity! you’ll have to stay over till to-morrow now, won’t you?”
“I suppose so,” said I, hardly willing to give up my intention to sleep in Raleigh that night, even to secure a clean bed and fresh oysters. “Which road does the stage go upon?”
“Along the county road.”
“Which is that—this way through the woods?”
“Yes, sir.—Carried off your baggage, did he?—Pity! Suppose he forgot you. Pity!”
‘Thank you—yes, I suppose he did. Is it a pretty good road?”
“No, sir, ‘taint first-rate—good many pretty bad slews. You might go round by the Petersburg Rail-road, tomorrow, you’d overtake your baggage at Gaston.”
“Thank you; it was not a very fast team, I know. I’m going to take a little run; and, if I shouldn’t come back before night, you needn’t keep a bed for me. Good day, sir.
I am pretty good on the legs for a short man, and it didn’t take me long, by the pas gymnastique, to overtake the coach.
As I came up, the driver hailed me
“Hallo! that you?”
“Why did not you wait for me, or call me when you wanted to go, as you promised?”
“Reckoned ye was inside—didn’t look in, coz I asked if ’twas all right, and somebody—this ‘ere gentleman, here”—(who had got my seat) ” ‘Yes,’ says he, ‘all right’; so I reckoned ’twas, and driv along. Mustn’t blame me. Ortn’t to be so long swallerin’ yer dinner—mind, next time!”
The road was as bad as anything under the name of road can be conceived to be. Wherever the adjoining swamps, fallen trees, stumps, and plantation fences would admit of it, the coach was driven, with a great deal of dexterity, out of the road. When the wheels sunk in the mud below the hubs, we were sometimes requested to get out and walk. An upset seemed every moment inevitable. At length, it came; and the driver, climbing on to the upper side, opened the door, and asked, with an irresistibly jolly drawl
“Got mixed up some in here then, didn’t ye? Ladies, hurt any? Well, come, get out here; don’t want to stay here all night, I reckon, do ye?—Ain’t nothing broke, as I see. We’ll right her right up. Nary durn’d rail within a thousan’ mile, I don’t s pose; better be lookin’ roun’. got to get somethin’ for a pry.”
In four hours after I left the hotel at Weldon, the coach reached the bank of the Roanoke, a distance of fourteen miles and stopped. “Here we are,” said the driver, opening the door.
“Where are we—not in Gaston?”
“Durned nigh it. That ere’s Gaston, over thar; and you just holler, and they’ll come over arter you in the boat.
Gaston was a mile above us, and on the other side of the river. Nearly opposite to where we were was a house, and a scow drawn up on the beach; the distance across the river was, perhaps, a quarter of a mile. When the driver had got the luggage off, he gathered his reins, and said:
“Seems to me them gol-durned lazy niggers ain’t a goin’ to come over arter you now; if they won’t, you’d better go up to the rail-road bridge, some of ye, and get a boat, or else go down here to Free-town; some of them cussed free niggers’ll be, glad of the job, I no doubt.”
“But, confound it, driver! you are not going to leave us here, are you? we paid to be carried to Gaston.”
“Can’t help it; you are close to Gaston, any how, and if any man thinks he’s goin’ to heve me drive him up to the bridge tonight, he’s damnably mistaken, he is, and I ain’t a goin’ to do it, not for no man, I ain’t.”
And away he drove, leaving us, all strangers, in a strange country, just at the edge of night, far from any house, to “holler.’
The only way to stop him was to shoot him; and, as we were all good citizens, and traveled with faith in the protection of the law, and not like knights-errant, armed for adventure, ‘we could not do that.
Good citizens? No, we were not; for we have all, to this day, neglected to prosecute the fellow, or his employers. It would, to be sure, have cost us ten times any damages we should have been awarded; but, if we had been really good citizens, we should have been as willing to sacrifice the necessary loss, as knights-errant of old were to risk life to fight bloody giants. And, until many of us can have the nobleness to give ourselves the trouble and expense of killing off these impudent highwaymen of our time, at law, we have all got to suffer in their traps and stratagems.
We soon saw the “gol-durned lazy niggers come to their scow, and after a scrutiny of our numbers, and a consultation among themselves, which evidently resulted in the conclusion that the job wouldn’t pay, go back.
When it began to grow dark, leaving me as a baggage-guard, the rest of the coach’s company walked up the bank of the river, and crossed by a rail-road bridge to Gaston. One of them afterwards returned with a gang of negroes, whom he had hired, and a large freight-boat, into which, across the snags which lined the shore, we passed all the baggage. Among the rest, there were some very large and heavy chests, belonging to two pretty women, who were moving, with their effects; and, although they remained in our company all the next day, they not only neglected to pay their share of the boat and negro-hire, but forgot to thank us, or even gratefully to smile upon us, for our long toil in the darkness for them.
Working up the swollen stream of the Roanoke, with setting-poles and oars, we at length reached Gaston. When I bought my tickets at the station in Portsmouth, I said: “I will take tickets to any place this side of Raleigh at which I can arrive before night. I wish to avoid traveling after dark.” “You can go straight through to Raleigh, before dark,” said the clerk. “You are sure of that?” “Yes, sir.” On reaching Gaston, I inquired at what time the train for Raleigh had passed: “At three o’clock.” According to the advertisement, it should have passed at two o’clock; and, under the most favorable circumstances, it could not have been possible for us, leaving Portsmouth at the time we did, to reach Gaston before four o’clock, or Raleigh in less than twenty-eight hours after the time promised. The next day, I asked one of the railroad men how often the connection occurred, which is advertised in the Northern papers, as if it were a certain thing to take place at Gaston. “Not very often, sir; it hain’t been once, in the last two weeks.” Whenever the connection is not made, all passengers whom these railroad freebooters have drawn into their ambush, are obliged to remain over a day, at Gaston; for, as is to be supposed, with such management the business of the road will support but one train a day.
The route by sea, from Baltimore to Portsmouth, and thence by these lines, is advertised as the surest, cheapest, and most expeditious route to Raleigh. Among my stage companions were some who lived beyond Raleigh. This was Friday. They would now not reach Raleigh till Saturday night, and -much as could not conscientiously travel on Sunday, would be detained from home two days longer than if they had come the land route. One of them lived some eighty miles beyond Raleigh, and intended to proceed by a coach, which was to leave Saturday morning. He would probably be now detained till the following Wednesday, as the coach left Raleigh but twice a week.
SOUTH CAROLINA AND GEORGIA
Passing through long stretches of cypress swamps, with occasional intervals of either pine-barrens, or clear water ponds, in about two hours we came, in the midst of the woods, to the end of the rails. In the vicinity could be seen a small tent, a shanty of loose boards, and a large, subdued fire, around which, upon the ground, there were a considerable number of men, stretched out asleep. This was the camp of the hands engaged in laying the rails, and who were thus daily extending the distance which the locomotive could run.
The conductor told me that there was here a break of about eighty miles in the rail, over which I should be transferred by a stage coach, which would come as soon as possible after the driver knew that the train had arrived. To inform him of this, the locomotive screamed loud and long.
The negro property, which had been brought up’ in a freight car, was immediately let out on the stoppage of the train. As it stepped on to the platform, its owner asked, “Are you all here?’
“Yes, massa, we is all heah,” answered one; “Do dysef no harm, for we’s all heah,” added another, quoting Saint Peter, in an undertone.
The negroes immediately gathered some wood, and, taking a brand from the rail-road hands, made a fire for themselves; then, all but the woman, opening their bundles, wrapped themselves in their blankets and went to sleep. The woman, bare-headed, and very inadequately clothed as she was, stood for a long time alone, perfectly still, erect and.statue-like, with her head bowed, gazing in the fire. She had taken no part in the light chat of the others, and had given them no assistance in making the fire. Her dress, too, was not the usual plantation apparel. It was all sadly suggestive.
The principal other freight of the train was one hundred and twenty bales of northern hay. It belonged, as the conductor told me, to a planter who lived some twenty miles beyond here, and who had bought it in Wilmington at a dollar and a half a hundred weight, to feed to his mules. Including the steam-boat and rail-road freight, and all the labor of getting it to his stables, its entire cost to him would not be much less than two dollars a hundred. This would be at least four times as much as it would have cost to raise and make it in the interior of New York or New England. Now, there are not only several forage crops which can be raised in South Carolina that cannot be grown on account, of the severity of, the winter in the free States, but, on a farm near Fayetteville, a few days before, I had seen a crop of natural grass growing in half-cultivated land, dead upon the ground, which I think would have made, if it had been cut and well treated in the summer, three tons of hay to the acre. The owner of the land said that there was no better hay than it would have made, but he hadn’t had time to attend to it. He had as much as his hands could do of other work at the period of the year when it should have been made.
Probably the case was similar with the planter who had bought this northern hay at a price four times that which it would have cost a northern farmer to make it. He had preferred to employ his slaves at other business.
The inference must be either that there was most improbably-foolish, bad management, or that the slaves were more profitably employed in cultivating cotton, than they could have been in cultivating maize, or other forage crops.
I put the case, some days afterwards, to an English merchant, who had had good opportunities, and made it a part of his business, to study such matters.
“I have no doubt,” said he, “that, if hay cannot be obtained here, other valuable forage can, with less labor than anywhere at the North; and ail the Southern agricultural journals sustain this opinion, and declare it to be purely bad management that neglects these crops, and devotes labor to cotton, so exclusively. Probably, it is so—at the present cost of forage. Nevertheless, the fact is also true, as the planters assert, that they cannot afford to apply their labor to anything else but cotton. And yet, they complain that the price of cotton is so low that there is no profit in growing it; which is evidently false. You see that they prefer buying hay to raising it, at, to say the least, three times what it costs your Northern farmers to raise it. Of course, if cotton could be grown in New York and Ohio, it could be afforded at one-third the cost it is here—say at three cents per pound. And that is my solution of the Slavery question. Bring cotton down to three cents a pound, and there would be more abolitionists in South Carolina than in Massachusetts. If that can be brought about in any way—and it is not impossible that we may live to see it, as our railways are extended in India, and the French enlarge their free-labor plantations in Algiers—there will be an end of Slavery.”
It was just one o’clock when the stage-coach came for us. There was but one passenger beside myself—a Philadelphia gentleman, going to Columbia. We proceeded very slowly for about three miles, across a swamp, upon a “corduroy road”; then more rapidly, over rough ground, being tossed about in the coach most severely, for six or eight miles further. Besides the driver, there was on the box the agent or superintendent of the coach line, who now opened the doors, and we found ourselves before a log stable, in the midst of a forest of large pines. The driver took out a horse, and, mounting him, rode off, and we collected wood, splitting it with a hatchet that was carried on the coach, and, lighting it from the coach lamp, made a fire. It was very cold, ice half an inch thick, and a heavy hoar frost. We complained to the agent that there was no straw in the coach bottom, while there were large holes bored in it that kept our feet excessively cold. He said that there was no straw to be had in the country. They were obliged to bed their horses with pine leaves, which were damp, and would be of no service to us. The necessity for the holes he did not immediately explain, and we, in the exercise of our Yankee privilege, resolved that they were made with reference to the habit of expectoration, which we had observed in the car to be very general and excessive.
In about half an hour the driver of the new stage came to us on the horse that the first had ridden away. A new set of horses was brought out, and attached to the coach, and we were driven on again. An hour later, the sun rose; we were still in pine-barrens, once in several miles passing through a ‘clearing with a log farm-house and a few negro huts about it, often through cypress swamps, and long pools of water. At the end of ten miles we breakfasted and changed horses and drivers at a steam saw-mill. A few miles further on, we were asked to get on the top of the coach while it was driven through a swamp, in which the water was over the road, for a quarter of a mile, to such a depth that it covered the foot-board. The horses really groaned, as they pushed the thin ice away with their necks, and were very near swimming. The holes in the coach bottom, the agent now told us, were to allow the water that would here enter the body to flow out. At the end of these ten miles we changed again, at a cotton-planter’s house—a very neat, well-built house having pine trees about it, but very poor, old negro quarters.
Since the long ford we had kept the top, the inside of the coach being wet, and I had been greatly pleased with the driving—the coachman, a steady, reliable sort of fellow, saying but little to his horses, and doing what swearing he thought necessary in English; driving, too, with great judgment and skill. The coach was a fine, roomy, old-fashioned, fragrant, leathery affair and the horses the best I had seen this side of Virginia. I could not resist expressing my pleasure with the whole establishment. The new team was admirable: four sleek, well-governed, eager, sorrel cobs, and the driver, a staid, bronzed-faced man, keeping them tight in hand, drove quietly and neatly, his whip in the socket. After about fifteen minutes, during which he had been engaged in hushing down their too great impetuosity, he took out a large silver hunting-watch, and asked what time it was.
“Quarter past eleven,” said the agent.
“Twelve minutes past,” said the Philadelphian. “Well, fourteen, only, I am,” said the agent.
“Thirteen,” said I.
“Just thirteen, I am,” said the driver, slipping back his watch to its place, and then, to the agent, “ha’an’t touched a hand of her since I left old Lancaster.”
Suddenly guessing the meaning of what had been for some time astonishing me—”You are from the North?” I asked.
“And you, too, Mr. Agent?”
“And the coach, and the cattle, and all?”
“All from Pennsylvania.”
“How long have you been here?”
“We have been here about a fortnight, stocking the road. We commenced regular trips yesterday. You are the first passenger through, sir.”
It was, in fact, merely a transfer from one of the old National Road lines, complete. After a little further conversation, I asked, “How do you like the country, here?” “Very nice country,” said the agent.
“Rather poor soil, I should say.
“It’s the cussedest poor country God ever created,” snapped out the driver.
“You have to keep your horses on—?”
“Shucks, damn it!”
NATURE IN EASTERN SOUTH CAROLINA.
The character of the scenery was novel to me, the surface very flat, the soil a fine-grained, silvery white sand, shaded by a continuous forest of large pines, which had shed their lower branches, so that we could see from the coach-top, to the distance of a quarter of a mile, everything upon the ground. In the swamps, which were frequent and extensive, and on their borders, the pines gave place to cypresses, with great pedestal trunks, and protuberant roots, throwing up an awkward dwarf progeny of shrub cypress, and curious bulbous-like stumps, called “cypress-knees.” Mingled with these were a few of our common deciduous trees, the white-shafted sycamore, the gray beech, and the shrubby black-jack oak, with broad leaves, brown and dead, yet glossy, and reflecting the sun-beams. Somewhat rarely, the red cedar, and, more frequently than any other except the cypress, the beautiful holly. Added to these, there was often a thick undergrowth of evergreen shrubs. Vines and creepers of various kinds grew to the tops of the tallest trees, and dangled beneath and between their branches, in intricate network. The tylandria hung in festoons, sometimes several feet in length, and often completely clothed the trunks and every branch of the trees in the low ground. It is like a fringe of tangled hair, of a light gray pearly color, and sometimes produces exquisite effects when slightly veiling the dark green, purple and scarlet of the cedar, and the holly with their berries. The mistletoe also grew in large, vivid, green tufts, on the ends of the branches of
the oldest and largest trees. A small, fine and wiry dead grass, hardly perceptible, even in the most open ground, from the coach tops, was the only sign of herbage. Large black buzzards were constantly in sight, sailing slowly, high above the tree-tops. Flocks of larks, quails, and robins were common, as were also doves, swiftly flying in small companies. The red-headed woodpecker could at any time be heard hammering the old tree-trunks, and would sometimes show himself, after his rat-tat, cocking his head archly, and listening to hear if the worm moved under the bark. The drivers told me that they had, on previous days, as they went over the road, seen deer, turkeys, and wild hogs.
At every tenth mile, or thereabout, we changed horses, and, generally, were allowed half an hour to stroll in the neighborhood of the stable—the agent observing that we could reach the end of the staging some hours before the cars should leave to take us further; and, as there were no good accommodations for sleeping there, we would pass the time quite as pleasantly on the road. We dined at “Marion County House,” a pleasant little village (and the only village we saw during the day), with a fine pine-grove, a broad street, a court-house, a church or two, a school-house, and a dozen or twenty dwellings. Towards night, we crossed the Great Pedee of the maps, the Big Pedee of the natives, in a flat-boat A large quantity of cotton, in bales,, was upon the bank, ready for loading into a steam-boat—when one should arrive—for Charleston.
The country was very thinly peopled, lone houses often being several miles apart. The large majority of the dwellings were of logs, and even those of the white people were often without glass windows. In the better class of cabins, the roof is usually built with a curve, so as to project eight or ten feet beyond the log-wall; and a part of this space, exterior to the logs, is inclosed with boards, making an additional small room—the remainder forms an open porch. The whole cabin is often elevated on four corner-posts, two or three feet from the ground, so that the air may circulate under it. The fire-place is built at the end of the house, of sticks and clay, and the chimney is carried up outside, and often detached from the log walls; but the roof is extended at the gable, until in a line with its outer side. The porch has a railing in front, and a wide shelf at the end, on which a bucket of water, a gourd, and hand-basin, are usually placed. There are chairs, or benches, in the porch, and you often see women sitting at work on it, as in Germany.
The logs are usually’ hewn but little; and, of course, as they are laid up, there will be wide interstices between them—which are increased by subsequent shrinking. These, very commonly, are not “chinked”, or filled up in any way; nor is the wall lined on the inside. Through the chinks, as you pass along the road, you may often see all that is going on in the house; and, at night, the light of the fire shines brightly out on all sides.
Cabins, of this class, would almost always be flanked by two or three negro-huts. The cabins of the poorest class of whites were of a meaner sort—being mere square pens of logs, roofed over, provided with a chimney, and usually with a shed of boards, supported by rough posts, before the door.
Occasionally, where the silvery sand was darkened by a considerable intermixture of mould, there would be a large plantation, with negro-quarters and a cotton-press and gin-house. We passed half a dozen of these, perhaps, during the day. Where the owners resided in them, they would have comfortable-looking residences, not unlike the better class of New England farm-houses. On the largest one, however, there was no residence for the owner, at ail, only a small cottage, or, whitewashed cabin, for the overseer. It was a very large plantation, and all the, buildings were substantial and commodious, except the negro cabins, which were the smallest I had seen—I thought not more than twelve feet square interiorly. They stood in two rows, with a wide street between them. They were built of logs, with no windows—no opening at all, except the doorway, with a chimney of sticks and mud, with no trees about them, on porches, or shades, of any kind. Except for the chimney—the purpose of which I should not readily have guessed—if I had seen one of them in New England I should have conjectured that it had been built for a powder-house, or perhaps an ice-house—never for an animal to sleep in.
We stopped, for some time, on this plantation, near where some thirty men and women were at work, repair‑
ing the road. The women were in majority, and were engaged at exactly the same labor as the men; driving the carts, loading them with dirt, and dumping them upon the road; cutting down trees, and drawing wood by hand, to lay across the miry places; hoeing, and shoveling.
They were dressed in coarse gray gowns, generally very much burned, and very dirty; which, for greater convenience of working in the mud, were reefed up with a cord drawn tightly around the body, a little above the hips—the spare amount of skirt bagging out between this and the waist-proper. On their legs were loose leggins, or pieces of blanket or bagging wrapped about, and lashed with thongs; and they wore very heavy shoes. Most of them had handkerchiefs, only, tied around their heads; some wore men’s caps, or old slouched hats, and several were bare-headed.
The overseer rode about among them, on a horse, carrying in his hand a raw-hide whip, constantly directing and encouraging them; but, as my companion and I, both, several tunes noticed as often as he visited one end of the line of operations, the hands at the other end would discontinue their labor until he turned to ride towards them again. Clumsy, awkward, gross, elephantine in all their movements; pouting, grinning, and leering at us; sly, sensual, and shameless, in all their expressions and demeanor; I never before had witnessed, I thought, anything more revolting than the whole scene.
At length, the overseer • dismounted from his horse, and, giving him to a boy to take to the stables, got upon the coach, and rode with us several miles. From the conversation I had with him, as well as from what I saw of his conduct in the field, I judged that he was an uncommonly fit man for his duties; at least ordinarily amiable in disposition, and not passionate; but deliberate, watchful, and efficient I thought, he would be not only a good economist, but a firm and considerate officer or master.
If these women, and their children after them, were always naturally and necessarily to remain of the character and capacity stamped on their faces—as is probably the opinion of their owner, in common with most wealthy South Carolina planters-1 don’t know that they could be much less miserably situated, or guided more for their own good and that of the world, than they were. They were fat enough, and didn’t look as if they were at all overworked, or harassed by cares, or oppressed by consciousness of their degradation. If that is all—as some think.
Afterwards, while we were changing at a house near a crossing of roads, strolling off in the woods for a short distance, I came upon two small white-topped wagons, each with a pair of horses feeding at its pole; near them was a dull camp fire, with a bake-kettle and coffee-pot, some blankets and a chest upon the ground; and an old negro, sitting with his head bowed down over a meal sack, while a negro boy was combing his wool with common horse-card. “Good evening, uncle,” said I, approaching them. “Good evening, sar,” he answered, without looking up.
“Where are you going?”
“Well, we ain’t goin nower, master; we’s peddlin’ tobacco roun.”
“Oh!” peddling tobacco. Where did you come from?”
“From Rockingham County, Norf Car’lina, Master
“How long have you been coming from there?”
“‘Twill be seven weeks, to-morrow, sar, since we left home.”
“Have you most sold out?”
“We had a hunred and seventy-five boxes in both wagons, and we’s sold all but sixty. Want to buy some tobacco, master?” (Looking up)”
“No, thank you; I am only waiting here, while the coach changes. How much tobacco is there in a box?” “Seventy-five pound.”
“Are these the boxes?”
“No, them is our provision boxes, master. Show de gemman some of der tobacco, dah.” (To the boy.)
A couple of negroes here passed along near us; the old man hailed them:
“Ho dah, boysl Doan you want to buy some backey?” “No.” (Decidedly.)
“Well, I’m sorry for it.” (Reproachfully.)
“Are you bound homeward, now?” I asked.
“No, massa; wish me was; got to sell all our tobackey fuss; you don’t want none, master, does you? Doan you fink it pretty fair tobacco, sar, just try it: it’s right sweet, reckon you’ll find.”
“I don’t wish any, thank you; I never use it. Is your master with you?”
“No, sar; he’s gone across to Marion, to-day.”
“Do you like to be traveling about, in this way?” “Yes, master; I likes it very well.”
“Better than staying at home, eh?”
.”Well, I likes my country better dan dis; must say dat, master, likes my country better dan dis. I’se a free niggar in my country, master.”
“Oh, you are a free man, are you! North Carolina is a better country than this, for free men, I suppose.”
“Yes, master, I likes my country de best; I gets five dollar a month for dat boy.” (Hastily, to change the subject.) “He is your son, is he?”
“Yes, sar; he drives dat wagon. I drives dis; and I haant seen him fore, master, for six weeks, till dis mornin’.” “How were you separated?”
‘We separated six weeks ago, sar, and we agreed to meet here, last night. We didn’, dough, till dis mornin’.”
The old man’s tone softened, and he regarded his son with earnestness.
“‘Pears dough, we was bofe heah, last night; but I couldn’t find dem till dis mornin’. Dis mornin’ some niggars tole me dar war a niggar camped off yander in de wood; and I knew ’twas him, and I went an’ found him right off.”
“And what wages do you get for yourself?”
“Ten dollars a month, master.”
“That’s pretty good wages.”
“Yes, master, any niggar can get good wages if he’s a mind to be industrious, no matter wedder he’s slave or free.”
“So you don’t like this country as well as North Carolina?”
“No, master. Fac is, master, ‘pears like wite folks doan ginerally like niggers in dis country; day doan ginerally talk so to niggars like as do in my country; de niggars ain t so happy heah; ‘pears like de wite folks was kind o’ different, somehow. I doan like dis country so well; my country suits me very well.” s –
“Well, I’ve been thinking, myself, the niggers did not look so well here as they did in North Carolina and Virginia; they are not so well clothed, and they don’t appear so bright as they do there.”
“Well, massa, Sundays dey is mighty well clothed, dis country; ‘pears like dere an’t nobody looks better Sundays dan dey do. But Lord! workin’ days, seems like dey haden no close dey could keep on ‘urn at all, master. Dey is a’mos’ naked, wen deys at work, some on ’em. Why, master, up in our country, de wite folks, why, some on ’em has ten or twelve niggars; dey doan’ hey no real big plantation, like dey has heah, but some on ’em has ten or twelve niggars, may be, and dey juss lives and talks along wid ’em; and dey treats ‘urn most as if dem was dar own chile. Dey doan’ keep no niggars dey can’t treat so; dey wont keep ’em, wont be bodered wid ’em. If dey gets a niggar and he doan behave himself, dey wont keep him; dey juss tell him, sar, he must look up anudder master, and if he doan’ find hisself one, I tell ‘ou, when de trader cum along, dey sell him, and he totes him away. Dey allers sell off all de bad niggers out of our country; dat’s de way de bad niggar and all dem no-account niggar keep a cumin’ down heah; dat’s de way on’t, master.”
“Yes, that’s the way of it, `I suppose; these big plantations are not just the best thing for niggers, I see that plainly.”
“Master, you wan’t raise in dis country, was ‘our’ “No; I came from the North.”
“I tort so, sar, I knew ‘ou wan’t one of dis country people, ‘peared like ‘ou was one o’ my country people, way ‘ou talks; and I loves dem kine of people. Won’t you take some whiskey, sar? Heah, you boy! bring dat jug of whisky dah, out o’ my wagon; in dah, in dat box under dem foddar.”
“No, don’t trouble yourself, I am very much obliged to you; but I don’t like to drink whisky.”
“Like to have you drink some, massa, if you’d like it. You’s right welcome to it. ‘Pears like I knew you was one of my country people. Ever been in Greensboro’ massa? dat’s in Guilford.”
“No, I never was there. I came from New York, further North than your country.”
“New York, did ‘ou, massa? I heerd New York was what dey calls a Free State; all de niggars free dah.” “Yes, that is so.”
|“Not no slaves at all; well, I expec dat’s a good ting, for all de niggars to be free. Greensboro’ is a right comely town; tain’t like dese heah Souf Car’lna towns.
“I have heard it spoken of as a very beautiful town, and there are some very nice people there.””Yes, dere’s Mr. — —, I knows him, he’s a mighty good man.”
“Do you know Mr. —?
“O, yes sar, he’s a mighty fine man, he is, massa; ain’t no better kind of man dan him.”
“Well, I must go, or the coach will be kept waiting for me. Good-by to you.”
“Far’well, master, f ar’well, ‘pears like it’s done me good to see a man days cum out of my country again. Far’well, master.”
We took supper at an exquisitely neat log-cabin, standing a short distance off the road, with a beautiful evergreen oak, the first I had observed, in front of it. There was no glass in the windows, but drapery of white muslin restrained the currents of air, and during the day would let in sufficient light, while a great blazing wood-fire both warmed and lighted the room by night. A rifle and powder-horn hung near the fire-place, and the master of the house, a fine, hearty, companionable fellow, said that he had lately shot three deer, and that there were plenty of cats, and foxes, as well as turkeys, hares, squirrels and other small game in the vicinity. It was a perfectly charming little backwoods farm-house, good wife, supper, and all; but one disagreeable blot darkened the otherwise most agreeable picture of rustic civilization—we were waited upon at table by two excessively dirty, slovenly-dressed negro girls. In the rear of the cabin were two hovels, each lighted by large fires and apparently crowded with other slaves belonging to the family.
Between nine and ten at night, we reached the end of the completed rail-road, coming up in search for that we had left the previous night. There was another camp and fire of the workmen, and in a little white frame-house we found a company of engineers. There were two trains and locomotives on the track, and a gang of negroes was loading cotton into one of them.
NEGRO Jodling. “THE CAROLINA YELL.”
I strolled off until I reached an opening in the woods, in which was a cotton-field and some negro-cabins, and beyond it large girdled trees, among which were two negroes with dogs barking, yelping, hacking, shouting, and whistling, after ‘coons and ‘possums. Returning to the railroad, I found a comfortable, warm passenger-car, and, wrapped in my blanket, went to sleep. At midnight I was awakened by loud laughter, and, looking out, saw that the loading gang of negroes had made a fire, and were enjoying a right merry repast. Suddenly, one raised such a sound as I never heard before, a long, loud, musical shout, rising, and falling, and breaking into falsetto, his voice ringing through the woods in the clear, frosty night air, like a bugle call. As he finished, the melody was caught up by another, and then, another, and then by several in chorus. When there was silence again, one of them cried out, as if bursting with amusement: “Did yer see de dog?—when I began eeohing, he turn roun’ an’ look me straight into der face; ha! Ha! Ha!” and the whole party broke into the loudest peals of laughter, as if it was the very best joke they had ever heard,
After a few minutes I could hear one urging the rest to come to work again, and soon he stepped towards the cotton bales, saying, “Come, brederen, come; let’s go at it; come now, eoho! roll away! eeoho-eeoho-weeiobo-i!”— and the rest taking it up as before, in a few moments they all had their shoulders to a bale of cotton and were rolling it up the embankment.
AT one corner of Mr. R.’s plantation, there was a hamlet of Acadians (descendants of the refugees of Acadia), about a dozen small houses or huts, built of wood or clay, in the old French peasant style. The residents owned small farms, on which they raised a little corn and rice; but Mr. R. described them as lazy vagabonds, doing but little work, and spending much time in shooting, fishing, and play. He wanted very much to buy all their land, and get them to move away. He had already bought out some of them, and had made arrangements to get hold of the land of some of the rest. He was willing to pay them two or three times as much as their property was actually worth, to get them to move off. As fast as he got possession, lie destroyed their houses and gardens, removed their fences and trees, and brought all their land into his cane-plantation.
Some of them were mechanics. One was a very good mason, and he employed him in building his sugar-works and refinery; but he would be glad to get rid of them all, and should then depend entirely on slave mechanics—of these he had several already and he could buy more when he needed them.
Why did he so dislike to have these poor people living near him? Because, he said, they demoralized his negroes. The slaves seeing them living in apparent comfort, without much property and without steady labor, could not help thinking that it was not necessary for men to work so hard as they themselves were obliged to; that if they were free they would not need to work. Besides, the intercourse of these people with the negroes was not favorable to good discipline. They would get the negroes to do them little services, and would pay them with luxuries which he did not wish them to have. It was better that negroes never saw anybody off their own plantation; that they had no intercourse with other white men than their owner or overseer; especially, it was best that they should not see white men who did not command their respect, and whom they did not always feel to be superior to themselves, and able to command them.
The nuisance of petty traders dealing with the negroes and encouraging them to pilfer, which I found everywhere a great annoyance to planters, seems to be greater on the Mississippi “Coast” than anywhere else. The traders generally come on boats, which they moor at night on the shore, adjoining the negro-quarters, and float away whenever they have obtained any booty, with very small chance of detection. One day, during my visit at Mr. R.’s, a neighbor called to apprise him that one of these trading-boats was in the vicinity, that he might take precautions to prevent his negroes dealing with it. “The law,” he observed, with much feeling, “is entirely inadequate to protect us against these rascals; it rather protects them than us. They easily evade detection in breaking it; and we can never get them punished, except we go beyond or against the law ourselves.” To show me how vexatious the evil was, he mentioned that a large brass cock and some pipe had been lately stolen from his sugar-works, and that he had ascertained that one of his negroes had taken it and sold it on board one of these boats for seventy-five cents, and had immediately spent the money, chiefly for whisky, on the same boat. It had cost him thirty dollars to replace it. Mr. R. said that he had lately caught one of his own negroes going towards one of the “chicken thieves,” (so the traders’ boats are called) with a. piece of machinery, that he had unscrewed from his sugar-works, which was worth eighty dollars, and which might very likely have been sold for a drink. If the negro had succeeded in reaching the boat, as he would if he had not been on the watch, he could never have recovered it. There would have been no witnesses to the sale; the stolen goods would have been hid on board until the boat reached New Orleans; or, if an officer came to search the boat, they would have been dropped into the river before he got on board.
