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American Negro Slavery
Chapter XIII Types of Large Plantations
by Phillips, Ulrich Bonnell


The tone and method of a plantation were determined partly by the crop and the lie of the land, partly by the characters of the master and his men, partly by the local tradition. Some communities operated on the basis of time-work, or the gang system; others on piece-work or the task system. The former was earlier begun and far more widely spread, for Sir Thomas Dale used it in drilling the Jamestown settlers at their work, it was adopted in turn on the "particular" and private plantations thereabout, and it was spread by the migration of the sons and grandsons of Virginia throughout the middle and western South as far as Missouri and Texas. The task system, on the other hand, was almost wholly confined to the rice coast. The gang method was adaptable to operations on any scale. If a proprietor were of the great majority who had but one or two families of slaves, he and his sons commonly labored alongside the blacks, giving not less than step for step at the plow and stroke for stroke with the hoe. If there were a dozen or two working hands, the master, and perhaps the son, instead of laboring manually would superintend the work of the plow and hoe gangs. If the slaves numbered several score the master and his family might live in leisure comparative or complete, while delegating the field supervision to an overseer, aided perhaps by one or more slave foremen. When an estate was inherited by minor children or scattered heirs, or where a single proprietor had several plantations, an overseer would be put into full charge of an establishment so far as the routine work was concerned; and when the plantations in one ownership were quite numerous or of a great scale a steward might be employed to supervise the several overseers. Thus in the latter part of the eighteenth century, Robert Carter of Nomoni Hall on the Potomac had a steward to assist in the administration of his many scattered properties, and Washington after dividing the Mount Vernon lands into several units had an overseer upon each and a steward for the whole during his own absence in the public service. The neighboring estate of Gunston Hall, belonging to George Mason, was likewise divided into several units for the sake of more detailed supervision. Even the 103 slaves of James Mercer, another neighbor, were distributed on four plantations under the management in 1771 of Thomas Oliver. Of these there were 54 slaves on Marlborough, 19 on Acquia, 12 on Belviderra and 9 on Accokeek, besides 9 hired for work elsewhere. Of the 94 not hired out, 64 were field workers. Nearly all the rest, comprising the house servants, the young children, the invalids and the superannuated, were lodged on Marlborough, which was of course the owner's "home place." Each of the four units had its implements of husbandry, and three of them had tobacco houses; but the barn and stables were concentrated on Marlborough. This indicates that the four plantations were parts of a single tract so poor in soil that only pockets here and there would repay cultivation.[1] This presumption is reinforced by an advertisement which Mercer published in 1767: "Wanted soon, ... a farmer who will undertake the management of about 80 slaves, all settled within six miles of each other, to be employed in making of grain."[2] In such a case the superintendent would combine the functions of a regular overseer on the home place with those of a "riding boss" inspecting the work of the three small outlying squads from time to time. Grain crops would facilitate this by giving more frequent intermissions than tobacco in the routine. The Mercer estate might indeed be more correctly described as a plantation and three subsidiary farms than as a group of four plantations. The occurrence of tobacco houses in the inventory and of grain crops alone in the advertisement shows a recent abandonment of the tobacco staple; and the fact of Mercer's financial embarrassment[3] suggests, what was common knowledge, that the plantation system was ill suited to grain production as a central industry.
[Footnote 1: Robert Carter's plantation affairs are noted in Philip V. Fithian, Journal and Letters (Princeton, N.J., 1900); the Gunston Hall estate is described in Kate M. Rowland, Life of George Mason (New York, 1892), I, 98-102; many documents concerning Mt. Vernon are among the George Washington MSS. in the Library of Congress, and Washington's letters, 1793-179, to his steward are printed in the Long Island Historical Society Memoirs v. 4; of James Mercer's establishments an inventory taken in 1771 is reproduced in Plantation and Frontier, I, 249.]

[Footnote 2: Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg, Va.), Oct. 22, 1767, reprinted in Plantation and Frontier, I, 133.]

[Footnote 3: S.M. Hamilton ed., Letters to Washington, IV, 286.]
The organization and routine of the large plantations on the James River in the period of an agricultural renaissance are illustrated in the inventory and work journal of Belmead, in Powhatan County, owned by Philip St. George Cocke and superintended by S.P. Collier.[4] At the beginning of 1854 the 125 slaves were scheduled as follows: the domestic staff comprised a butler, two waiters, four housemaids, a nurse, a laundress, a seamstress, a dairy maid and a gardener; the field corps had eight plowmen, ten male and twelve female hoe hands, two wagoners and four ox drivers, with two cooks attached to its service; the stable and pasture staff embraced a carriage driver, a hostler, a stable boy, a shepherd, a cowherd and a hog herd; in outdoor crafts there were two carpenters and five stone masons; in indoor industries a miller, two blacksmiths, two shoemakers, five women spinners and a woman weaver; and in addition there were forty-five children, one invalid, a nurse for the sick, and an old man and two old women hired off the place, and finally Nancy for whom no age, value or classification is given. The classified workers comprised none younger than sixteen years except the stable boy of eleven, a waiter of twelve, and perhaps some of the housemaids and spinners whose ages are not recorded. At the other extreme there were apparently no slaves on the plantation above sixty years old except Randal, a stone mason, who in spite of his sixty-six years was valued at $300, and the following who had no appraisable value: Old Jim the shepherd, Old Maria the dairy maid, and perhaps two of the spinners. The highest appraisal, $800, was given to Payton, an ox driver, twenty-eight years old. The $700 class comprised six plowmen, five field hands, the three remaining ox drivers, both wagoners, both blacksmiths, the carriage driver, four stone masons, a carpenter, and Ned the twenty-eight year old invalid whose illness cannot have been chronic. The other working men ranged between $250 and $500 except the two shoemakers whose rating was only $200 each. None of the women were appraised above $400, which was the rating also of the twelve and thirteen year old boys. The youngest children were valued at $100 each. These ratings were all quite conservative for that period. The fact that an ox driver overtopped all others in appraisal suggests that the artisans were of little skill. The masons, the carpenters and various other specialists were doubtless impressed as field hands on occasion.
[Footnote 4: These records are in the possession of Wm. Bridges of Richmond, Va. For copies of them, as well as for many other valuable items, I am indebted to Alfred H. Stone of Dunleith, Miss.]
The livestock comprised twelve mules, nine work horses, a stallion, a brood mare, four colts, six pleasure horses and "William's team" of five head; sixteen work oxen, a beef ox, two bulls, twenty-three cows, and twenty-six calves; 150 sheep and 115 swine. The implements included two reaping machines, three horse rakes, two wheat drills, two straw cutters, three wheat fans, and a corn sheller; one two-horse and four four-horse wagons, two horse carts and four ox carts; nine one-horse and twelve two-horse plows, six colters, six cultivators, eight harrows, two earth scoops, and many scythes, cradles, hoes, pole-axes and miscellaneous farm implements as well as a loom and six spinning wheels.

The bottom lands of Belmead appear to have been cultivated in a rotation of tobacco and corn the first year, wheat the second and clover the third, while the uplands had longer rotations with more frequent crops of clover and occasional interspersions of oats. The work journal of 1854 shows how the gang dovetailed the planting, cultivation, and harvesting of the several crops and the general upkeep of the plantation.

