"We repeat it, every man knows that slavery is a curse. Whoever denies this, his lips libel his heart. Try him; clank the chains in his ears, and tell him they are for him; give him an hour to prepare his wife and children for a life of slavery; bid him make haste and get ready their necks for the yoke, and their wrists for the coffle chains, then look at his pale lips and trembling knees, and you have nature's testimony against slavery."
I thought this was a really powerfull passage because it can make slave-owners realize what slaves go through seeing their children born into this terrible way of life. It is usually easier for people to relate to something if it is worded like this passage because they put themselves in the slaves position. Also, the words that are used in the passage creates a really powerfull visual image. While i was reading the passage I was actually picturing what was happening.
"We will prove that the slaves in the United States are treated with barbarous inhumanity; that they are overworked, underfed, wretchedly clad and lodged, and have insufficient sleep; that they are often made to wear round their necks iron collars armed with prongs, to drag heavy chains and weights at their feet while working in the field, and to wear yokes, and bells, and iron horns; that they are often kept confined in the stocks day and night for weeks together, made to wear gags in their mouths for hours or days, have some of their front teeth torn out or broken off, that they may be easily detected when they run away; that they are frequently flogged with terrible severity, have red pepper rubbed into their lacerated flesh, and hot brine, spirits of turpentine, &c., poured over the gashes to increase the torture; that they are often stripped naked, their backs and limbs cut with knives, bruised and mangled by scores and hundreds of blows with the paddle, and terribly torn by the claws of cats, drawn over them by their tormentors; that they are often hunted with blood hounds and shot down like beasts, or torn in pieces by dogs; that they are often suspended by the arms and whipped and beaten till they faint, and when revived by restoratives, beaten again till they faint, and sometimes till they die; that their ears are often cut off, their eyes knocked out, their bones broken, their flesh branded with red hot irons; that they are maimed, mutilated and burned to death over slow fires."
This passage is another really powerfull passage because it challenges slave-owners that say slaves aren't treated that bad. This proves that many slaves are treated terribly and like animals. This like the above passage uses powerfull words to describe what is happening.
(1)“This same planter had a female slave who was a member of the Methodist Church; for a slave she was intelligent and conscientious. He proposed a criminal intercourse with her. She would not comply. He left her and sent for the overseer, and told him to have her flogged. It was done. Not long after, he renewed his proposal. She again refused. She was again whipped. He then told her why she had been twice flogged, and told her he intended to whip her till she should yield. The girl, seeing that her case was hopeless, her back smarting with the scourging she had received, and dreading a repetition, gave herself up to be the victim of his brutal lusts.”
(2) “Such scenes of horror as above described are so common in Georgia that they attract no attention. To threaten them with death, with breaking in their teeth or jaws, or cracking their heads, is common talk, when scolding at the slaves.--Those who run away from their masters and are caught again generally fare the worst. They are generally lodged in jail, with instructions from the owner to have them cruelly whipped. Some order the constables to whip them publicly in the market. Constables at the south are generally savage, brutal men. They have become so accustomed to catching and whipping negroes, that they are as fierce as tigers. Slaves who are absent from their yards, or plantations, after eight o'clock P. M., and are taken by the guard in the cities, or by the patrols in the country, are, if not called for before nine o'clock A. M. the next day, secured in prisons; and hardly ever escape, until their backs are torn up by the cow-hide. On plantations, the evenings usually present scenes of horror. Those slaves against whom charges are preferred for not having performed their tasks, and for various faults, must, after work-hours at night, undergo their torments. I have often heard the sound of the lash, the curses of the whipper, and the cries of the poor negro rending the air, late in the evening, and long before day-light in the morning.”
(3)“To show that slaveholding brutality now is the same that it was the eighth of a century ago, we publish the following advertisement from the "Charleston (S. C.) Courier," of 1825.
"TWENTY DOLLARS REWARD.--Ranaway from the subscriber, on the 14th instant, a negro girl named Molly.
"The said girl was sold by Messrs. Wm. Payne & Sons, as the property of an estate of a Mr. Gearrall, and purchased by a Mr. Moses, and sold by him to a Thomas Prisley, of Edgefield District, of whom I bought her on the 17th of April, 1819. She is 16 or 17 years of age, slim made, LATELY BRANDED ON THE LEFT CHEEK, THUS, R, AND A PIECE TAKEN OFF OF HER EAR ON THE SAME SIDE; THE SAME LETTER ON THE INSIDE OF BOTH HER LEGS. “
I chose those three passages because they all vividly describe the brutality that the slaves endured. They were beaten horrifically, branded, whipped. Women were also the target of lustful slave owners. The slave owners would beat the women if they did not adhere to his orders or what he wanted. I think those three passages are truly revealing when it comes to realizing the horrors that slaves endured.
The following three quotes show the inhumanity with which slaves were treated. What struck me about each of these quotes was the severity of the punishments meted out by slave owners. The atrocities which were routinely inflicted upon slaves show that, from the viewpoint of their owners, slaves were not human beings but rated at some sub-human level. They provide a strong contradiction to the argument proposed by slave owners that they cared for their slaves or treated them as extended members of their family. In addition, they highlight the element of human suffering that abolitionists wanted to shed light on in order to mobilize the North toward action.
“One poor girl, whom she sent there to be flogged, and who was accordingly stripped naked and whipped, showed me the deep gashes on her back--I might have laid my whole finger in them--large pieces of flesh had actually been cut out by the torturing lash. She sent another female slave there, to be imprisoned and worked on the tread-mill. This girl was confined several days, and forced to work the mill while in a state of suffering from another cause. For ten days or two weeks after her return, she was lame, from exertion necessary to enable her to keep the step on the machine. She spoke to me with intense feeling of this outrage upon her, as a woman. Her men servants were sometimes flogged there; and so exceedingly offensive has been the putrid flesh of their lacerated backs, for days after the infliction, that they would be kept out of the house--the smell arising from their wounds being too horrible to be endured. They were always stiff and sore for some days, and not in a condition to be seen by visitors.” -Testimony of Angelina Grimke Weld
"Judge Menzies of Boone county, Kentucky, an elder in the Presbyterian Church, and a slaveholder, told me that he knew some overseers in the tobacco growing region of Virginia, who, to make their slaves careful in picking the tobacco, that is taking the worms off, (you know what a loathsome thing the tobacco worm is) would make them eat some of the worms, and others who made them eat every worm they missed in picking." -Rev. C.S. Renshaw
“The narrator of this fact is now absent from the United States, and I do not feel at liberty to mention his name. He was present at the burial of a female slave in Mississippi, who had been whipped to death at the stake by her master, because she was gone longer of an errand to the neighboring town than her master thought necessary. Under the lash she protested that she was ill, and was obliged to rest in the fields. To complete the climax of horror, she was delivered of a dead infant while undergoing the punishment." -David L. Child, Esq.