This neighbor of Mr. R.’s was a Creole, and had been educated in France. Conversing on the inconveniences of Slavery, he acknowledged that it was not only an uneconomical system, but a morally wrong one; “but,” he said, “it was not instituted by us—we are not responsible for it. It is unfortunately fixed upon us; we could not do away with it if we wished; our duty is only to make the best of a bad thing; to lessen its evils as much as we can, so far as we have to do with it individually.”
Mr. R. himself also acknowledged Slavery to be a very great evil, morally and economically. It was a curse upon the South; he had no doubt at all about it: nothing would be more desirable than its removal, if it were possible to be accomplished. But he did not think it could be abolished without instituting greater evils than those sought to be remedied. Its influence on the character of the whites was what was most deplorable. He was sorry to think that his children would have to be subject to it. He thought that eventually, if he were able to afford it, he would free his slaves and send them to Africa.
A SLAVE ABOLITIONIST.
When I left Mr. R.’s, I was driven about twenty miles in a buggy, by one of his house servants. He was inclined to be talkative and communicative; and as he expressed great affection and respect for his owner, I felt at liberty to question him on some points upon which I had always previously avoided conversing with slaves. He spoke rapidly, garrulously; and it was only necessary for me to give a direction to his thoughts by my inquiries. I was careful to avoid leading questions, and not to show such an interest as would lead him to reply guardedly. I charged my memory as much as possible with his very words, when. this was of consequence, and made the following record of the conversation, within half an hour after I left him.
He first said that he supposed that I would see that he was not a “Creole nigger”; he came from Virginia. He reckoned the Virginia negroes were better-looking than those who were raised here; there were no black people anywhere in the world who were so “well made” as those who were born in Virginia. He asked if I lived in New Orleans; and where? I told him that I lived at the North; he asked:
“Da’s a great many Brack folks dah, massa?”
“No; very few.”
“Da’s a great many in Virginia; more’n da is heahr’
“But I came from beyond Virginia—from New York.” He had heard there were a great many black folk in New York. I said there were a good many in the city; but few in the country. Did I live in the country? What people did I have for servants? Thought if I hired all my labor, it must be very dear. He inquired further about negroes there. I told him they were all free, and described their general condition; told him what led them to congregate in cities, and what the effect was. He said the negroes, both slave and free, who lived in New Orleans, were better off than those who lived in the country. Why? Because they make more money, and it is “gayer” there, and there is more “society.” He then drew a contrast between Virginia—as he recollected it—and Louisiana. There is but one road in this country. In Virginia, there are roads running in every direction, and often crossing each other. You could see so much more “society,” and there was so much more “variety” than here. He would not like now to go back to Virginia to live, because he had got used to this country, and had all his acquaintances here, and knew the ways of the people. He could speak French, He would like to go to New Orleans, though; would rather live in New Orleans than any other place in the world.
After a silence of some minutes, he said, abruptly;
“If I was free, I would go to Virginia, and see my old mudder.” He had left her when he was thirteen years old. He reckoned he was now thirty-three. “I don’t well know, dough, exactly, how old I is; but, I reelect, de day I was taken away, my ole mudder she tell me I was tirteen year old.” He did not like, to come away at all; he “felt dreadful bad”; but, now he was used to it, he liked living here. He came across the Blue Ridge, and he recollected that, when he first saw it, he thought it was a dark piece of sky, and he wondered what it would be like when they came close to it. He was brought, with a great many other negroes, in wagons, to Louisville; and then they were put on board a steam-boat, and brought down here. He was sold to a Creole, and was put on this plantation, and had been on it ever since. He had been twice sold, along with it. Folks didn’t very often sell their servants here, as they did in Virginia. They were selling their servants, in Virginia, all the time; but, here, they did not very often sell them, except they run away. When a man would run away, and they could not do anything with him, they always sold him off. The people were almost all French. “Were there any French in New York?” he asked. I told him there were; but not as many as in Louisiana. “I s’pose dah is more of French people in Lusiana, dan dah is anywhar else in all de world—a’nt dah, massa?”
“Except in France.”
“Wa’s dat, sar?”
“France is the country where all the Frenchmen came from, in the first place.
“Wa’s dat France, massa?”
“France is a country across the ocean, the big water, beyond Virginia, where all the Frenchmen first came from; just as the black people all came first from Africa, you know.”
“I’ve heered, massa, dat dey sell one anoder dah, in de fus place. Does you know, sar, was dat so?” This was said very gravely, and with some expression of emotion.
I explained the savage custom of making slaves of prisoners of war, and described the constant wars of the native Africans. I told him that they were better off here than they would be to be the slaves of cruel savages, in Africa. He turned, and looked me anxiously in the face, like a child, and asked:
“Is de brack folks better off to be here, massa?”
I answered that I thought so; and described the heathenish barbarism of the people of Africa. I made exception of Liberia, knowing that his master thought of some time sending him there, and described it as a place that was settled by negroes, who went back there from this country. He said he had heard of it, and that they had sent a great many free negroes from New Orleans there.
After a moment’s pause, he inquired, very gravely, again:
“Why is it, massa, when de brack people is free, dey wants to send ’em away out of dis country?”
The question took me aback. After bungling a little—for I did not like to tell him the white people were afraid to have them stay here—I said that it was thought to be a better place for them there. But, he should think, that, when they had got used to this country, they would be better off here. He would not like to go out of this country.’ He wouldn’t like even to go to Virginia, though Virginia was such a pleasant country; he had been here so long, seemed like this was the best place for him to live.
To avoid discussion of the point, I asked what he would do, if he was free?
“If I was free, massa; if I was free [with great animation], I would—well, sar, de fus thing I would do, if I was free, I would go to work for a year, and get some money for myself,—den—den—den, massa, dis is what I do—I buy me, fus place, a little house, and little lot land, and den—no; den – den—I would go to old Virginny, and see my old mudder. Yes, sar, I would like to do dat fus thing; den, when I com back, de fus thing I’d do, I’d get me a wife; den, I’d take her to my house, and I would live with her dar; and I would raise things in my garden, and take ’em to New Orleans, and sell ’em dar, in de market. Dat’s de way I would live, if I was free.”
He said, in answer to further inquiries, that there were many free negroes all about this region. Some of them were very rich. He pointed out to me three plantations, within twenty miles, which were owned by colored men. These bought black folks, he said, and had servants of their own. They were very bad masters, very hard and cruel—hadn’t any feeling. “You might think master, dat dey would be good to dar own nation; but dey is not. I will tell you de truth, massa; I know I’se got to answer; and it’s a fact, dey is very bad masters, sar. I’d rather be a servant to any man in de world, dan to a brack man. If I was sold to a brack man, I’d drown myself. I would dat – I’d drown myself!—dough I shouldn’t like to do dat nudder; but I wouldn’t be sold to a colored master for anyting.”
If he had got to be sold, he would like best to have an American master buy him. The French people did not clothe their servants well; though they now did much better than when he first came to Louisiana. The French masters were very severe, and “dey whip dar niggers most to deff—dey whip de flesh off of ’em.”
Nor did they feed them as well as the Americans did. “Why, sometimes, massa, dey only gives ’em dry corn—don’t give out no meat at all,” I told him this could not be so, for the law required that every master should serve out meat to his negroes. “Oh, but some on ’em don’t mind Law, if he does say so, massa. Law never here; don’t know anything about him. Very often, dey only gives ’em dry corn—I knows dat; I sees de niggers. Didn’t you see de niggers on our plantation, sar? Well, you nebber see such a good-looking lot of niggers as ours on any of de French plantations, did you, massa? Why, dey all looks fat, and dey’s all got good clothes, and dey look as if dey all had plenty to eat, and hadn’t got no work to do, ha! ha! hal Don’t dey? But dey does work, dough. Dey does a heap of work. But, dey don’t work so hard as dey does on some ob de French plantations. Oh, dey does work too hard on dem, sometimes.”
“You work hard, in the grinding season, don’t you?”
“Oh, yes; den we works’ hard; we has to work hard den: harder dan any oder time of year. But, I tell ‘ou, massa, I likes to hab de grinding season come; yes, I does —rader dan any oder time of year, dough we works so hard den. I wish it was grinding season all de year roun’— only Sundays.”
“Because—oh, because it’s merry and lively. All de brack people like it when we begin to grind.”
“You have to keep grinding Sundays?”
“Yes, can’t stop, when we begin to grind, till we get tru.”
“You don’t often work Sundays, except then?”
“No, massa; nebber works Sundays, except when der crap’s weedy, and we want to get tru ‘fore rain comes; den, wen we work a Sunday, massa gives us some oder day for holiday—Monday, if we get tru.”
He said that, on the French plantations, they oftener work Sundays than on the American. They used to work almost always on Sundays, on the French plantations, when he was first brought to Louisiana; but they did not so much now.
We were passing a hamlet of cottages occupied by Acadians, or what the planters call habitans, poor white, French Creoles. The negroes had always been represented to me to despise the habitans and to look upon them as their own inferiors; but William spoke of them respectfully; and, when I tempted him to sneer at their indolence and vagabond habits, refused to do, so, but insisted very strenuously that they were “very good people,” orderly and industrious. He assured me that I was mistaken in supposing that the Creoles, who did not own slaves, did not live comfortably, or that they did not work as hard as they ought to for their living. There were no better sort of people than they were, he thought.
Some of the cottagers were engaged in threshing rice, which they performed by the ancient process of treading with horses walking in a circle. There were five horses, and three men driving them. He explained this operation to me, and told me that the negroes beat out the rice with sticks. He asked if wheat was not threshed by engines. In answer to inquiries, he said that the negroes raised rice in considerable quantity in wet places on the edge of the swamp, in the rear of the plantation. They also raised corn, potatoes, and pumpkins. His master allowed them land for this, and they sold their crop, or consumed it themselves; generally they sold it. They worked at night, and on Sundays on their patches, and after the sugar and corncrops of the plantation were “laid by,” his master allowed them to have. Saturday afternoons to work their own crops in.
He again recurred to the fortunate condition of the negroes on his master’s plantation. He thought it was the best plantation in the State, and he did not believe, there was a better lot of negroes in the State; some few of them, whom his master had brought from his plantation, were old; but altogether, they were “as right good a lot of niggers” as could be found anywhere. They could do all the work that was necessary to be done on the plantation. On some old plantations they had not nearly so many negroes as they needed to make the crop, and they “drove ’em awful hard”; but it wasn’t so on his master’s: they could do all the work, and do it well, and it was the best worked plantation, and, made the most sugar to the hand, of any plantation he knew of. All the niggers had enough to eat, and were well clothed; their quarters were good, and they got, a good many presents.
“Well, now, wouldn’t you rather live on such a plantation than to be free, William?”
“Oh! no, sir, I’d rather be free! Oh, yes, sir, I’d like it better to be free; I would dat, master.”
“Why would you?”
“Why, you see, master, if I was free—if I was free, I’d have all my time to myself. I’d rather work for myself. I’d like dat better.”
“But then, you know, you’d have to take care of yourself, and you’d get poor.
“No, sir, I would not get poor, I would get rich; for you see, master, then I’d work all de time for myself.”
“Suppose all the black people on your plantation, or all the black people in the country were made free at once, what do you think would become of them?—what would they do, do you think? You don’t suppose there would be much sugar raised, do you?”
“Why, yes, master, I do. Why not, sir? What would de brack people do? Wouldn’t dey hab to work for dar lib-ben? and de wite people own all de land—war deyagoin’ to work? Dey hire demself right out again, and work all de same as before. And den, wen dey work for demself, dey work harder dan dey do now to get more wages—a heap harder. I Link so, sir. I would do so, sir. I would work for hire. I don’t own any land; I hab to work right away again for massa, to get some money.”
Perceiving from the readiness of these answers that the subject had been a familiar one with him, I immediately asked: “The black people talk among themselves about this, do they; and they think so, generally?”
“Oh! yes, sir; dey talk so; dat’s wat dey tink.”
“Then they talk about being free a good deal, do they?” “Yes, sir. Dey—dat is, dey say dey wish it was so; dat’s all dey talk, master—dat’s all, sir.
His caution was evidently excited, and I inquired no further. We were passing a large old plantation, the cabins of the negroes upon which were mere hovels—small, without windows, and dilapidated. A large gang of negroes were at work by the road-side, planting cane. Two white men were sitting on horseback, looking at them, and a negro-driver was walking among them, with a whip in his hand.
William said that this was an old Creole plantation, and the negroes on it were worked very hard. There was three times as much land in it as in his master’s, and only about the same number of negroes to work it. I observed, however, that a good deal of land had been left uncultivated the previous year. The slaves appeared to be working hard; they were shabbily clothed, and had a cowed expression, looking on the ground, not even glancing at us, as we passed, and were perfectly silent.
“Dem’s all Creole niggers,” said William: “ain’t no Virginny niggers dah. I reckon you didn’t see no such looking niggers as dem on our plantation, did you, master?”
After answering some inquiries about the levee, close inside of which the road continually ran, he asked me about the levee at New York; and when informed that we had not any levee, asked me with a good deal of surprise, how we kept the water out? I explained to him that the land was higher than the water, and was not liable, as it was in Louisiana, to be overflowed. I had much difficulty in making him understand this. He seemed never to have considered that it was not the natural order of things that land should be lower than water, or that men should be able to live on land, except by excluding water artificially. At length, when he got the idea, he made a curious observation.
“I suppose dis State is de lowest State dar is in de world. Dar ain’t no odder State dat is so low as dis is. I s’pose it is five thousand five hundred feet lower dan any odder State.”
“I s’pose, master, dat dis heah State is five thousand five hundred feet lower down dan any odder, ain’t it, sir?” “I don’t understand you.”
“I say dis heah is de lowest ob de States, master. I s’pose its five thousand five hundred feet lower dan any odder; lower down, ain’t it, master?”
“Yes, it’s very low.”
This is a very good illustration of the child-like manner and habits of the negroes, and which in him were particularly observable, notwithstanding the shrewdness of some of his observations. Such a mingling of simplicity and shrewdness, ingenuousness and slyness, detracted much from the weight of his opinions and purposes in regard to freedom. I could not but have a strong doubt if he would keep to his word, if the opportunity were allowed him to try his ability to take care of himself.
SADDLE-TRIP ON THE
WITH A STATISTICAL APPENDIX
FREDERICK LAW OLMSTED,
AUTHOR OF “A JOURNEY IN THE SEABOARD SLAVE STATES,”
” WALKS AND TALKS OF AN AMERICAN FARMER
IN ENGLAND,” ETC., ETC.
DIX; EDWARDS & CO., 321 BROADWAY
LONDON: SAMPSON LOW, SON & CO.
EDINBURG: THOS. CONSTABLE & CO.
ROUTE THROUGH WESTERN TEXAS
THE country next morning continued the same in all respects as that of the day before. The first German settlers we saw, we knew at once. They lived in little log cabins, and had inclosures of ten acres of land about them. The cabins were very simple and cheap habitations, but there were many little conveniences about them and a care to secure comfort in small ways evident that was very agreeable to notice. So, also, the greater variety of the crops which had been grown upon their allotments, and the more clean and complete tillage they had received contrasted favorably with the patches of corn-stubble overgrown with crab-grass, which are usually the only gardens to be seen adjoining the cabins of the poor whites and slaves. The people themselves were also to be seen, men, women and children, busy at some work, and yet not so busy but that they could give a pleasant and respectful greeting to the passing traveler.
A few miles further on, we passed several much more comfortable houses, boarded over, and a good deal like the smaller class of farm-houses in New England, but some of them having exterior plaster-work or brick laid up between the timbers instead of boards nailed over them. About these were larger inclosures, from which extensive crops of corn had been taken; and it caused us a sensation to see a number of parallelograms of COTTON-FREE-LABOR COTTON. These were not often of more than an acre in extent. Most of them looked as if they had been judiciously cultivated and had yielded a fine crop, differing, however, from that we had noticed on the plantations the day before in this circumstance—the picking had been entirely completed, and that with care and exactness, so that none of the cotton which the labor of cultivation had produced had been left to waste. The cotton-stalks stood rather more .closely and were of less extraordinary size but much more even or regular in their growth than on the plantations.
A FREE-MINDED BUTCHER.
We were entering the valley of the Guadalupe river, which is of the same general character as that of– the San Marcos, and had passed a small brown house with a turret and cross upon it, which we learned was a Lutheran church, when we were overtaken by a good-natured butcher who lived in Neu-Braunfels, whence he had ridden out early in the morning to kill and dress the hogs of one of the large farmers. He had finished his job, and was returning.
He had been in this country eight years. He liked it very much; he did not wish to go back to Germany; he much preferred to remain here. The Germans, generally, were doing well, and were contented. They had had a hard time at first, but they were all doing well now—getting rich. He knew but one German who had bought a slave; they did not think well of slavery; they thought it better that all men should be free; besides, the negroes would not work so well as the Germans. They were improving their condition very rapidly, especially within the last two years. It was sickly on the coast, but here it was very healthy. He had been as well here as he was in Germany—never had been ill. There were Catholics and Protestants among them; as for himself, he was no friend to priests, whether Catholic or Protestant. He had had enough of them in Germany. They could not tell him anything new, and he never went to any church.
We forded, under his guidance, the Guadalupe, and after climbing its high bank, found ourselves upon the level plateau between the prairie hills and the river on which Neu-Braunfels is situated. We had still nearly a mile to ride before entering the town, and in this distance met eight or ten large wagons, each drawn by three or four pairs of mules, or five or six yokes of oxen, each carrying under its neck a brass bell. They were all driven by Germans, somewhat uncouthly but warmly and neatly dressed, all smoking and all good-humored, giving us “good morning” as we met. Noticing the strength of the wagons, I observed that they were made by Germans, probably.
“Yes,” said the butcher, “the Germans make better wagons than the Americans; the Americans buy a great many of them. There are seven wagon-manufactories in Braunfels.”
The main street of the town, which we soon entered upon, was very wide—three times as wide, in effect, as Broadway in New York. The houses, with which it was thickly lined on each side for a mile, were small, low cottages, of no pretensions to elegance, yet generally looking neat and comfortable. Many were furnished with verandahs and gardens, and the greater part were either stuccoed or painted. There were many workshops of mechanics and small stores, with signs oftener in English than in German; and bare-headed women, and men in caps and short jackets, with pendent pipes, were everywhere seen at work.
AN EVENING FAR FROM TEXAS.
We had no acquaintance in the village and no means of introduction, but in hopes that we might better satisfy ourselves of the condition of the people we agreed to stop at an inn and get dinner, instead of eating a cold snack in the saddle without stopping at noon, as was our custom. “Here,” said the butcher, “is my shop” (indicating a small house, at the door of which hung dressed meat and beef sausages) “and if you are going to stop, I will recommend you to my neighbor there, Mr. Schmitz.” It was a small cottage of a single story, having the roof extended so as to form a verandah, with a sign swinging before it, “Guadalupe Hotel, J. Schmitz.”
I never in my life, except, perhaps, in awakening from a dream, met with such a sudden and complete transfer of associations. Instead of loose boarded or hewn log walls with crevices stuffed with rags or daubed with mortar, which we have been accustomed to see during the last month on staving in a door, where we have found any to open; instead, even, of four bare, cheerless sides of whitewashed plaster, which we have found twice or thrice only in a more aristocratic American residence, we were—in short, we were in Germany.
There was nothing wanting; was nothing too delightful much, for one of those delightful little inns which the pedestrian who has tramped through the Rhine land will ever remember gratefully. A long room, extending across the whole front of the cottage, the walls pink, with stenciled panels, and scroll ornaments in crimson, and with neatly-framed and glazed pretty lithographic prints hanging on all sides; a long, thick, dark oak table, with rounded ends, oak benches at its sides; chiseled oak chairs; a sofa, covered with cheap pink calico, with a small vine pattern; a stove in the corner; a little mahogany cupboard in another corner, with pitcher and glasses upon it; a smoky atmosphere; and finally, four thick-bearded men, from whom the smoke proceeds, who all bow and say “Good morning,” as we lift our hats in the doorway.
The landlady enters; she does not readily understand us, and one of the smokers rises immediately to assist us. Dinner we shall have immediately, and she spreads the white cloth at an end of the table before she leaves the room, and in two minutes’ time, by which we have got off our coats and warmed our hands at the stove, we are asked to sit down. An excellent soup is set before us, and in succession there follow two courses of meat, neither of them pork, and neither of them fried, two dishes of vegetables, salad, compote of peaches, coffee with milk, wheat bread from the loaf, and beautiful and sweet butter—not only such butter as I have never tasted south of the Potomac before, but such as I have been told a hundred times it was impossible to make in a southern climate. What is the secret? I suppose it is extreme cleanliness, beginning far back of where cleanliness usually begins at the South, and careful and thorough working.
We then spent an hour in conversation with the gentlemen who were in the room. They were all educated, cultivated, well-bred, respectful, kind and affable men. All were natives of Germany and had been living several years in Texas. Some of them were travelers, their homes being in other German settlements; some of them had resided long at Braunfels.
It was so very agreeable to meet such men again, and the account they gave of the Germans in Texas was so interesting and gratifying that we were unwilling to immediately continue our journey. We went out to look at our horses; a man in cap and jacket was rubbing their legs—the first time they had received such attention in Texas, except from ourselves, or by special and costly arrangement with a negro. They were pushing their noses into racks filled with fine mesquit hay—the first they had had in Texas. They seemed to look at us imploringly. We ought to spend the night. But there is evidently no sleeping-room for us in the little inn. They must be full. But then we could sleep with more comfort on the floor here, probably, than we have been accustomed to of late. We concluded to ask if they could accommodate us for the night. Yes, with pleasure—would we be pleased to look at the room they could afford us? Doubtless in the cocklof t. No, it was in another little cottage in the rear. A little room it proved, with blue walls again, and oak furniture; two beds, one of them would be for each of us—the first time we had been offered the luxury of sleeping alone in Texas; two large windows with curtains, and evergreen roses trained over them on the outside—not a pane of glass missing or broken—the first sleeping-room we have had in Texas where this was the case; a sofa; a bureau, on which were a complete set of the Conversations Lexicon; Kendall’s Santa Fe Expedition; a statuette in porcelain; plants in pots; a brass study lamp; a large ewer and basin for washing, and a couple of towels of thick stuff, full a yard and a quarter long. 0, yes, it will do for us admirably; we will spend the night.
In the afternoon, we called upon the German Protestant clergyman, who received us kindly, and, though speaking little English, was very ready to give, all the information he could about his people and the Germans in Texas generally. We visited some of the workshops, and called on a merchant to ascertain the quality and amount of the cotton grown by the Germans in the neighborhood. At supper, we met a dozen or more intelligent people, and spent the later evening with several others, at the residence of one of our accidental inn acquaintances.
I will simply remark here that the facts learned from these gentlemen confirmed the simple good accounts of the butcher.
As I was returning to the inn about ten o’clock, I stopped for a few moments at the gate of one of the little cottages, to listen to some of the best singing I have heard for a long time, several parts being sustained by very sweet and well-trained voices. In the day time, I saw in the public street, at no great distance from a school-house, a tame doe, with a band on its neck, to distinguish it from the wild deer, lest it should be shot by sportsmen. It was exceedingly beautiful, and so tame that it allowed me to approach, and licked my hand. In what Texan town through which we have passed before could this have occurred?
In the morning we found that our horses had been bedded, for the first time in Texas.
As we rode out of town, it was delightful to meet again troops of children, with satchels and knapsacks of books and little kettles of dinner, all with ruddy, cheerful faces, the girls especially so, with their hair braided neatly, and without caps or bonnets, smiling and saluting us— guten morgen”—as we met. Nothing so pleasant as that in Texas before, hardly in the South.
Such was our first encounter with the Germans in Texas. Chance afterwards threw us in the way of seeing much more of them; but I have preferred to preserve the order of time and give now simply these first notes, that the reader who follows us may receive our succession of impressions.
THE SAN ANTONIO ROAD.
We had hardly left the town, which is straggling thickly to the westward and merges, by degrees, its town-lots into ten-acre homesteads and small farms, when one of our table companions came up on the road behind us, also on his way to San Antonio. He joined us, by our invitation, and though we found some difficulty in mutual comprehension, added much to our pleasure and information.
The distance to San Antonio, by the shortest road, is about thirty miles. The old road follows up a creek hot-tom, and houses, sheltered by live-oaks, stand thick along it, each in the centre of a little farm, having a broad open range of pasture before it. We left these and the hills beyond them, to the right, and went in a straight course out upon the open prairies. The grass had, in many places, been recently burned, giving the country a desolated sur. face of dead black monotony.
The trees were live-oaks and even these very rare. The ground-swells were long, and so equal in height and similar in form as to bring to mind a tedious sea voyage, where you go plodding on, slow hour after slow hour, without raising a single object to attract the eye.
At noon we crossed the Cibolo (pronounced by Texans “Sewilla”), a creek which has the freak of here and there disappearing in its course for miles, leaving its bed dry, except during freshets. Here were several settlements, almost the only ones on the day’s route. Not very far away, however, are, in several places, Germans, who have built neat stone houses out upon the prairie away from any running water, depending entirely upon wells.
Seven miles from San Antonio we passed the Salado, another smaller creek, and shortly after, rising a hill, saw the domes and white clustered dwellings of San Antonio below us. We stopped and gazed long on the sunny scene.
The city is closely-built and prominent, and lies basking on the edge of a vast plain through which the river winds slowly off beyond where the eye can reach. To the east are gentle slopes toward it; to the north a long gradual sweep upward to the mountain country, which comes down within five or six miles; to the south and west, the open prairies, extending almost level to the coast a hundred and fifty miles away.
There is little wood to be seen in this broad landscape. Along the course of the river a thin edging appears, especially around the head of the stream, a short ride above the city. Elsewhere, there is only limitless grass and thorny bushes.
These last, making chapparal, we saw as we went further on for the first time. A few specimens of mesquit (Algarobbia glandulosa) had been pointed out to us; but here the ground shortly became thickly covered with it. This shrub forms one of the prominent features of Texas west of San Antonio. It is a short thin tree of the locust tribe whose branches are thick set with thorns, and bears, except in this respect, a close resemblance to a straggling, neglected peach-tree. Mixed with other shrubs of a like prickly nature, as an undergrowth it frequently forms, over acres together, an impenetrable mass. When the tree is old, its trunk and roots make an excellent firewood; but for other purposes it is almost useless, owing to its bent and tortuous fibre. A great value is said to lie in its gum, which, if properly secured, has been pronounced equal to gum-arabic in utility.
By a wall of these thorns the road is soon closed in.
Almost all the roads of entrance are thus lined, and so the city bristles like the porcupine, with a natural defense. Reaching the level, we shortly came upon the first house, which had pushed out and conquered a bit of the chapparal. Its neighbor was opposite, and soon the street closed in.
The singular composite character of the town is palpable at the entrance. For five minutes the houses were evidently German, of fresh square-cut blocks of creamy-white limestone, mostly of a single story and humble proportions, but neat, and thoroughly roofed and finished. Some were furnished with the luxuries of little bow-windows, balconies, or galleries.
From these we enter the square of the Alamo. This is all Mexican. Windowless cabins of stakes, plastered with mud and roofed with river-grass, or “tula”; or low, windowless, but better thatched houses of adobes (gray, unburnt bricks), with groups of brown idlers lounging at their doors.
The principal part of the town lies within a sweep of the river upon the other side. We descend to the bridge, which is close down upon the water, as the river, owing to its peculiar source, never varies in height or temperature. We irresistibly stop to examine it, we are so struck with its beauty. It is of a rich blue and pure as crystal, flowing rapidly but noiselessly over pebbles and between reedy banks. One could lean for hours over the bridge-rail. From the bridge we enter Commerce street, the narrow principal thoroughfare, and here are American houses, and the triple nationalities break out into the most amusing display, till we reach the main plaza. The sauntering Mexicans prevail on the pavements, but the bearded Germans and the sallow Yankees furnish their proportion. The signs are German by all odds, and perhaps the houses, trim-built, with pink window-blinds. The American dwellings stand back, with galleries and jalousies and a garden picket-fence against the walk, or rise, next door, in three-story brick to respectable city fronts. The Mexican buildings are stronger than those we saw before but still of all sorts, and now put to all sorts of new uses. They are all low, of adobe or stone, washed blue and yellow, with flat roofs close down upon their single story. Windows have been knocked in their blank walls, letting the Sun into their dismal vaults, and most of them are stored with dry goods and groceries, which overflow around the door. Around the plaza are American hotels, and new glass-fronted stores, alternating with sturdy battlemented Spanish walls, and [these are] confronted by the dirty, grim, old stuccoed stone cathedral, whose cracked bell is now clunking for vespers in a tone that bids us no welcome, as more of the intruding race who have caused all this progress on which its traditions, like its imperturbable dome, frown down.
We have no city except perhaps New Orleans that can vie, in point of the picturesque interest that attaches to odd and antiquated foreignness, with San Antonio. Its jumble of races, costumes, languages and buildings; its religious ruins, holding to an antiquity for us indistinct enough to breed an unaccustomed solemnity; its remote, isolated, outposted situation, and the vague conviction that it is the first of a new class of conquered cities into whose decaying streets our rattling life is to be infused, combine with the heroic touches in its history to enliven and satisfy your traveler’s curiosity.
Not suspecting the leisure we were to have to examine it at our ease, we set out to receive its impressions while we had the opportunity.
After drawing, at the Post-office window, our personal share of the dear income of happiness divided by that department, we strolled, by moonlight, about the streets. They are laid out with tolerable regularity, parallel with the sides of the main plaza, and are pretty distinctly shared among the nations that use them. On the plaza and the busiest streets, a surprising number of old Mexican buildings are converted, by trowel, paintbrush, and gaudy carpentry, into drinking-places, always labeled “Exchange,” and conducted on the New Orleans model. About these loitered a set of customers, sometimes rough, sometimes affecting an “exquisite” dress, by no means attracting to a nearer acquaintance with themselves or their haunts. Here and there was a restaurant of a quieter look, where the traditions of Paris are preserved under difficulties by the exiled Gaul.
The doors of the cabins of the real natives stood open wide, if indeed they exist at all, and many were the family pictures of jollity or sleepy comfort they displayed to us as we sauntered curious about. The favorite dress appeared to be a dishabille, and a free-and-easy, loloppy sort of life generally seemed to have been adopted as possessing, on the whole, the greatest advantages for a reasonable being. The larger part of each family appeared to be made up of black-eyed, olive girls, full of animation of tongue and glance, but sunk in a soft embonpoint, which added a somewhat extreme good-nature to their charms. Their dresses seemed lazily reluctant to cover their plump persons, and their attitudes were always expressive of the influences of a Southern sun upon national manners. The matrons, dark and wrinkled, formed a strong contrast to their daughters, though, here and there, a fine cast of feature and a figure erect with dignity, attracted the eye. The men lounged in roundabouts and cigaritos, as was to be expected, and in fact the whole picture lacked nothing that is Mexican.
