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The atrocious and sacrilegious system of breeding human beings for sale, and trading them like cattle in the market, fails to produce the impression on the mind that it ought to produce, because it is lost in generalities.

152It is like the account of a great battle, in which we learn, in round numbers, that ten thousand were killed and wounded, and throw the paper by without a thought.

So, when we read of sixty or eighty thousand human beings being raised yearly and sold in the market, it passes through our mind, but leaves no definite trace.

Sterne says that when he would realize the miseries of captivity, he had to turn his mind from the idea of hundreds of thousands languishing in dungeons, and bring before himself the picture of one poor, solitary captive pining in his cell. In like manner, we cannot give any idea of the horribly cruel and demoralizing effect of this trade, except by presenting facts in detail, each fact being a specimen of a class of facts.

For a specimen of the public sentiment and the kind of morals and manners which this breeding and trading system produces, both in slaves and in their owners, the writer gives the following extracts from a recent letter of a friend in one of the Southern States.

Dear Mrs. S:—The sable goddess who presides over our bed and wash-stand is such a queer specimen of her race, that I would give a good deal to have you see her. Her whole appearance, as she goes giggling and curtseying about, is perfectly comical, and would lead a stranger to think her really deficient in intellect. This is, however, by no means the case. During our two months’ acquaintance with her, we have seen many indications of sterling good sense, that would do credit to many a white person with ten times her advantages.

She is disposed to be very communicative;—seems to feel that she has a claim upon our sympathy, in the very fact that we come from the North; and we could undoubtedly gain no little knowledge of the practical workings of the “peculiar institution,” if we thought proper to hold any protracted conversation with her. This, however, would insure a visit from the authorities, requesting us to leave town in the next train of cars; so we are forced to content ourselves with gleaning a few items, now and then, taking care to appear quite indifferent to her story, and to cut it short by despatching her on some trifling errand;—being equally careful, however, to note down her peculiar expressions, as soon as she has disappeared. A copy of these I have thought you would like to see, especially as illustrating the views of the marriage institution which is a necessary result of the great human property relation system.

A Southern lady, who thinks “negro sentiment” very much exaggerated in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” assures us that domestic attachments cannot be very strong, where one man will have two or three wives and families, on as many different plantations.(!) And the lady of our hotel tells us of her cook having received a message from her husband, that he has another wife, and she may get another husband, with perfect indifference; simply expressing a hope that “she won’t find another here during the next month, as she must then be sent to her owner, in Georgia, and would be more unwilling to go.” And yet, both of these ladies are quite religious, and highly resent any insinuation that the moral character of the slaves is not far above that of the free negroes at the North.

With Violet’s story, I will also enclose that of one of our waiters; in which, I think, you will be interested.

Violet’s father and mother both died, as she says, “‘fore I had any sense,” leaving eleven children—all scattered. “To sabe my life, Missis, couldn’t tell dis yer night where one of dem is. Massa lib in Charleston. My first husband,—when we was young,—nice man; he had seven children; den he sold off to Florida—neber hear from him ‘gain. Ole folks die. O, dat’s be my boderation, Missis,—when ole people be dead, den we be scattered all ‘bout. Den I sold up here—now hab ‘noder husband—hab four children up here. I lib bery easy when my young husband ‘libe—and we had children bery fast. But now dese yer ones tight fellers. Massa don’t ‘low us to raise noting; no pig—no goat—no dog—no noting; won’t allow us raise a bit of corn. We has to do jist de best we can. Dey don’t gib us a single grain but jist two homespun frocks—no coat ‘t all.

“Can’t go to meetin, ‘cause, Missis, get dis work done—den get dinner. In summer, I goes ebery Sunday ebening; but dese yer short days, time done get dinner dishes washed, den time get supper. Gen’lly goes Baptist church.”

“Do your people usually go there?”

“Dere bees tree shares ob dem—Methodist gang, Baptist gang, ‘Piscopal gang. Last summer, use to hab right smart[21] meetins in our yard, Sunday night. Massa Johnson preach to us. Den he said couldn’t hab two meetins—we might go to church.”


“Gracious knows. I lubs to go to meetin allers—‘specially when dere ‘s good preaching—lubs to hab people talk good to me—likes to hab people read to me, too. ‘Cause don’t b’long to church, no reason why I shan’t.”

“Does your master like to have others read to you?”

“He won’t hinder—I an’t bound tell him when folks reads to me. I hab my soul to sabe—he hab his soul to sabe. Our owners won’t stand few minutes and read to us—dey tink it too great honor—dey’s bery hard on us. Brack preachers sometimes talk good to us, and pray wid us,—and pray a heap for DEM too.

“I jest done hab great quarrel wid Dinah, down in de kitchen. I tells Dinah, ‘De way you goes on spile all do women’s character.’—She say she didn’t care, she do what she please wid herself. Dinah, she slip away somehow from her first husband, and hab ‘noder child by Sambo (he b’long to Massa D.); so she and her first husband dey fall out somehow. Dese yer men, yer know, is so queer, Missis, dey don’t neber like sich tings.