“The ordinary mode of punishing the slaves is both cruel and barbarous. The masters seldom, if ever, try to govern their slaves by moral influence, but by whipping, kicking, beating, starving, branding, cat-hauling, loading with irons, imprisoning, or by some other cruel mode of torturing. They often boast of having invented some new mode of torture, by which they have "tamed the rascals." What is called a moderate flogging at the south is horribly cruel. Should we whip our horses for any offence as they whip their slaves for small offences, we should expose ourselves to the penalty of the law.” -Name Withheld
The following quote highlights what I believe is the natural compassion a human being should feel at the sight of a fellow human’s suffering. The narrator of this quote describes the horror he felt as a child when he saw slaves beaten, but then describes how his own heart hardened after continually being exposed to the abuse. He reached a point where he had witnessed so many whippings that it was commonplace for him; he no longer felt pity or sympathized with the agony that the slave suffered at the hands of his master. Eventually the narrator became the one beating his slaves, and he was able to do so without guilt or shame at his actions. This not only underscores how prevalent slave beatings must have been, but also shows the dangerous mentality that develops when one is continually exposed to violence. They become immune to it, and more often than not continue to perpetuate the cycle. This makes the Southern voices that grew up around that mentality and still spoke out against slavery, including the Grimke sisters, all the more powerful.
“I have seen them stripped naked and suspended by the hands, sometimes to a tree, sometimes to a post, until their toes barely touched the ground, and whipped with a cowhide until the blood dripped from their backs. A boy named Jack, particularly, I have seen served in this way more than once. When I was quite a child, I recollect it grieved me very much to see one tied up to be whipped, and I used to intercede with tears in their behalf, and mingle my cries with theirs, and feel almost willing to take part of the punishment; I have been severely rebuked by my father for this kind of sympathy. Yet, such is the hardening nature of such scenes, that from this kind of commiseration for the suffering slave, I became so blunted that I could not only witness their stripes with composure, but myself inflict them, and that without remorse.” -Testimony of John M. Nelson (Virginia)
The following three quotes are some of the strongest counterarguments to pro-slavery claims I encountered in American Slavery. Each specifically addresses a defense commonly made by slave owners or pro-slavery activists, and the absurdity of each is exposed. These passages are strong for two reasons; first that they show a serious consideration by abolitionists of both sides of the issue as opposed to a more narrow single-mindedness, and secondly because they show that it is truly the slave owners who have something to gain by covering up the horrors of slavery.
“The enormities inflicted by slaveholders upon their slaves will never be discredited except by those who overlook the simple fact, that he who holds human beings as his bona fide property, regards them as property, and not as persons; this is his permanent state of mind toward them. He does not contemplate slaves as human beings, consequently does not treat them as such; and with entire indifference sees them suffer privations and writhe under blows, which, if inflicted upon whites, would fill him with horror and indignation. He regards that as good treatment of slaves, which would seem to him insufferable abuse if practiced upon others; and would denounce that as a monstrous outrage and horrible cruelty, if perpetrated upon white men and women, which he sees every day meted out to black slaves, without perhaps ever thinking it cruel. -Objections Considered I: “Such cruelties are incredible.”
“Self-justification is human nature; self-condemnation is a sublime triumph over it, and as rare as sublime. What culprits would be convicted, if their own testimony were taken by juries as good evidence?” -Objections Considered II: “Slave owners protest that they treat their slaves well.”
“So it is for the interest of the drunkard to quit his cups; for the glutton to curb his appetite; for the debauchee to bridle his lust; for the sluggard to be up betimes; for the spendthrift to be economical, and for all sinners to stop sinning. Even if it were for the interest of masters to treat their slaves well, he must be a novice who thinks that a proof that the slaves are well treated. The whole history of man is a record of real interests sacrificed to present gratification. If all men's actions were consistent with their best interests, folly and sin would be words without meaning.”
Objections Considered V: “It is for the interest of the master to treat his slaves well.”
"Mrs. BARR, wife of Rev. H. Barr of Carrollton, Illinois, formerly from Courtland, Alabama, told me last spring, that she has very often stopped her ears that she might not hear the screams of slaves who were under the lash, and that sometimes she has left her house, and retired to a place more distant, in order to get away from their agonizing cries.
"I have often seen groups of slaves on the public squares in Huntsville, who were to be sold at auction, and I have often seen their tears gush forth and their countenances distorted with anguish. A considerable number were generally sold publicly every month.
"The following facts I have just taken down from the lips of Mr. L. Turner, a regular and respectable member of the Second Presbyterian Church in Springfield, our county town. He was born and brought up in Caroline county, Virginia. He says that the slaves are neither considered nor treated as human beings. One of his neighbors whose name was Barr, he says, on one occasion stripped a slave and lacerated his back with a handcard (for cotton or wool) and then washed it with salt and water, with pepper in it. Mr. Turner saw this. He further remarked that he believed there were many slaves there in advanced life whose backs had never been well since they began to work.
"He stated that one of his uncles had killed a woman--broke her skull with an ax helve: she had insulted her mistress! No notice was taken of the affair. Mr. T. said, further, that slaves were frequently murdered.
"He mentioned the case of one slaveholder, whom he had seen lay his slaves on a large log, which he kept for the purpose, strip them, tie them with the face downward, then have a kettle of hot water brought--take the paddle, made of hard wood, and perforated with holes, dip it into the hot water and strike--before every blow dipping it into the water--every hole at every blow would raise a 'whelk.' This was the usual punishment for running away.