Daylight walks about the town yielded little more to curiosity. The contrast of nationalities remained the chief interest. The local business is considerable, but carried on without subdivision of occupation. Each of a dozen stores offers all the articles you may ask for. A druggist or two, a saddler or two, a watchmaker and a gunsmith ply almost the only distinct trades. The country supplied from this centre is extensive but very thinly settled. The capital owned here is quite large. The principal accumulations date from the Mexican war, when no small part of the many millions expended by Government were disbursed here in payment to contractors. Some prime cuts were secured by residents, and no small portion of the lesser pickings remained in their hands. Since then the town has been well-to-do, and consequently accumulates a greater population than its position in other respects would justify.
The traffic, open and illicit, across the frontier with interior Mexico, has some importance and returns some bulky bags of silver. All the principal merchants have their agencies on the Rio Grande, and throw in goods and haul out dollars as opportunity serves. The transportation of their goods forms the principal support of the Mexican population. It is this trade, probably, which accounts for the large stocks which are kept, and the large transactions that result, beyond the strength of most similar towns. All goods are brought from Matagorda Bay, a distance of 150 miles, by ox-teams, moving with prodigious slowness and irregularity. In a favorable season, the freight-price is one-and-a-quarter cents per lb., from Lavacca. Prices are extremely high, and subject to great variations, depending upon the actual supply and the state of the roads.
Cash is sometimes extremely scarce in the town. The Mexican dollars are sent forward to a good market. Government brings its army-stores direct from the coast. But some hay, corn, and other supplies are contracted for in the region, and from this source, and from the leavings of casual travelers and new emigrants, the hard money for circulation is derived. Investments at present are mostly in lands. There are no home-exports of the least account. Pecan-nuts, and a little coarse wool, are almost the only items of the catalogue. The wealth and steady growth of the town depend almost entirely upon the rapid settlement of the adjacent country.
A scanty congregation attends the services of the battered old cathedral. The Protestant church attendance can almost be counted upon the fingers. Sunday is pretty rigidly devoted to rest, though most of the stores are open to all practical purposes, and the exchanges keep up a brisk distribution of stimulants. The Germans and Mexicans have their dances. The Americans resort to fast horses for their principal recreation.
We noticed, upon a ruined wall, the remains of a placard, which illustrates at the same time a Yankee shrewdness in devoting a day to grief, without actual loss of time, and the social manners of the people:
“RESOLUTIONS on the death of
THE HON. DANIEL WEBSTER.
“Be it resolved by the Board of Aldermen of the city of San Antonio, in Common Council assembled, that, by the death of the late Daniel Webster, the people are plunged in mourning, and in testimonial of our grief, we sincerely join with other cities and towns of our country in requesting a suspension of labor, and the closing of all places of business, on Sunday, the 10th inst., from 10 o’clock A.M. to 4 o’clock P.M., and that all the flags in the city be displayed at half-mast, and minute guns fired through the day.”
The town of San Antonio was founded in 1730 by a colony of twelve families of pure Spanish blood, from the Canary islands. The names of the settlers are perpetuated to this day by existing families which have descended from each, such as Garcia, Flores, Navarro, Garza, Yturri, Rodriquez. The original mission and fort of San Antonio de Valero dates from 1715, when Spain established her occupancy of Texas.
Not far from the city, along the river, are these celebrated religious establishments. They are of a similar character to the many scattered here and there over the plains of Northern Mexico and California, and bear a solid testimony to the strangely patient courage and zeal of the old Spanish fathers. They pushed off alone into the heart of a savage and unknown country, converted the cruel brutes that occupied it, not only to nominal Christianity but to actual hard labor, and persuaded and compelled them to construct these ponderous but rudely splendid edifices, serving, at the same time, for the glory of the faith, and for the defense of the faithful.*
* Good drawings of two of these missions may be seen in Bartlett’s “Personal Narrative.”
The Alamo was one of the earliest of these establishments. It is now within the town, and in extent, probably, a mere wreck of its former grandeur. It consists of a few irregular stuccoed buildings huddled against the old church, in a large court surrounded by a rude wall; the whole used as an arsenal by the U. S. quartermaster. The church-door opens on the square and is meagerly decorated by stucco mouldings, all hacked and battered in the battles it has seen. Since the heroic defense of Travis and his handful of men in ’36, it has been a monument not so much to faith as to courage.
The Mission of Concepcion is not far from the town, upon the left of the river. Further down are three others, San Juan, San Jose and La Espada. On one of them is said to have been visible, not long ago, the date, “1725.” They are in different stages of decay, but all are real ruins, beyond any connection with the present—weird remains out of the silent past.
They are of various magnificence, but all upon a common model, and of the same materials—rough blocks of limestone, cemented with a strong gray stucco. Each has its church, its convent, or celled house for the fathers, and its farm-buildings, arranged around a large court, entered only at a single point. Surrounding each was a large farm, irrigated at a great outlay of labor by aqueducts from the river.
The decorations of the doors and windows may be still examined. They are of stucco, and are rude heads of saints, and mouldings, usually without grace, corresponding to those described as at present occupying similar positions in Mexican churches. One of the missions is a complete ruin, the others afford shelter to Mexican occupants, who ply their trades, and herd their cattle and sheep in the old cells and courts. Many is the picturesque sketch offered to the pencil by such intrusion upon falling dome, tower, and cloister.
The system of aqueducts, for artificial irrigation, extends for many miles around San Antonio, and affords some justification for the Mexican tradition that the town not long ago contained a very much larger population. Most of these lived by agriculture, returning at evening to a crowded home in the city. These water-courses still retain their old Spanish name, acequias.” A large part of them are abandoned, but in the immediate neighborhood of the city they are still in use, so that every garden-patch may be flowed at will.
In the outskirts of the town are many good residences recently erected by Americans. They are mostly of the creamy limestone, which is found in abundance near by. It is of a very agreeable shade, readily sawed and cut, sufficiently durable, and can be, procured at a moderate cost. When the grounds around them shall have been put in correspondence with the style of these houses, they will make enviable homes.
THE SAN ANTONIO SPRING.
There are, besides the missions, several pleasant points for excursions in the neighborhood, particularly those to
the San Antonio and San Pedro Springs. The latter is a wooded spot of great beauty but a mile or two from the town, and boasts a restaurant and beer-garden beyond its natural attractions. The San Antonio Spring may be classed as of the first water among the gems of the natural world. The whole river gushes up in one sparkling burst from the earth. It has all the beautiful accompaniments of a smaller spring, moss, pebbles, seclusion, sparkling sunbeams, and dense overhanging luxuriant foliage. The effect is overpowering. It is beyond your possible conceptions of a spring. You cannot believe your eyes, and almost shrink from sudden metamorphosis by invaded nymphdom.
The temperature of the river is of just that agreeable elevation that makes you loth to leave a bath, and the color is the ideal blue. Few cities have such a luxury. It remains throughout the year without perceptible change of temperature, and never varies in height or volume. The streets are laid out in such a way that a great number of houses have a garden extending to the bank, and so a bathing-house, which is in constant use. The Mexicans seem half the time about the water. Their plump women especially are excellent swimmers, and fond of displaying their luxurious buoyancy. The fall of the river is such as to furnish abundant water-power, which is now used but for a single corn-mill. Several springs add their current to its volume above the town, and that from the San Pedro below. It unites, near the Gulf, with the Guadalupe, and empties into Espiritu Santo Bay, watering a rich, and, as yet, but little-settled country.
The soil in the neighborhood of the city is heavy and sometimes mixed with drifts of limestone pebbles and deposits of shell, but is everywhere black and appears of inexhaustible fertility if well cultivated and supplied with moisture. The market-gardens belonging to Germans, which we saw later in the season, are most luxuriant. The prices of milk, butter and vegetables are very high, and the gains of the small German market-farmers must be rapidly accumulating.
The street-life of San Antonio is more varied than might be supposed. Hardly a day passes without some noise. If there be no personal affray to arouse talk, there is some Government train to be seen, with its hundred of mules, on its way from the coast to a fort above; or a Mexican ox-train from the coast, with an interesting supply of ice, or flour, or matches, or of whatever the shops find themselves short. A Government express clatters off, or news arrives from some exposed outpost, or from New Mexico. An Indian in his finery appears on a shaggy horse, in search of blankets, powder and ball. Or at the least, a stagecoach with the “States,” or the Austin, mail, rolls into the plaza and discharges its load of passengers and newspapers.
The street affrays are numerous and characteristic. I have seen for a year or more a San Antonio weekly, and hardly a number fails to have its fight or its murder. More often than otherwise, the parties meet upon the plaza by chance, and each, on catching sight of his enemy, draws a revolver and fires away. As the actors are under more or less excitement, their aim is not apt to be of the most careful and sure; consequently it is, not seldom, the passers-by who suffer. Sometimes it is a young man at a quiet dinner in a restaurant who receives a ball in the head, sometimes an old negro woman returning from market who gets winged. After disposing of all their lead, the parties close to try their steel, but as this species of metal lic amusement is less popular, they generally contrive to be separated (“Hold mel Hold me!”) by friends before the wounds are mortal. If neither is seriously injured, they are brought to drink together on the following day, and the town waits for the next excitement.
Where borderers and idle soldiers are hanging about drinking-places, and where different races mingle on unequal terms, assassinations must be expected. Murders, from avarice or revenge, are common here. Most are charged upon the Mexicans, whose passionate motives are not rare, and to whom escape over the border is easiest and most natural.
The town amusements of a less exciting character are not many. There is a permanent company of Mexican mountebanks, who give performances of agility and buffoonery two or three times a week, parading before night in their spangled tights with drum and trombone through the principal streets. They draw a crowd of whatever little Mexicans can get adrift, and this attracts a few sellers of whisky, tortillas and tamaules (corn, slap-jacks and hashed meat in corn-shucks), all by the light of torches making a ruddily picturesque evening group.
The more grave Americans are served with tragedy by a thin local company, who are death on horrors and despair, long rapiers and well oiled hair, and for lack of a better place to flirt with passing officers, the city belles may sometimes be seen looking on. The national background of peanuts and yells is not, of course, wanting.
A day or two after our arrival, there was the hanging of a Mexican. The whole population left the town to see. Family parties, including the grandmother and the little negroes, came from all the plantations and farms within reach, and little ones were held up high to get their share of warning. The Mexicans looked on imperturbable.
San Antonio, excluding Galveston,* is much the largest city of Texas.
* The two towns have nearly kept pace in growth. The yellow fever, it is said, has now given San Antonio the advantage.
After the Revolution, it was half deserted by its Mexican population, who did not care to come under Anglo-Saxon rule. Since then its growth has been rapid and steady. At the census of 1850, it numbered 3,500; in 1853, its population was 6,000; and in 1856, it is estimated at 10,500. Of these, about 4,000 are Mexicans, 3,000 Germans, and 3,500 Americans. The money-capital is in the hands of the Americans, as well as the officers and the Government. Most of the mechanics and the smaller shopkeepers are German. The Mexicans appear to have almost no other business than that of carting goods. Almost the entire transportation of the country is carried on by them, with oxen and two-wheeled carts. Some of them have small shops for the supply of their own countrymen, and some live upon the produce of farms and cattle-ranches owned in the neighborhood. Their livelihood is, for the most part, exceedingly meagre, made up chiefly of corn and beans.
THE MEXICANS IN TEXAS.
We had before we left opportunities of visiting familiarly many of the Mexican dwellings. I have described their externals. Within, we found usually a single room, open to the roof and invariably having a floor of beaten clay a few inches below the level of the street. There was little furniture—huge beds being the universal piece de resistance. These were used by day as sofa and table. Sometimes there were chairs and a table besides; but frequently only a bench, with a few earthen utensils for cooking, which is carried on outside. A dog or a cat appears on or under the bed or on the clothes-chest, a saint on the wall, and frequently a game-cock fastened in a corner, supplied with dishes of corn and water.
We were invariably received with the most gracious and beaming politeness and dignity. Their manner towards one another is engaging and that of children and parents most affectionate. This we always noticed in evening walks and in the groups about the doors, which were often singing in chorus—the attitudes expressive of confident affection. In one house, we were introduced to an old lady who was supposed by her grandchildren to be over one hundred years old. She had come from Mexico, in a rough cart, to make them a visit. Her face was strikingly Indian in feature, her hair, snow white, flowing thick over the shoulders, contrasting strongly with the olive skin. The complexion of the girls is clear and sometimes fair, usually a blushing olive. The variety of feature and color is very striking, and is naturally referred to three sources—the old Spanish, the Creole Mexican and the Indian, with sometimes a suspicion of Anglo-Saxon or Teuton. The hair is coarse but glossy, and very luxuriant; the eye, deep, dark, liquid and well set. Their modesty, though real, we heard, was not proof against a long courtship of flattering attentions and rich presents. The constancy of the married women was made very light of, not that their favors were purchasable, but that they are sometimes seized by a strong penchant for some other than their lord. There was testimony of this in the various shades and features of their children; in fact we thought the number of babies of European hair and feature exceeded the native olive in number. We noticed, in a group of Mexican and negro women, when an indelicate occurrence took place, that the former turned away in annoyed modesty, while the latter laughed broadly. Their constitutions, in general, are feeble, and very many of both sexes, we were informed, suffered from scrofulous disease. Nevertheless, with good stimulus, the men make admirable laborers.
The common dress was loose and slight, not to say slatternly. It was frequently but a chemise, as low as possible in the neck, sometimes even lower, with a calico petticoat. On holidays they dress in expensive finery, paying special attention to the shoes, of white satin, made by a native artist.
The houses of the rich differ little from those of the poor, and the difference in their style of living must be small, owing to the want of education and of all ambition. The majority are classed as laborers. Their wages are small, usually, upon farms near San Antonio, $6 or $8 a month, with corn and beans. That of the teamsters is in proportion to their energy. On being paid off, they hurry to their family and all come out in their best to spend the earnings, frequently quite at a loss for what to exchange them. They make excellent drovers and shepherds, and in work like this, with which they are acquainted, are reliable and adroit. A horse-drover just from the Rio Grande with whom we conversed called them untiring and faithful at their work, but untrustworthy in character. To his guide he paid $24 a month, to his “right bower” $15, and to his “left bower” $12 a month.
Their tools are of the rudest sort. The old Mexican wheel of hewn blocks of wood is still constantly in use, though supplanted to some extent by Yankee wheels sent in pairs from New York. The carts are always hewn of heavy wood, and are covered with white cotton stretched over hoops. In these they live on the road as independently as in their own house. The cattle are yoked by the horns with raw-hide thongs, of which they make a great use.
They consort freely with the negroes, making no distinction from pride of race. A few, of old Spanish blood, have purchased negro servants, but most of them regard slavery with abhorrence.
The Mexicans were treated for a while after annexation like a conquered people. Ignorant of their rights, and of the new language, they allowed themselves to be imposed upon by the new comers, who seized their lands and property without shadow of claim, and drove hundreds of them homeless across the Rio Grande. They now, as they get gradually better informed, come straggling back, and often their claims give rise to litigation, usually settled by a compromise.
A friend told us that, wishing when he built to square a corner of his lot, after making diligent inquiry he was unable to hear of any owner for the adjoining piece. He took the responsibility, and moved his fence over it. Not long after, he was waited upon by a Mexican woman, in a towering passion. He carried her to a Spanish acquaintance, and explained the transaction. She was immediately appeased, told him he was welcome to the land, and has since been on the most neighborly terms, calling him always her “amigo.”
Most adult Mexicans are voters by the organic law; but few take measures to make use of the right. Should they do so, they might probably, in San Antonio, have elected a government of their own. Such a step would be followed, however, by a summary revolution. They are regarded by slaveholders with great contempt and suspicion for their intimacy with slaves and their competition with plantation labor.
Americans, in speaking of them, constantly distinguish themselves as “white folks.” I once heard a new comer informing another American that he had seen a Mexican with a revolver. “I shouldn’t think they ought to be allowed to carry fire-arms. It might be dangerous.” “It would be difficult to prevent it,” the other replied; “Oh, they think themselves just as good as white men.”
From several counties they have been driven out altogether. At Austin, in the spring of 1853, a meeting was held, at which the citizens resolved, on the plea that Mexicans were horse-thieves that they must quit the county. About twenty families were thus driven from their homes, and dispersed over the western counties. Deprived of their means of livelihood, and rendered furious by such wholesale injustice, it is no wonder if they should take to the very crimes with which they are charged.
A similar occurrence took place at Seguin, in 1854; and in 1855, a few families, who had returned to Austin, were again driven out.
Even at San Antonio, there had been talk of such a razzia. A Mexican, caught in an attempt to steal a horse, had been hung by a Lynching party, on the spot, for an example. His friends happened to be numerous and were much excited, threatening violence in return. Under pretext of subduing an intended riot the sheriff issued a call for an armed posse of 500 men, with the idea of dispersing and driving from the neighborhood a large part of the Mexican population. But the Germans, who include among them the great majority of young men suitable for such duty, did not volunteer as had been expected, and the scheme was abandoned. They were of the opinion, one of them said to me, that this was not the right and republican way. If the laws were justly and energetically administered, no other remedy would be needed. One of them, who lived on the Medina in the vicinity of the place of the occurrence, told us he had no complaint to make of the Mexicans; they never stole his property or troubled him in any way.
The following is the most reliable estimate I can obtain of the actual Mexican population in Texas, (1856):—
|Bexar Co…………………………………….. …..
|Uvalde Co. …………………………
|El Paso, with Presidio …………….
|Lower Rio Grande Counties . . . .
|Goliad and Nueces Counties . ….. .
|Other parts of State ……………….
|Floating, say………………………………… …..
We had made it our first business, on arriving at San Antonio, to find what company was to be had for our Mexican trip, and we were somewhat dismayed, on delivering our letters, to find that communication with Mexico was thought to be infrequent and precarious. Merchants dispatched goods occasionally to different points on the Rio Grande; now and then a Government express, or an officer with escort, left for our military stations there; a post-rider, once a week, crossed the desert beyond the Nueces, riding rapidly and sleeping on the ground. But traveling parties such as we had thought to join, for the interior cities of Mexico, were almost unheard of: in fact, in the unsettled state of political affairs in that crazy Republic, it was considered highly dangerous for a party to travel there whose numbers did not enable them, not only to stand nightly guard, but to resist, if necessary, organized attacks upon the road.
A train for Chihuahua, via El Paso, was just about leaving, which, if we wished to go in that direction, would afford us ample protection. We rode a mile or two out of town to the spot where it was encamped. It was commanded, we found, by Julius Froebel, who escaped by so slender a thread the republican martyrdom which his companion, Robert Blum actually suffered in Vienna, and whose scientific contributions to the natural and human history of the central parts of the continent have now and then appeared in the New York Tribune. The train was a very large one and equipped in the best style. There were twenty-six wagons, drawn by 260 mules, with experienced drivers, forage and provisions, besides professional hunters, to obtain fresh meat where possible. Mr. Froebel, however, gave such an account of the slowness and tedium of the travel-life of such a trip, as quite discouraged us, especially as the train was to leave within twelve hours. We were fortunate, the event proved, in not having joined it, as, though it reached its destination quite safely it was detained for some months, in camp at the frontier, near El Paso, while custom-house difficulties were being arranged.
After a day or two, our friend B. announced that a change in his business affairs at the north would compel him to ask a discharge from his enlistment, which we unwillingly granted. This more completely blocked our wheels, and threw us quite upon chance for our route and our company. We made inquiries on all sides without success. The officer in command of the station here could give us no promise of company, within a short time, even to the Rio Grande. We consulted many old border travelers, who strongly dissuaded us from attempting the trip by ourselves. Finally, among the boarders at a German inn, we heard of a scientific gentleman living at Braunfels who was about to make the trip to the city of Mexico, and resolved on returning there to offer ourselves as companions.
On entering San Antonio, our fellow-traveler had taken us with him to this German inn, the more willingly on our part, as we retained a vivid impression of the contrast between the hotel at Neu-Braunfels and every other hotel we had seen in Texas. We had been extremely interested in what we had seen of the Germans, too, and were glad of an excuse to see more of them. We found a miserable old Mexican house, and close quarters enough for sleeping, but most pleasant company, a hearty, hospitable, unremitting kindness, and a table which, with its refreshing salads and variety of vegetables, was like returning spring to our salt and husky palates. At each meal we met some twenty boarders, mostly clerks or men in business, but with a sprinkling of professional men, and, from first to last, gentlemen in manner, and full of such information as we wanted. We cannot too strongly recommend a quiet traveler to follow our example.
By their advice we called upon the editor of their German newspaper, who received us most politely, and was able, not only to give us the name of the gentleman who was intending to go to Mexico, but to give us a more accurate idea of the numbers and position of the Germans in Texas than we had before obtained.
The day before we left San Antonio was cold and foggy. The following morning was warm but still foggy, making our ride, with a light wind behind us, exceedingly oppressive. We threw off our coats, and soon stripped off vest and cravat; but this we found was not enough, and we were obliged to stop to take off our flannel. Our horses were reeking with sweat. At two o’clock the thermometer, in a cool, shady spot, stood at 79° [centigrade, and the sky was nearly clear. We were very tired and thirsty, and one of us suggested that this was the very country and the very weather for mirage. It was not long after we saw the edge of the horizon rising in the flickering heat and groups of trees standing free in the air, as an island or a point stretches off into the sky of a hot day on the sea-coast. Then the trees connected themselves with the land below upon each side and we saw a beautiful lake, the water rippling in the sunlight. It grew wider and longer and shortly was like the open sea, with a rich and shady shore, extending up at intervals like bays and rivers into the land. Soon the lakes were common here and there about us, calm of surface, trees with heavy foliage bending over their banks to rest in the water. Had we not been prepared by a knowledge of the country, we should have been strongly tempted to ride towards some of them for a drink of cool water.
Later in the day, the air became clearer, and a pleasant breeze played upon our backs. The mirage gradually disappeared, and we lost it in descending a swell of the prairie. It was near sunset, with a dull cloud bank in the north. We were still suffering with the heat, when one of us said
“See this before us, what is it, fog again or smoke?” “A prairie fire, I think,” said the other.
“Probably it is; but what is this on the hill close by, this is fog, surely? It must be a norther coming. Yes, it is a norther; listen to that roar! We must get our clothing on or we shall be chilled through.”
First, a chilly whiff, then a puff, the grass bends fiat, and, bang, it is upon us—a blast that would have taken a top-gallant sail smack out of the bolt-ropes, and cold as if blowing across a sea of ice. We galloped to the nearest ravine and hurried on all the clothing we could muster. Fortunately, though our baggage was left behind, we had taken a supply, having strapped blankets, Guernsey shirts, and Canada leggins, behind our saddles.
At nine o’clock, the thermometer stood at thirty-three degrees, and, at seven next morning, at twenty-one degrees. A thermometer hanging in Neu-Braunfels showed a fall of sixty degrees in seven hours.
These northers upon the open prairies are exceedingly trying. The fierce wind that accompanies such a sudden change gives them triple effect, especially as they often interrupt warm, relaxing weather. Teamsters, herdsmen, and travelers, caught out far from habitations, not unfrequently perish, and very great suffering is caused to animals. Cattle instinctively make for the nearest shelter of trees; but, on the open prairies of the coast, they fall by thousands before a freezing rain, which is sometimes added.
The northers continue from one to three days, growing milder at the close, and occur once or twice a week during the winter months. But a tight house and a blazing fire make one quite independent of them, and such we found in the German inn.
Our naturalist, we were told, lived adjacent to the Orphan Asylum at Neu-Wied, a hamlet some three miles from the town
Thither, after breakfast next day, we went, with a note of introduction, on foot, and briskly, for it was too cold to ride.
The Orphan Asylum, as we approached it, had the appearance of being a small American farm-house, with a German rear erection of brick laid up in a timber framework. A large live-oak sheltered the stoop, but the whole establishment was very rough with a common rail-fence about it, and not the least indication of fashionable philanthropy. As we entered a large, dark, unpainted hall, a man came forward from an inner room who, from his dress, might have been taken for a day-laborer. It was the gentleman, however, whom we wished to see—a courteous and cultivated professor.
It was a holiday and he had been engaged in preparing some botanical specimens, but immediately left them to ferry us over the Guadalupe which ran through his grounds, the probable traveler residing beyond.
Leaving the house, we passed through a garden in the rear where he showed us little plots of wheat from Egypt, Algiers, Arabia, and St. Helena, which he was growing to ascertain which was best adapted to the climate. Wheat-growing, of any sort, is a novelty here, but the Germans are not satisfied with corn, nor are they willing to pay for the transportation of flour from Ohio, like the Anglo-Americans. There has been, therefore, considerable wheat grown among them and that with satisfactory success.
From the garden we passed into a grove, where, in a circular– opening of the trees, a rude theatre had been formed, which was used by musical parties, from Neu-Braunfels and as– a school or lecture-room in summer.
Not finding the gentleman of whom we were in search, we returned to the professor’s house, and spent there, at his, invitation, a delightful day.
He had come to this country in 1839. In the steerage of his ship there were about forty Norwegians with their families. They suffered much hardship, and he assisted and comforted them as much as was in his power. They were very grateful, and before reaching New York they unanimously requested him to continue with them as their pastor, and assist them in forming their settlement at the West. While the ship was detained at Quarantine, he went to the city with the captain to make arrangements for necessary stay in the city. Returning to Staten Island, he found the ship had gone up, and the ferry-boat had discontinued running for the night. It was not till late the next day that he succeeded in finding the ship at her wharf in New York, and then all the Norwegians had departed. He spent several days searching for them, but saw none of them until nearly two years afterwards. He was then in a crowd at Milwaukie, when his arm was suddenly seized with both hands by a little boy, who sprung up to kiss him, crying, “Oh! papa E.! oh, papa E.!” It was one of the children of the steerage.
He went with the boy to his father’s house, who told him that some persons came on board the ship, while they were still at Quarantine, and represented that they had been engaged by some of their countrymen to advise and assist the emigrants. They were accordingly taken to a boarding-house as soon as the ship reached New York, and during the evening they were induced to purchase a considerable tract of land by the counsel of their disinterested friends, who also furnished them with cheap tickets to carry them through to Milwaukee by a steamboat that was to start the next morning. They had thus been led to leave the city almost immediately; but the lands they had purchased, and, in part, paid for, they never found. The deeds they had received were forgeries.
From Wisconsin he had come to Texas, and joining the first company of the settlers who established Neu-Braunfels, became their pastor. The following year several thousand were landed upon the coast, and, unprovided with food or shelter, perished like sheep. Slowly, droves of them found their way into Neu-Braunfels, haggard and almost dying, having lost all family affection or fellow-feeling in intense despairing personal suffering. Many children came whose parents had died, and he found them starving upon the river bank. He could not bear the sight, but collected sixty of them, and went to work upon this farm with them. He had no means of his own, but took what he could find belonging to the children, and has since sustained them. Working with his wife and the children in the field he has managed to raise corn and keep them alive, until now, in better times, they are mostly distributed as helps in various homes. Eighteen are with him still, all calling him papa. He had obtained from the Legislature an incorporation for a University at Braunfels, and himself, as yet, sole Professor, had given a classical education to a few pay scholars.
The whole narrative was exceedingly interesting, as we heard it at our simple farm-house dinner—the Professor, with his horny hands, and with his much-patched coat, telling us of his own noble conduct in the simplest manner, but sometimes glowing and flushing with a superb home eloquence.
HISTORY OF THE GERMAN SETTLEMENTS.
The most accurate and full published account of these German settlements is the report of a lecture, by FREDERICK KAPP, upon the Germans in Texas in the New York Tribune of January 20, 1855. From this, and from our notes of oral statements on the spot, I will concisely give the story. The experiment was a most interesting one: that of using associated capital for the transportation and settlement of emigrants on a large scale; in fact, the removal, in organized bodies, of the poor of an old country to the virgin soil of a new.
In the year 1842, among many schemes evolved in Germany by the social stir of the time, and patronized by certain princes from motives of policy, was one of real promise. It was an association of which Count Castel was the head, for the diminution of pauperism by the organized assistance and protection of emigrants. At this time, annexation being already almost a certainty, speculators who represented the owners of large tracts of Texas land appeared in Germany with glowing accounts of their cheapness and richness. They succeeded in gaining the attention of this association, whose leaders were pleased with the isolated situation, as offering a more tangible and durable connection with their emigrants, and opening a new source of wealth and possible power. A German de‑pendency or new Teutonic nation might result. Palmerston, it is said, encouraged the idea,* the Texan political leaders then coquetting with an English Protectorate, to induce more rapid advances on the part of the United States.
*According to the work of Mr. SMIZERING upon the Germans in Texas, now in the hands of the publisher, this encouragement went so far as to take the form of a contract between the Verein, and the British Government. By it the former agreed to place 10,000 families in Texas, the latter to furnish armed protection to the colony. A new market with indefinite capacities; a new source of cotton; opposition to slavery and to the extension of the area of the United States; such were the sufficient motives for England. Prince Leiningen was the half-brother of the Queen of England. Prince Sollns was an intimate friend of Prince Albert, with whom he was educated at Bonn. Copies of the correspondence still exist.
In 1843, an agent of the association, Count Waldeck, visited Texas, but effected nothing else than to secure himself a slave plantation not far from the coast. He was dismissed. The following year the association commenced active operations. It obtained, under the title of the MAINZER ADELS VEREIN, a charter from the Duke of Nassau, who assumed the protectorate. It had the Prince of Leiningen as president; Count Castel as director; Prince Frederick of. Prussia, the Duke of Coburg-Gotha, and some thirty other princes and nobles as associated members. A plan inviting emigrants was published, offering each adult subscribing $120 a free passage and forty acres of land, a family subscribing $240 a free passage and eighty acres. The association undertook to provide log-houses, stock and tools at fair prices and to construct public buildings and roads for the settlements.
Prince Solms of Braunfels was appointed General commissioner and proceeded to Texas. Had he procured from the State Legislature a direct grant of land for the colony, as he might have done, all would have been well. But, most unfortunately, the association were induced, without sufficient examination, to buy a grant of the previous year. It was held by Fisher and Miller, and the tract was described by them as a second paradise. In reality, it lay in the heart of a savage country, hundreds of miles beyond the remotest settlement, between the Upper Colorado and the great desert plains, a region, to this day, almost uninhabited. This wretched mistake was the ruin of the whole enterprise. The association lost its money and its character, and carried many emigrants only to beggary and a miserable death.
In the course of the year 180 subscribers were obtained, who landed with their families in the autumn upon the coast of Texas and marched towards their promised lands, with Prince Solms at their head. Finding the whole country a wilderness, and being harassed by the attacks of Indians on reaching the union of the Carnal with the Guadalupe, they became disheartened, and there Prince Solms, following the good advice of a naturalist of the company, Mr. Lindheimer, encamped, and laid out the present town of Neu-Braunfels.
This settlement, receiving aid from home while it was needed, was a success, in spite of the Prince who appears to have been an amiable fool, aping among the log-cabins the nonsense of mediaeval courts. In the course of a year he was laughed out of the country.
He was succeeded by C. Von Meusebach, who proved at least much better adapted to the work.
Had he not been reduced to inaction by home routine, and a want of funds, the misery that followed might, perhaps, have been prevented.*
* It is here difficult to sift various statements to an exact appreciation. A new company (at Bieberich) subsequently bought out the Verein, but Mr. Martin, their agent in Texas, has never entered possession, having been forced into the law by Spies, the successor of Meusebach. In 1855, the original Fisher make his re-appearance, with a scheme for “scaling” both claims, and securing what remains. This speculation nowise affects the actual colonists.