“Ye know, Missis, tings we lub, we don’t like hab anybody else hab ‘em. Such a ting as dat, Missis, tetch your heart so, ef you don’t mind, ‘t will fret you almost to death. Ef my husband 153was to slip away from me, Missis, dat ar way, it ud wake me right up. I’m brack, but I wouldn’t do so to my husband, neider. What I hide behind de curtain now, I can’t hide it behind de curtain when I stand before God—de whole world know it den.

“Dinah’s (second) husband say what she do for her first husband noting to him;—now, my husband don’t feel so. He say he wouldn’t do as Daniel do—he wouldn’t buy tings for de oder children—dem as has de children might buy de tings for dem. Well, so dere dey is.—Dinah’s first husband come up wheneber he can, to see his children,—and Sambo, he come up to see his child, and gib Dinah tings for it.

“You know, Missis, Massa hab no nigger but me and one yellow girl, when he bought me and my four children. Well, den Massa, he want me to breed; so he say, ‘Violet, you must take some nigger here in C.’

“Den I say, ‘No, Massa, I can’t take any here.’ Den he say, ‘You must, Violet;’ ‘cause you see he want me breed for him; so he say plenty young fellers here, but I say I can’t hab any ob dem. Well, den, Missis, he go down Virginia, and he bring up two niggers,—and dey was pretty ole men,—and Missis say, ‘One of dem’s for you, Violet;’ but I say, ‘No, Missis, I can’t take one of dem, ‘cause I don’t lub ‘em, and I can’t hab one I don’t lub.’ Den Massa, he say, ‘You must take one of dese—and den, ef you can’t lub him, you must find somebody else you can lub.’ Den I say, ‘O, no, Massa! I can’t do dat—I can’t hab one ebery day.’ Well, den, by-and-by, Massa he buy tree more, and den Missis say, ‘Now, Violet, ones dem is for you.’ I say, ‘I do’no—maybe I can’t lub one dem neider;’ but she say, ‘You must hab one ob dese.’ Well, so Sam and I we lib along two year—he watchin my ways, and I watchin his ways.

“At last, one night, we was standin’ by de wood-pile togeder, and de moon bery shine, and I do’no how ‘t was, Missis, he answer me, he wan’t a wife, but he didn’t know where he get one. I say, plenty girls in G. He say, ‘Yes—but maybe I shan’t find any I like so well as you.’ Den I say maybe he wouldn’t like my ways, ‘cause I’se an ole woman, and I hab four children by my first husband; and anybody marry me, must be jest kind to dem children as dey was to me, else I couldn’t lub him. Den he say, ‘Ef he had a woman ‘t had children,’—mind you, he didn’t say me,—‘he would be jest as kind to de children as he was to de moder, and dat’s ‘cordin to how she do by him.’ Well, so we went on from one ting to anoder, till at last we say we’d take one anoder, and so we’ve libed togeder eber since—and I’s had four children by him—and he neber slip away from me, nor I from him.”

“How are you married in your yard?”

“We jest takes one anoder—we asks de white folks’ leave—and den takes one anoder. Some folks, dey’s married by de book; but den, what’s de use? Dere’s my fus husband, we’se married by de book, and he sold way off to Florida, and I’s here. Dey wants to do what dey please wid us, so dey don’t want us to be married. Dey don’t care what we does, so we jest makes money for dem.

“My fus husband,—he young, and he bery kind to me,—O, Missis, he bery kind indeed. He set up all night and work, so as to make me comfortable. O, we got ‘long bery well when I had him; but he sold way off Florida, and, sence then, Missis, I jest gone to noting. Dese yer white people dey hab here, dey won’t ‘low us noting—noting at all—jest gibs us food, and two suits a year—a broad stripe and a narrow stripe; you’ll see ‘em, Missis.”—

And we did “see ‘em;” for Violet brought us the “narrow stripe,” with a request that we would fit it for her. There was just enough to cover her, but no hooks and eyes, cotton, or even lining; these extras she must get as she can; and yet her master receives from our host eight dollars per month for her services. We asked how she got the “broad stripe” made up.

“O, Missis, my husband,—he working now out on de farm,—so he hab ‘lowance four pounds bacon and one peck of meal ebery week; so he stinge heself, so as to gib me four pounds bacon to pay for making my frock.” [Query.—Are there any husbands in refined circles who would do more than this?]

Once, finding us all three busily writing, Violet stood for some moments silently watching the mysterious motion of our pens, and then, in a tone of deepest sadness, said,

“O! dat be great comfort, Missis. You can write to your friends all ‘bout ebery ting, and so hab dem write to you. Our people can’t do so. Wheder dey be ‘live or dead, we can’t neber know—only sometimes we hears dey be dead.”

What more expressive comment on the cruel laws that forbid the slave to be taught to write!

The history of the serving-man is thus given:

George’s father and mother belonged to somebody in Florida. During the war, two older sisters got on board an English vessel, and went to Halifax. His mother was very anxious to go with them, and take the whole family; but her husband persuaded her to wait until the next ship sailed, when he thought he should be able to go too. By this delay opportunity of escape was lost, and the whole family were soon after sold for debt. George, one sister, and their mother, were bought by the same man. He says, “My old boss cry powerful when she (the mother) die; say he’d rather lost two thousand dollars. She was part Indian—hair straight as yourn—and she was white as dat ar pillow.” George married a woman in another yard. He gave this reason for it: “‘Cause, when a man sees his wife ‘bused, he can’t help f............
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