"Another slaveholder had a slave who had often run away, and often been severely whipped. After one of his floggings he burnt his master's barn: this so enraged the man, that when he caught him he took a pair of pincers and pulled his toe nails out. The negro then murdered two of his master's children. He was taken after a desperate pursuit, (having been shot through the shoulder) and hung.
"One of Mr. Turner's cousins, was employed as overseer on a large plantation in Mississippi. On a certain morning he called the slaves together, to give some orders. While doing it, a slave came running out of his cabin, having a knife in his hand and eating his breakfast. The overseer seeing him coming with the knife, was somewhat alarmed, and instantly raised his gun and shot him dead. He said afterwards, that he believed the slave was perfectly innocent of any evil intentions, he came out hastily to hear the orders whilst eating. No notice was taken of the killing.
"Mr. T. related the whipping habits of one of his uncles in Virginia. He was a wealthy man, had a splendid house and grounds. A tree in his front yard, was used as a whipping post. When a slave was to be punished, he would frequently invite some of his friends, have a table, cards and wine set out under the shade; he would then flog his slave a little while, and then play cards and drink with his friends, occasionally taunting the slave, giving him the privilege of confessing such and such things, at his leisure, after a while flog him again, thus keeping it up for hours or half the day, and sometimes all day. This was his habit.
"February 4th.--Since writing the preceding, I have been to Carrollton, on a visit to my uncle, Rev. Hugh Barr, who was originally from Tennessee, lived 12 or 14 years in Courtland, Lawrence county, Alabama, and moved to Illinois in 1835. In conversation with the family, around the fireside, they stated a multitude of horrid facts, that were perfectly notorious in the neighborhood of Courtland.
- All of these passages show how cruelly the slaves were treated. They were treated more as animals instead of human beings and were beaten for the slightest infraction during the days.
TESTIMONY OF MR. WILLIAM POE.
This whole passage shows how many slave owners were acquitted of charges because no one wanted to stand up for the slaves. They would rather see the slaves die then admit that they were human beings and needed to be respected.
"In 1819, while employed as an instructor at Second Creek, near Natchez, Mississippi, I resided on a plantation where I witnessed the following circumstance. One of the slaves was in the habit of running away. He had been repeatedly taken, and repeatedly whipped, with great severity, but to no purpose. He would still seize the first opportunity to escape from the plantation. At last his owner declared, I'll fix him, I'll put a stop to his running away. He accordingly took him to a blacksmith, and had an iron head-frame made for him, which may be called lock-jaw, from the use that was made of it. It had a lock and key, and was so constructed, that when on the head and locked, the slave could not open his mouth to take food, and the design was to prevent his running away. But the device proved unavailing. He was soon missing, and whether by his own desperate effort, or the aid of others, contrived to sustain himself with food; but he was at last taken, and if my memory serves me, his life was soon terminated by the cruel treatment to which he was subjected."
The Western Luminary, a religious paper published at Lexington, Kentucky, in an editorial article, in the summer of 1833, says:
"A few weeks since we gave an account of a company of men, women and children, part of whom were manacled, passing through our streets. Last week, a number of slaves were driven through the main street of our city, among whom were a number manacled together, two abreast, all connected by, and supporting a heavy iron chain, which extended the whole length of the line."
-Slaves were treated as animals and many slave owners came up with new ideas to make sure that the slaves could not run away.
II. THE FOOD OF THE SLAVES.
"It was a general custom, wherever I have been, for the masters to give each of his slaves, male and female, one peck of corn per week for their food. This at fifty cents per bushel, which was all that it was worth when I was there, would amount to twelve and a half cents per week for board per head.
It cost me upon an average, when at the south, one dollar per day for board. The price of fourteen bushels of corn per week. This would make my board equal in amount to the board of forty-six slaves! This is all that good or bad masters allow their slaves round about Savannah on the plantations. One peck of gourd-seed corn is to be measured out to each slave once every week. One man with whom I labored, however, being desirous to get all the work out of his hands he could, before I left, (about fifty in number,) bought for them every week, or twice a week, a beef's head from market. With this, they made a soup in a large iron kettle, around which the hands came at meal-time, and dipping out the soup, would mix it with their hommony, and eat it as though it were a feast. This man permitted his slaves to eat twice a day while I was doing a job for him. He promised me a beaver hat and as good a suit of clothes as could be bought in the city, if I would accomplish so much for him before I returned to the north; giving me the entire control over his slaves. Thus you may see the temptations overseers sometimes have, to get all the work they can out of the poor slaves. The above is an exception to the general rule of feeding. For in all other places where I worked and visited; the slaves had nothing from their masters but the corn, or its equivalent in potatoes or rice, and to this, they were not permitted to come but once a day. The custom was to blow the horn early in the morning, as a signal for the hands to rise and go to work, when commenced; they continued work until about eleven o'clock, A. M., when, at the signal, all hands left off and went into their huts, made their fires, made their corn-meal into hommony or cake, ate it, and went to work again at the signal of the horn, and worked until night, or until their tasks were done. Some cooked their breakfast in the field while at work. Each slave must grind his own corn in a hand-mill after he has done his work at night. There is generally one hand-mill on every plantation for the use of the slaves.
Some of the planters have no corn, others often get out. The substitute for it is, the equivalent of one peck of corn either in rice or sweet potatoes; neither of which is as good for the slaves as corn. They complain more of being faint, when fed on rice or potatoes, than when fed on corn. I was with one man a few weeks who gave me his hands to do a job of work, and to save time one cooked for all the rest. The following course was taken,--Two crotched sticks were driven down at one end of the yard, and a small pole being laid on the crotches, they swung a large iron kettle on the middle of the pole; then made up a fire under the kettle and boiled the hommony; when ready, the hands were called around this kettle with their wooden plates and spoons. They dipped out and ate standing around the kettle, or sitting upon the ground, as best suited their convenience. When they had potatoes they took them out with their hands, and ate them. As soon as it was thought they had had sufficient time to swallow their food they were called to their work again. This was the only meal they ate through the day. Now think of the little, almost naked and half-starved children, nibbling upon a piece of cold Indian cake, or a potato! Think of the poor female, just ready to be confined, without any thing that can be called convenient or comfortable! Think of the old toil-worn father and mother, without any thing to eat but the coarsest of food, and not half enough of that! then think of home. When sick, their physicians are their masters and overseers, in most cases, whose skill consists in bleeding and in administering large potions of Epsom salts, when the whip and cursing will not start them from their cabins."