In course of the next year, 1845, more than 2,000 families joined the association. The capital which had been sufficient for its first effort was totally inadequate to an undertaking of this magnitude. These poor people sailed from Germany in the fall of this year, and were landed in the winter and early spring on the flat coast of the Gulf, to the number of 5,200. Annexation had now taken place, and the war with Mexico was beginning. The country had been stripped of provisions and of the means of transportation by the army. Neither food nor shelter had been provided by the association. The consequences may be imagined. The detail is too horrible. The mass remained for months encamped in sand-holes, huts, or tents; the only food procurable was beef. The summer heats bred pestilence.
The world has hardly record of such suffering. Human nature could not endure it. Human beings became brutes. “Your child is dying.” “What do I care?” Old parents were hurried into the ground before the breath of life had left them. The Americans who saw the stragglers thought a new race of savages was come. Haggard and desperate, they roved inland by twos and threes, beyond all law or religion. Many of the survivors reached the German settlements; many settled as laborers in American towns. With some of them, Meusebach founded another town—Fredericksburg—higher up than Braunfels. He also explored the Fisher grant, and converted the surrounding Indians from enemies into good-natured associates.
“It is but justice, ‘ says Mr. Kapp, “to throw the light of truth upon all this misery. The members of the association, although well-meaning, did not understand what they were about to do. They fancied that their high protection, alone, was sufficient to make all right. They had not the remotest idea of the toil and hardship of settling a new country. They permitted themselves to be humbugged by speculators and adventurers; they entered into ruinous bargains, and had not even funds enough to take the smallest number of those whom they had induced to join them to the place of settlement. When money was most wanted, they failed to send it, either from mistrust or neglect. To perform the obligation imposed by the agreement with Fisher, they induced the emigration to Texas by the most enchanting and exaggerated statements. The least that even the less sanguine ones expected was to find parrots rocking on the boughs and monkeys playing on the palm-trees.
This condemnation seems to fall justly.
Such was the unhappy beginning. But the wretchedness is already forgotten. Things soon mended. The soil, climate, and the other realities found were genial and good, if not Elysian. Now, after seven years, I do not know a prettier picture of contented prosperity than we witnessed at Neu-Braunfels. A satisfied smile, in fact, beamed on almost every German face we saw in Texas.
Of the general appearance of Neu-Braunfels I gave some notion in describing the route to San Antonio. We
now took pains to obtain some definite facts with regard to its condition. The dwellings in general are small and
humble in appearance but weather-tight, and generally provided with galleries or verandahs and with glazed casement windows. In the latter respect, they have the advantage over most houses we have seen in Texas, and,
I have no doubt, the average comforts of life within are much greater than among the Anglo-Americans, generally, in the state.
The citizens are, however, nearly all men of very small capital. Of the original settlers scarcely any now remain, and their houses and lands are occupied by more recent emigrants. Those who have left have made enough money during their residence to enable them to buy farms or cattle-ranches in the mountains, to which they have removed.
Half the men now residing in Neu-Braunfels and its vicinity are probably agricultural laborers or farmers who themselves follow the plough. The majority of the latter do not, I think, own more than ten acres of land each. Within the town itself, there are of master-mechanics, at least, the following numbers, nearly all of whom employ several workmen:
|Carpenters and Builders …………………
|Gun and Locksmiths ……………………
|Shoemakers ………………………… .
|Button and Fringe-makers ……………..
There are tour grist-mills, and a couple a New-England men are building a sash and blind factory and propose erecting a cotton factory.
A weekly newspaper is published—the Neu-Braunfels Zeitung. It is a paper of much higher character than most of the German-American papers, [and is] edited by the naturalist, Lindheimer.
There are ten or twelve stores and a small tradesmen’s shops, two or three apothecaries, and as many physicians, lawyers, and clergymen. I do not think there is another town in the slave states in which the proportion to the whole population of mechanics, or of persons employed in the exercise of their own discretion in productive occupations, is one-quarter as large as in Neu-Braunfels, unless it be some other in which the Germans are the predominating race.
There are several organizations among the people which indicate an excellent spirit of social improvement: an Agricultural Society, a Mechanics’ Institute, a Harmonic Society, a Society for Political Debates and a “Turners’ ” Society. A horticultural club has expended $1,200 in one year in introducing trees and plants.
These associations are the evidence of an active intellectual life and desire for knowledge and improvement among the masses of the people like that which distinguishes the New-Englanders and which is unknown wherever slavery degrades labor. Will this spirit resist the progress of slavery westward, or must it be gradually lost as the community in which it now exists becomes familiar with slavery?
In Neu-Braunfels and the surrounding German hamlets, there are five free schools for elementary education, one exclusive Roman Catholic school, a town free school of higher grade, and a private classical school. In all of these schools English is taught with German. The teacher of the higher department of, the central town school is paid four hundred dollars a year; that of the primary department (a female), two hundred dollars.
The following were the prices current at the time of my visit: Maize, 35 cents a bushel; meal, 45 cents; wheat, none in market; flour, extra St. Louis, $12; soda crackers, 20 cents; beef, fresh, retail for households, 3 cents per pound; pork, 7 cents; bacon, sides, 15 cents; hams, sugar-cured, 20 cents; fowls, 25 cents each; turkeys, 50 cents; ditto, wild, 25 cents; ducks, 20 cents; venison, a whole deer, $1, a quarter, 20 cents, or about 1 cent a pound; mutton, 7 cents; sweet potatoes, 50 cents per bushel.
There are here two items which New York farmers will hardly credit when placed in connection. Maize, 35 cents a bushel; pork, 7 cents a pound; and, still more remarkable, hams, 20 cents! In New York, I suppose, corn was fully double that price, and pork no higher.
Pine boards, 50 cents a foot; cedar, 40 cents; bar iron, 8 to 9 cents per pound; nails, $8 per keg. These articles are brought in wagons from the coast, about one hundred and fifty miles. Transportation by teams (owned and driven altogether by Germans), usually one cent a pound from the coast. Stone and brick clay, lime, sand and waterpower can be conveniently and cheaply obtained.
Money here, as everywhere else in Western Texas, is very scarce, and may be always loaned on perfectly trustworthy securities, at fifteen per cent. and upwards. The law of Texas makes all above eight per cent. usurious. Master-mechanics with whom I conversed informed me that they had no lack of work, but that it was difficult to get payment in money.
Journeymen (late emigrants and rough hands) informed me that they were paid wages, $15 a month and upward, and found. Farm-laborers, $8 to $15, and found. Domestics (females), $5 to $8. It is very difficult to obtain the latter and still more difficult to keep them as but few girls emigrate in proportion to the men, and they generally obtain situations for life within a few weeks after their arrival. This state of things is likely to continue for a long time, and, as the Germans grow wealthy and luxurious, will, undoubtedly, lead to their occasionally purchasing slaves to relieve themselves from the annoyance of constant changes in their household.
In Neu-Braunfels and the immediate vicinity are living about three thousand Germans. *
* Since our notes, the adjacent farming county has increased its population at the expense of the town. The county population is now estimated at 5,000, the town, 2,000.
The Anglo-American population of the place does not exceed twenty. Just out of the town a wealthy planter has settled who holds one hundred negroes. He also owns a mill and water-power and a good deal of real estate. Another American living in the town owns a negro girl, and one negro girl is hired by one of the Germans as a domestic. There are no other negroes in town. The blacks of the plantation, we were told, had acquired the power of speaking German in an extremely short time after their arrival.
Sunday was observed more thoroughly as a day of rest from labor than we had seen in any town of Texas. The stores, except one kept by a New Englander, were closed during the day. The people who appeared in the streets were well dressed, quiet and orderly. We saw no drunkenness. In the evening there were amusements, among them a ball, which the Lutheran pastor was expected to attend.
The health of the town is good. For several years there has been no epidemic illness. The greater part of those of whom I made inquiry assured me their health had been better here than in Germany.
The Lutheran clergyman informed us that he had registered but seven deaths, during the year, among his congregation. The pastoral record during the early years of the settlement tells a pathetic story. It is as follows:
About one-halt the people, it I am not mistaken, are nominal Catholics.
ALONG THE EASTERN COAST
OUT OF TEXAS.
OUR road, as far as the Sabine, lay through a district of poorer and more sandy soil thickly wooded with pine, having small and unfrequent wet prairies. Although rain was much needed for crops, we estimated that one-eighth of the surface was covered by water in stagnant pools. We passed on both sides the Sabine many abandoned farms, and the country is but thinly settled. We found it impossible to obtain information about roads, and frequently went astray upon cattle-paths, once losing twenty miles in a day’s journey. The people were still herdsmen, cultivating a little cotton upon river-banks, but ordinarily only corn, with a patch of cane to furnish household sugar. We tried in vain to purchase corn for our horses, and were told that “folks didn’t make corn enough to bread them, and if anybody had corn to give his horse, he carried it in his hat and went out behind somewhere.” The herds were in poor condition, and must in winter be reduced to the verge of starvation. We saw a few hogs converted by hardship to figures so unnatural that we at first took them for goats. Most of the people we met were old emigrants from Southern Louisiana and Mississippi and more disposed to gayety and cheer than the Texan planters. The houses showed a tendency to Louisiana forms and the table to a French style of serving the jerked beef which is the general dish of the country. The meat is dried in strips over smoky fires and, if untainted and well prepared, is a tolerably savory food. I hardly know whether to chronicle it as a border barbarism or a Creolism that we were several times, in this neighborhood, shown to a bed standing next to that occupied by the host and his wife, sometimes with the screen of a shawl, sometimes without.
We met with one specimen of the Virginia habit of “dipping,” or snuff-chewing, in the person of a woman who was otherwise neat and agreeable, and observed that a young lady, well-dressed, and apparently engaged, while we were present, in reading, went afterward to light her pipe at the kitchen fire, and had a smoke behind the house.
The condition of the young men appeared to incline decidedly to barbarism. We stopped a night at a house in which a drover bringing mules from Mexico was staying; and, with the neighbors who had come to look at the drove, we were thirteen men at table. When speaking with us, all were polite and respectful, the women especially so; but among one another, their coarseness was incredible. The master of the house, a well-known gentleman of the county, came after supper upon the gallery and commenced cursing furiously because some one had taken his pipe. Seeing us, he stopped, and after lighting the pipe said, “Where are you from, gentlemen?”
“From Beaumont, sir, last.”
“Been out West?”
After pausing a moment to make up his mind—”Where do ?mu live when you are at home, gentlemen, and what s your business in this country?”
“We live in New York, and are traveling to see the country.”
“How do you like it?”
“just here we find it fiat and wet.”
“What’s your name?”
“And what’s this gentleman’s name?”
“Is it a Spanish name?”
He then abruptly left us, and the young men entertained one another with stories of fights and horse-trades, and with vulgar obscenities.
Shortly he returned, saying
“Show you to bed now, gentlemen, if you wish?”
“We are ready, sir, if you will be good enough to get a light.”
“Get a light”
“Well, I’ll get one.”
On reaching the bed-room, which was in a building adjoining, he stood awaiting our pleasure. Thanking him, I turned to take the light, but, found his fingers were the candlestick. He continued to hold it, and six young men, who had followed us, stood grouped around while we undressed, placing our clothes upon the floor. Judy advanced to lie down by them. One of the young men started forward, and said
“I’ve got a right good knife.”
“I’ve got a right good knife, if you want it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing, only I’ve got a right good knife, and if you’d like to kill that dog, I’ll lend it to you.”
“Please to tell me what you mean?”
“Keep your dog quiet, or I’ll kill her,” / suppose was the interpretation. When we had covered ourselves in bed, the host said
“I suppose you don’t want the light no more?”
“No, sir”; and all bade us good-night, but, leaving the door open, commenced feats of prolonged dancing, or stamping upon the gallery, which were uproariously applauded. Then came more obscenities and profanities, apropos to fandango frolics described by the drovers. As we had barely got to sleep, several came to occupy other beds in our room. They had been drinking freely, and continued smoking in bed.
Upon the floor lay two boys of fourteen, who continued shouting and laughing after the others had at length become quiet. Some one soon said to one of them
“You had better stop your noise; Frank says he’ll be damn’d if he don’t come in and give you, a hiding.” Frank was trying to sleep upon the gallery.
`By God,” the boy cried, raising himself, and drawing a coat from under the pillow, “if he comes in here, I’ll be damn’d if I don’t kill him. He dare not come in here. I would like to see him come in here,” drawing from his coat pocket a revolver, and cocking it. “By God, you may come in here now. Come in here, come in here! Do you hear that?” revolving the pistol rapidly. “God damn me, if I don’t kill you, if you come near the door.”
This continued without remonstrance for some time, when he lay down, asking his companion for a light for his pipe, and continuing the noisy conversation until we fell asleep. The previous talk had 13 en much of knife and pistol fights which had taken place in the county. The same boy was obliging and amiable next morning, assisting us to bring in and saddle the horses at our departure.
One of the men here was a Yankee, who had lived so long in the Slave States that he had added to his original ruralisms a very complete collection of Southernisms, some of which were of the richest we met with. He had been in the Texas Rangers, and, speaking of the West, said he had been round the head of the Guadalupe “heaps and cords of times,” at the same time giving us a very picturesque account of the county. Speaking of wolves, he informed us that on the San Jacinto shore were “any dimensions of them.” Obstinacy, in his vocabulary, was represented by “damnation cussedness.” He was unable to conceive of us in any other light than as two peddlers who had mistaken their ground in coming here.
At another house where we stopped (in which, by the way, we ate our supper by the light of pine knots blazing in the chimney, with an apology for the absence of candles), we heard some conversation upon a negro of the neighborhood who had been sold to a free negro and who refused to live with him, saying he wouldn’t be a servant to a nigger. All agreed that he was right, although the man was well known to be kind to his negroes and would always sell any of them who wished it. The, slave had been sold because he wouldn’t mind. “If I had a negro that wouldn’t mind,” said the woman of the house, “I d break his head, or I’d sell him. I wouldn’t have one about me.” Her own servant was standing behind her. “I do think it would be better if there wasn’t any niggers in the world, they do behave so bad, some of ’em. They steal just like hogs.”
We inquired about the free negroes of whom they were speaking, and were told that there were a number in the county, all mulattoes, who had come from Louisiana. Some of them owned many negroes and large stocks. There were some white people, good-for-nothing people,that married in with them, but they couldn’t live in Texas after it; all went over into Louisiana. They knew of no law excluding free negroes from the State; if there were any such law, no one here cared for it.
This county has been lately the scene of events which prove that it must have contained a much larger number of free negroes and persons of mixed blood than we were informed on the spot, in spite of the very severe statute forbidding their introduction, which has been backed by additional legislative penalties in 1856. Banded together, they have been able to resist the rower, not only of the legal authorities, but of a local ‘ Vigilance Committee,” which gave them a certain number of hours to leave the State, and a guerrilla of skirmishes and murders has been carried on for many months upon the banks of the Sabine, with the revival of the old names of “Moderators and Regulators,” of the early Texans.
The feud appears to have commenced with the condemnation, by a justice of the peace, of a free mulatto named Samuel Ashworth to receive twenty-five lashes on a charge of malicious killing of his neighbor’s hogs and of impertinent talking. The Ashworths were a rich mulatto family, settled in Texas in the earliest days of the Republic, and exempted by special mention from the operation of the law forbidding residence to free negroes. They are now three and four generations removed from black blood, and have had a reputation for great hospitality, keeping open house for all who call. The member of the family who was condemned to the indignity of being publicly whipped, rose upon his guard while in the hands of the sheriff and escaped. In a few days after, he returned with a mulatto companion and shot the man on whose testimony he was condemned. Upon this the Vigilante Committee was organized, and the sheriff, who was suspected of connivance at the escape of Ashworth, and all the Ashworth family with their relatives and supporters, summoned to leave the county on pain of death. On the other hand, all free men of color on the border, to the number of one hundred and fifty, or more, joined with a few whites and Spaniards, formed an organized band and defied the Committee, and then ensued a series of assassinations, burnings of houses and saw-mills and open fights. The Moderators, or Committee-men, became strong enough to range the county and demand that every man capable of bearing arms should join them or quit the county on pain of death. This increased the resistance and the bloody retaliation, and at the last accounts they were laying regular siege to the house of a family who had refused to join them. Thirty families had been compelled to leave the county, and murders were still occurring every week. Among those killed were two strangers traveling through the county; also the deputy sheriff, and the sheriff himself, who was found concealed under the floor of a lonely house with a quantity of machinery for the issue of false money, and instantly shot; the proprietor of the house, defending himself revolver in hand, fell pierced with many balls. The aid of the military power of the State had been invoked by the legal authorities; but the issue I have not seen in the newspapers.
FREDERICK LAW OLMSTED,
AUTHOR OF “A JOURNEY IN THE ‘SEABOARD SLAVE STATES,”
” A JOURNEY IN TEXAS,” ” WALKS AND TALKS OF
AN AMERICAN FARMER IN ENGLAND,” ETC.
NEW YORK :
PUBLISHED BY MASON BROTHERS,
5 AND 7 MERCER STREET.
LONDON: SAMPSON LOW, SON & CO., 47 LUDGATE HILL
THE VALLEY OF THE LOWER MISSISSIPPI
A COTTON MAN.
A DEEP notch of sadness marks in my memory the morning of the May day on which I rode out of the chattering little town of Bayou Sara, and I recollect little of its suburbs but the sympathetic cloud-shadows slowly going before me over the hill of St. Francis. At the top is an old French hamlet, and a very American tavern.
One from among the gloomy, staring loungers at the door, as I pass, throws himself upon a horse, and overtaking me, checks his pace to keep by my side. I turn toward him, and full of aversion for the companionship of a stranger, nod, in such a manner as to say, ‘ Your equality is acknowledged; go on.” Not a nod; not the slightest deflection of a single line in the austere countenance; not a ripple of radiance in the sullen eyes, which wander slowly over, and, at distinct intervals, examine my horse, my saddle-bags, my spurs, lariat, gloves, finally my face, with such stern deliberation that at last I should not be sorry if he would speak. But he does not; does not make the smallest response to a further turning of my head, which acknowledges the reflex interest excited in my own mind; his eyes remain fixed upon me, as if they were dead. I can no longer endure it in silence, so I ask, in a voice attuned to his apparent humor.
“How far to Woodville?”
The only reply is a slight grunt, with an elevation of the chin.
“You don’t know?”
“Never been there?”
“I can ride there before night, I suppose?”
“Good walker, your horse?”
Not a nod.
“I thought mine pretty good.”
Not a sneer, or a gleam of vanity, and Belshazzar and I warmed up together. Scott’s man of leather occurred to my mind, and I felt sure that I could guess my man’s chord. I touched it, and in a moment he became animated, civil; hospitable even. I was immediately informed that this was a famous cotton region; “when it was first settled up by ‘Mericans, used to be reckoned the gardying of the world, the almightiest rich side God Almighty ever shuck down; gettin’ thinned down powerful fast now, though; nothin’ to what it was. All on’t owned by big-bugs.” Finally he confided to me that he was an overseer for one of them, “one of the biggest sort.” This greatest of the local hemipteras was not now on his plantation, but had “gone North to Paris or Saratogy, or some of them places.”
Wearing no waistcoat, the overseer carried a pistol, without a thought of concealment, in the fob of his trowsers. The distance to Woodville, which, after he had exhausted his subject of cotton, I again tried to ascertain, he did not know, and would not attempt to guess. The ignorance of the more brutalized slaves is often described by saying of them that they can not count above twenty. I find many of the whites but little more intelligent. At all events, it is rarely that you meet, in the plantation districts, a man, whether white or black, who can give you any clear information about the roads, or the distances between places in his own vicinity. While in or near Bayou Sara and St. Francisville, I asked, at different times, ten men, black and white, the distance to Woodville (the next town to the northward on the map). None answered with any appearance of certainty, and those who ventured to give an opinion, differed in their estimates as much as ten miles. I found the actual distance to be, I think, about twenty-four miles. After riding by my side for a mile or two, the overseer suddenly parted from me at a fork in the road, with hardly more ceremony than he had used in joining me.
THE LANDSCAPE.-ROSE HEDGES.
For some miles about St. Francisville the landscape has an open, suburban character, with residences indicative of rapidly accumulating wealth, and advancement in luxury among the proprietors. For twenty miles to the north
of the town, there is on both sides a succession of large sugar and cotton plantations. Much land still remains uncultivated, however. The roadside fences are generally hedges of roses—Cherokee and sweet brier. These are planted first by the side of a common rail fence, which, while they are young, supports them in the manner of a trellis; as they grow older they fall each way and mat together, finally forming a confused, sprawling, slovenly thicket often ten feet in breadth and four to six feet high. Trumpet creepers, grapevines, green-briers, and in very rich soil, cane, grow up through the mat of roses, and add to its strength. It is not as pretty as a trimmer hedge, yet very agreeable, and the road being sometimes narrow, deep and lane-like, delightful memories of England were often brought to mind.
There were frequent groves of magnolia grandiflora, large trees, and every one in the glory of full blossom. The magnolia does not, however, show well in masses, and those groves, not unfrequently met, were much finer where the beech, elm and liquid amber formed the body and the magnolias stood singly out, magnificent chandeliers of fragrance. The large-leafed magnolia, extremely beautiful at this season of the year, was more rarely seen.
The soil seems generally rich, though much washed off the higher ground. The cultivation is directed with some care to prevent this. Young pine trees, however, and other indications of impoverishing agriculture, are seen on many plantations.
The soil is a sandy loam, so friable that the negroes, always working in large gangs, superintended by a driver with a whip, continued their hoeing in the midst of quite smart showers, and when the road had become a poaching mud.
Only once did I see a gang which had been allowed to discontinue its work on account of the rain. This was after a very heavy thunder-shower, and the appearance of the negroes whom I met crossing the road in returning too the field, from the gin-house to which they had retreated, was remarkable.
First came, led by an old driver carrying a whip, forty of the largest and strongest women I ever saw together; they were all in a simple uniform dress of a bluish check stuff, the skirts reaching little below the knee; their legs and feet were bare; they carried themselves loftily, each having a hoe over the shoulder, and walking with a free, powerful swing, like chasseurs on the march. Behind them came the cavalry, thirty strong, mostly men, but a few of them women, two of whom rode astride on the plow mules. A lean and vigilant white overseer, on a brisk pony, brought up the rear. The men wore small blue Scotch bonnets, many of the women handkerchiefs, turban-fashion, and a few nothing at all on their heads.
The slaves generally of this district appear uncommonly well—doubtless, chiefly, because the wealth of their owners has enabled them to select the best from the yearly exportations of Virginia and Kentucky, but also because they are systematically well fed.
The plantation residences were of a cottage class, sometimes with extensive and tasteful grounds about them.
An old gentleman, sensible, polite, and communicative, and a favorable sample of the wealthy planters, who rode a short distance with me, said that many of the proprietors were absentees—some of the plantations had dwellings only for the negroes and the overseer. He called my attention to a field of cotton which, he said, had been ruined by his overseer’s laziness. The negroes had been permitted at a critical time to be too careless in their hoeing, and it was now impossible to recover the ground thus lost. Grass grew so rampantly in this black soil that if it once got a good-start ahead, you could never overtake it. That was the devil of a rainy season. Cotton could stand drouth better than it could grass*
* “FINE PROSPECT FOR HAY.—While riding by a field the other day which looked as rich and green as a New England meadow, we observed to a man sitting on the fence, ‘You have a fine prospect for hay, neighbor.’ ‘Hay! that’s cotton, sir,’ said he, with an emotion that betrayed an excitement which we cared to provoke no further; for we had as soon sport with a rattlesnake in the blind days of August as a farmer at this season of the year, badly in the grass.***
“All jesting aside, we have never known so poor a prospect for cotton in this region. In some instances the fields are clean and well worked, but the cotton is diminutive in size and sickly in appearance. We have seen some fields so foul that it was almost impossible to tell what had been planted.
“All this backwardness is attributable to the cold, wet weather that we have had almost constantly since the planting season commenced. When there was a warm spell, it was raining so that plows could not run to any advantage; so, between the cold and the rain, the cotton crop is very unpromising.***
“The low, flat lands this year have suffered particularly. Thoroughly saturated all the time, and often overflowed, the crops on them are small and sickly, while the weeds and grass are luxurious and rank.
“A week or two of dry hot weather will make a wonderful change in our agricultural prospects, but we have no idea that any sort of seasons could bring the cotton to more than an average crop.”—Hernando (Mies.) Advance, June 22, 1854.
The inclosures are not often of less area than a hundred acres. Fewer than fifty negroes are seldom found on a plantation; many muster by the hundred. In general the fields are remarkably free from weeds and well tilled.
I arrived shortly after dusk at Woodville, a well-built and pleasant court-town, with a small but pretentious hotel. Court was in session, I fancy, for the house was filled with guests of somewhat remarkable character. The landlord was inattentive, and, when followed up, inclined to be uncivil. At the ordinary—supper and breakfast alike—there were twelve men beside myself, all of them wearing black cloth coats, black cravats and satin or embroidered silk waistcoats; all, too, sleek as if just from a barber’s hands, and redolent of perfumes, which really had the best of it with exhalations of the kitchen. Perhaps it was because I was not in the regulation dress that I found no one ready to converse with me and could obtain not the slightest information about my road, even from the landlord.
I might have left Woodville with more respect for this decorum if I had not, when shown by a servant to my room, found two beds in it, each of which proved to be furnished with soiled sheets and greasy pillows, nor was it without reiterated demands and bribery of the servant that I succeeded in getting them changed on the one I selected. A gentleman of embroidered waistcoat took the, other bed as it was with no apparent reluctance soon after I had effected my arrangements. One wash-bowl and a towel which had already been used was expected to answer for both of us, and would have done so but that I carried a private towel in my saddle-bags. Another requirement of a civilized household was wanting, and its only substitute unavailable with decency.
The bill was excessive and the hostler, who had left the mud of yesterday hanging all along the inside of Belshazzar’s legs, and who had put the saddle on so awkwardly that I resaddled him myself after he had brought him to the door, grumbled in presence of the landlord at the smallness of the gratuity which I saw fit to give him.
The country for some distance north of Woodville, is the most uneven, for a non-mountainous region, I ever saw. The road seems well-engineered, yet you are nearly all the time mounting or descending the sides of protuberances or basins, ribs or dikes. In one place it follows along the top of a crooked ridge as steep-sided and regular for nearly a quarter of a mile as a high railroad embankment. A man might jump off anywhere and land thirty feet below. The ground being too rough here for cultivation, the dense native forest remains intact.
“IMPORTANT TO BUSINESS MEN.”
This ridge, a man told me, had been a famous place for robberies. It is not far from the Mississippi bottoms.
“Thar couldn’t be,” said he, “a better location for a feller that wanted to foller that business. There was one chap there a spell ago who built himself a cabin t’other side the river. He used to, come over in a dug-out. He could paddle his dug-out up the swamp, you see, to within two mile of the ridge; then, when he stopped a man, he’d run through the woods to his dug-out, and before the man could get help, he’d be t’other side the Mississippi, a sittin’ in his house as honest as you be.”
The same man had another story of the ridge:
“Mr. Allen up here caught a runaway once, and started to take him down to Woodville to the jail. He put him in irons and carried him along in his waggin. The nigger was peaceable and submissive till they got along onto that yer ridge place. When they got thar, all of a sudden he gin a whoop like, and over he went twenty foot plum down the side of the ridge. ‘Fore Allen could stop his hoss he’d tumbled and rolled himself ‘way out of sight. He started right away arter him, but he never cotched a sight on him again.”
HILL-SIDE COTTON CULTURE.
Not far north of the ridge plantations are found again, though the character of the surface changes but little. The hill-sides are so plowed that each furrow forms a narrow terrace. After the first plowing, thus scientifically directed, the lines are followed in subsequent cultivation, year in and year out, so long as enough soil remains to grow cotton with profit. On the hills recently brought into cultivation, broad, serpentine ditches, having a fall of from two to four inches in a rod, have been frequently constructed; these are intended to prevent the formation of more direct gullies during heavy rains. Of course, these precautions are not perfectly successful, the cultivated hills in spite of them losing soil every year in a melancholy manner.
I passed during the day four or five large plantations, the hill-sides gullied like icebergs, stables and negro quarters all abandoned, and given up to decay.
The virgin soil is in its natural state as rich as possible. At first it is expected to bear a bale and a half of cotton to the acre, making eight or ten bales for each able field-hand. But from the cause described its productiveness rapidly decreases.
Originally, much of this country was covered by a natural growth of cane, and by various nutritious grasses. A good northern farmer would deem it a crying shame and sin to attempt to grow any crops upon such steep slopes, except grasses or shrubs which do not require tillage. The waste of soil which attends the practice is much greater than it would be at the North, and, notwithstanding the unappeasable demand of the world for cotton, its bad economy, considering the subject nationally, can not be doubted.
If these slopes were thrown into permanent terraces, with turfed or stone-faced escarpments, the fertility of the soil might be preserved, even with constant tillage. In this way the hills would continue for ages to produce annual crops of greater value than those which are at present obtained from them at such destructive expense—from ten to twenty crops of cotton rendering them absolute deserts. But with negroes at $1000 a head and fresh land in Texas at $1 an acre, nothing of this sort can be thought of. The time will probably come when the soil now washing into the adjoining swamps will be brought back by our descendants, perhaps on their heads, in pots and baskets, in the manner Huc describes in China, which may be seen also in the Rhenish vineyards, to be relaid on the sunny slopes, to grow the luxurious cotton in.
The plantations are all large, but, except in their size and rather unusually good tillage, display few signs of wealthy proprietorship. The greater number have but small and mean residences upon them. No poor white people live upon the road, nor in all this country of rich soils are they seen, except en voyage. In a distance of seventy-five miles I saw no houses without negro-cabins attached, , and I calculated that there were fifty slaves, on an average, to every white family resident in the country under my view. There is a small sandy region about Woodville, which I passed through after nightfall, and which of course my note does not include.
I called in the afternoon, at a house, almost the only one I had seen during the day which did not appear to be the residence of a planter or overseer, to obtain lodging., No one was at home but a negro woman and children. The woman said that her master never took in strangers; there was a man a few miles further on who did; it was ‘ the only place she knew of where I was likely to be entertained.
I found the place: probably the proprietor was the poorest white man whose house I had passed during the day, but he had several slaves; one of them, at least, a first-class man, worth $2,000.
Just before me, another traveler, a Mr. S., from beyond Natchez, had arrived. Learning that I was from Texas, he immediately addressed me with volubility:
“Ah! then you can tell us something about it, and I would be obliged to you if you would. Have you been out west about Antonio? Ranchering’s a good business, eh, out west there, isn’t it? Can a man make thirty per cent by it, eh? I hear so; should think that would be a good business. But how much capital ought a man to have to go into ranchering, good, eh? so, as to make it a good business?”
He was a middle-aged, well-dressed man, devouring tobacco prodigiously, nervous and wavering in his manner, asking questions, a dozen at a breath, and paying no heed to the answers. He owned a plantation in the bottoms, and another on the upland; the latter was getting worn out, it was too unhealthy for him to live in the bottoms, and so, as he said, he had had “a good notion to go into ranchering, just for ease and pleasure.”
“Fact is, though, I’ve got a family, and this is no country for children to be raised in. All the children get such foolish notions. I don’t want my children to be brought up here—ruins everybody; does sir, sure—spoils ’em; too bad; ’tis so, too bad; can’t make any thing of children here, sir—can’t sir; fact.”
He had been nearly persuaded to purchase a large tract of land at a point upon a certain creek where, he had been told, was a large court-house, an excellent school, etc. The waters of the creek he named are brackish, the neighboring country is a desert and the only inhabitants, savages. Some knavish speculator had nearly got a customer, but could not quite prevail on him to purchase until he examined the country personally. He gave me no time to tell him how false was the account he had had, but went on, after describing its beauties and advantages:
“But negro property isn’t very secure there, I’m told. How is’t? Know?”