On specially moist days from January to the middle of April all hands were called to the tobacco houses to strip and prize the cured crop; when the ground was frozen they split and hauled firewood and rails, built fences, hauled stone to line the ditches or build walls and culverts, hauled wheat to the mill, tobacco and flour to the boat landing, and guano, land plaster, barnyard manure and straw to the fields intended for the coming tobacco crop; and in milder dry weather they spread and plowed in these fertilizers, prepared the tobacco seed bed by heaping and burning brush thereon and spading it mellow, and also sowed clover and oats in their appointed fields. In April also the potato patch and the corn fields were prepared, and the corn planted; and the tobacco bed was seeded at the middle of the month. In early May the corn began to be plowed, and the soil of the tobacco fields drawn by hoes into hills with additional manure in their centers. From the end of May until as late as need be in July the occurrence of every rain sent all hands to setting the tobacco seedlings in their hills at top speed as long as the ground stayed wet enough to give prospect of success in the process. In the interims the corn cultivation was continued, hay was harvested in the clover fields and the meadows, and the tobacco fields first planted began to be scraped with hoe and plow. The latter half of June was devoted mainly to the harvesting of small grain with the two reaping machines and the twelve cradles; and for the following two months the main labor force was divided between threshing the wheat and plowing, hoeing, worming and suckering the tobacco, while the expert Daniel was day after day steadily topping the plants. In late August the plows began breaking the fallow fields for wheat. Early in September the cutting and housing of tobacco began, and continued at intervals in good weather until the middle of October. Then the corn was harvested and the sowing of wheat was the chief concern until the end of November when winter plowing was begun for the next year's tobacco. Two days in December were devoted to the housing of ice; and Christmas week, as well as Easter Monday and a day or two in summer and fall, brought leisure. Throughout the year the overseer inspected the negroes' houses and yards every Sunday morning and regularly reported them in good order.

The greatest of the tobacco planters in this period was Samuel Hairston, whose many plantations lying in the upper Piedmont on both sides of the Virginia-North Carolina boundary were reported in 1854 to have slave populations aggregating some 1600 souls, and whose gardens at his homestead in Henry County, Virginia, were likened to paradise. Of his methods of management nothing more is known than that his overseers were systematically superintended and that his negroes were commonly both fed and clothed with the products of the plantations themselves.[5]
[Footnote 5: William Chambers, American Slavery and Colour (London, 1857), pp. 194, 195, quoting a Richmond newspaper of 1854.]
In the eastern cotton belt a notable establishment of earlier decades was that of Governor David R. Williams, who began operations with about a hundred slaves in Chesterfield County, South Carolina, near the beginning of the nineteenth century and increased their number fivefold before his death in 1830. While each of his four plantations gave adequate yields of the staple as well as furnishing their own full supplies of corn and pork, the central feature and the chief source of prosperity was a great bottom tract safeguarded from the floods of the Pee Dee by a levee along the river front. The building of this embankment was but one of many enterprises which Williams undertook in the time spared from his varied political and military services. Others were the improvement of manuring methods, the breeding of mules, the building of public bridges, the erection and management of a textile factory, the launching of a cottonseed oil mill, of which his talents might have made a success even in that early time had not his untimely death intervened. The prosperity of Williams' main business in the face of his multifarious diversions proves that his plantation affairs were administered in thorough fashion. His capable wife must have supplemented the husband and his overseers constantly and powerfully in the conduct of the routine. The neighboring plantation of a kinsman, Benjamin F. Williams, was likewise notable in after years for its highly improved upland fields as well as for the excellent specialized work of its slave craftsmen.[6]
[Footnote 6: Harvey T. Cooke, The Life and Legacy of David Rogerson Williams (New York, 1916), chaps. XIV, XVI, XIX, XX, XXV. This book, though bearing a New York imprint, is actually published, as I have been at pains to learn, by Mr. J.W. Norwood of Greenville, South Carolina.]
In the fertile bottoms on the Congaree River not far above Columbia, lay the well famed estate of Colonel Wade Hampton, which in 1846 had some sixteen hundred acres of cotton and half as much of corn. The traveler, when reaching it after long faring past the slackly kept fields and premises common in the region, felt equal enthusiasm for the drainage and the fencing, the avenues, the mansion and the mill, the stud of blooded horses, the herd of Durham cattle, the flock of long-wooled sheep, and the pens of Berkshire pigs.[7] Senator McDuffie's plantation in the further uplands of the Abbeville district was likewise prosperous though on a somewhat smaller scale. Accretions had enlarged it from three hundred acres in 1821 to five thousand in 1847, when it had 147 slaves of all ages. Many of these were devoted to indoor employments, and seventy were field workers using twenty-four mules. The 750 acres in cotton commonly yielded crops of a thousand pounds in the seed; the 325 acres in corn gave twenty-five or thirty bushels; the 300 in oats, fifteen bushels; and ten acres in peas, potatoes and squashes yielded their proportionate contribution.[8]
[Footnote 7: Described by R.L. Allen in the American Agriculturist, VI, 20, 21.]

[Footnote 8: DeBow's Review, VI, 149.]
The conduct and earnings of a cotton plantation fairly typical among those of large scale, may be gathered from the overseer's letters and factor's accounts relating to Retreat, which lay in Jefferson County, Georgia. This was one of several establishments founded by Alexander Telfair of Savannah and inherited by his two daughters, one of whom became the wife of W.B. Hodgson. For many years Elisha Cain was its overseer. The first glimpse which the correspondence affords is in the fall of 1829, some years after Cain had taken charge. He then wrote to Telfair that many of the negroes young and old had recently been ill with fever, but most of them had recovered without a physician's aid. He reported further that a slave named John had run away "for no other cause than that he did not feel disposed to be governed by the same rules and regulations that the other negroes on the land are governed by." Shortly afterward John returned and showed willingness to do his duty. But now Cain encountered a new sort of trouble. He wrote Telfair in January, 1830: "Your negroes have a disease now among them that I am fully at a loss to know what I had best to do. Two of them are down with the venereal disease, Die and Sary. Doctor Jenkins has been attending Die four weeks, and very little alteration as I can learn. It is very hard to get the truth; but from what I can learn, Sary got it from Friday." A note appended to this letter, presumably by Telfair, reads: "Friday is the house servant sent to Retreat every summer. I have all the servants examined before they leave Savannah."

In a letter of February, 1831, Cain described his winter work and his summer plans. The teams had hauled away nearly all the cotton crop of 205 bales; the hog killing had yielded thirteen thousand pounds of pork, from which some of the bacon and lard was to be sent to Telfair's town house; the cotton seed were abundant and easily handled, but they were thought good for fertilizing corn only; the stable and cowpen manure was embarrassingly plentiful in view of the pressure of work for the mules and oxen; and the encumbrance of logs and brush on the fields intended for cotton was straining all the labor available to clear them. The sheep, he continued, had not had many lambs; and many of the pigs had died in spite of care and feeding; but "the negroes have been healthy, only colds, and they have for some time now done their work in as much peace and have been as obedient as I could wish."

One of the women, however, Darkey by name, shortly became a pestilent source of trouble. Cain wrote in 1833 that her termagant outbreaks among her fellows had led him to apply a "moderate correction," whereupon she had further terrorized her housemates by threats of poison. Cain could then only unbosom himself to Telfair: "I will give you a full history of my belief of Darkey, to wit: I believe her disposition as to temper is as bad as any in the whole world. I believe she is as unfaithful as any I have ever been acquainted with. In every respect I believe she has been more injury to you in the place where she is than two such negroes would sell for.... I have tryed and done all I could to get on with her, hopeing that she would mend; but I have been disappointed in every instant. I can not hope for the better any longer."