It's interesting to see how little the slaves were fed. They ate once a day and when they did eat, they ate almost nothing. The fact that they had to cook their dinner while they were working shows their poor working and living conditions. Cooking while working does not provide for an adequate meal. They do not have the proper time to prepare a meal, not that they had much to work with nor did they have time to eat it. Everything they did was rushed and they were not able to get a proper meal and because of this, they were not able to perform their jobs correctly.
"The huts of the slaves are mostly of the poorest kind. They are not as good as those temporary shanties which are thrown up beside railroads. They are erected with posts and crotches, with but little or no frame-work about them. They have no stoves or chimneys; some of them have something like a fireplace at one end, and a board or two off at that side, or on the roof, to let off the smoke. Others have nothing like a fireplace in them; in these the fire is sometimes made in the middle of the hut. These buildings have but one apartment in them; the places where they pass in and out, serve both for doors and windows; the sides and roofs are covered with coarse, and in many instances with refuse boards. In warm weather, especially in the spring, the slaves keep up a smoke, or fire and smoke, all night, to drive away the gnats and musketoes, which are very troublesome in all the low country of the south; so much so that the whites sleep under frames with nets over them, knit so fine that the musketoes cannot fly through them.
Some of the slaves have rugs to cover them in the coldest weather, but I should think more have not. During driving storms they frequently have to run from one hut to another for shelter. In the coldest weather, where they can get wood or stumps, they keep up fires all night in their huts, and lay around them, with their feet towards the blaze. Men, women and children all lie down together, in most instances. There may be exceptions to the above statements in regard to their houses, but so far as my observations have extended, I have given a fair description, and I have been on a large number of plantations in Georgia and South Carolina up and down the Savannah river. Their huts are generally built compactly on the plantations, forming villages of huts, their size proportioned to the number of slaves on them. In these miserable huts the poor blacks are herded at night like swine, without any conveniences of bedsteads, tables or chairs. O misery to the full! to see the aged sire beating off the swarms of gnats and musketoes in the warm weather, and shivering in the straw, or bending over a few coals in the winter, clothed in rags. I should think males and females, both lie down at night with their working clothes on them. God alone knows how much the poor slaves suffer for the want of convenient houses to secure them from the piercing winds and howling storms of winter, especially the aged, sick and dying. Although it is much warmer there than here, yet I suffered for a number of weeks in the winter, almost as much in Georgia as I do in Massachusetts."
Without proper housing, the slaves could not provide for their families correctly. It was easy for them in the winter months to catch illnesses and spread disease. If it ever snowed, it was easy for the snow to get inside of the shacks. They all had to lie together to keep warm. They had to use a fire to drive away bugs such as gnats and mosquitos but these one shack apartments had almost no vents in them. They had to place a hole in the roof to vent out the smoke. They had to sleeps with nets over them in the spring months because sometimes the fire was not enough to keep the bugs out. The net was so fine that not even a mosquito could fly through them.
VII. CONFINEMENT AT NIGHT.
"When the slaves have done their day's work, they must be herded together like sheep in their yards, or on their plantations. They have not as much liberty as northern men have, who are sent to jail for debt, for they have liberty to walk a larger yard than the slaves have. The slaves must all be at their homes precisely at eight o'clock, P.M. At this hour the drums beat in the cities, as a signal for every slave to be in his den. In the country, the signal is given by firing guns, or some other way by which they may know the hour when to be at home. After this hour, the guard in the cities, and patrols in the country, being well armed, are on duty until daylight in the morning. If they catch any negroes during the night without a pass, they are immediately seized and hurried away to the guard-house, or if in the country to some place of confinement, where they are kept until nine o'clock, A. M., the next day, if not called for by that time, they are hurried off to jail, and there remain until called for by their master and his jail and guard house fees paid. The guards and patrols receive one dollar extra for every one they can catch, who has not a pass from his master, or overseer, but few masters will give their slaves passes to be out at night unless on some special business: notwithstanding, many venture out, watching every step they take for the guard or patrol, the consequence is, some are caught almost every night, and some nights many are taken; some, fleeing after being hailed by the watch, are shot down in attempting their escape, others are crippled for life. I find I shall not be able to write out more at present. My ministerial duties are pressing, and if I delay this till the next mail, I fear it will not be in season. Your brother for those who are in bonds,"
The way that the slaves were rounded up is almost as if they were in a prison. They had curfews and if they were caught past their curfew, they had to go to a guard-house, which could be the same as going to a jail for going past curfew. The guards that were supposed to be watching these fields were given an extra dollar for every slave that they caught without a pass so there was incentive to look extra hard for a slave for to lure one out in the night.
Narrative of Mr. Caulkins:
I find various parts of this narrative very interesting. For example, I wasn't aware of the fact that Slave Owners left an "overseer" in charge of their slaves, who more often then not treated the slaves even worse then the owners did. Caulkins talks about a slave named Harry who ran away during the time the overseer was in charge --
"during the absence of his master, ran away and secreted himself in the woods. This the slaves sometimes do, when the master is absent for several weeks, to escape the cruel treatment of the overseer. It is common for them to make preparations, by secreting a mortar, a hatchet, some cooking utensils, and whatever things they can get that will enable them to live while they are in the woods or swamps. Harry staid about three months, and lived by robbing the rice grounds, and by such other means as came in his way. The slaves generally know where the runaway is secreted, and visit him at night and on Sundays. On the return of his master, some of the slaves were sent for Harry. When he came home he was seized and confined in the stocks. The stocks were built in the barn, and consisted of two heavy pieces of timber, ten or more feet in length, and about seven inches wide; the lower one, on the floor, has a number of holes or places cut in it, for the ancles; the upper piece, being of the same dimensions, is fastened at one end by a hinge, and is brought down after the ancles are placed in the holes, and secured by a clasp and padlock at the other end. In this manner the person is left to sit on the floor. Harry was kept in the stocks day and night for a week, and flogged every morning. After this, he was taken out one morning, a log chain fastened around his neck, the two ends dragging on the ground, and he sent to the field, to do his task with the other slaves. At night he was again put in the stocks, in the morning he was sent to the field in the same manner, and thus dragged out another week."