“Not at all secure, sir; if it is disposed to go, it will go —the only way you could keep it would be to make it always contented to remain. The road would always be open to Mexico; it would go when it liked.”
“So I hear. Only way is, to have young ones there and keep their mothers here, eh? negroes have such attachments, you know; don’t you think that would fix ’em, eh? No? No, I suppose not; if they got mad at any thing, they’d forget their mothers, eh? Yes, I suppose they would; can’t depend on niggers; but I reckon they’d come back; only be worse off in Mexico—eh?”
“Being free, eh? get tired of that, I should think—nobody to take care of them. No, I suppose not; learn to take care of themselves.”
Then he turned to our host and began to ask him about the neighbors, many of whom he had known when he was a boy, and been at school with. A sorry account he got of nearly all. Generally they had run through their property; their lands had passed into new hands; their negroes had been disposed of; two were now, he thought, “strikers” for gamblers in Natchez.
“What is a striker?” I asked the landlord at the first opportunity.
“Oh! to rope in fat fellows for the gamblers; they don’t do that themselves, but get somebody else. I don’t know as it is so; all I know is, they don’t have no business,’ not till late at night; they never stir out till late at night, and nobody knows how they live, and that’s what I expectthey do. Fellows that come into town flush, you know—sold out their cotton and are flush—they always think they must see every thing, and try their hands at every thing—these fellows bring ’em in to the gamblers, and get ’em tight for ’em, you know.”
“How’s _____ got along since his father died?” asked
“Well, ______’s been unfortunate. Got mad with his overseer; thought he was lazy and packed him off; then he undertook to oversee for himself, and he was unfortunate. Had two bad crops. Finally the sheriff took about half his niggers. He tried to work the plantation with the rest, but they was old, used-up hands, and he got mad that they would not work more, and tired o’ seein”em, and ‘fore the end of the year he sold ’em all.”
A MISSISSIPPI FAST MAN.
Another young man, of whom he spoke, had had his property managed for him by a relative till he came of age, and had been sent North to college. Two years previously he returned and got it into his own hands, and the first year he ran it in debt $16,000. He had now put it back into the hands of his relative to manage, but continued to live upon it. “I see,” continued our host, “every time any of their teams are coming back from town they fetch a barrel or a demijohn. There is a parcel of fellows, who, when they can’t liquor anywhere else, always go to him.”
“But how did he manage to spend so much the first year—in gambling?”
“Well, he gambled some and he run horses. He don’t know anything about a horse, and of course he thinks he knows every thing. Those fellows up at Natchez would sell him any kind of a tacky for four or five hundred dollars, and then after he’d had him a month, they’d ride out another and make a bet of five or six hundred dollars they’d beat him. Then he’d run with ’em, and of course he’d lose it.”
“But sixteen thousand dollars is a large sum of money to be worked off even in that way in a year,” I observed.
“Oh, he had plenty of other ways. He’d go into a barroom, and get tight and commence to break things. They’d let him go on, and the next morning hand him a bill for a hundred dollars. He thinks that’s a smart thing, and just laughs and pays it, and then treats all around again.”
By one and the other, many stories were then told of similar follies of young men. Among the rest, this:
A certain man had, as was said to be the custom when running for office, given an order at a grocery for all to be “treated” who applied in his name. The grocer, after the election, which resulted in the defeat of the treater, presented what was thought an exorbitant bill. He refused to pay it, and a lawsuit ensued. A gentleman in the witness box being asked if he thought it possible for the whole number of people taking part in the election to have consumed the quantity of liquor alleged, answered:
“Moy Goad! Judge” (reproachfully). “Yes, sir! Why, I’ve been charged for a hundred and fifty drinks ‘fore breakfast, when I’ve stood treat, and I never thought o’ disputin’ it.”
At supper, Mr. S., looking at the daughter of our host, said:
“What a pretty girl that is. My dear, do you find any schools to go to out here—eh? I reckon not. This isn’t the country for schools. There’ll not be a school in Mississippi ‘fore long, I reckon; nothing but Institutes, eh? Ha! ha! ha! Institutes, humph! Don’t believe there’s a school between this and Natchez, is there?”
“Of course there isn’t.” *
“What sort of a country is it, then, between here and Natchez?” I asked. “I should suppose it would be well settled.”
* “Sectional excitement” has given a great impetus to educational projects in the South, and the Mississippi newspapers about this time contained numerous advertisements of a similar character to the following:
CALHOUN INSTITUTE—FOR YOUNG LADIES; MACON, ISIOXUBEE COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI.— W. R. POINDEXTER, A.M., Principal and Proprietor.— The above School, formerly known as the “Macon Female Institute,” will be reopened on the first of October, 1855, with an entirely new corps of teachers from Principal down. Having purchased the property at public sale, and thus become sole proprietor, the Principal has determined to use all means he can now command, as well as he may realize for several years yet to come, in buildings, refitting and procuring such appurtenances as shall enable him to contribute his full quota, as a professional man, to the progress of the great cause of “SOUTHERN EDUCATION.”
“Big plantations, sir, nothing else—aristocrats; swell-heads I call them, sir—nothing but swell-heads, and you can’t get a night’s lodging, sir. Beyond the ferry, I’ll be bound, a man might die on the road ‘fore he’d get a lodging with one of them, eh, Mr. N.? so, isn’t it? ‘Take a stranger in, and I’ll clear you out!’ That’s the rule. That’s what they tell their overseers, eh? Yes sir; just so inhospitable as that—swell-heads! swell-heads, sir, every plantation—can’t get a meal of victuals or a night’s lodging from one of them, I don’t suppose, not if your life depended on it. Can you, Mr. N.?’
“Well, I believe Mr. —, his place is right on the road, and it’s half way to the ferry, and I believe he tells his overseer if a man comes and wants something to eat, he must give it to him, but he must not take any pay for it, because strangers must have something to eat. They start out of Natchez, thinking it’s as ’tis in other countries; that there’s houses along, where they can get a meal, and so they don’t provide for themselves, and when they get along about there, they are sometimes desperate hungry. Had to be something done.”
“Do the planters not live themselves on their plantations?”
“Why, a good many of them has two or three plantations, but they don’t often live on any of them.”
“Must have ice for their wine, you see,” said Mr. S., “or they’d die; and so they have to live in Natchez or New Orleans; a good many of them live in New Orleans.”
“And in summer they go up into Kentucky, do they not? I’ve seen country houses there which were said to belong to cotton-planters from Mississippi.”
“No, sir; they go North, to New York, and Newport, and Saratoga, and Cape May, and Seneca Lake—somewhere that they can display themselves worse than they do here; Kentucky is no place for that. That’s the sort of people, sir, all the way from here to Natchez, and all round Natchez, too, and in all this section of country where there’s good land. Good God! I wouldn’t have my children educated, sir, among them, not to have them as rich as Dr. —, every one of them. You can know their children as far off as you can see them—young swell‑heads! You’ll take note of ’em in Natchez. Why, you can tell them by their walk; I noticed it yesterday at the Mansion House. They sort o’ throw out their legs as if they hadn’t got strength enough to lift ’em and put them down in any particular place. They do want so bad to look as if they weren’t made of the same clay as the rest of God’s creation.”
Some allowance is of course to be made for the splenetic temperament of this gentleman, but facts evidently afford a justification of his sarcasms. And this is easily accounted for. The farce of the vulgar-rich has its foundation in Mississippi, as in New York and in Manchester, in the rapidity with which certain values have advanced, especially that of cotton, and, simultaneously, that of cotton lands and negroes.*
* As “a Southern lawyer,” writing for Harper’s- Weekly (February, 1859) observes: “The sudden acquisition of wealth in the cotton-growing region of the United States, in many instances by planters commencing with very limited means, is almost miraculous. Patient, industrious, frugal, and self-denying, nearly the entire amount of their cotton-crops is devoted to the increase of their capital. The result is, in a few years large estates, as if by magic, are accumulated. The fortunate proprietors then build fine houses, and surround themselves with comforts and luxuries to Which they were strangers in their earlier years of care and toil.”
Of course, there are men of refinement and cultivation among the rich planters of Mississippi, and many highly estimable and intelligent persons outside of the. wealthy class, but the number of such is smaller in proportion to that of the immoral, vulgar, and ignorant newly-rich, than in any other part of the United States. And herein is a radical difference between the social condition of this region and that ‘of the sea-board slave States, where there are fewer wealthy families, but where, among the people of wealth, refinement and education are much more general.
I asked how rich the sort of men were of whom he spoke.
“Why, sir, from a hundred thousand to ten million.”
“Do you mean that between here and Natchez there are none worth less than a hundred thousand dollars?” “No, sir, not beyond the ferry. Why, any sort of a plantalon is worth a hundred thousand dollars; the niggers would sell for that.”
“How many negroes are there on these plantations?” “From fifty to a hundred.”
“Never over one hundred?”
“No; when they’ve increased to a hundred they always divide them; stock another plantation. There are sometimes three or four plantations adjoining one another, with an overseer for each, belonging to the same man; but that isn’t general—in general, they have to strike off for new land.”
“How many acres will a hand tend here?”
“About fifteen—ten of cotton, and five of corn; some pretend to make them tend twenty.”
“And what is the usual crop?”
“A bale and a half to the acre on fresh land and in the bottom. From four to eight bales to a hand they generally get; sometimes ten and better, when they are lucky.”
“A bale and a half on fresh land? How much on old?”
“Well, you can’t tell—depends on how much it’s worn and what the season is, so much. Old land, after a while, isn’t worth bothering with.”
“Do most of these large planters who live so freely anticipate their crops as the sugar planters are, said to—spend the money, I mean, before the crop is sold?”
“Yes, sir, and three and four crops ahead generally.”
“Are most of them the sons of rich men? are they old estates?”
“No, sir; many of them were overseers themselves once.”
“Well, have you noticed whether it is a fact that these large properties seldom continue long in the same family? Do the grandsons of wealthy planters often become poor men?”
“Generally the sons do; almost always their sons are fools, and soon go through with it.”
“If they don’t kill themselves before their fathers die,” said the other.
“Yes; they drink hard and gamble, and of course that brings them into fights.”
This was while they were smoking on the gallery after supper. I walked to the stable to see how my horse was provided for; when I returned they were talking of negroes who had died of yellow fever while confined in the jail at Natchez. Two of them were spoken of as having been thus “happily released,” being under sentence of death, and unjustly so, in their opinion.
THE LOWER LAW.
A man living in this vicinity having taken a runaway while the fever was raging in the jail, a physician advised him not to send him there. He did not, and the negro escaped; was sometime afterward recaptured, and the owner learned from him that he had been once taken and not detained according to law. Being a patriotic man, he made a journey to inquire into the matter, and was very angry. He said, “Whenever you catch a nigger again, you send him to jail; no matter what’s to be feared. If he dies in the jail, you are not responsible. You’ve done your duty, and you can leave the rest to Providence.”
“That was right, too,” said Mr. P. “Yes, he ought to a’ minded the law; then if he’d died in jail, he’d know ’twasn’t his fault.
Next morning, near the ferry house, I noticed a set of stocks, having holes for the head as well as the ankles; they stood unsheltered and unshaded in the open road.
I asked an old negro what it was.
“Dat ting, massa?” grinning; “well, sah, we calls dat a ting to put black people, niggers, in, when dey misbehaves bad, and to put runaways in, sah. Heaps o’ runaways, dis country, sah. Yes, sah, heaps on ’em round here.”
Mr. S. and I slept in the same room. I went to bed some time before him; he sat up late, to smoke, he said. He woke me when he came in, by his efforts to barricade the door with our rather limited furniture. The room being small, and without a window, I expostulated. He acknowledged it would probably make us rather too warm, but he shouldn’t feel safe if the door were left open. “You don’t know,” said he; “there may be runaways around.”
He then drew two small revolvers, hitherto concealed under his clothing, and began to examine the caps. He was certainly a nervous man, perhaps a madman. I suppose he saw some expression of this in my face, for he said, placing them so the, could be easily taken up as he lay in bed, “Sometimes a man has a use for them when he least expects it. There was a gentleman on this road a few days ago; he was going to Natchez. He overtook a runaway, and he says to him, ‘bad company’s better’n none, boy, and I reckon I’ll keep you along with me into
Natchez.’ The nigger appeared to be pleased to have company, and went along, talking with him, very well, till they came to a thicket place about six miles from Natchez, and then he told him he reckoned he would not go any further with him. ‘What! you black rascal,’ says he; ‘you mean you won’t go in with me; you step out and go straight ahead, and if you turn your face till you get into Natchez, I’ll shoot you. “Ahal massa,’ says the nigger, mighty good-natured, ‘I reckon you haint got no shootin’ irons, and he bolted off into the thicket, and got away from him.”
The carpentry of the house, as usual, was so bad that we did not suffer at all perceptibly for ventilation.
At breakfast, Mr. S. came rather late. He bowed his head as he took his seat, and closed his eyes for a second or two; then, withdrawing his quid of tobacco and throwing it in the fireplace, he looked round with a smile, and said:
“I always think it a good plan to thank the Lord for His mercies. I’m afraid some people’ll think I’m a member of the church. I aint, and never was. Wish I was. I am a Son, though [of Temperance?] Give me some water, girl; coffee first—never too soon for coffee. And never too late, I say. Wait for any thing but coffee. These swell-heads drink their coffee after they’ve eaten all their dinner. I want it with dinner, eh? Don’t nothing taste good without coffee, I reckon.”
Before he left, he invited me to visit his plantations, giving me careful directions to find them, and saying that if he should not have returned before I reached them, his wife and his overseer would give me every attention if I would tell them he told me to visit them. He said again, and in this connection, that he believed this was the most inhospitable country in the world, and asked, “as I had been a good deal of a traveler, didn’t I think so myself? I answered that my experience was much too small to permit me to form an opinion so contrary to that generally held.
If they had a reputation for hospitality, he said, it could only be among their own sort. They made great swell-head parties; and when they were on their plantation places, they made it a point to have a great deal of company; they would not have any thing to do if they didn’t. But they were all swell-heads, I might be sure; they’d never ask anybody but a regular swell-head to see them. His own family, however, seemed not to be excluded from the swell-head society.
Among numerous anecdotes illustrative of the folly of his neighbors, or his own prejudices and jealousy, I remember none which it would be proper to publish but the following:
REFUSING A NOBLE TITLE.
“Do you remember a place you passed [describing the locality]?”
“Yes,” said I; “a nice house, with a large garden, and a lawn with some statues or vases in it.”
“I think it likely; got a foreign gardener, I expect; that’s all the fashion with them; a nigger isn’t good enough for them. Well, that belongs to Mr. A. J. Clayborn. He’s got to be a very rich man; I suppose he’s got as many as five hundred people on all his places. He went out to Europe a few years ago, and sometime after he came back, be came up to Natchez. I was there with my wife at the same time, and as she and Mrs. Clayborn came from the same section of the country, and used to know each other when they were girls, she thought she must go and see her. Mrs. Clayborn could not talk about any thing but the great people they had seen in. Europe. She was telling of some great nobleman’s castle they went to, and the splendid park there was to it, and how grandly they lived. For her part, she admired it so much, and they made so many friends among the people of quality, she said, she didn t care if they always staid there; in fact, she really wanted Mr. Clayborn to buy one of the castles, and be a nobleman himself; ‘but he wouldn’t,’ says she; ‘he’s such a strong Democrat, you know.’ Ha! Ha! Ha! I wonder what old Tom Jeff would have said to these swell-head Democrats.’
WHERE ARE ALL THE PEOPLE?
I asked him if there were no poor people in this country. I could see no houses which seemed to belong to poor people.
“Of course not, sir—every inch of the land bought up by the swell-heads on purpose to keep them away. But you go back on to the pine ridge. Good Lord! I’ve heard a heap about the poor folks at the North; but if you ever saw any poorer people than them, I should like to know what they live on. Must be a miracle if they live at all. I don’t see how these people live, and I’ve wondered how they do a great many times. Don’t raise corn enough, great many of them, to keep a shoat alive through the winter. There’s no way they can live, ‘less they steal.”
EXPERIENCE OF A FOREIGN TOURIST.
At the ferry of the Homochitto I fell in with a German, originally from Dusseldorf, whence he came seventeen years ago, first to New York; afterward he had resided successively in Baltimore, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Pensacola, Mobile and Natchez. By the time he reached the last place he had lost all his money. Going to work as a laborer in the town, he soon earned enough again to set him up as a trinket peddler; and a few months afterward he was able to buy “a leetle coach-dray.” Then, he said, he made money fast; for he would go back into the country, among the poor people, and sell them trinkets, and calico, and handkerchiefs, and patent medicines. They never had any money. “All poor folks,” he said; “dam poor; got no money; oh no; but I say, dat too bad, I don’t like to balk you, my friend; may be so, you got some egg, some Tedder, some cheeken, some rag, some sass, or some skin vot you kill. I takes dem dings vot they have, and ven I gets my load I cums to Natchez back and sells dem, always dwo or dree times so much as dey coss me; and den I buys some more goods. Not bad beesness—no. Oh, dese poor people dey deenk me is von fool yen I buy some dime deir rag vat dey bin year; dey calls me de ole Dutch cuss. But dey don’t know nottin’ vot it is vorth. I deenk dey never see no money; may be so dey” geev all de cheeken vot dey been got for a leetle breastpin vot cost me not so much as von beet. Sometime dey be dam crazy fool; dey know not how do make de count at all. Yees, I makes some money, a heap.”
From the Homochitto to the suburbs of Natchez, a good half day’s ride, I found the country beautiful; fewer hills than before, the soil very rich, and the land almost all inclosed in plantations, the roadside boundaries of which are old rose-hedges. The road is well constructed; often, in passing through the hills, with high banks on each side, coped with thick and dark, but free and sportive hedges, out of which avenues of trees growing carelessly and bending angel-like over the traveler, the sentiment of the most charming Herefordshire lanes is reproduced. There are also frequent woods, of a park-like character in their openness; the trees chiefly oak, and of great height. Sometimes they have been inclosed with neat palings, and slightly and tastily thinned out, so as to form noble grounds around the residences of the planters, which are always cottages or very simple and unostentatious mansions. Near two of these are unusually good ranges of negro-houses. On many of the plantations, perhaps most, no residence is visible from the road, and the negro-quarters, when seen, are the usual comfortless cabins.
Within three miles of the town the country is entirely occupied by houses and grounds of a villa character; the grounds usually exhibiting a paltry taste, with miniature terraces, and trees and shrubs planted and trimmed with no regard to architectural and landscape considerations. There is, however, an abundance of good trees, much beautiful shrubbery, and the best hedges and screens of evergreen shrubs that I have seen in America. The houses are not remarkable.
I was amused to recognize specimens of the “swell-head” fraternity, as described by my nervous friend, as soon as I got into the villa district. First came two boys in a skeleton wagon, pitching along with a racking pony, which ran over Jude; she yelped, I wheeled round, and they pulled up and looked apologetic. She was only slightly hurt, but thereafter gave a quicker and broader sheer to approaching vehicles than her Texas experience had taught her to do.
Then came four indistinct beards and two old roué looking men, all trotting horses; the young fellows screaming, breaking up, and swearing. After them cantered a mulatto groom, white-gloved and neatly dressed, who, I noticed, bowed politely, lifting his hat and smiling to a ragged old negro with a wheelbarrow and shovel, on the footpath. Next came—and it was a swelteringly hot afternoon—an open carriage with two ladies taking an airing. Mr. S. had said the swell-heads had “got to think that their old mammy niggers were not good enough for their young ones”; and here, on the front seat of the carriage, was a white and veritable French bonne, holding a richly belaced baby. The ladies sat back, good-looking women enough, and prettily dressed, but marble-like in propriety, looking stealthily from the corners of their eyes without turning their heads. But the dignity of the turn-out chiefly reposed in the coachman, an obese old black man, who should have been a manufacturer of iced root-beer in a cool cellar, but who had by some means been set high up in the sun’s face on the bed-like cushion of the box, to display a great livery top-coat, with the wonted capes and velvet, buttoned brightly and tightly to the chin, of course, and crowned by the proper narrow brimmed hat, with broad band and buckle; his elbows squared, the reins and whip in his hands, the sweat in globules all over his ruefully-decorous face, and his eyes fast closed in sleep.
The houses and shops within the town itself are generally small, and always inelegant. A majority of the names on the signs are German; the hotel is unusually clean, and the servants attentive; and the stable at which I left Belshazzar is excellent, and contains several fine horses. Indeed, I never saw such a large number of fine horses as there is here, in any other town of the size. In the stable and the hotel there is a remarkable number of young men, extraordinarily dressed, like New York clerks on their Sunday excursions, all lounging or sauntering, and often calling at the bar; all smoking, all twisting lithe walking-sticks, all “talking horse.”
But the grand feature of Natchez is the bluff, terminating in an abrupt precipice over the river, with the public garden upon it. Of this I never had heard, and when, after seeing my horse dried off and eating his oats with great satisfaction—the first time he has ever tasted oats, I suppose—I strolled off to see the town, I came upon it by, surprise. I entered a gate and walked up a slope, supposing that I was approaching the ridge or summit of a hill, and expecting to see beyond it a corresponding slope and the town again, continuing in terraced streets to the river. I found myself, almost at the moment I discovered that it was not so, on the very edge of a stupendous cliff, and before me an indescribably vast expanse of forest, extending on every hand to a hazy horizon, in which, directly in front of me, swung the round, red, setting sun.
Through the otherwise unbroken forest the Mississippi had, opened a passage for itself forming a perfect arc, the hither shore of the middle of the curve being hidden under the crest of the cliff, and the two ends lost in the vast obscurity of the Great West. Overlooked from such ,an eminence, the size of the Mississippi can be realized—a thing difficult under ordinary circumstances; but though the fret of a swelling torrent is not wanting, it is perceptible only as the most delicate chasing upon the broad, gleaming expanse of polished steel, which at once shamed all my previous conceptions of the appearance of the greatest of rivers. Coming closer to the edge and looking downward, you see the lower town, its roofs with water flowing all around them, and its pigmy people wading, and laboring to carry upward their goods and furniture, in danger from a rising movement of the great water. Poor people, emigrants and niggers only.
I laid down, and would have reposed my mind in the infinite vision westward, but was presently disturbed by a hog which came grunting near me, rooting in the poor turf of this wonderful garden. I rose and walked its length. Little more has been done than to inclose a space along the edge, which would have been dangerous to build upon, to cut out some curving alleys now recaptured by the grass and weeds, and to plant a few succulent trees. A road to the lower town, cutting through it, is crossed by slight wooden foot-bridges, and there are some rough plank benches, adorned with stenciled “medical” advertisements. Some shrubs are planted on the crumbling face of the cliff, so near the top that the swine can obtain access to them. A man, bearded and smoking, and a woman with him, sitting at the extreme end, were the only visitors except myself and the swine.
As I am writing there is a bustle in the street. A young man is being lifted up and carried into the bar-room. He is insensible. A beautiful mare, from which he has evidently been thrown, is led back from around the corner quivering with excitement.
I could find no reading-room; no recent newspapers except The Natchez Free Trader, which has nothing but cotton and river news, and steamboat puffs; no magazines but aged Harpers; and no recent publications of any sort are for sale or to be seen at the booksellers’; so, after supper, I went to the cliff again, and most exquisite and solemn was the scene: the young moon shining through rents in the clouds, the great gleaming crescent of water below, the dim, ungapped horizon—the earth sensibly a mere swinging globe.
Of all the town, only five Germans, sitting together, but smoking in silence, had gathered here for evening worship.
As I returned up the main street, I stepped opposite a house from which there came the sound of excellent music—a violin and piano. I had heard no music since I was in Western Texas, and I leaned upon a lamp-post for an hour, listening. Many stopped near me for a few minutes, and went on. At length, a man who had remained some time addressed me, speaking in a foreign tongue. “Can’t you speak English?” said I.
“You are not an American?”
“I should tzink it not.”
“I am; I am a New Yorker.”
“So?-O yes, perhaps, but not zis country.”
“What are you?”
“Do you live here?”
“Are there many Italians in Natchez?”
“Yes—some many—seven. All big dam rascaal. Yes. Ha! ha! ha! True. Dam rascaal all of us.”
“What do you do for a living here?”
“Fer me it is a cigar-store; fruit; confectionery.” “And the rest?”
“Oh, everytzing. I don’t expect dem be here so much long now.”
“Why :what will they do?”
“Dey all go to Cuba. Be vawr zair soon now. All go. All dam rascaal go, can go, yen ze vawr is. Good ting dat for Natchez, eh? Yes, I tzink.”
He told me the names of the players; the violinist, an Italian, he asserted to be the best in America. He resided in Natchez, I understood, as a teacher; and, I presume, the town has metropolitan advantages for instruction in all fashionable accomplishments. Yet, with a population of 18,601, the number of children registered for the public schools and academies, or “Institutes,” of the county seat, is but 1,015; and among these must be included many sent from other parts of the State, and from Arkansas and Louisiana; the public libraries contain but 2,000 volumes, and the churches seat but 7,700.*
* This may be compared with the town of Springfield, county of Sangamon, Illinois, in which, with a population of 19,228 (nearer to that of Natchez than any other ‘town I observe in the free States), the number of registered school children is 3,300, the public libraries contain 20,000 volumes, and the churches can accommodate 28,000 sitters.
Franklin, the next county in the rear of the county in which Natchez is situated (Adams), has a population of 6,000, and but 132 children attending school.
Mr. Russell (North America: its Agriculture and Climate, page 258) states that he had been led to believe that “as refined society was to be found at Natchez as in any other part of the United States,” but his personal observation was, that “the chief frequenters of the best hotel were low, drunken fellows.”
LABOR AND WAGES.—TOWN AND COUNTRY.
The first night after leaving Natchez I found lodging with a German, who, when I inquired if he could accommodate me, at once said, “Yes, sir, I make it a business to lodge travelers.”
He had a little farm, and owned four strong negro men’ and a woman and children. All his men, however, he hired out as porters or servants in Natchez, employing a white man, a native of the country, to work with him on his farm.
To explain the economy of this arrangement, he said that sane of his men earned in Natchez $30 a month clear of all expenses, and the others much more than he could ever make their labor worth to him. A negro of moderate intelligence would hire, as a house-servant, for $200 a year and his board, which was worth $8 a month; whereas he hired this white fellow, who was strong and able, for $10 a month; and he believed he got as much work out of him as he could out of a negro. If labor were worth so much as he got for that of his negroes, why did the white man not demand more? Well—he kept him in whiskey and tobacco beside his wages, and he was content. Most folks here do not like white laborers. They had only been used to have niggers do their work, and they did not know how to manage with white laborers; but he had no difficulty.
FOOD OF THE SLAVES.
I asked if $8 would cover the cost of a man’s board? He supposed it might cost him rather more than that to keep the white man; $8 was what it was generally reekoned in town to cost to keep a negro; niggers living in town or near it were expected to have “extras”; out on the plantations, where they did not get any thing but bacon and meal, of course, it did not cost so much. Did he know what it cost to keep a negro generally upon the plantations? It was generally reckoned, he said, that a nigger ought to have a peck of meal and three pounds of bacon a week; some didn’t give so much meat, but he thought it would be better to give them more.
“You are getting rich,” I said. “Are the Germans generally, hereabouts, doing well? I see there are a good many in Natchez.”
“Oh yes; anybody who is not too proud to work can get rich here.”
The next day, having ridden thirty tedious miles, about six o’clock I called at the first house standing upon or near the road which I had seen for some time, and solicited a lodging. It was refused, by a woman. How far was it to the next house? I asked her. Two miles and a half. So found it to be, but it was a deserted house, falling to decay, on an abandoned plantation. I rode several miles further, and it was growing dark and threatening rain be-f ore I came in sight of another. It was a short distance off the road, and approached by a private lane, from which it was separated by a grass plot. A well-dressed man stood between the gate and the house. I stopped and bowed to him, but he turned his back upon me and walked to the house. I opened a gate and rode in. Two men were upon the gallery, but as they paid no attention to my presence when I stopped near them, I doubted if either were the master of the house. I asked, “Could I obtain a lodging here to-night, gentlemen?” One of them answered, surlily and decidedly, “No.” I paused a moment that they might observe me—evidently a stranger benighted, with a fatigued horse, and then asked, “Can you tell me, sir, how far it is to a public house?” “I don’t know,” answered the same man. I again remained silent a moment. “No public houses in this section of the country, I reckon, sir,” said the other. “Do you know how far it is to the next house on the road, north of this?” “No,” answered one. “You’ll find one about two miles or two miles and a half from here,” said the other. “Is it a house in which I shall be likely to get a lodging, do you know?” “I don’t know, I’m sure.”
“Good night, gentlemen; you’ll excuse me for troubling you, I am entirely a stranger in this region.”
A grunt, or inarticulate monosyllable, from one of them, was the only reply, and I rode away, glad that I had not been fated to spend an evening in such company.
Soon afterward I came to a house and stables close upon the road. There was a man on the gallery playing the fiddle. I asked, “Could you accommodate me here tonight, sir?” He stopped fiddling, and turned his head toward an open door, asking, “Wants to know if you can accommodate him?” “Accommodate him with what?” demanded a harsh-toned woman’s voice. “With a bed, of course—what do you s’pose—ho! ho! ho!” and he went on fiddling again. I had, during this conversation, oh; served ranges of negro huts behind the stables, and perceived that it must be the overseer’s house of the plantation at which I had previously called. “Like master, like man,” I thought, and rode on, my inquiry not having been even answered.
I met a negro boy on the road, who told me it was about two miles to the next house, but he did not reckon that I would get in there. “How far to the next house beyond that?” “About four, miles, sir, and I reckon you can get in there, master; I’ve heard they did take in travelers to that place.”
Soon after this it began to rain and grow dark; so dark that I could not keep the road, for soon finding Belshazzar in difficulty, I got off and discovered that we were following up the dry bed of a small stream. In trying to get back I probably crossed the road, as I did not find it again, and wandered cautiously among trees for nearly an hour, at length coming to open country and a fence. Keeping this in sight, I rode on until I found a gate, entering at which I followed a nearly straight and tolerably good road full an hour, at last coming to a large negro “settlement.”
AN OVERSEER AT HOME.
I passed through it to the end of the rows, where was a cabin larger than the rest, facing on the space between the two lines of huts. A shout here brought out the overseer. I begged for a nights lodging; he was silent; I said that I had traveled far, was much fatigued and hungry; my horse was nearly knocked up; and I was a stranger in the country; I had lost my road, and only by good fortune had found my way here. At length, as I continued urging my need, he said:
`Well, I suppose you must stop, Ho, Byron! Here, Byron, take this man’s horse, and put him in my stable. ‘Light, sir, and come in.”
Within I found his wife,, a young woman, showily dressed—a caricature of the fashions of the day. Apparently, they had both been making a visit to neighbors, and but just come home. I was not received very kindly, but at the request of her husband she brought out and set be- fore me some cold corn-bread and fat bacon.
Before I had finished eating my supper, however, they both quite changed their manner, and the woman apologized for not having made coffee. The cook had gone to bed and the fire was out, she said. She presently ordered Byron, as he brought my saddle in, to get some “light-wood” and make a fire; said she was afraid I had made a poor supper, and set a chair by the fire-place for me as I drew away from the table.
I plied the man with inquiries about his business, got him interested in points of difference between Northern and Southern agriculture, and soon had him in a very sociable and communicative humor. He gave me much overseer’s lore about cotton culture, nigger and cattle maladies, the proper mode of keeping sweet potatoes, etc.; and when I proposed to ride over the plantation with him in the morning, he said he “would be very thankful of my company..