The factor's record becomes available from 1834, with the death of Telfair. The seventy-six pair of shoes entered that year tells roughly the number of working hands, and the ninety-six pair in 1842 suggests the rate of increase. Meanwhile the cotton output rose from 166 bales of about three hundred pounds in 1834 to 407 bales of four hundred pounds in the fine weather of 1841. In 1836 an autumn report from Cain is available, dated November 20. Sickness among the negroes for six weeks past had kept eight or ten of them in their beds; the resort to Petit Gulf seed had substantially increased the cotton yield; and the fields were now white with a crop in danger of ruin from storms. "My hands," he said, "have picked well when they were able, and some of them appear to have a kind of pride in making a good crop." A gin of sixty saws newly installed had proved too heavy for the old driving apparatus, but it was now in operation with shifts of four mules instead of two as formerly. This pressure, in addition to the hauling of cotton to market had postponed the gathering of the corn crop. The corn would prove adequate for the plantation's need, and the fodder was plentiful, but the oats had been ruined by the blast. The winter cloth supply had been spun and woven, as usual, on the place; but Cain now advised that the cotton warp for the jeans in future be bought. "The spinning business on this plantation," said he, "is very ungaining. In the present arrangement there is eight hands regular imployed in spinning and weaving, four of which spin warpe, and it could be bought at the factory at 120 dollars annually. Besides, it takes 400 pounds of cotton each year, leaveing 60 dollars only to the four hands who spin warp.... These hands are not old negroes, not all of them. Two of Nanny's daughters, or three I may say, are all able hands ... and these make neither corn nor meat. Take out $20 to pay their borde, and it leaves them in debt. I give them their task to spin, and they say they cannot do more. That is, they have what is jenerly given as a task."

In 1840 Cain raised one of the slaves to the rank of driver, whereupon several of the men ran away in protest, and Cain was impelled to defend his policy in a letter to Mary Telfair, explaining that the new functionary had not been appointed "to lay off tasks and use the whip." The increase of the laborers and the spread of the fields, he said, often required the working of three squads, the plowmen, the grown hoe hands, and the younger hoe hands. "These separate classes are frequently separate a considerable distance from each other, and so soon as I am absent from either they are subject to quarrel and fight, or to idle time, or beat and abuse the mules; and when called to account each negro present when the misconduct took place will deny all about the same. I therefore thought, and yet believe, that for the good order of the plantation and faithful performance of their duty, it was proper to have some faithful and trusty hand whose duty it should be to report to me those in fault, and that is the only dread they have of John, for they know he is not authorized to beat them. You mention in your letter that you do not wish your negroes treated with severity. I have ever thought my fault on the side of lenity; if they were treated severe as many are, I should not be their overseer on any consideration." In the same letter Cain mentioned that the pork made on the place the preceding year had yielded eleven monthly allowances to the negroes at the rate of 1050 pounds per month, and that the deficit for the twelfth month had been filled as usual by a shipment from Savannah.

From 407 bales in 1841 the cotton output fell rapidly, perhaps because of restriction prompted by the low prices, to 198 bales in 1844. Then it rose to the maximum of 438 bales in 1848. Soon afterwards Cain's long service ended, and after two years during which I. Livingston was in charge, I.N. Bethea was engaged and retained for the rest of the ante-bellum period. The cotton crops in the 'fifties did not commonly exceed three hundred bales of a weight increasing to 450 pounds, but they were supplemented to some extent by the production of wheat and rye for market. The overseer's wages were sometimes as low as $600, but were generally $1000 a year. In the expense accounts the annual charges for shoes, blankets and oznaburgs were no more regular than the items of "cotton money for the people." These sums, averaging about a hundred dollars a year, were distributed among the slaves in payment for the little crops of nankeen cotton which they cultivated in spare time on plots assigned to the several families. Other expense items mentioned salt, sugar, bacon, molasses, tobacco, wool and cotton cards, loom sleighs, mules and machinery. Still others dealt with drugs and doctor's bills. In 1837, for example, Dr. Jenkins was paid $90 for attendance on Priscilla. In some years the physician's payment was a round hundred dollars, indicating services on contract. In May, 1851, there are debits of $16.16 for a constable's reward, a jail fee and a railroad fare, and of $1.30 for the purchase of a pair of handcuffs, two padlocks and a trace chain. These constitute the financial record of a runaway's recapture.

From 1834 to 1841 the gross earnings on Retreat ranged between eight and fifteen thousand dollars, of which from seven to twelve thousand each year was available for division between the owners. The gross then fell rapidly to $4000 in 1844, of which more than half was consumed in expenses. It then rose as rapidly to its maximum of $21,300 in 1847, when more than half of it again was devoted to current expenses and betterments. Thereafter the range of the gross was between $8000 and $17,000 except for a single year of crop failure, 1856, when the 109 bales brought $5750. During the 'fifties the current expenses ranged usually between six and ten thousand dollars, as compared with about one third as much in the 'thirties. This is explained partly by the resolution of the owners to improve the fields, now grown old, and to increase the equipment. For the crop of 1856, for example, purchases were made of forty tons of Peruvian guano at $56 per ton, and nineteen tons of Mexican guano at $25 a ton. In the following years lime, salt and dried blood were included in the fertilizer purchases. At length Hodgson himself gave over his travels and his ethnological studies to take personal charge on Retreat. He wrote in June, 1859, to his friend Senator Hammond, of whom we have seen something in the preceding chapter, that he had seriously engaged in "high farming," and was spreading huge quantities of fertilizers. He continued: "My portable steam engine is the delicia domini and of overseer too. It follows the reapers beautifully in a field of wheat, 130 acres, and then in the rye fields. In August it will be backed up to the gin house and emancipate from slavery eighteen mules and four little nigger drivers."[9]
[Footnote 9: MS. among the Hammond papers in the Library of Congress.]
The factor's books for this plantation continue their records into the war time. From the crop of 1861 nothing appears to have been sold but a single bale of cotton, and the year's deficit was $6,721. The proceeds from the harvests of 1862 were $500 from nineteen bales of cotton, and some $10,000 from fodder, hay, peanuts and corn. The still more diversified market produce of 1863 comprised also wheat, which was impressed by the Confederate government, syrup, cowpeas, lard, hams and vinegar. The proceeds were $17,000 and the expenses about $9000, including the overseer's wages at $1300 and the purchase of 350 bushels of peanuts from the slaves at $1.50 per bushel. The reckonings in the war period were made of course in the rapidly depreciating Confederate currency. The stoppage of the record in 1864 was doubtless a consequence of Sherman's march through Georgia.[10]
[Footnote 10: The Retreat records are in the possession of the Georgia Historical Society, trustee for the Telfair Academy of Art, Savannah, Ga. The overseer's letters here used are printed in Plantation and Frontier, I, 314, 330-336, II, 39, 85.]
In the western cotton belt the plantations were much like those of the eastern, except that the more uniform fertility often permitted the fields to lie in solid expanses instead of being sprawled and broken by waste lands as in the Piedmont. The scale of operations tended accordingly to be larger. One of the greatest proprietors in that region, unless his display were far out of proportion to his wealth, was Joseph A.S. Acklen whose group of plantations was clustered near the junction of the Red and Mississippi Rivers. In 1859 he began to build a country house on the style of a Gothic castle, with a great central hall and fifty rooms exclusive of baths and closets.[11] The building was expected to cost $150,000, and the furnishings $125,000 more. Acklen's rules for the conduct of his plantations will be discussed in another connection;[12] but no description of his estate or his actual operations is available.
[Footnote 11: Federal Union (Milledgeville, Ga.), Aug. 2, 1859.]