I think this is interesting because I had never heard of these actions by slave or slaveowner before.
Narrative and Testimony of Rev. Horace Moulton:
Mr. Moulton was a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Marlborough. He spent 5 years in Georgia, where he witnessed some of the terrors of slavery first hand.
"It was a general custom, wherever I have been, for the masters to give each of his slaves, male and female, one peck of corn per week for their food. This at fifty cents per bushel, which was all that it was worth when I was there, would amount to twelve and a half cents per week for board per head"
"The huts of the slaves are mostly of the poorest kind. They are not as good as those temporary shanties which are thrown up beside railroads. They are erected with posts and crotches, with but little or no frame-work about them. They have no stoves or chimneys; some of them have something like a fireplace at one end, and a board or two off at that side, or on the roof, to let off the smoke. Others have nothing like a fireplace in them; in these the fire is sometimes made in the middle of the hut. These buildings have but one apartment in them; the places where they pass in and out, serve both for doors and windows; the sides and roofs are covered with coarse, and in many instances with refuse boards. In warm weather, especially in the spring, the slaves keep up a smoke, or fire and smoke, all night, to drive away the gnats and musketoes, which are very troublesome in all the low country of the south; so much so that the whites sleep under frames with nets over them, knit so fine that the musketoes cannot fly through them."
"When the slaves have done their day's work, they must be herded together like sheep in their yards, or on their plantations. They have not as much liberty as northern men have, who are sent to jail for debt, for they have liberty to walk a larger yard than the slaves have. The slaves must all be at their homes precisely at eight o'clock, P.M. At this hour the drums beat in the cities, as a signal for every slave to be in his den. In the country, the signal is given by firing guns, or some other way by which they may know the hour when to be at home. After this hour, the guard in the cities, and patrols in the country, being well armed, are on duty until daylight in the morning. If they catch any negroes during the night without a pass, they are immediately seized and hurried away to the guard-house, or if in the country to some place of confinement, where they are kept until nine o'clock, A. M., the next day, if not called for by that time, they are hurried off to jail, and there remain until called for by their master and his jail and guard house fees paid. The guards and patrols receive one dollar extra for every one they can catch, who has not a pass from his master, or overseer, but few masters will give their slaves passes to be out at night unless on some special business: notwithstanding, many venture out, watching every step they take for the guard or patrol, the consequence is, some are caught almost every night, and some nights many are taken; some, fleeing after being hailed by the watch, are shot down in attempting their escape, others are crippled for life."
I think all of these testimonies are interesting because he talks about things that arent talked about very often. Everyone knows what slavery consisted of in general, but outside of the trade, poor treatment and long work days, I didn't know all that much. After reading this testimoney i have a better understanding of their living conditions and what their lives consisted of outside of the things previously listed.
Testimony of Mr. William Poe:
Mr Poe came from Virginia and he was formerly a slaveholder, but soon turned to emancipating slaves. He speaks of witnessing various slaves getting brutally handled. He tells of a wealthy tobacconist of Virgina whipping a fifteen year old girl to death; a captain of the US Navy took a negro boy into the meat house, tied his hands together, threw the other end over a joist in the building and pulled the boy up so he could just reach the stool with his toes. The man flogged the boy until he became so exahusted he fell off the stool and swung by his hands until he died; an overseer in Virginia tied a slave to a tree, flogged him over and over again, piled brush around him then set the bush on fire and burned him to death; and
"In the town of Lynchburg, Virginia, there was a negro man put in prison, charged with having pillaged some packages of goods, which he, as head man of a boat, received at Richmond, to be delivered at Lynchburg. The goods belonged to A. B. Nichols, of Liberty, Bedford County, Virginia. He came to Lynchburg, and desired the jailor to permit him to whip the negro, to make him confess, as there was no proof against him. Mr. Williams, (I think that is his name,) a pious Methodist man, a great stickler for law and good order, professedly a great friend to the black man, delivered the negro into the hands of Nichols. Nichols told me that he took the slave, tied his wrists together, then drew his arms down so far below his knees as to permit a staff to pass above the arms under the knees, thereby placing the slave in a situation that he could not move hand or foot. He then commenced his bloody work, and continued, at intervals, until 500 blows were inflicted. I received this statement from Nichols himself, who was, by the way, a son of the land of "steady habits," where there are many like him, if we may judge from their writings, sayings, and doings." "
These commentaries are very hard to get through. These slaves were treated horribly, basically unhuman. Most people wouldnt even treat a dog or any other animal with such horrible violence and degredation. It is hard to believe that our country not too long ago allowed these acts to occur, and it was not uncommon for them to take place. These reformers and people who spoke out against slavery finally understood that what was going on should not have been happening.
MONSIEUR C. C. ROBIN, who resided in Louisiana from 1802 to 1806, and published a volume containing the results of his observations there, thus speaks of the condition of the slaves:
"While they are at labor, the manager, the master, or the driver has commonly the whip in hand to strike the idle. But those of the negroes who are judged guilty of serious faults, are punished twenty, twenty-five, forty, fifty, or one hundred lashes. The manner of this cruel execution is as follows: four stakes are driven down, making a long square; the culprit is extended naked between these stakes, face downwards; his hands and his feet are bound separately, with strong cords, to each of the stakes, so far apart that his arms and legs, stretched in the form of St. Andrew's cross, give the the poor wretch no chance of stirring. Then the executioner, who is ordinarily a negro, armed with the long whip of a coachman, strikes upon the reins and thighs. The crack of his whip resounds afar, like that of an angry cartman beating his horses. The blood flows, the long wounds cross each other, strips of skin are raised without softening either the hand of the executioner or the heart of the master, who cries 'sting him harder.'
"The women are subjected to these punishments as rigorously as the men--not even pregnancy exempts them; in that case, before binding them to the stakes, a hole is made in the ground to accommodate the enlarged form of the victim.
MR. MOORE, OF VIRGINIA, in his speech before the Legislature of that state, Jan. 15, 1832, says:
"It must be confessed, that although the treatment of our slaves is in the general, as mild and humane as it can be, that it must always happen, that there will be found hundreds of individuals, who, owing either to the natural ferocity of their dispositions, or to the effects of intemperance, will be guilty of cruelty and barbarity towards their slaves, which is almost intolerable, and at which humanity revolts."