I think they gave up their own bed to me, for it was double, and had been slept in since the sheets were last changed; the room was garnished with pistols and other arms and ammunition, rolls of negro-cloth, shoes and hats, handcuffs, a large medicine chest and several books on medical and surgical subjects and farriery; while articles of both men’s and women’s wearing apparel hung against the walls, which were also decorated with some large patent-medicine posters. One of them is characteristic of the place and the times.*
*THE WASHINGTON REMEDIES-TO PLANTERS AND OTHERS—These Remedies, now offered to the public under the title of the Washington Remedies, are composed of ingredients, many of which are not even’ known to Botany. No apothecary has them for sale; they are supplied to the subscriber by the native red-men of Louisiana. The recipes by which they are compounded have descended to the present possessor, M. A. MICKLEJOHN, from ancestors who obtained them from the friendly Indian tribes, prior to and during the Revolution, and they are now offered to the public with that confidence which has been gained from a knowledge of the fact that during so long a series of years there has never been known an instance in which they have failed to perform a speedy and permanent cure. The subscribers do not profess these remedies will cure every disarrangement of the human system, but in such as are enumerated below they feel they can not fail. The directions for use have only to be strictly followed, and however despairing the patient may have been, he will find cause for blissful hope and renewed life.
These preparations are no Northern patent humbug, but are manufactured in New Orleans by a Creole, who has long used them in private practice, rescuing many unfortunate victims of disease from the grave, after they have been given up by their physicians as incurable, or have been tortured beyond endurance by laceration and painful operations.
REVIEW OF A FIRST-RATE COTTON PLANTATION.
We had a good breakfast in the morning, and immediately afterward mounted and rode to a very large cotton-field, where the whole field-force of the plantation was ‘engaged.
It was a first-rate plantation. On the highest ground stood a large and handsome mansion, but it had not been occupied for several years, and it was more than two years since the overseer had seen the owner. He lived several hundred miles away, and the overseer would not believe that I did not know him, for he was a rich man and an honorable, and had several times been where I came from —New York.
The whole plantation, including the swamp land around it, and owned with it, covered several square miles. It was four miles from the settlement to the nearest neighbor’s house. There were between thirteen and fourteen hundred acres under cultivation with cotton, corn, and other hoed crops, and two hundred hogs running at large in the swamp. It was the intention that corn and pork enough should be raised to keep the slaves and cattle. This year, however, it has been found necessary to purchase largely, and such was probably usually the case,* though the overseer intimated the owner had been displeased, and he “did not mean to be caught so bad again.”
*”The bacon is almost entirely imported from the Northern States, as well as a considerable quantity of Indian corn. This is reckoned bad management by intelligent planters••** On this plantation as much Indian corn was raised as was needed, but little bacon, which was mostly imported from Ohio. The sum annually, paid for this article was upward of eight hundred pounds. Large plantations are not suited to the rearing of hogs; for it is found almost impossible to prevent the negroes from stealing and roasting the young pigs.” Mr. Russell, visiting the plantations of a friend near Natchez–North America; its Agriculture, etc., p. 265.
There were 135 slaves, big and little, of which 67 went to field regularly—equal, the overseer thought, to 60 able-bodied hands. Beside the field-hands, there were 3 mechanics (blacksmith, carpenter and wheelwright), 2 seamstresses, 1 cook, 1 stable servant, 1 cattle-tender, 1 hog-tender, 1 teamster, 1 house servant (overseer’s cook), and one midwife and nurse. These were all first-class hands; most of them would be worth more, if they were for sale, the overseer said, than the best of field-hands. There was also a driver of the hoe-gang who did not labor personally, and a foreman of the plow-gang. These two acted as petty officers in the field, and alternately in the quarters.
There was a nursery for sucklings at the quarters, and twenty women at this time who left their work four times each day, for half an hour, to nurse their young ones, and whom the overseer counted as half-hands—that is, expected to do half an ordinary day’s work.
DESERTERS AND DETECTIVES.
He had no runaways out at this time, but had just sold a bad one to go to Texas. He was whipping the fellow, when he turned and tried to stab him—then broke from him and ran away. He had him caught almost immediately by the dogs. After catching him, he kept him in irons till he had a chance to sell him. His niggers did not very often run away, he said, because they were almost sure to be caught. As soon as he saw that one was gone he put the dogs on, and if rain had not just fallen, they would soon find him. Sometimes, though, they would outwit the dogs, but if they did they almost always kept in the neighborhood, because they did not like to go where they could not sometimes get back and see their families, and he would soon get wind of where they had been; they would come round their quarters to see their families and to get food, and as soon as he knew it, he would find their tracks and put the dogs on again. Two months was the longest time any of them ever kept out. They had dogs trained on purpose to run after niggers, and never let out for any thing else.
We found in the field thirty plows, moving together, turning the earth from the cotton plants, and from thirty to forty hoers, the latter mainly women, with a black driver walking about among them with a whip, which he often cracked at them, sometimes allowing the lash to fall lightly upon their shoulders. He was constantly urging them also with his voice. All worked very steadily, and though the presence of a stranger on the plantation must have been rare, I saw none raise or turn their heads to look at me. Each gang was attended by a “water-toter,” that of the hoe-gang being a straight, sprightly, plump little black girl, whose picture, as she stood balancing the bucket upon her head, shading her bright eyes with one hand, and holding out a calabash with, the ,other to maintain her poise, would have been a worthy study for Murillo.
DAYS AND HOURS OF LABOR.
I asked at what time they began to work in the morning, “Well,” said the overseer, “I do better by my niggers than most. I keep ’em right smart at their work while they do work, but I generally knock ’em off at 8 o’clock in the morning Saturdays, and give ’em all the rest of the day to themselves, and I always gives ’em Sundays, the whole day. Pickin’ time, and when the crap’s bad in grass, I sometimes keep ’em to it till about sunset, Satudays, but I never work ’em Sundays.”
“How early do you start them out in the morning, usually?”
“Well, I don’t never start my niggers ‘fore daylight except ’tis in pickin’ time, then maybe I got ’em out a quarter of an hour before. But I keep ’em right smart to work through the day.” He showed an evident pride in the vigilance of his driver, and called my attention to the large area of ground already hoed over that morning; well hoed, too, as he said.
“At what time do they eat?” I asked. They ate “their snacks” in their cabins, he said, before they came out in the morning (that is before daylight—the sun rising at this time at a little before five, and day dawning, probably, an hour earlier); then at 12 o’clock their dinner was brought to them in a cart—one cart for the plow-gang and one for the hoe-gang. The hoe-gang ate its dinner in the field, and only stopped work long enough to eat it. The plow-gang drove its teams to the “weather houses” —open sheds erected for the purpose in different parts of the plantation, under which were cisterns filled with rain water, from which the water-toters carried drink to those at work. The mules were fed as much oats (in straw), corn and fodder as they would eat in two hours; this forage having been brought to the weather houses by another cart. The plowmen had nothing to do but eat their dinner in all this time. All worked as late as they could see to work well, and had no more food nor rest until they returned to their cabin.*
* This would give at this season hardly less than sixteen hours of plodding labor, relieved by but one short interval of rest, during the daylight, for the hoe-gang. It is not improbable. I was accustomed to rise early and ride, late, resting during the heat of the day, while in the cotton district, but I always found the negroes in the field when I first looked out, and generally had to wait for the ‘negroes to come from the field to have my horse fed when I stopped for the night. I am told, however, and I believe, that it is usual in the hottest weather to, give a rest of an hour or two to all bands at noon. I never happened to see it done, The legal limit of a slave’s days work in S. Carolina is 15 hours.
At half past nine o’clock the drivers, each on an alternate night, blew a horn, and at ten visited every cabin to see that its occupants were at rest, and not lurking about and spending their strength in fooleries, and that the fires were safe–a very unusual precaution; the negroes are generally at liberty after their day’s work is done till they are called in the morning. When washing and patching were done, wood hauled and cut for the fires, corn ground, etc., I did not learn: probably all chores not of daily necessity, were reserved for Saturday. Custom varies in this respect. In general, with regard to fuel for the cabins, the negroes are left to look out for themselves, and they often have to go to “the swamp” for it, or at least, if it has been hauled, to cut it to a convenient size, after their day’s work is done. The allowance of food was a peck of corn and four pounds of pork per week, each. When they could not get “greens” (any vegetables) he generally gave them five pounds of pork. They had gardens, and raised a good deal for themselves; they also had fowls, and usually plenty of eggs. He added, “the man who owns this plantation does more for his niggers than any other man I know. Every Christmas he sends me up a thousand or fifteen hundred dollars’ [equal to eight or ten dollars each] worth of molasses and coffee, and tobacco, and calico, and Sunday tricks for ’ems Every family on this plantation gets a barrel of molasses at Christmas.” (Not an uncommon practice in Mississippi, though the quantity is very rarely so generous. It is usually made somewhat proportionate to the value of the last crop sold.)*.
* I was told by a gentleman in North Carolina, that the custom of supplying molasses to negroes in Mississippi, was usually mentioned to those sold away from his part of the country, to reconcile to going thither.
Beside which, the overseer added, they are able, if they choose, to buy certain comforts for themselves—tobacco for instance—with money earned by Saturday and Sunday work. Some of them went into the swamps on Sunday and made boards—”puncheons” made with the ax. One man sold last year as much as fifty dollars’ worth.
Finding myself nearer the outer gate than the “quarters,” when at length my curiosity was satisfied, I did not return to the house. After getting a clear direction how to find my way back to the road I had been upon the previous day, I said to the overseer, with some hesitation lest it should offend him, “You will allow me to pay you for the trouble I have given your’ He looked a little disconcerted by my putting the question in this way, but answered in a matter-of-course tone, “It will be a dollar and a quarter, sir.”
This was the only large plantation that I had an opportunity of seeing at all closely, over which I was not chiefly conducted by an educated gentleman and slave owner, by whose habitual impressions and sentiments my own were probably somewhat influenced. From what I saw in passing, and from what I heard by chance of others, I suppose it to have been in no respect an unfavorable specimen of those plantations on which the owners do not reside. A merchant of the vicinity recently in New York tells me that he supposes it to be a fair enough sample of plantations of its class. There is nothing remarkable in its management that he had heard. When I asked about molasses and Christmas presents, he said he reckoned the overseer rather stretched that story, but the owner was a very good man. A magistrate of the district, who had often been on the plantation, said in answer to an inquiry from me, that the negroes were very well treated upon it, though not extraordinarily so. His comparison was with plantations in general.*
* In Debow’s Resources of the South, vol. i., p. 150, a table is furnished by a cotton planter to show that the expenses of raising cotton are “generally greatly underrated.” It is to be inferred that they certainly are not underrated in the table. On “a well improved and properly organized plantation,” the expense of feeding one hundred negroes, “as deduced from fifteen years’ experience” of the writer, is asserted in this table to be 3750 per annum, or seven dollars and a half each; in this sum is included, however, the expenses of the “hospital and the overseer’s table.” This is much less than the expense for the same purposes, if the overseer’s account was true, of the plantation above described. Clothing, shoes, bedding, sacks for gathering cotton, and so forth, are estimated by the same authority to cost an equal sum—$7.50 for each slave. I have just paid on account of a day laborer on a farm in New York, his board bill, he being a- bachelor living at the house of another Irish laborer with a family. The charge is twenty-one times as large as that set down for the slave.
He also spoke well of the overseer. He had been a long time on this plantation—I think he said, ever since it had begun to be cultivated. This is very rare; it was the only case I met with in which an overseer had kept the same place ten years, and it was a strong evidence of his comparative excellence, that his employer had been so long satisfied with him. Perhaps it was a stronger evidence that the owner of the negroes was a man of good temper, systematic and thorough in the management of his property.*
* “I was informed that some successful planters, who held several estates in this neighborhood [Natchez] made it a rule to change their overseers every year, on the principle that the two years’ service system is sure to spoil them.”—Russell’s North America: its Agriculture, etc., p. 258.
“Overseers are changed every year; a few remain four or five years, but the average time they remain on the same plantation does not exceed two years.”—Southern Agriculturist, vol. iv., p. 351.
The condition of the fences, of the mules and tools, and tillage, which would have been considered admirable in the best farming district of New York—the dress of the negroes and the neatness and spaciousness of their “quarters,” which were superior to those of most of the better class of plantations on which the owners reside, all bore strong testimony to a very unusually prudent and provident policy.
I made no special inquiries about the advantages for education or means of religious instruction provided for the slaves. As there seems to be much public desire for definite information upon that point, I regret that I did not. I did not need to put questions to the overseer to satisfy my own mind, however. It was obvious that all natural incitements to self-advancement had been studiously removed or obstructed, in subordination to the general purpose of making the plantation profitable. The machinery of labor was ungeared during a day and a half a week, for cleaning and repairs; experience having proved here, as it has in Manchester and New York, that operatives do very much better work if thus privileged. During this interval, a limited play to individual qualities and impulses was permitted in the culture of such luxuries as potatoes and pumpkins, the repair of garments, and in other sordid recreations involving the least possible intellectual friction. Regarding only the balance sheet of the owner’s ledger, it was admirable management. I am sorry to think that it is rare, where this is the uppermost object of the cotton-planter, that an equally frugal economy is maintained.
A TENNESSEE SQUIRE
FORTUNATELY I did not have to go much further before I came to the best house I had seen during the day, a large, neat, white house, with negro shanties, and an open log cabin in the front yard. A stout, elderly, fine-looking woman, in a cool white muslin dress sat upon the gallery, fanning herself. Two little negroes had just brought a pail of fresh water, and she was drinking of it with a gourd, as I came to the gate. I asked if it would be convenient for her to accommodate me for the night, doubtingly,’ for I had learned to distrust the accommodations of the wealthy slaveholders.
“Oh yes, get down, fasten your horse there, and the niggers will take care of him when they come from their work. Come up here and take a seat.”
I brought in my saddle-bags.
“Bring them in here, into the parlor,” she said, “where they’ll be safe.”
The interior of the house was furnished with unusual comfort. “The parlor,” however, had a bed in it. M we came out she locked the door.
We had not sat long, talking about the weather (she was suffering much from the heat), when her husband came. He was very hot also, though dressed coolly enough in merely a pair of short-legged, unbleached cotton trowsers and a shirt with the bosom spread open—no shoes nor stockings. He took his seat before speaking to me, and after telling his wife it was the hottest day he ever saw, squared his chair toward me, threw it back so as to recline against a post, and said gruffly, “Good evening, sir; you going to stay here to-night?”
I replied, and he looked at me a few moments without speaking. He was in fact so hot that he spoke with difficulty. At length he got breath and asked abruptly: “You a mechanic, sir, or a dentist, eh—or what?”
I presently asked what railroad it was that I had crossed about six miles east of Chattanooga. I had not expected to find any railroad in this direction. He answered pompously that it was “the Atlantic and Pacific railroad. It began at Charleston and ended at Chattanooga, but was to be carried across to a place called Francisco in California.”
Valuable information, but hardly as interesting as that which the old lady gave me soon afterward. We had been talking of Texas and the emigration. She said “there was a new country they had got annexed to the United States now, and she reckoned people would all be for going to that, now it was annexed. They called it Nebrasky; she didn’t know much about it, but she reckoned it must be a powerful fine country, they’d taken so much trouble to get possession of it.”
Supper was cooked by two young women, daughters of the master of the house, assisted by the two little negro boys. The cabin in front of the house was the kitchen, and when the bacon was dished up, one of the boys struck an iron triangle at the door. “Come to supper,” said the host, and led the way to the kitchen, which was also the supper room. One of the young ladies took the foot of the table; the other seated herself apart by the fire, and actually waited on the table, though the two negro boys stood at the head and foot, nominally waiters, but always anticipated by the Cinderella, when any thing was wanted.
A big lout of a youth who came from the field with the negroes, looked in, but seeing me, retired. His father called, but his mother said, ” I wouldn’t do no good—he was so bashful.”
Speaking of the climate of the country, I was informed, that a majority of the folks went barefoot all winter, though they had snow much of the time four or five inches deep, and the man said he didn’t think most of the men about here had more than one coat, and they never wore any in winter except on holidays. “That was the healthiest way,” he reckoned, “just to toughen yourself and not wear no coat; no matter how cold it was, he didn’t wear no coat.”
The master held a candle for me while I undressed, in a large room above stairs; and gave me my choice of the four beds in it. I found one straw bed (with, as usual, but one sheet), on which I slept comfortably. At midnight I was awakened by some one coming in. I rustled my straw, and a voice said, “Who is there in this room?”
“A stranger passing the night; who are you?”
“All right; I belong here. I’ve been away and have just come home.”
He did not take his clothes off to sleep. He turned out to be an older son who had been fifty miles away, looking after a stray horse. When I went down stairs in the morning, having been wakened early by flies, and the dawn of day through an open window, I saw the master lying on his bed in the “parlor,” still asleep in the clothes he wore at supper. His wife was washing herself on the gallery, being already dressed for the day; after drying her face on the family towel, she went into the kitchen, but soon returned, smoking a pipe, to her chair in the doorway.
Yet every thing betokened an opulent and prosperous fanner—rich land, extensive field crops, a number of negroes, and considerable herds of cattle and horses. He also had capital invested in mines and railroads, he told me. His elder son spoke of him as “the squire.”
A negro woman assisted in preparing breakfast (she had probably been employed in the field labor the night before), and both the young ladies were at the table. The squire observed to me that he supposed we could buy hands very cheap in New York. I said we could hire them there at moderate wages. He asked if we couldn’t buy as many as we wanted, by sending to Ireland for them and paying their passage. He had supposed we could buy them and hold them as slaves for a term of years, by paying the freight on them. When I had corrected him, he said, a little hesitatingly, “You don’t have no black slaves in New York?” “No, sir.” “There’s niggers there, ain’t there, only they’re all free?” “Yes, sir. “Well, how do they get along so?” “So far as I know, the most of them live pretty comfortably.” (I have changed my standard of comfort lately, and am inclined to believe that the majority of the negroes at the North live more comfortably than the majority of whites at the South.) “I wouldn’t like that,” said the old lady. “I wouldn’t like to live where niggers was free, they are bad enough when they are slaves: it’s hard enough to get along with them here, they’re so bad. I reckon that niggers are the meanest critters on earth; they are so mean and nasty” (she expressed disgust and indignation very strongly in her face). “If they was to think themselves equal to we, I don’t think white folks could abide it—they’re such vile saucy things.” A negro woman and two boys were in the room as she said this.
At night I was again troubled to find a house at which my horse could be suitably fed, and was finally directed to a place at some distance off my direct road. To reach it, I followed a cart path up a pretty brook in a mountain glen, till I came to an irregular-shaped cattle yard, in the midst of which was a rather picturesque cabin, the roof being secured by logs laid across it and held in place by long upright pins. The interior consisted of one large “living-room,” and a “lean-to,” used as a kitchen, with a sleeping loft over half the living-room. For furniture, there were two bedsteads, which occupied one-third of the room; a large and a small table, on the latter of which lay a big Bible, and other books; several hide-bottomed chairs, two chests, shelves, with crockery, and a framed lithographic portrait of Washington on the white horse. Women’s dresses hung as a curtain along the foot of one bed; hides, hams and bunches of candles from the rafters. An old man and his wife, with one hired man, were the occupants; they had come to this place from North Carolina two years before. They were very good, simple people; social and talkative, but at frequent intervals the old man, often in the midst of conversation, interrupting a reply to a question put by himself, would groan aloud and sigh out, “Glory to God!” “Oh. my blessed Lord!” “Lord, have mercy on us!” or something of the sort, and the old woman would respond with a groan, and then there would be silence for reflection for a few moments, as if a dead man were in the house, and it had been forgotten for a time. They talked with great geniality and kindness, however, and learning that I was from New York, said that I had reminded them, “by the way I talked,” of some New York people who had moved near to where they had lived in North Carolina, and whom they seemed to have much liked. “They was well lamed people,” the old man said; “though they wasn’t rich, they was as well larned as any, but they was the most friendly people I ever see. Most of our country folks, when they is well lamed, is too proud, they won’t hardly speak civil to the common; but these Yorkers wasn’t so, the least bit; they was the civilest people I ever seed. When I seed the gals coming over to our housen, I nat’rally rejoiced; they always made it so pleasant. I never see no people who could talk so well.”
He and his wife frequently referred to them afterwards, and complimented me by saying that “they should have known me for a Yorker by my speeching so like them.”
I said, in answer to their inquiry, that I had found the people of this part of the country remarkably friendly and sociable. The old man said he had “always heard till! was so, and it was nat’ral it should be. There warn’t niggers here; where there was niggers, people couldn’t help getting a cross habit of speaking.” He asked if New York were not a free State, and how I liked that. I answered, and he said he’d always wished there hadn’t beer, any niggers here (the old woman called out from the other room that she wished so, too), but he wouldn’t like to have them free. As they had got them here, he didn’t think there was \any better way of getting along with them than that they had. There were very few in this district, but where they came from there were more niggers than whites. They had had three themselves; when they decided to move up here into the mountains, the niggers didn’t want to come with them, and they sold them to a speculator.
I asked if it was possible they would prefer to be sold to a trader, who might take them off and sell them to a cotton planter.
“Oh, yes, they had a great fear of the mountains; they would rather, they said, be sent to a cotton farm, or a rice or sugar farm—any thing else; so we sold them to the first nigger-speculator that come along.” The old woman called out again, that she wished they hadn’t, for after all they was a great help to her, and it was very hard sometimes to do all the work she had to do, alone. “Those Yorkers didn’t like slaves neither,” she continued, coming into the room, “they said they couldn’t bear to have ’em do any, thing for ’em, they was so shacklin and lazy, but one of the gals married a man who owned a heap of niggers, for all that.”
Their notions of geography were amusing. They thought Virginia lay to the southward, and was a cotton-growing State, and they supposed that one reason their niggers were willing to be sold, was that their mother came from Virginia, and they had heard her talk of it, and that they thought they might be sold to go back there upon a cotton farm. New York, they thought, lay west of Georgia, and between them and Texas. They asked about Indiana, and said that I must have passed through it corming from Texas, confusing it, probably, with Louisiana; and they asked if New York were not the country the Yankees came from—”the people that used to come peddling.” They supposed also that New York had a much warmer climate than Georgia. The younger man informed me that “the United States had lately annexed a new country that was called Nebrisky. It was large enough to make thirteen States, and they had had a great commotion as to whether it should be free or slave States. The people here all wanted it to be slave States, because they might want to move out there, and a fellow might get a nigger and have to sell him. If a man moved into a free State, he’d have to sell his niggers; if he didn’t, they’d be free as soon as he took ’em in. He didn’t think that was right; a man ought to be able to take his property wherever he pleased.’
I replied that it would be a great deal better place for nonslaveholders to move to, if slaves were excluded, to which he made no reply.
We had for supper, cold corn bread, cold bacon and hot coffee. The old woman remarked she had got so warm she couldn’t eat any thing, but she drank much coffee. I was a good deal fatigued; about eight o’clock I intimated that I would like to go to bed. The old man lighted a candle, for until then, we had been sitting by the firelight in the chimney, and after groaning aloud for the space of ten minutes, began to read in a very slow, monotonous manner, spelling out the hard words, from the Bible. After continuing this exercise for half an hour, he took a hymn book, read two lines and commenced to sing, and thus went on reading and singing the other two joining him at the second verse, when we all rose. Thirteen verses were sung, and then, after blowing out the candle, she kneeled for prayer. He prayed with great fervor, much assisted by the ejaculatory responses of his wife, for more than half an hour. When we rose, the old woman took a single clean sheet from a chest, spread it on one of the beds, and told me that I could take that one. I began to undress, and she stepped out of doors till I was under the counterpane. The young man climbed into the loft, and the two old people took the other bed. There was no window at all in the house; they closed both doors and left a considerable fire burning on the hearth. There did not, however, appear to be any want of ventilation, the logs and roof being sufficiently open. It was the first time, with only one exception, in more than a month, that I had been furnished with a clean sheet. (The luxury of two sheets I have never had in a private house since crossing the Mississippi); and I slept better than I have done before, for weeks.
When I came to breakfast, the old woman was much disappointed that I declined coffee. She had thought I would like it sweet, and had taken pains to boil in some sweetenin’ (molasses) on my account; she said she did not think I could have strength to travel such hot weather without it. I replied that I thought that I had found that in hot weather, after a little while, its effect was rattier debilitating. “Perhaps it was so,” she said, “and that was the reason she felt so weak and sleepy in the afternoon. They didn’t have no coffee for dinner, and she had thought she ought to have it, because in the afternoon she was always so tired and sleepy she could hardly drag about till supper time, and at supper she always drank a lot of coffee just to keep from going to sleep till after prayers. She didn’t feel as though she could live without coffee.”
She had taken much pains otherwise to get a good breakfast—thick griddle cakes of Indian meal, which I could really praise with a good conscience. This greatly elevated her, and she told me in a confidential whisper, “there were none of her neighbors ever had any thing nice, not even for company, because they didn’t any of ’em know how to cook beyond the common.”
Molasses they always used as if in the plural number (like oats), urging me to take “them molasses—but perhaps I wouldn t like them with my bacon.”
My horse was well cared for, voluntarily, by the hired man; cleaned and fed generously with corn, fodder,, hay and sheaf oats. Charge for all, including two of the notable Indian slap-jacks, which I carried away in my haversack, sixty-two and a half cents. When. I wanted to wash, I was directed to “the spring,” the old woman having the wash basin in use. In fact, she was mixing the cakes in. it.
TENNESSEE COPPER MINING.
I have been visiting the mining region, which I approached through the pretty valley of the , where, for the first time in this journey, I met with hemlocks and laurels growing in great perfection. The first discovery of ore was made ten years ago, soon after which specimens were taken to New York, but no mining was done, and nothing was known of it here, until a New York company bought a tract of land three years ago and immediately commenced operations. New veins were soon found and new companies formed, and the excitement continues, new discoveries being made up to this time. At the public house were ten or twelve gentlemen of wealth, who had come to sell or buy copper land, or to learn “the signs” that they might look for them on their own land elsewhere.
The mines in operation at present are owned almost entirely in New York and London. The miners employed are mostly white North Carolinians, who are paid twenty to twenty-five dollars a month, when digging perpendicular shafts, and twenty-five to thirty dollars, when working horizontally. There are here, however, several hundred Cornish men (“London miners,” a native told me), and more are constantly coming. They are engaged in Cornwall, and have their expenses out paid, and forty dollars a month wages. They are said, at these wages, to be much more profitably employed than the natives. Two, whom I found at work together, one hundred and fifty feet from the surface, told me that they had been here about six weeks, and were well pleased. They each got forty dollars a month; in England, they had earned respectively but three and four pounds. Board costs here at the boarding houses seven dollars a month, but they thought that a man living “in a cottage” by himself, could live cheaper than in England. Corn-bread (though Cornish men), they had not yet eaten, and they did not believe that they should ever come to it. They must have wheaten bread. The only thing they much missed was ale; the people here did not know what it was, but drank whiskey. They would rather have one draught of Cornish swipes than a gallon of this whiskey.
Some of the miners, including some of the Cornish men, had been getting ready a pole, which they were to erect, and hoist a flag upon, on the fourth of July. I heard a report the day before I reached the mines, that the Englishmen at the mines were going to hoist the English flag and hurrah for the Queen on the fourth of July. The country people were much excited by this report, and on the third
I met a great many of them, armed with rifles, coming in “to see about it.” I could not persuade them that the Englishmen were intending in good faith to celebrate the day, so strong was their belief in the continued .hostility of the English people to American independence.
There were few settlers here when the mines were discovered. At present, the population is reported to be many thousand. If so, it must be remarkably scattered, for there is nothing like a village; the only houses, with two or three exceptions, being small log cabins. I stopped at what is considered the best public house. When I asked for a bed, I was pointed to a room in which there were seven beds, and told that I could take my pick. Two gentlemen immediately called out to inform me which of the beds they had used the night before, hoping that I would respect their claim to hold them. All the beds had been slept in by others, without change of sheet. Being the first to withdraw from the bar room, I had my choice, and found one straw bed among them, which, of course, I appropriated. Fortunately I had no bed-fellow; the other beds were mostly doubly occupied.
At a public house, a few nights before, I heard the landlord, while conducting two men to their sleeping room, observe, that he supposed that they would like to sleep both in the same bed, as they came together, and I afterwards saw them together in a feather bed, notwithstanding there were several vacant beds in the same room. It was almost the hottest night I ever experienced out of the East Indies, and I sweltered upon the floor.
A SMART YANKEE.
Everybody at the mines took me for either a shrewd speculator, or a mineralogist who had come to make examinations for a speculator: I was several times stopped and asked if I did not wish to look at a good piece of mineral land, and often requested to give my opinion of specimens, nor could I make myself believed when I said I knew nothing about the matter. After I returned from visiting some of the mines, there was a room full of people at the public house. One asked me if I would tell them what I thought about those I had seen. I assured him that I was not in the lest able to judge of their value, probably not half so much so as he was himself. He laughed, and another, laughing, asked, “What do you carry in that thing at your side?” and every body smiled.
“In this pouch, do you mean?”
“Yes, if it’s no offense—no offense meant, no offense taken, you know.”
“Certainly not; I’ll tell you exactly what I’ve got in it.” I opened it and looking in, as it were, read the contents, “a pair of gloves, a knife, a corkscrew, a fleam, a tooth brush, a box of tapers and, a ball of twine.” All laughed aloud, being quite sure in their minds that the pouch contained a blow-pipe, tests, and specimens of ore, and that I was a very knowing fellow, who could keep his own counsel.
July 5th.—Last evening I rode several miles, constantly saying to myself, as I passed the miserable huts, “that, I can’t put up with,” and still going on to try further for something better, until, just as it was getting dark, I came to some larger cabins, one of which had creepers trained over a porch, for which sign of taste I selected it. It was occupied by a family, possessing a number of negro 1 servants, and living in more comfort than I have seen for some time. My horse being brought out in the morning covered with mire, I asked the negro if he would not clean him. He picked up a piece of corn cob and began scraping him. “Hadn’t he got a curry comb or card?” I asked, but he did not know what I meant, and laughed when I explained, it to him, as you would laugh at some little article of pure foppery.
I passed through Murphy to-day, a pretty, shady town, surrounded by lovely scenery. I was a little surprised at the sight of a pillory and stocks, and to learn that a white man had been recently stripped, whipped, and branded with a red hot iron for some petty crime, by the officers of the law, in the presence of my informant, and of all of the inhabitants who could be called together to witness this solemn testimony of the legislative barbarism of their State.
While I stopped under a tree near a house as a heavy rain cloud was passing, a white man came out, and after greeting me with a single word, began calling: “Duke, Clary, Tom, Joe,” etc., finally collecting seven little negroes and three white children; “Just look a here! here’s a reg’lar nigger dog; have it to ketch niggers when they run away, or don’t behave.” (He got a piece of bread and threw it to Jude.) “There! did you see that! See what teeth she’s got, she’d just snap a nigger’s leg off. If you don’t mind I’ll get one—you Jule, if I hear you crying any more, I’ll get this gentleman to send me one. See how strong its jaws be; he says all he’s got to do when a nigger don’t behave, is just to say the word, and it’ll snap a niggers head right off, just as easy as you’d take a chicken s head off with an ax.” (The niggers look with dismay at Jude, who is watching them very closely expecting some more bread. The white children laugh foolishly.)