[Footnote 12: Below, pp. 262 ff.]
Olmsted described in detail a plantation in the neighborhood of Natchez. Its thirteen or fourteen hundred acres of cotton, corn and incidental crops were tilled by a plow gang of thirty and a hoe gang of thirty-seven, furnished by a total of 135 slaves on the place. A driver cracked a whip among the hoe hands, occasionally playing it lightly upon the shoulders of one or another whom he thought would be stimulated by the suggestion. "There was a nursery for sucklings at the quarters, and twenty women at this time left their work four times a day, for half an hour, to nurse the young ones, and whom the overseer counted as half hands--that is, expected to do half an ordinary day's work." At half past nine every night the hoe and plow foremen, serving alternately, sounded curfew on a horn, and half an hour afterward visited each cabin to see that the households were at rest and the fires safely banked. The food allowance was a peck of corn and four pounds of pork weekly. Each family, furthermore, had its garden, fowl house and pigsty; every Christmas the master distributed among them coffee, molasses, tobacco, calico and "Sunday tricks" to the value of from a thousand to fifteen hundred dollars; and every man might rive boards in the swamp on Sundays to buy more supplies, or hunt and fish in leisure times to vary his family's fare. Saturday afternoon was also free from the routine. Occasionally a slave would run away, but he was retaken sooner or later, sometimes by the aid of dogs. A persistent runaway was disposed of by sale.[13]
[Footnote 13: F.L. Olmsted, A Journey in the Back Country (New York, 1860), pp. 46-54.]
Another estate in the same district, which Olmsted observed more cursorily, comprised four adjoining plantations, each with its own stables and quarter, each employing more than a hundred slaves under a separate overseer, and all directed by a steward whom the traveler described as cultured, poetic and delightful. An observation that women were at some of the plows prompted Olmsted to remark that throughout the Southwest the slaves were worked harder as a rule than in the easterly and northerly slaveholding states. On the other hand he noted: "In the main the negroes appeared to be well cared for and abundantly supplied with the necessaries of vigorous physical existence. A large part of them lived in commodious and well built cottages, with broad galleries in front, so that each family of five had two rooms on the lower floor and a large loft. The remainder lived in log huts, small and mean in appearance;[14] but those of their overseers were little better, and preparations were being made to replace all of these by neat boarded cottages."
[Footnote 14: Olmsted, Back Country, pp. 72-92.]
In the sugar district Estwick Evans when on his "pedestrious tour" in 1817 found the shores of the Mississippi from a hundred miles above New Orleans to twenty miles below the city in a high state of cultivation. "The plantations within these limits," he said, "are superb beyond description.... The dwelling houses of the planters are not inferior to any in the United States, either with respect to size, architecture, or the manner in which they are furnished. The gardens and yards contiguous to them are formed and decorated with much taste. The cotton, sugar and ware houses are very large, and the buildings for the slaves are well finished. The latter buildings are in some cases forty or fifty in number, and each of them will accommodate ten or twelve persons.... The planters here derive immense profits from the cultivation of their estates.[15] The yearly income from them is from twenty thousand to thirty thousand dollars."
[Footnote 15: Estwick Evans, A Pedestrious Tour ... through the Western States and Territories (Concord, N.H., 1817), p. 219, reprinted in R.G. Thwaites ed., Early Western Travels, VIII, 325, 326.]
Gross proceeds running into the tens of thousands of dollars were indeed fairly common then and afterward among Louisiana sugar planters, for the conditions of their industry conduced strongly to a largeness of plantation scale. Had railroad facilities been abundant a multitude of small cultivators might have shipped their cane to central mills for manufacture, but as things were the weight and the perishableness of the cane made milling within the reach of easy cartage imperative. It was inexpedient even for two or more adjacent estates to establish a joint mill, for the imminence of frost in the harvest season would make wrangles over the questions of precedence in the grinding almost inevitable. As a rule, therefore, every unit in cane culture was also a unit in sugar manufacture. Exceptions were confined to the scattering instances where some small farm lay alongside a plantation which had a mill of excess capacity available for custom grinding on slack days.

The type of plantation organization in the sugar bowl was much like that which has been previously described for Jamaica. Mules were used as draught animals instead of oxen, however, on account of their greater strength and speed, and all the seeding and most of the cultivation was done with deep-running plows. Steam was used increasingly as years passed for driving the mills, railways were laid on some of the greater estates for hauling the cane, more suitable varieties of cane were introduced, guano was imported soon after its discovery to make the rich fields yet more fertile, and each new invention of improved mill apparatus was readily adopted for the sake of reducing expenses. In consequence the acreage cultivated per hand came to be several times greater than that which had prevailed in Jamaica's heyday. But the brevity of the growing season kept the saccharine content of the canes below that in the tropics, and together with the mounting price of labor made prosperity depend in some degree upon protective tariffs. The dearth of land available kept the sugar output well below the domestic demand, though the molasses market was sometimes glutted.

A typical prosperous estate of which a description and a diary are extant[16] was that owned by Valcour Aime, lying on the right bank of the Mississippi about sixty miles above New Orleans. Of the 15,000 acres which it comprised in 1852, 800 were in cane, 300 in corn, 150 in crops belonging to the slaves, and most of the rest in swampy forest from which two or three thousand cords of wood were cut each year as fuel for the sugar mill and the boiling house. The slaves that year numbered 215 of all ages, half of them field hands,[17] and the mules 64. The negroes were well housed, clothed and fed; the hospital and the nursery were capacious, and the stables likewise. The mill was driven by an eighty-horse-power steam engine, and the vacuum pans and the centrifugals were of the latest types. The fields were elaborately ditched, well manured, and excellently tended. The land was valued at $360,000, the buildings at $100,000, the machinery at $60,000, the slaves at $170,000, and the livestock at $11,000; total, $701,000. The crop of 1852, comprising 1,300,000 pounds of white centrifugal sugar at 6 cents and 60,000 gallons of syrup at 36 cents, yielded a gross return of almost $100,000. The expenses included 4,629 barrels of coal from up the river, in addition to the outlay for wages and miscellaneous supplies.
[Footnote 16: Harper's Magasine, VII, 758, 759 (November, 1853); Valcour Aime, Plantation Diary (New Orleans, 1878), partly reprinted in Plantation and Frontier, I, 214, 230.]