A native of Kentucky--Son of Arthur Thome Esq., till recently a Slaveholder.
"Slavery is the parent of more suffering than has flowed from any one source since the date of its existence. Such sufferings too! Sufferings inconceivable and innumerable--unmingled wretchedness from the ties of nature rudely broken and destroyed, the acutest bodily tortures, groans, tears and blood--lying for ever in weariness and painfulness, in watchings, in hunger and in thirst, in cold and nakedness.
Mr. J. G. BALDWIN, of Middletown, Connecticut, a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, gives the following testimony:--
"I traveled at the south in 1827: when near Charlotte, N. C. a free colored man fell into the road just ahead of me, and went on peaceably.--When passing a public-house, the landlord ran out with a large cudgel, and applied it to the head and shoulders of the man with such force as to shatter it in pieces. When the reason of his conduct was asked, he replied, that he owned slaves, and he would not permit free blacks to come into his neighborhood.
VII. CONFINEMENT AT NIGHT
When the slaves have done their day's work, they must be herded together like sheep in their yards, or on their plantations. They have not as much liberty as northern men have, who are sent to jail for debt, for they have liberty to walk a larger yard than the slaves have. The slaves must all be at their homes precisely at eight o'clock, P.M. At this hour the drums beat in the cities, as a signal for every slave to be in his den. In the country, the signal is given by firing guns, or some other way by which they may know the hour when to be at home. After this hour, the guard in the cities, and patrols in the country, being well armed, are on duty until daylight in the morning. If they catch any negroes during the night without a pass, they are immediately seized and hurried away to the guard-house, or if in the country to some place of confinement, where they are kept until nine o'clock, A. M., the next day, if not called for by that time, they are hurried off to jail, and there remain until called for by their master and his jail and guard house fees paid. The guards and patrols receive one dollar extra for every one they can catch, who has not a pass from his master, or overseer, but few masters will give their slaves passes to be out at night unless on some special business: notwithstanding, many venture out, watching every step they take for the guard or patrol, the consequence is, some are caught almost every night, and some nights many are taken; some, fleeing after being hailed by the watch, are shot down in attempting their escape, others are crippled for life. I find I shall not be able to write out more at present. My ministerial duties are pressing, and if I delay this till the next mail, I fear it will not be in season. Your brother for those who are in bonds,
-I just thought that this is terrible. Even after their work was done they were not allowed out past eight o'clock at night. They basically had no rights whatsoever.
THE LABOR OF THE SLAVES.
Males and females work together promiscuously on all the plantations. On many plantations tasks are given them. The best working hands can have some leisure time; but the feeble and unskilful ones, together with slender females, have indeed a hard time of it, and very often answer for non-performance of tasks at the whipping-posts. None who worked with me had tasks at any time. The rule was to work them from sun to sun. But when I was burning brick, they were obliged to take turns, and sit up all night about every other night, and work all day. On one plantation, where I spent a few weeks, the slaves were called up to work long before daylight, when business pressed, and worked until late at night; and sometimes some of them all night. A large portion of the slaves are owned by masters who keep them on purpose to hire out--and they usually let them to those who will give the highest wages for them, irrespective of their mode of treatment; and those who hire them, will of course try to get the greatest possible amount of work performed, with the least possible expense. Women are seen bringing their infants into the field to their work, and leading others who are not old enough to stay at the cabins with safety. When they get there, they must set them down in the dirt, and go to work. Sometimes they are left to cry until they fall alseep. Others are left at home, shut up in their huts. Now, is it not barbarous, that the mother, with her child or children around her, half starved, must be whipped at night if she does not perform her task? But so it is. Some who have very young ones, fix a little sack, and place the infants on their backs, and work. One reason, I presume is, that they will not cry so much when they can hear their mother's voice. Another is, the mothers fear that the poisonous vipers and snakes will bite them. Truly, I never knew any place where the land is so infested with all kinds of the most venomous snakes, as in the low lands round about Savannah. The moccasin snakes, so called, and water rattle-snakes--the bites of both of which are as poisonous as our upland rattle-snakes at the north,--are found in myriads about the stagnant waters and swamps of the South. The females, in order to secure their infants from these poisonous snakes, do, as I have said, often work with their infants on their backs. Females are sometimes called to take the hardest part of the work. On some brick yards where I have been, the women have been selected as the moulders of brick, instead of the men.
-I thought that this one was very cruel. The women who have young children and babies are expected to do some of the hardest work while looking after their children in the hot fields. The children for one thing should not have to be put through that. I think that the idea that the women get some of the hardest work is ridiculous.
1. The first passage I selected, from page 88, was from a resident of Western Virginia, who gave the following testimony at a public meeting in Lane Seminary, Ohio, in 1833.
"I have frequently seen the mistress of a family in Virginia, with whom I was well acquainted, beat the woman who performed the kitchen work, with a stick two feet and a half long, and nearly as thick as my wrist; striking her over the head, and across the small of the back, as she was bent over at her work, with as much spite as you would a snake, and for what I should consider no offence at all. There lived in this same family a young man, a slave, who was in the habit of running away. He returned one time after a week's absence. The master took him into the barn, stripped him entirely naked, tied him up by his hands so high that he could not reach the floor, tied his feet together, and put a small rail between his legs, so that he could not avoid the blows, and commenced whipping him. He told me that he gave him five hundred lashes. At any rate, he was covered with wounds from head to foot. Not a place as big as my hand but what was cut. Such things as these are perfectly common all over Virginia; at least so far as I am acquainted. Generally, planters avoid punishing their slaves before strangers."
2. The second passage, from page 100 is a statement given by Eleaza Powell, Jr."
"While I boarded at Truly's, an overseer shot a negro about two miles northwest of Fayette, belonging to a man named Hinds Stuart. I heard Stuart himself state the particulars. It appeared that the negro's wife fell under the overseer's displeasure, and he went to whip her. The negro said she should not be whipped. The overseer then let her go, and ordered him to be seized. The negro, having been a driver, rolled the lash of his whip round his hand, and said he would not be whipped at that time. The overseer repeated his orders. The negro took up a hoe, and none dared to take hold of him. The overseer then went to his coat, that he had laid off to whip the negro's wife, and took out his pistol and shot him dead. His master ordered him to be buried in a hole without a coffin. Stuart stated that he would not have taken two thousand dollars for him. No punishment was inflicted on the overseer.”