July 6.—I have to-day crossed the Tomahila mountain, having spent the night at an unusually comfortable house, known throughout all the country as “Walker’s,” situated at its western base. Apparently it is a house which the wealthy planters from the low country make a halting station on their journey to certain sulphur springs further north and east. There were plenty of negroes, under unusually good government, and the table supply was abundant and various. Yet every thing was greasy; even what we call simple dishes, such as boiled rice, and toast, were served soaking in a sauce of melted fat. I gave the stable boy a quarter of a dollar for thoroughly cleaning my horse, but rode away with less than usual scrutiny of the harness, and when I came to climb a steep pitch of the mountain, discovered that the rascal had unbuckled and kept the preventer-girth.
The road, which is excellent, and which was built by aid of a State appropriation, follows for some distance the slop of a water-course, and then, tack and tack, up a steep mountain-side, until, at about twelve miles from Walker’s, a small plateau and clearing is reached, on which stands a cabin occupied by a man, who, as he told me, gets his living by turning bed-posts of maple, which grows here abundantly and is scarce below.
After leaving this place, the road descends into a shallow valley in which flows the Tomahila river, a stream some twenty yards across, then follows for several miles along the crest of a deep dark gorge, at the bottom of which the river roars in frequent cascades, and then mounts another high ridge. From the summit there is a grand prospect, to the eastward. Directly below is a deep valley, surrounded on all sides by a succession of mountain peaks. With the exception of one bald prominence towering up on the left, these are all, notwithstanding their great height, densely wooded. Those directly opposite are some forty miles distant, and are among the highest elevations on the continent.
While I was resting my horse and looking at these distant summits, some thunder clouds drifted around and collected before them, and then floated forward, hovering over the minor peaks and pouring copious showers upon them. The thunder grew constantly more threatening, and I began to descend hastily. A zigzag road has been made with great labor, so that by traveling two miles upon a descending slope, never more rapidly than at the rate of perhaps six feet in one hundred, you accomplish with entire ease what would be, in a direct course down the steep side of the mountain, not more than a thousand feet. The entire distance to the valley is six miles.
A little boy on a mule, carrying a mail-bag, here overtook me. He said that he carried the mail from Ashville to Murphy, one hundred and fourteen miles, traveling each way once a week. He starts from Ashville Monday morning and returns there Saturday night, rests on Sunday, but during the week travels an average of nearly forty miles ,a day on a mules back. Last winter, he said, the snow was often up to the mule’s shoulders on the mountain, but he did not fail to accomplish his stated journey every day. When I asked him how old he was, he said “he believed that he should be about fifteen in three or four months.” He had two mules, but only changed from one to the other on alternate weeks. He was paid $5 a month, and board.
Speaking of mountains, he asked if I “had ever been on Old Balsam?” He had; he was up on the top of it one morning at sunrise. I asked how he could sleep there—was there a cabin? No, but he had been, coon hunting with some fellows all night, and toward daylight they got to running a wild-cat, for they had a dog that would kill any wild-cat if it could catch it. They did not succeed, however, and just at sunrise they gave it up and found themselves close to the top of Old Balsam: Then he had to go down the mountain and get up his mule, and ride forty miles with the mail before he could go to sleep. It was as much as he could do to keep awake that day.
Hearing that I belonged in New York, he asked if I knew a man there by the name of Poillon. Yes, I did; he lived a little out of New York city, though—in the country. “The man I mean lives in New York center—right in the village itself,” he replied. I knew that there was a man there of that name, I said. “Well he went from Ashville.” “Yes, perhaps so.” “Oh he did, he went from there two years ago. Do you know a man there by the name of Ogee?”
“There was a man at Ashville, came from somewhere in that country—Charleston, I believe ‘twas—by that name.”
“Charleston is not very near New York.”
“Ain’t it? well, ’twas Charleston he said, I believe; Charleston or New York, or some place out there
Another man near Waynesville in this region, asked me if I knew Mr. White, of New York. I did not. “Why, he belongs in New York.”
“Very likely, but New York is a large place. There are probably a hundred people of the name of White there, but I don’t happen to know one of them.”
“Reckon you’d know this man if he came from there, for he’s a man of talent; must be one of the first men; I never see a man who knew so much about all sorts of things, and who could explain every thing out to you, as well as he. Expect he must have come from some other place. I thought he said he was raised in New York, too.”
“Very possibly he was, but I know but very few indeed of all the men of talent in New York. You don’t consider how many people there are there.”
“It’s a right smart business place, I know; it must be. You know Mr. —, don’t you?”
“Who is he?”
“Why the little man that keeps store in Waynesville; reckon you know him, he goes to New York every spring to buy goods; seen him there, hain’t you?
“I don’t think that I have; you see, there are seven hundred thousand people in New York, and there are thousands and tens of thousands whom I never saw. It would be impossible for me to see one in a thousand of the people who come there every year. In fact, though I have lived in. New York some years, I have but very few acquaintances there, not nearly as many as you have in this county probably.”
“Such a big place; I suppose there’s some people been living there all their lives that don’t know each other, and never spoke to one another once yet in their lives, ain’t there?”
“Certainly—thousands of them.”
” ‘Tain’t so here; people’s more friendly, this country.”
Ashville, July 11th.—This is a beautiful place among the hills, with a number of pretty country-seats about it, which, I suppose are summer residences of South Carolina planters. A great many of these “Southerners,” as they are called here, are now traveling farther north, to spend the heat of summer at the numerous sulphur springs and other pleasure haunts where good boarding houses have been established for them along the cool region of the Blue Ridge. I passed one of these, a sulphur spring, yesterday. It was a white wooden building, with a long piazza for smokers, loungers and flirters, and a bowling alley and shuffle board; with coaches and trotting wagons at the stable; poor women picking blackberries, poor men bringing fowls, school girls studiously climbing romantic rocks and otherwise making themselves as pretty as possible, children fighting their black nurses, and old gold spectacles stopping me to inquire if I was the mail, and if I had not got a newspaper.
It is very odd, by the way, what old news one keeps getting in these places far from telegraphs. I inquired here for a late paper, and the clerk of the hotel went to a store to get one. It was the Ashville News, with the same articles copied from New York papers, which I had read a month before. All this country is to be netted by railroads soon, however, that is, as soon as they can be built after an appropriation to assist them passes Congress. I have crossed engineers’ stakes every day, I believe, since I left Jackson, Mississippi, and generally, when I stop at night, the farmer tells me that a railroad, which will be the link which is wanting, either in a direct communication between the Atlantic and the Mississippi, or between New York and New Orleans, is to pass between his house and his corn-crib, and that in consequence land about him has lately become of great value, that is, from four to ten dollars an acre. He is in great perplexity, too, to conclude how much he can make the railroad company pay for damages.
Day before yesterday I ascended “Balsam Mountain,” said to have been recently ascertained to be the highest peak of the Appalachian chain. A barometrical measurement of Professor W. D. Jones of Tennessee makes it ten thousand and three hundred feet above the sea, or one hundred and five feet higher than Black Mountain which has always had the reputation of being the highest. I was told that the ascent was easy, and could be made on horseback to within less than a quarter of a mile of the top. I was offered a guide, but preferred to go alone, leaving Belshazzar to rest and recruit below.
The mountain is one of a very lofty range, and the gap between it and the next peak is crossed by a (State) turnpike road. The distance to the top from this road is about four miles, and its elevation above the road, four thousand feet. A very rank growth of weeds and grass covers the ground on nearly all parts of the mountain to the top which is all used as a range for cattle, horses and hogs, and would be very profitably employed in this way but for the havoc committed on young cattle, and especially on swine and sheep, by bears, wolves and panthers.
The horses and cattle make so many paths that I was soon led astray from the one which leads directly to the top (if there is any such), and had to shape my course by the sun and the apparent feasibility of the ground in different directions before me. The mountain to within less than a mile from the top is entirely shaded by a forest of large trees, the chestnut predominating. The only change found as you ascend is in their height, the trunks continually becoming shorter and sturdier. At perhaps half a mile from the summit, the trees appear gradually more scattered; at length there is a nearly bald zone, covered, however, with grass and weeds waist high. Above this, at a quarter of a mile from the top, begins a forest of balsam firs (popularly called “balsams”). In the interval between the two forests the ascent was steep and fatiguing. Whether owing to the exertion of climbing altogether, or somewhat to the rarity of the atmosphere, I was obliged to stop frequently to rest, to relieve myself from a rush of blood to the head. The moment I entered the balsam forest, I was freed from this. These balsams are thirty or forty feet high, and under their shelter flourish a variety of smaller trees and shrubs. A great many of these trees have fallen down, and the nearer I came to the top the steeper became the ascent, the more frequent the prostrate trees, and the thicker and more impenetrable the undergrowth, a large part of it being blackberry briars. I crept under and climbed over and pulled myself along slowly, and at length came to a knob or pinnacle, across and upon which trees and shrubs and stumps with the roots uppermost seemed to have been hurled by a whirlwind. Supposing this to be the summit itself, I climbed among the roots and briars the best way I could, until I got my head above the wreck. It was very dark from the shade of the standing trees, and I perceived that the rocks rose still higher beyond. I worked my way down again and continued climbing until I reached a comparatively level surface of several yards in extent, from which a number of trees had been cut away so as to open a view in two or three directions. A dense cloud hung in a circle all around the peak, and though it was quite clear in the center where I stood, I could not see beyond it at all. Overhead, at a still vast apparent distance, were striae, through which, at length, the sun came out for a few minutes, but the only effect was to give the cumulus below me a more mist-like and steamy appearance. At length came a slight breeze and set it in rapid motion, and rent and lifted and lowered it, so that I got a few glimpses across the neighboring mountains and saw their tops rising above rolling thunder heads, one of which was dark and probably discharging rain. I heard thunder, and conjectured that at a distance the cloud within which I stood would appear to be a thunder cloud, wooly and snowy, and gilded when the sun shone and dark and rainy below.
The peculiarity of this mountain-top, distinguishing it from all others I know of nearly equal height, is its moderate temperature and consequent abundant vegetation. It was so warm (it was half past one), that, heated as I became by my exertions, I felt no necessity for putting on my coat. The air was soft and agreeable. The ground, a dark, rich soil, with rocks protruding and shaly stones, bore luxuriant coarse herbage. Beside the thick growth of firs, I noticed black birch, chestnut, mountain ash, wild currant, whortleberry, blackberry, honeysuckle and a variety of cherry, all growing on the highest point. The air was of course, moist, and every thing damp, and this was evidently its usual condition. All the dead and broken-down trees and the rocks were covered thickly with mosses and lichens, which were charged with water like a soaked sponge.
I remained half an hour, hoping the cloud would dear away, but it only grew denser and darker. Beginning to descend, I found a path and endeavored to follow it, but as it soon ran into forks branching out in every direction, I determined to pursue a direct course down the mountain to the edge of the balsam forest, and then follow its lower line until I came to the path, or to the ridge along which I knew the path or way usually followed led. I got lost, however, in the cloud, and descended at a point where the lower forest extended up so as to meet the firs. I could not see out but turning to the left continued descending diagonally. The slope was very steep and the ground covered, with shelving stones, so that it was difficult to keep my feet. At length on an inclination of about thirty-five degrees I slipped, caught myself with a quick motion of my foot, but at the next step, tripped on a protruding root or tangle of weeds, balanced for a moment and was then thrown down headlong. I was severely bruised, and for some minutes could not rise. Fortunately, at no great distance I found a deep gully with a stream of cold water, after bathing in which I entirely recovered my strength, though it was not till after several days that the contusions I received ceased to be inconvenient. I soon reached a more moderate slope, with a rich soil bearing large trees and very luxuriant tangled herbage.
Meanwhile the cloud on the pinnacle was muttering thunder, and growing darker and more threatening, As hastened on, I saw at no great distance, waddling off through the weeds, two black bears, but was so fortunate as to meet no snakes, and nothing else at all memorable. At about half past six I reached the foot of the mountain, and shortly afterward the cloud on its summit swept downward and onward with heavy thunder and copious rain.
I was about five hours descending and reaching the house whence I started. The farmer said that he went nearly to the top to salt his cattle once a week, and he could go up and back again by his path in two hours. In going up I went leisurely, stopping to sketch, and made a very good course until I got to the firs; but in coming down I missed my way, and probably traveled over four times as much ground as was necessary. It was from carelessness or indifference at the start—I was willing to make a day of it.
The view from under the cloud was very beautiful. The general character of the scenery is less grand than that of the White Mountains, but it has impressive sublimity and repose. All the mountains are covered with trees, which, with the luxuriant herbage beneath them, secures softness of outline. Brooks of clear water are frequent. The mountain sides are often very steep, but actual precipices or even large ledges or masses of rock, I have not seen. These mountains would therefore be more pleasant to ramble over than the White Mountains, and will probably, when railroads are completed in their neighborhood, be much resorted to for pleasure. At present there is no public conveyance to any point within thirty-five miles of the base of “Balsam Mountain.”
Mr. Buckley, a New York botanist, gives the following facts with regard to the mountains of this vicinity:
“The following are the heights of some mountains, and places among the mountains of North Carolina south and west of Ashville. These heights were ascertained by me with two of Green’s standard barometers. Professor J. Le Conte, of Columbia, South Carolina observed the stationary barometer at Waynesville for the measurement of the highest Smoky mountains, and being called away by the duties of his professorship, Miss S. Cathey, with the same barometer, made observations at the ‘Forks of Pigeon, Haywood county, while I was with another barometer on the tops of the other mountains measured. The highest are in the Great Smoky or Unaka range’ of mountains, on the line between the States of North Carolina and Tennessee near the head waters of the Oconaluftee and Little Pigeon rivers. You will observe that there are twelve peaks higher than Mount Washington and two higher than Mount Mitchell, 6711 feet -high, which has long been considered the highest east of the Rocky Mountains, viz.: Mount Le Conte, 6670; Mount Guyot, 6734; Mount Buckley, 6755; Clingman’s Peak, 6941.
“Those high mountains show us why western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee have a northern climate in a southern latitude.
“These late measurements show us that the highest mountains at the South are not at the sources of the largest rivers, as has generally been supposed.
“The highest mountains are covered with Abies Nigra and Abies Fraseri, which are rarely found growing beneath an elevation of four thousand feet—the first being called by the inhabitants the he-balsam, and the latter the she-balsam. The Abies balsamica is not found there as stated by Michaux. A large moss (Hypnum splendens), often dotted with oxalis acetosella and Mitchella repens, almost invariably forms a thick, soft carpet beneath these balsam trees. Our little red squirrel (Sciurus Hudsonius), there called the mountain buma, sports and chatters among these balsam trees, feeding on their cones. He rarely descends to the base of the mountains.”
July 13.-1 rode last night, there being no cabins for several miles in which I was willing to spend the night, until I came to one of larger size than usual, with a gallery on the side toward the road and a good stable opposite it. A man on the gallery was about to answer (as I judged from his countenance), “I reckon you can,” to my inquiry if I could stay, when the cracked voice of a worryful woman screeched out from within, “We don’t foller takin’ in people.”
No, sir,” said the man, “we don’t foller it.”
“How far shall I have to go?”
“There’s another house a little better than three quarters of a mile further on.”
To this house I proceeded—a cabin of one room and a loft, with a kitchen in a separate cabin. The owner said he never turned anybody away, and I was welcome. He did not say that he had no corn until after supper, when I asked for it to feed my horse. The family were good-natured, intelligent people, but very ignorant. The man and his wife and the daughters slept below, the boys and I in the cock-loft. Supper and breakfast were eaten in the detached kitchen. Yet they were by no means poor people. The man told me that he had over a thousand acres of rich tillable land, besides a large extent of mountain range, the most of which latter he had bought from time to time as he was able, to prevent the settlement of squatters near his valley-land. There were people who would be bad neighbors I knew,” he said, “that would settle on most any kind of place, and every body wants to keep such as far away from them as they can.’ (When I took my bridle off, I hung it up by the stable door; he took it down and said he’d hang it in a safer place. “He’d never had any thing stolen from here, and he didn’t mean to have—it was just as well not to put temptation before people,” and he took it into the house and put it under his bed.)
Besides this large tract of land here, he owned another tract of two hundred acres with a house upon it, rented for one third the produce, and another smaller farm, similarly rented; he also owned a grist mill, which he rented to a miller for half the tolls. He had also a considerable stock of cattle and large crops of grain, so that he must be considered a very respectable capitalist for a mountaineer. He told me that he had thought a good deal formerly of moving to new countries, but he had been doing pretty well and had staid here now so long, he didn’t much think he should ever budge. He reckoned he’d got enough to make him a living for the rest of his life, and he didn’t know any use a man had for more’n that.
I did not see a single book in the house, nor do I think that any of the family could read. He said that many people here were talking about Iowa and Indiana; “was Iowa (Hiaway) beyond the Texies?” I opened my map to show him where it was, but he said he “wasn’t scollar’d enough” to understand it, and I could not induce him to look at it. I asked him if the people here preferred Iowa and Indiana to Missouri at all because they were free States. “I reckon,” he replied, “they don’t have no allusion to that. Slavery is a great cuss, though, I think, the greatest there is in these United States. There ain’t no account of slaves up here in the west, but down in the east part of this State about Fayetteville, there’s as many as there is in South Carolina. That’s the reason the West and the East don’t agree in this State; people out here hates the eastern people.”
“Why is that?”
“Why you see they vote on the slave basis, and there’s some of them nigger counties where there ain’t more’n four or five hundred white folks, that has just as much power in the Legislature as any of our mountain counties where there’ll be some thousand voters.”
He made further remarks against slavery and against slaveholders. When I told him that I entirely agreed with him, and said further that poor white people were usually far better off in the free States than in the slave, he seemed a little surprised and said, “New York ain’t a free State, is it?”
Laborers’ wages here, he stated, were from fifty cents to one dollar a day, or eight dollars a month. “How much by the year?” “They’s never hired by the year.”
“Would it be $75 a year?”
” ‘Twouldn’t be over that, any how, but ’tain’t general for people to hire here only for harvest time; fact is, a man couldn’t earn his board, let alone his wages, for six months in the year.”
“But what do these men who hire out during harvest time do during the rest of the year; do they have to earn enough in those two or three months to live on for the other eight or nine?”
“Well they gets jobs sometimes, and they goes from one place to another.”
“But in winter time, when you say there’s not work enough to pay their board?”
“Well, they keeps a gain’ round from one place to another, and gets their living somehow.”
“The fact on’t is,” he said at length, as I pressed the enquiry, “there ain’t anybody that ever means to work any in this country, except just along in harvest—folks don’t keep working here as they do in your country, I expect.”
“But they must put in their crops?”
“Yes, folks that have farms of their own, they do put in their craps and tend ’em, but these fellows that don’t have farms, they won’t work except in harvest, when they can get high wages [$8 a month]. I hired a fellow last spring for six months; I wanted him to help me plant and tend my corn. You see I had a short crap last year, and this spring I had to pay fifty cents a bushel for corn for bread, and I didn’t want to get caught so again, not this year, so I gin this fellow $6 a month for six months—$36 I gin him in hard silver.”
“Paid it to him in advance?”
“Yes, he wouldn’t come ‘less I’d pay him right then. Well, he worked one month, and maybe eight days—no, I don’t think it was more than six days over a month, and then he went away, and I hain’t seen a sight on him since. I expect I shall lose my money—reckon he don’t ever intend to come back; he knows I’m right in harvest, and want him now, if ever I do.”
“What did he go away for?”
“Why he said he was sick, but if he was, he got well mighty easy after he stopped working.”
“Do you know where he is now?”
“Oh, yes, he’s going round here.”
“What is he doing?”
“Well, he’s just goin’ round.”
“Is he at work for any one else?”
“Reckon not—no, he’s just goin’ round from one place to another.”
At supper and breakfast surprise was expressed that I declined coffee, and more still that I drank water instead of milk. The woman observed, “’twas cheap boarding me.” The man said he must get home a couple more cows; they ought to drink milk more, coffee was so high now, and he believed milk would be just as healthy. The woman asked the price of coffee in New York; I could not tell her, but said I believed it was uncommonly high; the crops had been short. She asked how coffee grew. I told her as well as I was able, but concluded by saying I had never seen it growing. “Don’t you raise coffee in New York?” she asked; “I thought that was where it came from.”
The butter was excellent. I said so, and asked if they never made any for sale. The woman said she could make “as good butter as any ever was made in the yarth, but she couldn’t get any thing for it; there warn’t many of the merchants would buy it, and those that did would only take it at eight cents a pound for goods.” The man said the only thing he could ever sell for ready money was cattle. Drovers bought them for the New York market, and lately they were very high—four cents a pound. He had driven cattle all the way to Charleston himself to sell them, and only got four cents a pound there. He had sold corn here for twelve and a half cents a bushel.
Although the man could not read, he had honored letters by calling one of his children “Washington Irving”; another was known as Matterson (Madison?). He had never tried manuring land for crops, but said, “I do believe it is a good plan, and if I live I mean to try it sometime.”
July 16th.—I stopped last night at the pleasantest house I have yet seen in the mountain: a framed house, painted white, with a log kitchen attached. The owner was a man of superior standing. I judged from the public documents and law books on his table that he had either been in the Legislature of the State or that he was a justice of the peace. There were also a good many other books and newspapers, chiefly of a religious character. He used, however, some singularly uncouth phrases common here. He had a store and carried on farming and stock raising. After a conversation about his agriculture, I remarked that there were but few slaves in this part of the country. He wished that there were fewer. They were not profitable property here, I presumed. They were not, he said, except to raise for sale; but there were a good many people here who would not have them if they were profitable, and yet who were abundantly able to buy them. They were horrid things, he thought; he would not take one to keep it if it should be given to him. ‘Twould be a great deal better for the country, he believed, if there was not a slave in it. He supposed it would not be right to take them away from those who had acquired property in them, without any remuneration, but he wished they could all be sent out of the country—sent to Liberia. That was what ought to be done with them. I said it was evident that where there were no slaves, other things being equal, there was greater prosperity than where slavery supplied the labor. He didn t care so much for that, he said; there was a greater objection to slavery than that, in his mind. He was afraid that there was many a man who had gone to the bad world who wouldn’t have gone there if he hadn’t had any slaves. He had been down in the nigger counties a good deal, and he had seen how it worked on the white people. It made the rich people who owned the niggers passionate and proud and ugly, and it made the poor people mean. “People that own niggers are always mad with them about something; half their time is spent in swearing and yelling at them.’
“I see you have ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ here,” said I; “have you read it?”
“And what do you think of it?”
“Think of it? I think well of it.”
“Do most of the people here in the mountains think as you do about slavery?”
“Well, there’s some thinks one way and some another, but there’s hardly any one here that don’t think slavery’s a curse to our country, or who wouldn’t be glad to get rid of it.”
I asked what the people about here thought of the Nebraska Bill. He couldn’t say what the majority thought. Would people moving from here to Nebraska now be likely to vote for the admission of slavery there? He thought not; “most people would much rather live in a free State.” He told me that he knew personally several persons who had gone to California and taken slaves with them who had not been able to bring them back. There were one or two cases where the negroes had been induced to return, and these instances had been made much of in the papers as evidence that the slaves were contented.
“That’s a great lie,” he said; “they are not content, and nine tenths of ’em would do ‘most any thing to be free. It’s only now and then that slaves, who are treated unusual kind and made a great deal of, will choose to remain in slavery if freedom is put in their way.” He knew one man (giving his name), who tried to bring two slaves back from California, and had got started with them when some white people suspecting it went on board the ship and told him it was against the law to hold negroes as slaves in California, and his negroes shouldn’t go back with him unless they were willing to. Then they went to the slaves and told them they need not return if they preferred to stay, and the slaves said they had wanted very much to go back to North Carolina, yet they would rather remain in California if they could be free, and so they took them ashore. He had heard the slave owner himself relating this and cursing the men who interfered. He had told him that they did no more than Christians were obliged to do.
I overtook upon the road to-day three young men of the poorest class. Speaking of the price of land and the profit of farming, one of them said, believing me to be a southerner,
“We are all poor folks here; don’t hardly make enough to keep us in liquor. Anybody can raise as much corn and hogs on the mountains as he’ll want to live on, but there ain t no rich people here. Nobody’s got any black ones—only three or four; no one’s got fifty or a hundred, like as they have down in the East.” “It would be better,” interrupted another, somewhat fiercely, “if there warn’t any at all, that’s my mind about it; they re no business here; they ought to be in their own country and take care of themselves, that’s what I believe, and I don’t care who hears it.” But let the reader not be deceived by these expressions; they indicate simply the weakness and cowardice of the class represented by these men. It is not slavery they detest; it is simply the negro competition, and the monopoly of the opportunities to make money by negro-owners, which they feel and but dimly comprehend.
HOW THEY TALK.
A man said to me to-day, “It’s a heap warm.”
The hail here, as in Texas, is “Travelin’? after which: “Traveled a good piece?” “What parts you been to?” etc.
If you meet a man without stopping, the salutation always is, “How d’ye do, sir,” never “Good morning”; and on parting it is, “I wish you well, sir,” more frequently than “Good bye.” You are always commanded to appear at the table, as elsewhere throughout the South, in a rough, peremptory tone, as if your host feared you would try to excuse yourself.
“Come in to supper.” “Take a seat. Some of the fry? Help yourself to any thing you see that you can eat.”
They ask your name, but do not often call you by it, but hail you “Stranger,” or “Friend.”
Texas is always spoken of in the plural—”the Texies.” “Bean’t the Texies powerful sickly?”
“Ill” is used for “vicious.” “Is your horse “Not that
I am aware of. Does he appear so?” “No; but some horses will bite a stranger, if he goes to handling on ’em.”
“Is your horse ill?” “No, I believe not.’ “I see be kind o’ drapt his ears when I came up, ‘zif he was playful.”
Everybody I’ve met in the last three counties—after ascertaining what parts I came from, and which parts I’m going to, where I got my horse, what he cost, and of what breed he is, what breed the dog is, and whether she’s followed me all the way from the Texies, if her feet ain’t worn out, and if I don’t think I’ll have to tote her if I go much further, and if I don’t want to give her away, how I like the Texies, etc.—has asked me whether I didn’t see a man by the name of Baker in the Texies, who was sheriff of — county, and didn’t behave exactly the gentleman, or another fellow by the name of , who ran away from the same county and cut to the Texies. I’ve been asked if they had done fighting yet in the Texies, referring to the war with Mexico.
COTTON KINGDOM :
A TRAVELLER’S OBSERVATIONS ON COTTON AND
SLAVERY IN THE AMERICAN SLAVE STATES.
BASED UPON THREE FORMER VOLUMES OF JOURNEYS AND
INVESTIGATIONS BY” THE SAME AUTHOR.
FREDERICK LAW OLMSTED.
IN TWO VOLUMES.
PUBLISHED BY MASON BROTHERS.
5 AND 7 MERCER STREET.
LONDON: SAMPSON LOW, SON & CO., 47 LUDGA TE HILL
COTTON AND SLAVERY
INTRODUCTORY.—THE PRESENT CRISIS.
THE mountain ranges, the valleys and the great waters of America, all trend north and south, not east and west. An arbitrary political line may divide the north part from the south part, but there is no such line in nature: there can be none, socially. While water runs downhill, the currents and counter-currents of trade, of love, of consanguinity and fellowship, will flow north and south. The unavoidable comminglings of the people in a land like this, upon the conditions which the slavery of a portion of the population impose, make it necessary to peace that we should all live under the same laws and respect the same flag. No government could long control its own people, no government could long exist, that would allow its citizens to be subject to such undignities under a foreign government as those to which the citizens of the United States heretofore have been required to submit under their own, for the sake of the tranquillity of the South. Nor could the South, with its present purposes, live on terms of peace with any foreign nation, between whose people and its own there was no division, except such an one as might be maintained by means of forts, frontier-guards and custom-houses, edicts, passports and spies. Scotland, Wales and Ireland are each much better adapted for an independent government, and under an independent government would be far more likely to live at peace with England, than the South to remain peaceably separated from the North of this country.
It is said that the South can never be subjugated. It must be, or we must. It must be, or not only our American republic is a failure, but our English justice and our English law and our English freedom are failures. This Southern repudiation of obligations upon the result of an election is but a clearer warning than we have had before, that these cannot be maintained in this land any longer in such intimate association with slavery as we have hitherto tried to hope that they might. We now know that we must give them up, or give up trying to accommodate ourselves to what the South has declared, and demonstrated, to be the necessities of its state of society. Those necessities would not be less, but, on the contrary, far more imperative, were the South an independent people. If the South has reason to declare itself independent of our long-honoured constitution, and of our common court of our common laws, on account of a past want of invariable tenderness on the part of each one of our people towards its necessities, how long could we calculate to be able to preserve ourselves from occurrences which would be deemed to abrogate the obligations of a mere treaty of peace? A treaty of peace with the South as a foreign power would be a cowardly armistice, a cruel aggravation and prolongation of war.
Subjugation! I do not choose the word but take it and use it in the only sense in which it can be applicable. This is a Republic, and the South must come under the yoke of freedom, not to work for us, but to work with us, on equal terms, as a free people. To work with us, for the security of a state of society, the ruling purpose and tendency of which, spite of all its bendings heretofore, to the necessities of slavery; spite of the incongruous foreign elements which it has had constantly to absorb and incorporate; spite of a strong element of excessive backwoods individualism, has, beyond all question, been favourable to sound and safe progress in knowledge, civilization, and Christianity. To this yoke the head of the South must now be lifted, or we must bend our necks to that of slavery, consenting and submitting, even more than we have been willing to do heretofore, to labour and fight, and pay for the dire needs of a small portion of our people living in an exceptional state of society, in which Cowper ‘s poems must not be read aloud without the precautions against the listening of family servants; in which it may be treated as a crime against the public safety to teach one of the labouring classes to write; in which the names of Wilberforce and Buxton are execrated; within which the slave trade is perpetuated, and at the capital of whose rebellion, black seamen born free, taken prisoners, in merchant ships, not in arms, are even already sold into slavery with as little hesitation as even in Barbary. One system or the other is to thrive and extend, and eventually possess and govern this whole land.
This has been long felt and acted upon at the South; and the purpose of the more prudent and conservative men, now engaged in the attempt to establish a new government in the South, was for a long time simply to obtain an advantage for what was talked of as “reconstruction”; namely, a process of change in the form and rules of our government that would disqualify us of the Free States from offering any resistance to whatever was demanded of our government, for the end in view of the extension and eternal maintenance of slavery. That men to whom the terms prudent and conservative can in any way be applied, should not have foreseen that such a scheme must be unsuccessful, only presents one more illustration of that, of which the people of England have had many in their own history, the moral Myopism, to which the habit of almost constantly looking down and never up at mankind always predisposes. That the true people of the United States could have allowed the mutiny to proceed so far before rising in their strength to resist it, is due chiefly to the instructive reliance which every grumbler really gets to have under our forms of society in the ultimate common-sense of the great body of the people, and to the incredulity with which the report has been regarded that slavery had made such a vast difference between the character of the South and that of the country at large. Few were fully convinced that the whole proceedings of the insurgents meant anything else than a more than usually bold and scandalous way of playing the game of brag to which we had been so long used in our politics, and of which the people of England had a little experience shortly before the passage of a certain Reform Bill. The instant effect of the first shotted-gun that was fired proves this. We knew then that we had to subjugate slavery, or be subjugated by it.
Peace is now not possible until the people of the South are well convinced that the form of society, to fortify which is the ostensible purpose of the war into which they have been plunged, is not worthy fighting for, or until we think the sovereignty of our convictions of Justice,Freedom, Law and the conditions of Civilization in this land to be of less worth than the lives and property of our generation.