[Footnote 17: According to the MS. returns of the U.S. census of 1850 Aime's slaves at that time numbered 231, of whom 58 were below fifteen years old, 164 were between 15 and 65, and 9 (one of them blind, another insane) were from 66 to 80 years old. Evidently there was a considerable number of slaves of working age not classed by him as field hands.]
In the routine of work, each January was devoted mainly to planting fresh canes in the fields from which the stubble canes or second rattoons had recently been harvested. February and March gave an interval for cutting cordwood, cleaning ditches, and such other incidentals as the building and repair of the plantation's railroad. Warm weather then brought the corn planting and cane and corn cultivation. In August the laying by of the crops gave time for incidentals again. Corn and hay were now harvested, the roads and premises put in order, the cordwood hauled from the swamp, the coal unladen from the barges, and all things made ready for the rush of the grinding season which began in late October. In the first phase of harvesting the main gang cut and stripped the canes, the carters and the railroad crew hauled them to the mill, and double shifts there kept up the grinding and boiling by day and by night. As long as the weather continued temperate the mill set the pace for the cutters. But when frost grew imminent every hand who could wield a knife was sent to the fields to cut the still standing stalks and secure them against freezing. For the first few days of this phase, the stalks as fast as cut were laid, in their leaves, in great mats with the tops turned south to prevent the entrance of north winds, with the leaves of each layer covering the butts of that below, and with a blanket of earth over the last butts in the mat. Here these canes usually stayed until January when they were stripped and strewn in the furrows of the newly plowed "stubble" field as the seed of a new crop. After enough seed cane were "mat-layed," the rest of the cut was merely laid lengthwise in the adjacent furrows to await cartage to the mill.[18] In the last phase of the harvest, which followed this work of the greatest emergency, these "windrowed" canes were stripped and hauled, with the mill setting the pace again, until the grinding was ended, generally in December.
[Footnote 18: These processes of matlaying and windrowing are described in L. Bouchereau, Statement of the Sugar and Rice Crops made in Louisiana in 1870-71 (New Orleans, 1871), p. xii.]
Another typical sugar estate was that of Dr. John P.R. Stone, comprising the two neighboring though not adjacent plantations called Evergreen and Residence, on the right bank of the Mississippi in Iberville Parish. The proprietor's diary is much like Aime's as regards the major crop routine but is fuller in its mention of minor operations. These included the mending and heightening of the levee in spring, the cutting of staves, the shaving of hoops and the making of hogsheads in summer, and, in their fitting interims, the making of bricks, the sawing of lumber, enlarging old buildings, erecting new ones, whitewashing, ditching, pulling fodder, cutting hay, and planting and harvesting corn, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, peas and turnips. There is occasional remark upon the health of the slaves, usually in the way of rejoicing at its excellence. Apparently no outside help was employed except for an Irish carpenter during the construction of a sugar house on Evergreen in 1850.[19] The slaves on Evergreen in 1850 numbered 44 between the ages of 15 and 60 years and 26 children; on Residence, 25 between 15 and 65 years and 6 children.[20] The joint crop in 1850, ground in the Residence mill, amounted to 312 hogsheads of brown sugar and sold for 4-3/4 to 5 cents a pound; that of the phenomenal year 1853, when the Evergreen mill was also in commission, reached 520 hogsheads on that plantation and 179 on Residence, but brought only 3 cents a pound. These prices were much lower than those of white sugar at the time; but as Valcour Aime found occasion to remark, the refining reduced the weight of the product nearly as much as it heightened the price, so that the chief advantage of the centrifugals lay in the speed of their process.
[Footnote 19: Diary of Dr. J.P.R. Stone. MS. in the possession of Mr. John Stone Ware, White Castle, La. For the privilege of using the diary I am indebted to Mr. V. Alton Moody of the University of Michigan, now Lieutenant in the American Expeditionary Force in France.]

[Footnote 20: MS. returns in the U.S. Census Bureau, data procured through the courtesy of the Carnegie Institution of Washington and Mr.(now Lieutenant) V. Alton Moody.]
All of the characteristic work in the sugar plantation routine called mainly for able-bodied laborers. Children were less used than in tobacco and cotton production, and the men and women, like the mules, tended to be of sturdier physique. This was the result partly of selection, partly of the vigorous exertion required.

Among the fourteen hundred and odd sugar plantations of this period, the average one had almost a hundred slaves of all ages, and produced average crops of nearly three hundred hogsheads or a hundred and fifty tons. Most of the Anglo-Americans among the planters lived about Baton Rouge and on the Red River, where they or their fathers had settled with an initial purpose of growing cotton. Their fellows who acquired estates in the Creole parishes were perhaps as often as otherwise men who had been merchants and not planters in earlier life. One of these had removed from New York in the eighteenth century and had thriven in miscellaneous trade at Pensacola and on the Mississippi. In 1821 he bought for $140,000 a plantation and its complement of slaves on Bayou Lafourche, and he afterward acquired a second one in Plaquemines Parish. In the conduct of his plantation business he shrewdly bought blankets by the bale in Philadelphia, and he enlarged his gang by commissioning agents to buy negroes in Virginia and Maryland. The nature of the instructions he gave may be gathered from the results, for there duly arrived in several parcels between 1828 and 1832, fully covered by marine insurance for the coastwise voyage, fifty slaves, male and female, virtually all of whom ranged between the ages of ten and twenty-five years.[21] This planter prospered, and his children after him; and while he may have had a rugged nature, his descendants to-day are among the gentlest of Louisianians. Another was Duncan F. Kenner, who was long a slave trader with headquarters at New Orleans before he became a planter in Ascension Parish on a rapidly increasing scale. His crop advanced from 580 hogsheads in 1849 to 1,370 hogsheads in 1853 and 2,002 hogsheads in 1858 when he was operating two mills, one equipped with vacuum pans and the other with Rillieux apparatus.[22] A third example was John Burnside, who emigrated from the North of Ireland in his youth rose rapidly from grocery clerk in upland Virginia to millionaire merchant in New Orleans, and then in the fifties turned his talents to sugar growing. He bought the three contiguous plantations of Col. J.S. Preston lying opposite Donaldsonville, and soon added a fourth one to the group. In 1858 his aggregate crop was 3,701 hogsheads; and in 1861 his fields were described by William H. Russell as exhibiting six thousand acres of cane in an unbroken tract. By employing squads of immigrant Irishmen for ditching and other severe work he kept his literally precious negroes, well housed and fed, in fit condition for effective routine under his well selected staff of overseers.[23] Even after the war Burnside kept on acquiring plantations, and with free negro labor kept on making large sugar crops. At the end of his long life, spent frugally as a bachelor and somewhat of a recluse, he was doubtless by far the richest man in all the South. The number of planters who had been merchants and the frequency of partnerships and corporations operating sugar estates, as well as the magnitude of scale characteristic of the industry, suggest that methods of a strictly business kind were more common in sugar production than in that of cotton or tobacco. Domesticity and paternalism were nevertheless by no means alien to the sugar régime.
[Footnote 21: MSS. in private possession, data from which were made available through the kindness of Mr. V.A. Moody.]

[Footnote 22: The yearly product of each sugar plantation in Louisiana between 1849 and 1858 is reported in P.A. Champonier's Annual Statement of the crop. (New Orleans, 1850-1859).]

[Footnote 23: William H. Russell, My Diary North and South (Boston, 1863), pp. 268-279]
Virtually all of the tobacco, short staple cotton and sugar plantations were conducted on the gang system. The task system, on the other hand, was instituted on the rice coast, where the drainage ditches checkering the fields into half or quarter acre plots offered convenient units of performance in the successive processes. The chief advantage of the task system lay in the ease with which it permitted a planter or an overseer to delegate much of his routine function to a driver. This official each morning would assign to each field hand his or her individual plot, and spend the rest of the day in seeing to the performance of the work. At evening or next day the master could inspect the results and thereby keep a check upon both the driver and the squad. Each slave when his day's task was completed had at his own disposal such time as might remain. The driver commonly gave every full hand an equal area to be worked in the same way, and discriminated among them only in so far as varying conditions from plot to plot would permit the assignment of the stronger and swifter workmen to tracts where the work required was greater, and the others to plots where the labor was less. Fractional hands were given fractional tasks, or were combined into full hands for full tasks. Thus a woman rated at three quarters might be helped by her own one quarter child, or two half-hand youths might work a full plot jointly. The system gave some stimulus to speed of work, at least from time to time, by its promise of afternoon leisure in reward. But for this prospect to be effective the tasks had to be so limited that every laborer might have the hope of an hour or two's release as the fruit of diligence. The performance of every hand tended accordingly to be standardized at the customary accomplishment of the weakest and slowest members of the group. This tendency, however, was almost equally strong in the gang system also.