1) “But slaveholding brutality does not stop here. While punishing the slaves for crimes with vastly greater severity than it does their masters for the same crimes, and making a variety of acts crimes in law, which are right, and often duties, it persists in refusing to make known to the slaves that complicated and barbarous penal code which loads them with such fearful liabilities. The slave is left to get a knowledge of these laws as he can, and cases must be of constant occurrence at the south, in which slaves get their first knowledge of the existence of a law by suffering its penalty. Indeed, this is probably the way in which they commonly learn what the laws are; for how else can the slave get a knowledge of the laws? He cannot read--he cannot learn to read; if he try to master the alphabet, so that he may spell out the words of the law, and thus avoid its penalties, the law shakes its terrors at him; while, at the same time, those who made the laws refuse to make them known to those for whom they are designed. The memory of Caligula will blacken with execration while time lasts, because he hung up his laws so high that people could not read them, and then punished them because they did not keep them. Our slaveholders aspire to blacker infamy. Caligula was content with hanging up his laws where his subjects could see them; and if they could not read them, they knew where…”
This was very interesting passage that compared American law in the 19th century to Roman law under the Emperor Caligula. The fact that these laws, separated by nearly 2,000 years, proved that not much has changed. Caligula was mentally insane and proclaimed himself to be a god while the American slaveholders were insincere and greedy. The slaveholders, just as irrational as Caligula, penalized slaves whom they knew were not literate and were considered barbarous. Ironically, African slaves got “their first knowledge of the existence of a law by suffering its penalty. Both Caligula and the slaveholders realized that if their punishments towards the rebels/slaves were severe enough, people would not revolt and everything would run relatively smoothly in their eyes. What was the main difference between the two? Caligula was an immoral pagan who exercised his reign of terror in the Roman Empire. The slaveholders were predominantly immoral Christians who had no legitimate excuse for treating blacks the way they did.
2) “They can believe, too, all the horrors of the middle passage, the chains, suffocation, maimings, stranglings, starvation, drownings, and cold blooded murders, atrocities perpetrated on board these slave-ships by their own citizens, perhaps by their own townsmen and neighbors--possibly by their own fathers: but oh! they 'can't believe that the slaveholders can be so hard-hearted towards their slaves as to treat them with great cruelty.' They can believe that His Holiness the Pope, with his cardinals, bishops and priests, have tortured, broken on the wheel, and burned to death thousands of Protestants--that eighty thousand of the Anabaptists were slaughtered in Germany--that hundreds of thousands of the blameless Waldenses, Huguenots and Lollards, were torn in pieces by the most titled dignitaries of church and state, and that almost every professedly Christian sect, has, at some period of its history, persecuted unto blood those who dissented from their creed.”
The cruelties of slavery are briefly mentioned at the beginning of this passage. However, the discussion quickly diverted to religious persecution by the Catholic Church under the leadership of the Pope. According to the Christian Protestants, the Catholic Church has been responsible for the slaughter and death of thousands of Protestants throughout Europe. However, the Protestants residing in America had been no better as they had persecuted and tried to suppress the Roman Catholics who had moved to the New World. The quote mentioned above, “that almost every professedly Christian sect, has, at some period of its history, persecuted unto blood those who dissented from their creed,” truly summarized the ongoing and destructive religious conflicts within the history of America. All of the Christian groups contended that they followed Jesus, who preached peace and loving one another, but were killing each other ever since the Protestant Reformation.
3) "In answering the proposed inquiries, I will say first, that although there are various other modes resorted to, whipping with the cowskin is the usual mode of inflicting punishment on the poor slave. I have never actually witnessed a whipping scene, for they are usually taken into some back place for that purpose; but I have often heard their groans and screams while writhing under the lash; and have seen the blood flow from their torn and lacerated skins after the vengeance of the inhuman master or mistress had been glutted. You ask if the woman where I boarded whipped a slave to death. I can give you the particulars of the transaction as they were related to me. My informant was a gentleman--a member of the Presbyterian church in Massachusetts--who the winter before boarded where I did. He said that Mrs. T--had a female slave whom she used to whip unmercifully, and on one occasion, she whipped her as long as she had strength, and after the poor creature was suffered to go, she crawled off into a cellar. As she did not immediately return, search was made, and she was found dead in the cellar, and the horrid deed was kept a secret in the family, and it was reported that she died of sickness. This wretch at the same time was a member of a Presbyterian church. Towards her slaves she was certainly the most cruel wretch of any woman with whom I was ever acquainted--yet she was nothing more than a slaveholder.”
Joseph Ide, who belonged to the Baptist Church, recounted the physical sufferings and punishment that African slaves often endured by the white slave owners. He described the sounds and eyewitness testimony concerning the evils of slavery: “I have often heard their groans and screams while writhing under the lash; and have seen the blood flow from their torn and lacerated skins after the vengeance of the inhuman master or mistress had been glutted.” His account vividly described what genuine Christians would consider an institution of Satan. Animals were probably treated better than the slaves. He also described a woman slaveholder who once beat a female slave until she grew tired of whipping her. The beaten female slave “crawled off into the cellar.” She was later discovered dead from the brutal beating she had endured by her owner. The harsh treatment of slaves had been accepted by many white Southerners as they believed that slavery maintained the low position of the negro and allowed the slave owner to displace their anger, frustration, and anger on them as they had been considered legal property.
Passages from American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses
- "Behold the wicked abominations that they do!"--EZEKIEL, viii. 9.
“The righteous CONSIDERETH the cause of the poor; but the wicked regardeth not to know it."--PROV. 29,
“True humanity consists not in a SQUEAMISH EAR, but in listening to the story of human suffering and endeavoring to relieve it."--CHARLES JAMES FOX.
- This was the opening passage, perhaps on the title page. I thought it was very interesting that right from the very beginning, Weld told the reader his stance on slavery. If someone was going to read this book, they would have a very clear idea of the opinions and points made just by reading these first few quotes. While good because it gets right to the point, it may have turned away some readers who may have been persuaded by the rest of the book.
