« AnteriorContinuar »
The great arms of Chesapeake Bay — known as rivers - the James, the York, the Potomac and the rest, were navigable for long distances from the bay. The sea-going vessels loaded within a short distance of the tobacco fields- oftentimes within sight of the planter's verandah. Thus it came about that there was no business transacted in Virginia. The planter consigned his year's crop to his correspondent in London, sending also a long list of goods to be purchased there and sent out in the tobacco ships a year later. The temptation to order more goods than the proceeds of the tobacco would pay for was very great, and it was difficult, too, to calculate closely the precise amount that the tobacco would realize. At all events, the planter soon found himself in debt to the factor, and before long the proceeds of one year's crop would be used to pay the debts already contracted. So the process went on, the planter living in apparent comfort, yet always on the edge of bankruptcy. Of course, here and there, good managers could be found — like George Washington; — but it seems to have required great skill and forbearance to make even a large plantation yield any net return. The Virginia planters were men of large proportions-managing affairs on a large scale and taking liberal views of everything, except when the interests of their own class were menaced; then they became as hard and narrow as the typical Yankee. There is something fascinating in the descriptions of the old Virginia houses and house-life which have been left by travellers of the olden time. Yet we know from the same travellers that, even in Virginia's best days, one might sit down to dinner in one of their splendid rooms
the table set with fine plate and the appetite sharpened with costly wines, when at the same time the window, out of which one looked, might lack several panes of glass, the door be without a knob, the shutters hanging by one hinge, and the whole mansion in a condition of partial ruin. This was due to the fact that negro slaves and free white mechanics seem never
The Rice Planters of
to have been able to thrive together. The glass for these planters' houses had been brought from England, and all the finished woodwork from the North, while the workman who put them together had been imported for that purpose. The blood and sinew of Virginia was in the middle class of whites, those owning small estates and a few slaves. They were in some cases ignorant, and generally lacked the polish of the great planters. They were of the best British stock, however, and capable of development. To this class belonged Patrick Henry and John Marshall, while Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and John Randolph represented the richer and more aristocratic class.
The only other product which determined the whole life of a people was rice. It was produced mainly in South Carolina. Grown in malarial regions, its cultivation was fatal to the whites, and only less South Caroso to the blacks. The rice planters, unlike their Virginia congeners, could not live on their plantations, except for a brief period in each year. They passed most of their time in the principal town of the colony, Charleston, which enjoyed the almost unique position of being a capital, a business metropolis, and a summer resort all in one. The rice planters formed a well-knit aristocracy. The handling of the crop was performed by the merchants of Charleston, men of means and enterprise. Many of the men of both these classes had been educated in England or in the North. In their hands centred all power, for government was centralized in South Carolina as it was in no other colony. They formed a true oligarchy. Born and bred to habits of command, they enjoyed an infưence far beyond what their numerical importance or their wealth would seem to justify. South Carolina was prosperous in 1760— forty years before the profitable cultivation of cotton began. This prosperity rested to a great extent on the use of slave labour, which seems to have been considered essential to the well
being of South Carolina in 1760, as it was deemed to be one hundred years
later. Slavery existed in all the colonies before the Revolution. In the North it was everywhere dying out because it was unprofitable, except on the shores of Narragansett Bay and on the
banks of the Hudson River. In Boston and New Negro Slavery: North York City the possession of a young negro was regarded as undesirable.
There does not seem to have been any widespread moral sentiment against slavery, but the institution had no place in the economic environment of the northern colonists. South of Mason and Dixon's line this was not true. The following definition of the word slaves taken from the early Virginia statutes is interesting for many
It reads as follows: "All persons who have been imported into the colony and who were not Christians in their native country — except Turks and Moors in amity with his Majesty, and those who can prove their being free in England, or in any other Christian country — shall be accounted and be slaves, shall be bought and sold, notwithstanding their conversion to Christianity after their importation." From this it can be seen that slavery was regarded by the
Virginians as justifiable because the slaves beSlavery in
fore importation were not Christians, so that Virginia.
the knowledge of Christianity given them in Virginia might be considered as an equivalent for the use of their bodies during life. This was the ground upon which slavery was justified for many years.
One of the best means of determining the extent to which slavery has eaten into the body politic is to observe the stringency of the laws designed to prevent the amalgamation of the two races and to prevent insurrection. That slavery was a firmly established institution in Virginia becomes evident when one reads in the statutes of the Old Dominion that a white man marrying a
South Caro. lina.
negress shall be banished and the clergyman who performed the marriage service shall be subject to a heavy fine. A negro found abroad after nine o'clock at night might be dismembered, and no penalty beset the slave-owner whose slave died during or in consequence of punishment. In Virginia, there were many white bondservants working and living with the negro slaves. This probably mitigated to some extent the lot of the slave. Moreover the cultivation of tobacco was healthful and easy; and, taking everything into consideration, the treatment of the blacks, while harsh in comparison with that in New York, seems to have been mild when compared with their usage by the planters of South Carolina.
In the latter colony the slaves were largely men and women of African birth, carried to Charleston
Slavery in and other southern seaports from the western coast of Africa by the northern slave-traders. They were, therefore, more savage and uncivilized than were the negroes of the tobacco colonies, who were mostly descendants of slaves brought over in the preceding century. The South Carolina negroes may have required harsher treatment to keep them in subjection. Moreover the conditions of labour in the rice colonies were far more severe than farther north. Even the negroes could stand the pestilential rice swamps for a few years only. It became profitable, therefore, to work them to the best advantage during their years of greatest vigour. This naturally tended to increase the severity of their treatment. Another thing which made in the same direction was the fact that the owner was absent from his plantation during the greater part of the year. Thus instead of the patriarchal form which slavery assumed in Virginia, in South Carolina it was simply a business matter. The slaves and the plantation were handed over to an enterprising overseer; and the best overseer was he who secured the most advantageous returns. Finally, the fact that the blacks outnumbered the whites necessarily led to most stringent laws.
Slave insurrections occurred from time to time; and a formidable one in 1740 led to a revision of the slave laws of the colony. A few points gathered from this revised code will demonstrate the extent to which slavery dominated South Carolina. In the first place the greatest care was taken to prevent slaves from combining against the whites and securing fire-arms. No one, not even a slave's master, could permit a slave to have a gun in his possession after sundown; and all slaves found on the high road at any time could be stopped and arrested unless they could show a “ticket” from the master permitting them to leave the plantation. The legislators were especially fearful lest the blacks congregating at Charleston on some holiday or some Saturday afternoon or Sunday should massacre the whites in a body. To prevent this, no master could give his slave a “ticket” to visit Charleston at such times under penalty of a heavy fine. In the second place, the judicial procedure in the case of a negro slave was peculiar. Jury trials were held only when a negro claimed his freedom. All other cases in which negroes were concerned were tried by a court at which one justice with two freeholders in capital cases, and a justice with one freeholder in less important cases, formed a quorum. In the latter class of trials, the justice gave the decision with the consent of the freeholder. In capital cases the trial was to be held within six days of the apprehension of the alleged negro offender, and execution followed immediately on the giving the sentence.
This was substantially the system in vogue until 1865. Among the capital crimes in 1760 were running away, wounding a white person, burning or destroying rice, corn, grain, pitch, etc. To limit, if possible, the practice of escaping to the Spanish settlements in Florida, considerable rewards were offered for the apprehension of negroes south of the Savannah River - the rewards in 1740 being £50 if alive or £10 for the scalp. The ordinary reward for the scalp of a runaway negro was £1.