The task acre was commonly not a square of 210 feet, but a rectangle 300 feet long and 150 feet broad, divided into square halves and rectangular quarters, and further divisible into "compasses" five feet wide and 150 feet long, making one sixtieth of an acre. The standard tasks for full hands in rice culture were scheduled in 1843 as follows: plowing with two oxen, with the animals changed at noon, one acre; breaking stiff land with the hoe and turning the stubble under, ten compasses; breaking such land with the stubble burnt off, or breaking lighter land, a quarter acre or slightly more; mashing the clods to level the field, from a quarter to half an acre; trenching the drills, if on well prepared land, three quarters of an acre; sowing rice, from three to four half-acres; covering the drills, three quarters; the first hoeing, half an acre, or slightly less if the ground were lumpy and the drills hard to clear; second hoeing, half an acre, or slightly less or more according to the density of the grass; third hoeing with hand picking of the grass from the drills, twenty compasses; fourth hoeing, half an acre; reaping with the sickle, three quarters, or much less if the ground were new and cumbered or if the stalks were tangled; and threshing with the flail, six hundred sheaves for the men, five hundred for the women.[24] Much of the incidental work was also done by tasks, such as ditching, cutting cordwood, squaring timber, splitting rails, drawing staves and hoop poles, and making barrels. The scale of the crop was commonly five acres of rice to each full hand, together with about half as much in provision crops for home consumption.
[Footnote 24: Edmund Ruffin, Agricultural Survey of South Carolina (Columbia, 1843), p. 118.]
Under the task system, Olmsted wrote: "most of the slaves work rapidly and well...Custom has settled the extent of the task, and it is difficult to increase it. The driver who marks it out has to remain on the ground until it is finished, and has no interest in over-measuring it; and if it should be systematically increased very much there is the danger of a general stampede to the 'swamp'--a danger a slave can always hold before his master's cupidity...It is the driver's duty to make the tasked hands do their work well.[25] If in their haste to finish it they neglect to do it properly he 'sets them back,' so that carelessness will hinder more than it hastens the completion of their tasks." But Olmsted's view was for once rose colored. A planter who lived in the régime wrote: "The whole task system ... is one that I most unreservedly disapprove of, because it promotes idleness, and that is the parent of mischief."[26] Again the truth lies in the middle ground. The virtue or vice of the system, as with the gang alternative, depended upon its use by a diligent master or its abuse by an excessive delegation of responsibility.
[Footnote 25: Olmsted, Seaboard Slave States, pp. 435, 436.]