From the St. Lawrence to the Mexican Gulf, freedom must everywhere give way to the necessities of slavery, or slavery must be accommodated to the necessary incidents of freedom.
Where the hopes and sympathies of Englishmen will be, we well know.
“The necessity to labour is incompatible with a high civilization, and with heroic spirit in those subject to it.”
“The institution of African slavery is a means more effective than any other yet devised, for relieving a large body of men from the necessity of labour; consequently, states which possess it must be stronger in statesmanship and in war, than those which do not; especially must they be stronger than states in which there is absolutely no privileged class, but all men are held to be equal before the law.”
“The civilized world is dependent upon the Slave States of America for a supply of cotton. The demand for this commodity has, during many years, increased faster than the supply. Sales are made of it, now, to the amount of two hundred millions of dollars in a year, yet they have a vast area of soil suitable for its production which has never been broken. With an enormous income, then, upon a steadily rising market, they hold a vast idle capital yet to be employed. Such a monopoly under such circumstances must constitute those who possess it the richest and most powerful people on the earth. The world must have cotton, and the world depends on them for it. Whatever they demand, that must be conceded them; whatever they want, they have but to stretch forth their hands and take it.”
These fallacies, lodged in certain minds, generated, long ago, grand, ambitious, and bold schemes of conquest and wealth. The people of the North stood in the way of these schemes. In the minds of the schemers, labour had been associated with servility, meekness, cowardice; and they were persuaded that all men not degraded by labour at the North “kept aloof from politics,” or held their judgment in entire subjection to the daily wants of a working population of no more spirit and no more patriotism than their own working men—slaves. They believed this whole people to be really in a state of dependence, and that they controlled that upon which they depended. So, to a hitherto vague and inert local partisanship, they brought a purpose of determination to overcome the North, and, as this could not be safely avowed, there was the necessity for a conspiracy, and for the cloak of a conspiracy. By means the most mendacious, the ignorant, proud, jealous and violent free population of the cotton States and their dependencies were persuaded that less consideration was paid to their political demands than the importance of their contentment entitled them to expect from their government, and were at length decoyed into a state of angry passion, in which they only needed leaders of sufficient audacity to bring them into open rebellion. Assured that their own power if used would be supreme, and that they had but to offer sufficient evidence of a violent and dangerous determination to overawe the sordid North, and make it submit to a “reconstruction” of the nation in a form more advantageous to themselves, they were artfully led along in a constant advance, and constant failure of attempts at intimidation, until at length, they must needs take part in a desperate rebellion, or accept a position which, after the declarations they had made for the purpose of intimidation, they could not do without humiliation.
The conspirators themselves have, until recently, been able, either directly or by impositions upon patriotic, but too confiding and generous instruments, to control the treasury of the United States, its post-office, its army and navy, its arsenals, workshops, dockyards and fortresses, and, by the simple means of perjury, to either turn these agencies against the government, or at least render them ineffectual to aid it, and this at a time when its very existence, if it were anything but a democratic republican government, and, as we think for all good purposes, by far the strongest that ever existed, would have depended on a perfect instant and unquestionable command of them. Yet I doubt not that the conspirators themselves, trust at this moment, as they ever have trusted, even less to the supposed helpless condition of the goverment than to the supposed advantages of the cotton monopoly to the Slave States, and to the supposed superiority of a community of privileged classes over an actual democracy.
“No! you dare not make war upon cotton; no power on earth dares to make war upon it. Cotton is king; until lately the Bank of England was king; but she tried to put her screws, as usual, the fall before the last, on the cotton crop, and was utterly vanquished. The last power has been conquered: who can doubt, that has looked at recent events, that cotton is supreme?”
These are the defiant and triumphant words of Governor Hammond, of South Carolina, addressed to the Senate of the United States, March 4th, 1858. Almost every important man of the South, has at one time or other, within a few years, been betrayed into the utterance of similar exultant anticipations; and the South would never have been led into the great and terrible mistake it has made, had it not been for this confident conviction in the minds of the men who have been passing for its statesmen. Whatever moral strength the rebellion has, abroad or at home, lies chiefly in the fact that this conviction is also held, more or less distinctly, by multitudes who know perfectly well that the commonly assigned reasons for it are based on falsehoods.
Recently, a banker, who is and always has been a loyal union man, said, commenting upon certain experiences of mine narrated in this book: “The South cannot be poor. Why their last crop alone was worth two hundred million. They must be rich”: ergo, say the conspirators, adopting the same careless conclusion, they must be powerful, and the world must feel their power, and respect them and their institutions.
My own observation of the real condition of the people of our Slave States, gave me, on the contrary, an impression that the cotton monopoly in some way did them more harm than good; and, although the written narration of what I saw was not intended to set this forth, upon reviewing it for the present publication, I find the impression has become a conviction. I propose here, therefore, to show how the main body of the observations of the book arrange themselves in my mind with reference to this question, and also to inquire how far the conclusion to which I think they tend is substantiated by the Census returns of those States.*
*I greatly regret, after visiting Washington for this purpose, to find that the returns of the Census of 1860 are not yet sufficiently verified and digested to be given to the public. I have therefore had to fall back upon those of 1850. The rate of increase of the slave population in the meantime is stated at 25 per cent.
Coming directly from my farm in New York to Eastern Virginia, I was satisfied, after a few weeks’ observation, that the most of the people lived very poorly; that the proportion of men improving their condition was much less than in any Northern community; and that the natural resources of the land were strangely unused, or were used with poor economy. It was “the hiring season,” and I had daily opportunities of talking with farmers, manufacturers, miners, and labourers, with whom the value of labour and of wages was then the handiest subject of conversation. I soon perceived that labour was much more readily classified and measured with reference to its quality than at the North. The limit of measure I found to be the ordinary day’s work of a “prime field-hand,” and a prime field-hand, I found universally understood to mean, not a man who would split two cords of wood, or cradle two acres of grain in a day, but a man for whom a “trader” would give a thousand dollars, or more, to take on South, for sale to a cotton planter. I do not mean that the alternative of a sale to a trader was always had in view in determining how a man should be employed. To be just, this seldom appeared to be the case —but that, in estimating the market value of his labour, he was viewed, for the time, from the trader’s point of view, or, as if the question were—What is he worth for cotton?
I soon ascertained that a much larger number of hands, at much larger aggregate wages, was commonly reckoned to be required to accomplish certain results, than would have been the case at the North. Not all results, but certain results, of a kind in which it happened that I could most readily make a confident comparison. I have been in the habit of watching men at work, and of judging of their industry, their skill, their spirit; in short, of whatever goes to make up their value to their employers, or to the community, as instruments of production; and from day to day I saw that, as a landowner, or as a citizen, in a community largely composed, or dependent upon the productive industry, of working people of such habits and disposition as I constantly saw evinced in those of Virginia, I should feel disheartened, and myself lose courage, spirit, and industry. The close proximity of the better and cheaper labour —labour seeking a field of labour—which I had left behind me, added greatly to my interest in the subject, and stimulated close inquiry. It seemed, indeed, quite incredible that there really could be such a want of better labour in this region as at first sight there appeared to be, when a supply was so near at hand. I compared notes with every Northern man I met who had been living for some time in Virginia, and some I found able to give me quite exact statements of personal experience, with which, in the cases they mentioned, it could not be doubted that labourers costing, all things considered, the same wages, had taken four times as long to accomplish certain tasks of rude work in Virginia as at the North, and that in house service, four servants accomplished less, while they required vastly more looking after, than one at the North.
I left Virginia, having remained much longer than I at first intended, in trying to satisfy myself about this matter —quite satisfied as to the general fact, not at all satisfied with any theories of demand and supply which had been offered me, or which had occurred to me, in the way of explanation of it.
My perplexity was increased by certain apparent exceptions to the general rule; but they were, all things considered, unimportant, and rather served as affording contrasts, on the ground, to satisfy me of the correctness of my general conclusion.
I subsequently returned, and spent another month in Virginia, after visiting the cotton States, and I also spent three months in Kentucky and other parts of the Slave States where the climate is unsuitable for the production of cotton, and with the information which I had in the meantime obtained, I continued to study both the question of fact, and the question of cause. The following conclusions to which my mind tended strongly in the first month, though I did not then adopt them altogether with confidence, were established at length in my convictions.
- The cash value of a slave’s labour in Virginia is, practically, the cash value of the same labour minus the cost of its transportation, acclimatizing, and breaking in to cotton-culture in Mississippi.
- The cost of production, or the development of natural wealth in Virginia, is regulated by the cost of slave-labour: (that is to say) the competition of white labour does not materially reduce it; though it doubtless has some effect, at least in certain districts, and with reference to certain productions or branches of industry.
- Taking infants, aged, invalid, and vicious and knavish slaves into account, the ordinary and average cost of a certain task of labour is more than double in Virginia what it is in the Free States adjoining.
- The use of land and nearly all other resources of wealth in Virginia is much less valuable than the use of similar property in the adjoining Free States, these resources having no real value until labour is applied to them. (The Census returns of 1850 show that the sale value of farm lands by the acre in Virginia is less than one-third the value of farm lands in the adjoining Free State of Pennsylvania, and less than one-fifth than that of the farm lands of the neighbouring Free State of New Jersey.)
- Beyond the bare necessities of existence, poor shelter, poor clothing, and the crudest diet, the mass of the citizen class of Virginia earn very little and are very poor—immeasurably poorer than the mass of the people of the adjoining Free States.
- So far as this poverty is to be attributed to personal constitution, character, and choice, it is not the result of climate.
- What is true of Virginia is measurably true of all the border Slave States, though in special cases the resistance of slavery to a competition of free labour is more easily overcome. In proportion as this is the case, the cost of production is less, the value of production greater, the comfort of the people is greater; they are advancing in wealth as they are in intelligence, which is the best form or result of wealth.
I went on my way into the so-called cotton States, within which I travelled over, first and last, at least three thousand miles of roads, from which not a cotton plant was to be seen, and the people living by the side of which certainly had not been made rich by cotton or anything
else. And for every mile of road-side upon which I saw any evidence of cotton production, I am sure that I saw a hundred of forest or waste land, with only now and then an acre or two of poor corn half smothered in weeds; for every rich man’s house, I am sure that I passed a dozen shabby and half-furnished cottages, and at least a hundred cabins—mere hovels, such as none but a poor farmer would house his cattle in at the North. And I think that, for every man of refinement and education with whom I came in contact, there were a score or two superior only in the virtue of silence, and in the manner of self-complacency, to the sort of people we should expect to find paying a large price for a place from which a sight could be got at a gallows on an execution day at the North, and a much larger number of what poor men at the North would themselves describe as poor men: not that they were destitute of certain things which are cheap at the South,— fuel for instance,—but that they were almost wholly destitute of things the possession of which, at the North, would indicate that a man had begun to accumulate capital—more destitute of these, on an average, than our day-labourers. In short, except in certain limited districts, mere streaks by the side of rivers, and in a few isolated spots of especially favoured soil away from these, I found the same state of things which I had seen in Virginia, but in a more aggravated form.
At least five hundred white men told me something of their own lives and fortunes, across their own tables, and with the means of measuring the weight of their words before my eyes; and I know that white men seldom want an abundance of coarse food in the cotton States: the proportion of the free white men who live as well in any respect as our working classes at the North, on an average, is small, and the citizens of the cotton States, as a whole, are poor. They work little, and that little, badly; they earn little, they sell little; they buy little, and they have little—very little—of the common comforts and consolations of civilized life. Their destitution is not material only; it is intellectual and it is moral. I know not what virtues they have that rude men everywhere have not; but those which are commonly attributed to them, I am sure that they, lack: they are not generous or hospitable; and, to be plain, I must say that their talk is not the talk of even courageous men elsewhere. They boast and lack self-restraint, yet, when not excited, are habitually reserved and guarded in expressions of opinion very much like cowardly men elsewhere.
But, much cotton is produced in the cotton States, and by the labour of somebody; much cotton is sold and somebody must be paid for it; there are rich people; there are good markets; there is hospitality, refinement, virtue, courage, and urbanity at the South. All this is proverbially true. Who produces the cotton? who is paid for it? where are, and who are, the rich and gentle people?
I can answer in part at least.
I have been on plantations on the Mississippi, the Red River, and the Brazos bottoms, whereon I was assured that ten bales of cotton to each average prime field-hand had been raised. The soil was a perfect garden mould, well drained and guarded by levees against the floods; it was admirably tilled; I have seen but few Northern farms so well tilled: the labourers were, to a large degree, tall, slender, sinewy, young men, who worked from dawn to dusk, not with spirit, but with steadiness and constancy. They had good tools; their rations of bacon and corn were brought to them in the field, and eaten with efficient despatch between the cotton plants. They had the best sort of gins and presses, so situated that from them cotton bales could be rolled in five minutes to steamboats, bound direct to the ports on the gulf. They were superintended by skilful and vigilant overseers. These plantations were all large, so large as to yet contain much fresh land, ready to be worked as soon as the cultivated fields gave out in fertility. If it was true that ten bales of cotton to the hand had been raised on them, then their net profit for the year had been, not less than two hundred and fifty dollars for each hand employed. Even at seven bales to the hand the profits of cotton planting are enormous. Men who have plantations producing at this rate, can well afford to buy fresh hands at fourteen hundred dollars a head. They can even afford to employ such hands for a year or two in clearing land, ditching, leveeing, fencing, and other preparatory work, buying, meantime, all the corn and bacon they need, and getting the best kind of tools and cattle, and paying fifteen per cent. per annum interest on all the capital required for this, as many of them do. All this can be well afforded to establish new plantations favourably situated, on fresh soil, if there is a reasonable probability that they can after all be made to produce half a dozen seven-bale crops. And a great many large plantations do produce seven bales to the hand for years in succession. A great many more produce seven bales occasionally. A few produce even ten bales occasionally, though by no means as often as is reported.
Now, it is not at a Roman lottery alone that one may see it, but all over the world, where a few very large prizes are promised and many very small ones, and the number of tickets is limited; these are always speculated on, and men will buy them at third and fourth hand at prices which, it is useless to demonstrate to them, must be extravagant. They go to the Jews and pledge the clothes on their back to get another biacchi to invest; they beggar themselves; they ruin their families; they risk damnation in their passionate eagerness to have a chance, when they know perfectly well that the average of chances is not worth a tithe of what they must pay for it.
The area of land on which cotton may be raised with profit is practically limitless; it is cheap; even the best land is cheap; but to the large planter it is much more valuable when held in large parcels, for obvious reasons, than when in small; consequently the best land can hardly be obtained in small tracts or without the use of a considerable capital. But there are millions of acres of land yet untouched, which if leveed and drained and fenced, and well cultivated, might be made to produce with good luck seven or more bales to the hand. It would cost comparatively little to accomplish it—one lucky crop would repay all the outlay for land and improvements—if it were not for “the hands.” The supply of hands is limited. It does not increase in the ratio of the increase of the cotton demand. If cotton should double in price next year, or become worth its weight in gold, the number of negroes in the United States would not increase four per cent. unless the African slave-trade were re-established. Now step into a dealer’s “jail” in Memphis, Montgomery, Vicksburg, or New Orleans, and you will hear the Mezzano of the cotton lottery crying his tickets in this way: “There’s a cotton nigger for you! Genuine! Look at his toes! Look at his fingers! There’s a pair of legs for you! If you have got the right sile and the right sort of overseer, buy him, and put your trust in Providence! He’s just as good for ten bales as I am for a julep at eleven o clock.” And this is just as true as that any named horse is sure to win the Derby. And so the price of good labourers is constantly gambled up to a point, where, if they produce ten bales to the hand, the purchaser will be as fortunate as he who draws the high prize of the lottery; where, if they produce seven bales to the hand, he will still be in luck; where, if rot, or worm, or floods, or untimely rains or frosts occur, reducing the crop to one or two bales to the hand, as is often the case, the purchaser will have drawn a blank.
That, all things considered, the value of the labour of slaves does not, on an average, by any means justify the price paid for it, is constantly asserted by the planters, and it is true. At least beyond question it is true, and I think that I have shown why, that there is no difficulty in finding purchasers for all the good slaves that can be got by traders, at prices considerably more than they are worth for the production of cotton under ordinary circumstances. The supply being limited, those who grow cotton on the most productive soils, and with the greatest advantages in all other respects, not only can afford to pay more than others, for all the slaves which can be brought into market, but they are driven to a ruinous competition among themselves, and slaves thus get a fictitious value like stocks “in a corner.” The buyers indeed are often “cornered,” and it is only the rise which almost annually has occurred in the value of cotton that has hitherto saved them from general bankruptcy. Nearly all the large planters carry a heavy load of debt from year to year, till a lucky crop co,- incident with a rise in the price of cotton relieves them.
The whole number of slaves engaged in cotton culture at the Census of 1850 was reckoned by De Bow to be 1,800,000,* the crops at 2,400,000 bales, which is a bale and a third to each head of slaves.
*Official Census—Compend., p. 94.
This was the largest crop between 1846 and 1852. Other things being equal, for reasons already indicated, the smaller the estate of slaves, the less is their rate of production per head; and, as a rule, the larger the slave estate the larger is the production per head. The number of slaves in cotton plantations held by owners of fifty and upwards is, as nearly as it can be fixed by the Census returns, 420,000.
If these produce on an average only two and a half bales per head (man, woman, and child), and double this is not extraordinary on the large plantations of the South-west, * it leaves an average for the smaller plantations of seven-eighths of a bale per head. These plantations are mostly in the interior, with long haulage and boatage to market. To the small planter in the interior, his cotton crop does not realize, as an average plantation price, more than seven cents a pound, or thirty dollars the bale.** Those who plant cotton in this small way usually raise a crop of corn, and some little else, not enough, take the country through, one year with another, to supply themselves and their slaves with food; certainly not more than enough to do so, on an average. To this the Southern agricultural periodicals frequently testify. They generally raise nothing for sale, but cotton. And of cotton their sale, as has been shown, amounted in 1849—a favourable year —to less than the value of twenty-five dollars for each slave, young and old, which they had kept through the year.*** Deducting those who hold slaves only as domestic servants from the whole number of slaveholders returned by the Census, more than half of all the slaveholders, and fully half of all the cotton-sellers, own each, not more than one family, on an average, of five slaves of all ages****
*Messrs. Neill Brothers, cotton merchants of New Orleans, the most painstaking collectors of information about the cotton crop in the country, state, in a recent circular, that many of the Mississippi cotton plantations last year, after an extraordinary fertilizing flood, produced sixteen bales to the hand. The slaves on these plantations being to a lace extent picked hands, as I elsewhere show, the production per head was fully eight bales.
**In a careful article in the Austin State Gazette, six and a quarter cents is given as the average net price of cotton in Texas. The small planters, having no gins or presses of their own, usually have their cotton prepared for market by larger planters, for which service they of course have to pay.
*** There have been much larger aggregate crops since, and the price may be a cent more to the planter, but the number of slaves drawn to the larger plantations in the meantime has increased in quite equal proportion.
**** Census Compend., p. 95.
The ordinary total cash income, then, in time of peace, of fully half our cotton-planters, cannot be reckoned at more than one hundred and twenty-five dollars, or, in extraordinary years, like the last, at, say, one hundred and fifty dollars. From this they must purchase whatever clothing and other necessaries they require for the yearly supply of an average of more than ten persons (five whites and five slaves), as well as obtain tools, mechanics’ work and materials, and whatever is necessary for carrying on the work of a plantation, usually of some hundred acres* and must yet save enough to pay the fees of doctors, clergy, and lawyers, if they have had occasion to employ them, and their county and state taxes (we will say nothing of the education of their children, or of accumulations for the war expenses of the Confederation).
*The average size of plantations in the South-west, including the farms and “patches” of the non-slaveholders, is 273 acres (p. 170, C. Compend.). Cotton plantations are not generally of less than 400 acres.
My personal experience of the style of living of the greater number of cotton-planters leads me to think this not an unfair estimate. It is mainly based upon the official returns and calculations of the United States Census of 1850, as prepared by Mr. De Bow, a leading secessionist, and it assumes nothing which is not conceded in the article on cotton in his Resources of the South. A majority of those who sell the cotton crop of the United States must be miserably poor—poorer than the majority of our day-labourers at the North.
A similar calculation will indicate that the planters who own on an average two slave families each, can sell scarcely more than three hundred dollars’ worth of cotton a year, on an average; which also entirely agrees with my observations. I have seen many a workman’s lodging at the North, and in England too, where there was double the amount of luxury that I ever saw in a regular cotton-planter’s house on plantations of three cabins.
The next class of which the Census furnishes us means of considering separately, are planters whose slaves occupy, on an average, seven cabins, lodging five each on an average, including the house servants, aged invalids, and children. The average income of planters of this class, I reckon from similar data, to be hardly more than that of a private of the New York Metropolitan Police Force. It is doubtless true that cotton is cultivated profitably, that is to say, so as to produce a fair rate of interest on the capital of the planter, on many plantations of this class; but this can hardly be the case on an average, all things considered.
It is not so with many plantations of the next larger class even, but it would appear to be so with these on an average; that is to say, where the quarters of a cotton plantation number half a score of cabins or more, which method of classification I use that travellers may the more readily recall their observations of the appearance of such plantations, when I think that their recollections will confirm these calculations. There are usually other advantages for the cultivation, cleaning, pressing, shipping and disposing of cotton, by the aid of which the owner obtains a fair return for the capital invested, and may be supposed to live, if he knows how, in a moderately comfortable way. The whole number of slaveholders of this large class in all the Slave States is, according to De Bow’s Compendium of the Census, 7,929, among which are all the great sugar, rice and tobacco-planters. Less than seven thousand, certainly, are cotton-planters.
A large majority of these live, when they live on their plantations at all, in districts, almost the only white population of which consists of owners and overseers of the same class of plantations with their own. The nearest other whites will be some sand-hill vagabonds, generally miles away, between whom and these planters, intercourse is neither intimate nor friendly.
It is hardly worth while to build much of a bridge for the occasional use of two families, even if they are rich. It is less worth while to go to much pains in making six miles of good road for the use of these families. A schoolhouse will hardly be built for the children of six rich men who will all live on an average six miles away from it, while private tutors or governesses can be paid by the earnings of a single fieldhand. If zeal and fluency can be obtained in a preacher coming occasionally within reach, the interest on the cost of a tolerable education is not likely to be often paid by all who would live within half a day’s journey of a house of worship, which can be built anywhere in the midst of a district of large plantations. It is not necessary to multiply illustrations like these. In short, then, if all the wealth produced in a certain district is concentrated in the hands of a few men living remote from each other, it may possibly bring to the district comfortable houses, good servants, fine wines, food and furniture, tutors and governesses, horses and carriages, for these few men, but it will not bring thither good roads and bridges, it will not bring thither such means of education and of civilized comfort as are to be drawn from libraries, churches, museums, gardens, theatres, and assembly rooms; it will not bring thither local newspapers, telegraphs, and so on. It will not bring thither that subtle force and discipline which comes of the myriad relations with and duties to a well-constituted community which every member of it is daily exercising, and which is the natural unseen compensation and complement of its more obvious constraints and inconveniences. There is, in fact, a vast range of advantages which our civilization has made so common to us that they are hardly thought of, of which the people of the South are destitute. They chiefly come from or connect with acts of co-operation, or exchanges of service; they are therefore possessed only in communities, and in communities where a large proportion of the people have profitable employment. They grow, in fact, out of employments in which the people of the community are associated, or which they constantly give to and receive from one another, with profit. The slaves of the South, though often living in communities upon plantations, fail to give or receive these advantages because the profits of their labour are not distributed to them; the whites, from not engaging in profitable employment. The whites are not engaged in profitable employment, because the want of the advantages of capital in the application of their labour, independently of the already rich, renders the prospective result of their labour so small that it is inoperative in most, as a motive for exerting themselves further than is necessary to procure the bare means of a rude subsistence; also because common labour is so poorly rewarded in the case of the slaves as to assume in their minds, as it must in the minds of the slaves themselves, a hateful aspect.
In the late act of treason of the usurpers of government in Louisiana, the commercial demand which induces a man to go to work is considered to be equivalent to slavery; and the fear that the election of Lincoln, by its tendency to open a way for the emancipation of the negroes, may lead on to a necessity for the whites to go to work, is gravely set forth as a justification for the surrender of the State to the conspiracy. Thus:—
“Fully convinced as we are that slavery. . . . leaves to the black labourer a more considerable sum of comfort, happiness and liberty than the inexorable labour required from the free servants of the whole universe, and that each emancipation of an African, without being of any benefit to him, would necessarily condemn to slavery one of our own race, etc.”
To work industriously and steadily, especially under directions from another man, is, in the Southern tongue, to “work like a nigger”: and, from childhood, the one thing in their condition which has made life valuable to the mass of whites has been that the niggers are yet their inferiors. It is this habit of considering themselves of a privileged class, and of disdaining something which they think beneath them, that is deemed to be the chief blessing of slavery. It is termed “high tone,” “high spirit,” and is supposed to give great military advantages to those who possess it. It should give advantages of some sort, for its disadvantages are inexpressibly great.
But if the poor whites were ever so industriously disposed, the rich planter has a natural distaste to exchange absolute for partial authority over the instruments by which he achieves his purpose; and the employment of free and slave labour together, is almost as difficult as working, under the same yoke, an unbroken horse and a docile ox. Again, however repugnant it may be to the self-esteem, and contrary to the habits of the rich man to treat his labourers with respect, he has to do it when employing white men, from motives of self-interest which lie below the surface, and he consequently habitually avoids arranging his affairs in such a way as will make it necessary for him to offer them employment.
It may be said that on the more profitable cotton plantations where little is raised except cotton, supplies for the maintenance of the slaves and for carrying on the work of the plantation, are largely bought which are raised elsewhere at the South; and that those who supply the commodities thus required by the cotton-planter draw from his profits which are thus distributed throughout the South, even to the non-cotton-producing States, the people of which are thus enriched. As far as all articles are concerned, in the production of which labour is a comparatively unimportant item of cost,—mules for instance, and in certain circumstances, within certain limits, swine,—this is true. But these are of small consequence. It is constantly assumed by nearly all writers on this subject that the labour directed to the cultivation of Indian corn for the necessary sustenance of slaves engaged in cotton culture must be just as profitably directed as if it were devoted to the cultivation of cotton itself. This is not true, although the Southern agricultural journals, and to a large extent our national agriculture reports, have for years been assuming it to be so. It is frequently spoken of indeed, as a mystery, that the cotton-planters cannot be induced to raise the food required by their force. The reason of it is a very simple one, namely, that in the cultivation of corn their labour must come into competition with the free labour of the Northern States, as it does not in the production of cotton: and the corn-raisers of the Northern Slave States, without enjoying any monopoly of production like that of the cotton-raisers, have to share with these, all the manifold inconveniences which result from the scarcity of good workmen, and the necessary concentration of all the effective working force of the country, limited as it is, upon the one purpose of getting cotton.
The interests of the owners of all soil in the Slave States which is not adapted to cotton culture, and of all capital not engaged in cotton culture, or in supplying slaves for it, are thus injured by the demand for cotton, they being, in fact, forced to be co-partners in an association in which they do not share the profits.
And as to what are commonly called the Cotton States, if we assume that cotton cultivation is profitable only where the production is equal to two bales for each slave employed, it will be seen that wherever the land will not yield as much as this, the owner of it suffers all the disadvantages of the difficulty of getting good labourers as much as the owner of the land which produces seven or ten bales to the hand, although none of the profits of supplying the cotton demand, which gives this extraordinary price to labour, come to him.
According to the Census,’ the whole crop of cotton is produced on 5,000,000 acres. It could be produced, at the rate common on good South-western plantations, on less than half that area. The rest of the land of the Slave States, which amounts to over 500,000,000 acres, is condemned, so far as the tendencies I have indicated are not overweighed here and there by some special advantages, to non-cultivation, except for the hand-to-mouth supply of its people. And this is true not only of its agricultural but of all other of its resources.
That for all practical purposes this is not an exaggerated statement is clearly enough shown by the difference in the market value of land, which as officially given by De Bow, as, notwithstanding the extraordinary demand of the world upon the cotton land, between four and five hundred per cent. higher in the Free than in the Slave States, the frontier and unsettled districts, Texas, California and the territories not being considered.
One of the grand errors out of which this rebellion has grown came from supposing that whatever nourishes wealth and gives power to an ordinary civilized community must command as much for a slave-holding community. The truth has been overlooked that the accumulation of wealth and the power of a nation are contingent not merely upon the primary value of the surplus of productions of which it has to dispose, but very largely also upon the way in which the income from its surplus is distributed and reinvested. Let a man be absent from almost any part of the North twenty years, and he is struck, on his return, by what we call the “improvements” which have been made: better buildings, churches, schoolhouses, mills, railroads, etc. In New York city alone, for instance, at least two hundred millions of dollars have been reinvested merely in an improved housing of the people; in labour-saving machinery, waterworks, gasworks, etc., as much more. It is not difficult to see where the profits of our manufacturers and merchants are. Again, go into the country, and there is no end of substantial proof of twenty years of agricultural prosperity, not alone in roads, canals, bridges, dwellings, barns and fences, but in books and furniture, and gardens, and pictures, and in the better dress and evidently higher education of the people. But where will the returning traveller see the accumulated cotton profits of twenty years in Mississippi? Ask the cotton-planter for them, and he will point in reply, not to dwellings, libraries, churches, school-houses, mills, railroads, or anything of the kind; he will point to his negroes—to almost nothing else. Negroes such as stood for five hundred dollars once, now represent a thousand dollars. We must look then in Virginia and those Northern Slave States which have the monopoly of supplying negroes for the real wealth which the sale of cotton has brought to the South. But where is the evidence of it? where anything to compare with the evidence of accumulated profits to be seen in any Free State? If certain portions of Virginia have been a little improving, others unquestionably have been deteriorating, growing shabbier, more comfortless, less convenient. The total increase in wealth of the population during the last twenty years shows for almost nothing. One year’s improvements of a Free State exceed it all.
It is obvious that to the community at large, even in Virginia, the profits of supplying negroes to meet the wants occasioned by the cotton demand have not compensated for the bar which the high cost of all sorts of human service, which the cotton demand has also occasioned, has placed upon all other means of accumulating wealth; and this disadvantage of the cotton monopoly is fully experienced by the negro-breeders themselves, in respect to everything else they have to produce or obtain.
I say all sorts of human service. What the South will have to pay for the service of true statesmanship, the world has now to see.
Whither the profits of cotton go, it is not my purpose, here, to undertake to show. I will barely notice the hypocritical statement made for the English market as an apology for this mad crime of the slaveholders, that they are greatly absorbed in contributions made by the planting States to our national treasury in payment of duties on importations. The cotton-planters pay duties only on what they consume of foreign goods. A very large part of our duties are collected on a class of goods for which there is almost no demand at all from the South, either directly or indirectly—woollen and fur goods, for instance: of the goods required for the South not a few have been practically free. The whole slave population of the South consumes almost nothing imported (nor would it, while slave, under any circumstances). The majority of the white population habitually makes use of no foreign production except chickory, which, ground with peas, they call coffee. I have never seen reason to believe that with absolute free trade the cotton States would take a tenth part of the value of our present importations. And as far as I can judge from observation of the comparative use of foreign goods at the South and at the North, not a tenth part of our duties have been defrayed by the South in the last twenty years. The most indefensible protective duty we have is one called for by the South, and which has been maintained solely to benefit the South. Our protective system had a Southern origin; its most powerful advocates have been Southerners; and there has not been a year in the last twenty, in which it could have been maintained but for Southern votes.