- Others, when other modes of punishment will not subdue them, cat-haul them--that is, take a cat by the nape of the neck and tail, or by the hind legs, and drag the claws across the back until satisfied. This kind of punishment poisons the flesh much worse than the whip, and is more dreaded by the slave. – Rev. Horace Moulton
- This passage was very disturbing, but revealing as well. The slaveholders seem to use innovative and brutal means of punishing slaves when they are not satisfied that a normal whipping would be harsh enough. Additionally, “poisons the flesh,” probably means that the cuts got infected and would have taken a very long time to heal and would have been extremely painful. This passage revealed short of the extent of the wickedness and brutality some slaveholders possessed and really drove home the quote from Ezekiel.
- A slave who had been separated from his wife, because it best suited the convenience of his owner, ran away. He was taken up on the plantation where his wife, to whom he was tenderly attached, then lived. His only object in running away was to return to her--no other fault was attributed to him. For this offence he was confined in the stocks six weeks, in a miserable hovel, not weather-tight. He received fifty lashes weekly during that time, was allowed food barely sufficient to sustain him, and when released from confinement, was not permitted to return to his wife. His master, although himself a husband and a father, was unmoved by the touching appeals of the slave, who entreated that he might only remain with his wife, promising to discharge his duties faithfully; his master continued inexorable, and he was torn from his wife and family. The owner of this slave was a professing Christian, in full membership with the church, and this circumstance occurred when he was confined to his chamber during his last illness. – Sarah Grimke
- This short story by Sarah Grimke was especially telling. This owner who claimed to be a Christian had no compassion or empathy for his slave who just wanted to see his family. The punishment also seems very extreme considering his only crime was trying to see his family. It also gives insight into the miserable conditions of slavery. Families were torn apart, individuals were beaten relentlessly, and owners did not care about their suffering, like they did not view the slaves as people at all.
- "Do you believe it, sir, not six months since, I saw a number of my Christian neighbors packing up provisions, as I supposed for a deer hunt; but as I was about offering myself to the party, I learned that their powder and balls were destined to a very different purpose: it was, in short, the design of the party to bring home a number of runaway slaves, or to shoot them if they should not be able to get possession of them in any other way.
- Likewise, this quote taken from the clergyman’s testimony demonstrates how even supposed Christians were willing to break a Commandment and commit murder. This is somewhat puzzling because Christian men should not kill. Perhaps it is a manifestation of the time, where people thought killing was okay if it was justified. Did the slave holders believe that they were justified and right in killing slaves? Clearly, they did. They viewed their slaves as no more than a piece of property, and no better than an animal.
- Self-justification is human nature; self-condemnation is a sublime triumph over it, and as rare as sublime. What culprits would be convicted, if their own testimony were taken by juries as good evidence? Slaveholders are on trial, charged with cruel treatment to their slaves, and though in their own courts they can clear themselves by their own oaths,*
- This argument against the objection that slaveholders treat their slaves well is an irrefutable and strong point. No one can disagree that people would not try to justify their behavior and thus may not reflect the entire truth. However, in the South slaveholders are allowed to clear themselves simply by professing their own innocence. This hardly seems fair or just and demonstrates that the slaves really have no legal recourse at all, because the word of the slave owner would always trump theirs.
Cruelties to slaves:
This is the story of a slave woman who was serving her master and family for breakfast. She was pouring molasses for one of the children, however, this was a little more than usual and her master became enraged.
“Her master was angry at the petty and indifferent mistake, or slip of the hand. He rose from the table, took both of her hands in one of his, and with the other began to beat her, first on one side of her head and then on the other, and repeating this, till, as he said on sitting down at table, it hurt his hand too much to continue it longer.”
“He then took off his shoe, and with the heel began in the same manner as with his hand, till the poor creature could no longer endure it without screeches and raising her elbow as it is natural to ward off the blows. He then called a great overgrown negro to hold her hands behind her while he should wreak his vengeance upon the poor servant. In this position he began again to beat the poor suffering wretch. It now became intolerable to bear; she fell, screaming to me for help.”
“She got up, however, went out and washed off the blood and came in before we rose from table… Her ears were almost as thick as my hand, her eyes awfully blood-shotten, her lips, nose, cheeks, chin, and whole head swollen so that no one would have known it was Etta--and for all this, she had to turn round as she was going out and thank her master!”
Branding with hot iron:
These were several different ways that masters would punish their slaves.
“Others punish by fastening them down on a log, or something else, and strike them on the bare skin with a board paddle full of holes. This breaks the skin, I should presume, at every hole where it comes in contact with it.”
“Others, when other modes of punishment will not subdue them, cat-haul them--that is, take a cat by the nape of the neck and tail, or by the hind legs, and drag the claws across the back until satisfied. This kind of punishment poisons the flesh much worse than the whip, and is more dreaded by the slave.”
“One young mulatto man, with whom I was well acquainted, was killed by his master in his yard with impunity. I boarded at the same time near the place where this glaring murder was committed, and knew the master well. He had a plantation, on which he enacted, almost daily, cruel barbarities, some of them, I was informed, more terrific, if possible, than death itself. Little notice was taken of this murder, and it all passed off without any action being taken against the murderer.”
“The masters used to try to make me whip their negroes. They said I could not get along with them without flogging them--but I found I could get along better with them by coaxing and encouraging them
than by beating and flogging them.”
Slaves burned alive:
“It was currently reported of Hutchinson, that he once knocked down a new negro (one recently from Africa) who was clearing up land, and who complained of the cold, as it was mid-winter. The slave was stunned with the blow. Hutchinson, supposing he had the 'sulks,' applied fire to the side of the slave until it was so roasted that he said the slave was not worth curing, and ordered the other slaves to pile on brush, and he was consumed.”
“he and his fellow boatmen saw a shockingly cruel punishment inflicted on a couple of slaves for the repeated offence of running away. Straw was spread over the whole of their backs, and, after being fastened by a band of the same material, was ignited, and left to burn, until entirely consumed. The agonies and screams of the sufferers he can never forget.”
“I was one day dressing a blister, and the mistress of the house sent a little black girl into the kitchen to bring me some warm water. She probably mistook her message; for she returned with a bowl full of boiling water; which her mistress no sooner perceived, than she thrust her hand into it, and held it there till it was half cooked."