[Footnote 26: J.A. Turner, ed., Cotton Planter's Manual, p. 34.]
That the tide when taken at the flood on the rice coast as elsewhere would lead to fortune is shown by the career of the greatest of all rice planters, Nathaniel Heyward. At the time of his birth, in 1766, his father was a planter on an inland swamp near Port Royal. Nathaniel himself after establishing a small plantation in his early manhood married Harriett Manigault, an heiress with some fifty thousand dollars. With this, when both lands and slaves were cheap, Heyward bought a tide-land tract and erected four plantations thereon, and soon had enough accrued earnings to buy the several inland plantations of the Gibbes brothers, who had fallen into debt from luxurious living. With the proceeds of his large crops at high prices during the great wars in Europe, he bought more slaves year after year, preferably fresh Africans as long as that cheap supply remained available, and he bought more land when occasion offered. Joseph Manigault wrote of him in 1806: "Mr. Heyward has lately made another purchase of land, consisting of 300 acres of tide swamp, joining one of his Combahee plantations and belonging to the estate of Mrs. Bell. I believe he has made a good bargain. It is uncleared and will cost him not quite £20 per acre. I have very little doubt that he will be in a few years, if he lives, the richest, as he is the best planter in the state. The Cooper River lands give him many a long ride." Heyward was venturesome in large things, conservative in small. He long continued to have his crops threshed by hand, saying that if it were done by machines his darkies would have no winter work; but when eventually he instituted mechanical threshers, no one could discern an increase of leisure. In the matter of pounding mills likewise, he clung for many years to those driven by the tides and operating slowly and crudely; but at length he built two new ones driven by steam and so novel and complete in their apparatus as to be the marvels of the countryside. He necessarily depended much upon overseers; but his own frequent visits of inspection and the assistance rendered by his sons kept the scattered establishments in an efficient routine. The natural increase of his slaves was reckoned by him to have ranged generally between one and five per cent. annually, though in one year it rose to seven per cent. At his death in 1851 he owned fourteen rice plantations with fields ranging from seventy to six hundred acres in each, and comprising in all 4,390 acres in cultivation. He had also a cotton plantation, much pine land and a sawmill, nine residences in Charleston, appraised with their furniture at $180,000; securities and cash to the amount of $200,000; $20,000 worth of horses, mules and cattle; $15,000 worth of plate; and $3000 worth of old wine. His slaves, numbering 2,087 and appraised at an average of $550, made up the greater part of his two million dollar estate. His heirs continued his policy. In 1855, for example, they bought a Savannah River plantation called Fife, containing 500 acres of prime rice land at $150 per acre, together with its equipment and 120 slaves, at a gross price of $135,600.[27]
[Footnote 27: MSS. in the possession of Mrs. Hawkins K. Jenkins, Pinopolis, S.C., including a "Memoir of Nathaniel Heyward," written in 1895 by Gabriel E. Manigault.]
The history of the estate of James Heyward, Nathaniel's brother, was in striking contrast with this. When on a tour in Ireland he met and married an actress, who at his death in 1796 inherited his plantation and 214 slaves. Two suitors for the widow's hand promptly appeared in Alexander Baring, afterwards Lord Ashburton, and Charles Baring, his cousin. Mrs. Heyward married the latter, who increased the estate to seven or eight hundred acres in rice, yielding crops worth from twelve to thirty thousand dollars. But instead of superintending its work in person Baring bought a large tract in the North Carolina mountains, built a house there, and carried thither some fifty slaves for his service. After squandering the income for nearly fifty years, he sold off part of the slaves and mortgaged the land; and when the plantation was finally surrendered in settlement of Baring's debts, it fell into Nathaniel Heyward's possession.[28]
[Footnote 28: Notes by Louis Manigault of a conversation with Nathaniel Heyward in 1846. M.S. in the collection above mentioned.]
Another case of absentee neglect, made notorious through Fanny Kemble's Journal, was the group of rice and sea-island cotton plantations founded by Senator Pierce Butler on and about Butler's Island near the mouth of the Altamaha River. When his two grandsons inherited the estate, they used it as a source of revenue but not as a home. One of these was Pierce Butler the younger, who lived in Philadelphia. When Fanny Kemble, with fame preceding her, came to America in 1832, he became infatuated, followed her troupe from city to city, and married her in 1834. The marriage was a mistake. The slaveholder's wife left the stage for the time being, but retained a militant English abolitionism. When in December, 1838, she and her husband were about to go South for a winter on the plantations, she registered her horror of slavery in advance, and resolved to keep a journal of her experiences and observations. The resulting record is gloomy enough. The swarms of negroes were stupid and slovenly, the cabins and hospitals filthy, the women overdriven, the overseer callous, the master indifferent, and the new mistress herself, repudiating the title, was more irritable and meddlesome than helpful.[29] The short sojourn was long enough. A few years afterward the ill-mated pair were divorced and Fanny Kemble resumed her own name and career. Butler did not mend his ways. In 1859 his half of the slaves, 429 in number, were sold at auction in Savannah to pay his debts.
[Footnote 29: Frances Anne Kemble, Journal of a Residence on a Georgia Plantation in 1838-1839(London, 1863).]
A pleasanter picture is afforded by the largest single unit in rice culture of which an account is available. This was the plantation of William Aiken, at one time governor of South Carolina, occupying Jehossee Island near the mouth of the Edisto River. It was described in 1850 by Solon Robinson, an Iowa farmer then on tour as correspondent for the American Agriculturist. The two or three hundred acres of firm land above tide comprised the homestead, the negro quarter, the stables, the stock yard, the threshing mill and part of the provision fields. Of the land which could be flooded with the tide, about fifteen hundred acres were diked and drained. About two-thirds of this appears to have been cropped in rice each year, and the rest in corn, oats and sweet potatoes. The steam-driven threshing apparatus was described as highly efficient. The sheaves were brought on the heads of the negroes from the great smooth stack yard, and opened in a shed where the scattered grain might be saved. A mechanical carrier led thence to the threshing machines on the second floor, whence the grain descended through a winnowing fan. The pounding mill, driven by the tide, was a half mile distant at the wharf, whence a schooner belonging to the plantation carried the hulled and polished rice in thirty-ton cargoes to Charleston. The average product per acre was about forty-five bushels in the husk, each bushel yielding some thirty pounds of cleaned rice, worth about three cents a pound. The provision fields commonly fed the force of slaves and mules; and the slave families had their own gardens and poultry to supplement their fare. The rice crops generally yielded some twenty-five thousand dollars in gross proceeds, while the expenses, including the two-thousand-dollar salary of the overseer, commonly amounted to some ten thousand dollars. During the summer absence of the master, the overseer was the only white man on the place. The engineers, smiths, carpenters and sailors were all black. "The number of negroes upon the place," wrote Robinson, "is just about 700, occupying 84 double frame houses, each containing two tenements of three rooms to a family besides the cockloft.... There are two common hospitals and a 'lying-in hospital,' and a very neat, commodious church, which is well filled every Sabbath.... Now the owner of all this property lives in a very humble cottage, embowered in dense shrubbery and making no show.... He and his family are as plain and unostentatious in their manners as the house they live in.... Nearly all the land has been reclaimed and the buildings, except the house, erected new within the twenty years that Governor Aiken has owned the island. I fully believe that he is more concerned to make his people comfortable and happy than he is to make money."[30] When the present writer visited Jehossee in the harvest season sixty years after Robinson, the fields were dotted with reapers, wage earners now instead of slaves, but still using sickles on half-acre tasks; and the stack yard was aswarm with sable men and women carrying sheaves on their heads and chattering as of old in a dialect which a stranger can hardly understand. The ante-bellum hospital and many of the cabins in their far-thrown quadruple row were still standing. The site of the residence, however, was marked only by desolate chimneys, a live-oak grove and a detached billiard room, once elegant but now ruinous, the one indulgence which this planter permitted himself.
[Footnote 30: American Agriculturist, IX, 187, 188, reprinted in DeBow's Review, IX, 201-203.]
The ubiquitous Olmsted chose for description two rice plantations operated as one, which he inspected in company with the owner, whom he calls "Mr. X." Frame cabins at intervals of three hundred feet constituted the quarters; the exteriors were whitewashed, the interiors lathed and plastered, and each family had three rooms and a loft, as well as a chicken yard and pigsty not far away. "Inside, the cabins appeared dirty and disordered, which was rather a pleasant indication that their home life was not much interfered with, though I found certain police regulations enforced." Olmsted was in a mellow mood that day. At the nursery "a number of girls eight or ten years old were occupied in holding and tending the youngest infants. Those a little older--the crawlers--were in the pen, and those big enough to toddle were playing on the steps or before the house. Some of these, with two or three bigger ones, were singing and dancing about a fire they had made on the ground.... The nurse was a kind-looking old negro woman.... I watched for half an hour, and in all that time not a baby of them began to cry; nor have I ever heard one, at two or three other plantation nurseries which I have visited." The chief slave functionary was a "gentlemanly-mannered mulatto who ... carried by a strap at his waist a very large bunch of keys and had charge of all the stores of provisions, tools and materials on the plantations, as well as of their produce before it was shipped to market. He weighed and measured out all the rations of the slaves and the cattle.... In all these departments his authority was superior to that of the overseer; ... and Mr. X. said he would trust him with much more than he would any overseer he had ever known." The master explained that this man and the butler, his brother, having been reared with the white children, had received special training to promote their sense of dignity and responsibility. The brothers, Olmsted further observed, rode their own horses the following Sunday to attend the same church as their master, and one of them slipped a coin into the hand of the boy who had been holding his mount. The field hands worked by tasks under their drivers. "I saw one or two leaving the field soon after one o'clock, several about two; and between three and four I met a dozen men and women coming home to their cabins, having finished their day's work." As to punishment, Olmsted asked how often it was necessary. The master replied: "'Sometimes perhaps not once for two or three weeks; then it will seem as if the devil had gotten into them all and there is a good deal of it.'" As to matings: "While watching the negroes in the field, Mr. X. addressed a girl who was vigorously plying a hoe near us: 'Is that Lucy?--Ah, Lucy, what's this I hear about you?' The girl simpered, but did not answer or discontinue her work. 'What is this I hear about you and Sam, eh?' The girl grinned and still hoeing away with all her might whispered 'Yes, sir.' 'Sam came to see me this morning,' 'If master pleases.' 'Very well; you may come up to the house Saturday night, and your mistress will have something for you.'"[31] We may hope that the pair whose prospective marriage was thus endorsed with the promise of a bridal gift lived happily ever after.
[Footnote 31: Olmsted, Seaboard Slave States,418-448.]
The most detailed record of rice operations available is that made by Charles Manigault from the time of his purchase in 1833 of "Gowrie," on the Savannah River, twelve miles above the city of Savannah.[32] The plantation then had 220 acres in rice fields, 80 acres unreclaimed, a good pounding mill, and 50 slaves. The price of $40,000 was analyzed by Manigault as comprising $7500 for the mill, $70 per acre for the cleared, and $37 for the uncleared, and an average of $300 for the slaves. His maintenance expense per hand he itemized at a weekly peck of corn, $13 a year; summer and winter clothes, $7; shoes, $1; meat at times, salt, molasses and medical attention, not estimated. In reward for good service, however, Manigault usually issued broken rice worth $2.50 per bushel, instead of corn worth $1. Including the overseer's wages the current expense for the plantation for the first six years averaged about $2000 annually. Meanwhile the output increased from 200 barrels of rice in 1833 to 578 in 1838. The crop in the latter year was particularly notable, both in its yield of three barrels per acre, or 161-1/2 barrels per working hand, and its price of four cents per pound or $24 per barrel. The net proceeds of the one crop covered the purchase in 1839 of two families of slaves, comprising sixteen persons, mostly in or approaching their prime, at a price of $640 each.
[Footnote 32: The Manigault MSS. are in the possession of Mrs. H.K. Jenkins, Pinopolis, S.C. Selections from them are printed in Plantation and Frontier, I, 134-139 et passim.]
Manigault and his family were generally absent every summer and sometimes in winter, at Charleston or in Europe, and once as far away as China. His methods of administration may be gathered from his letters, contracts and memoranda. In January, 1848, he wrote from Naples to I.F. Cooper whom his factor had employed at $250 a year as a new overseer on Gowrie: "My negroes have the reputation of being orderly and well disposed; but like all negroes they are up to anything if not watched and attended to. I expect the kindest treatment of them from you, for this has always been a principal thing with me. I never suffer them to work off the place, or exchange work with any plantation....It has always been my plan to give out allowance to my negroes on Sunday in preference to any other day, because this has much influence in keeping them at home that day, whereas if they received allowance on Saturday for instance some of them would be off with it that same evening to the shops to trade, and perhaps would not get back until Monday morning. I allow no strange negro to take a wife on my place, and none of mine to keep a boat."[33]
[Footnote 33: MS. copy in Manigault letter book.]
A few years after this, Manigault bought an adjoining plantation, "East Hermitage," and consolidated it with Gowrie, thereby increasing his rice fields to 500 acres and his slaves to about 90 of all ages. His draught animals appear to have comprised merely five or six mules. A new overseer, employed in 1853 at wages of $500 together with corn and rice for his table and the services of a cook and a waiting boy, was bound by a contract stipulating the duties described in the letter to Cooper above quoted, along with a few additional items. He was, for example, to procure a book of medical instructions and a supply of the few requisite "plantation medicines" to be issued to the nurses with directions as needed. In case of serious injury to a slave, however, the sufferer was to be laid upon a door and sent by the plantation boat to Dr. Bullock's hospital in Savannah. Except when the work was very pressing the slaves were to be sent home for the rest of the day upon the occurrence of heavy rains in the afternoon, for Manigault had found by experience "that always after a complete wetting, particularly in cold rainy weather in winter or spring, one or more of them are made sick and lie up, and at times serious illness ensues."[34]
[Footnote 34: Plantation and Frontier, I, 122-126.]
In 1852 and again in 1854 storms and freshets heavily injured Manigault's crops, and cholera decimated his slaves. In 1855 the fields were in bad condition because of volunteer rice, and the overseer was dying of consumption. The slaves, however, were in excellent health, and the crop, while small, brought high prices because of the Crimean war. In 1856 a new overseer named Venters handled the flooding inexpertly and made but half a crop, yielding $12,660 in gross proceeds. For the next year Venters was retained, on the maxim "never change an overseer if you can help it," and nineteen slaves were bought for $11,850 to fill the gaps made by the cholera. Furthermore a tract of pine forest was bought to afford summer quarters for the negro children, who did not thrive on the malarial plantation, and to provide a place of isolation for cholera cases. In 1857 Venters made a somewhat better crop, but as Manigault learned and wrote at the end of the year, "elated by a strong and very false religious feeling, he began to injure the plantation a vast deal, placing himself on a par with the negroes by even joining in with them at their prayer meetings, breaking down long established discipline which in every case is so difficult to preserve, favoring and siding in any difficulty with the people against the drivers, besides causing numerous grievances." The successor of the eccentric Venters in his turn proved grossly neglectful; and it was not until the spring of 1859 that a reliable overseer was found in William Capers, at a salary of $1000. Even then the year's experience was such that at its end Manigault recorded the sage conclusion: "The truth is, on a plantation, to attend to things properly it requires both master and overseer."

The affairs of another estate in the Savannah neighborhood, "Sabine Fields," belonging to the Alexander Telfair estate, may be gleaned from its income and expense accounts. The purchases of shoes indicate a working force of about thirty hands. The purchases of woolen clothing and waterproof hats tell of adequate provision against inclement weather; but the scale of the doctor's bills suggest either epidemics or serious occasional illnesses. The crops from 1845 to 1854 ranged between seventeen and eighty barrels of rice; and for the three remaining years of the record they included both rice and sea-island cotton. The gross receipts were highest at $1,695 in 1847 and lowest at $362 in 1851; the net varied from a surplus of $995 in 1848 to a deficit of $2,035 in the two years 1853 and 1854 for which the accounting was consolidated. Under E.S. Mell, who was overseer until 1854 at a salary of $350 or less, there were profits until 1849, losses thereafter. The following items of expense in this latter period, along with high doctor's bills, may explain the reverse: for taking a negro from the guard-house, $5; for court costs in the case of a boy prosecuted for larceny, $9.26; jail fees of Cesar, $2.69; for the apprehension of a runaway, $5; paid Jones for trying to capture a negro, $5. In February, 1854, Mell was paid off, and a voucher made record of a newspaper advertisement for another overseer. What happened to the new incumbent is told by the expense entries of March 9, 1855: "Paid ... amount Jones' bill for capturing negroes, $25. Expenses of Overseer Page's burial as follows, Ferguson's bill, $25; Coroner's, $14; Dr. Kollock's, $5; total $69." A further item in 1856 of twenty-five dollars paid for the arrest of Bing and Tony may mean that two of the slaves who shared in the killing of the overseer succeeded for a year in eluding capture, or it may mean that disorders continued under Page's successor.[35]
[Footnote 35: Account book of Sabine Fields plantation, among the Telfair MSS. in the custody of the Georgia Historical Society, Savannah, Ga.]
Other lowland plantations on a scale similar to that of Sabine Fields showed much better earnings. One of these, in Liberty County, Georgia, belonged to the heirs of Dr. Adam Alexander of Savannah. It was devoted to sea-island cotton in the 'thirties, but rice was added in the next decade. While the output fluctuated, of course, the earnings always exceeded the expenses and sometimes yielded as much as a hundred dollars per hand for distribution among the owners.[36]
[Footnote 36: The accounts for selected years are printed in Plantation and Frontier, I, 150-165.]
The system of rice production was such that plantations with less than a hundred acres available for the staple could hardly survive in the competition. If one of these adjoined another estate it was likely to be merged therewith; but if it lay in isolation the course of years would probably bring its abandonment. The absence of the proprietors every summer in avoidance of malaria, and the consequent expense of overseer's wages, hampered operations on a small scale, as did also the maintenance of special functionaries among the slaves, such as drivers, boatswains, trunk minders, bird minders, millers and coopers. In 1860 Louis Manigault listed the forty-one rice plantations on the Savannah River and scheduled their acreage in the crop. Only one of them had as little as one hundred acres in rice, and it seems to have been an appendage of a larger one across the river. On the other hand, two of them had crops of eleven hundred, and two more of twelve hundred acres each. The average was about 425 acres per plantation, expected to yield about 1200 pounds of rice per acre each year.[37] A census tabulation in 1850, ignoring any smaller units, numbered the plantations which produced annually upwards of 20,000 pounds of rice at 446 in South Carolina, 80 in Georgia, and 25 in North Carolina.[38]
[Footnote 37: MS. in the possession of Mrs. H.K. Jenkins, Pinopolis, S.C.]

[Footnote 38: Compendium of the Seventh U.S. Census, p. 178.]
Indigo and sea-island cotton fields had no ditches dividing them permanently into task units; but the fact that each of these in its day was often combined with rice on the same plantations, and that the separate estates devoted to them respectively lay in the region dominated by the rice régime, led to the prevalence of the task system in their culture also. The soils used for these crops were so sandy and light, however, that the tasks, staked off each day by the drivers, ranged larger than those in rice. In the cotton fields they were about half an acre per hand, whether for listing, bedding or cultivation. In the collecting and spreading of swamp mud and other manures for the cotton the work was probably done mostly by gangs rather than by task, since the units were hard to measure. In cotton picking, likewise, the conditions of the crop were so variable and the need of haste so great that time work, perhaps with special rewards for unusually heavy pickings, was the common resort. Thus the lowland cotton régime alternated the task and gang systems according to the work at hand; and even the rice planters of course abandoned all thoughts of stinted performance when emergency pressed, as in the mending of breaks in the dikes, or when joint exertion was required, as in log rolling, or when threshing and pounding with machinery to set the pace.

That the task system was extended sporadically into the South Carolina Piedmont, is indicated by a letter of a certain Thomas Parker of the Abbeville district, in 1831,[39] which not only described his methods but embodied an essential plantation precept. He customarily tasked his hoe hands, he said, at rates determined by careful observation as just both to himself and the workers. These varied according to conditions, but ranged usually about three quarters of an acre. He continued: "I plant six acres of cotton to the hand, which is about the usual quantity planted in my neighborhood. I do not make as large crops as some of my neighbors. I am content with three to three and a half bales of cotton to the hand, with my provisions and pork; but some few make four bales, and last year two of my neighbors made five bales to the hand. In such cases I have vanity enough, however, to attribute this to better lands. I have no overseer, nor indeed is there one in the neighborhood. We personally attend to our planting, believing that as good a manure as any, if not the best we can apply to our fields, is the print of the master's footstep."
[Footnote 39: Southern Agriculturist, March. 1831, reprinted in the American Farmer, XIII, 105, 106.]


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