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ed, by law, to deliver to his slaves* one ties concerned, will be sufficient to conbarrel of indian corn, or the equivalent vince us, that no practical advantage thereof in rice, beans, or other grain, to the slaves, can possibly result from and a pint of salt, every month. In North them. Carolina, by a law passed in 1753 and If we imagine that the laws above still in force, it is provided that “in noticed, were enacted, as laws are gecase any slave, who shall appear not nerally supposed to be, to correct to have been sufficiently clothed, and existing or probable evils, what can we to have constantly received, for the think of that one which limits the hours preceding year, an allowance not less of legal labour to fifteen in twentythan a quart of corn per day, shall be four; whilst in several of the states, of convicted of stealing any corn, cattle, which Virginia and Georgia are a part, &c, from any person not the owner of convicted felons, who are sentenced to such slave; such injured person may
hard labour as a punishment, are never maintain an action of trespass against allowed to be kept at work more than the owner or possessor of such slave, ten hours in the day? Is the protecand recover his or her damages.” tion afforded to the slave, less humane Whether the slave, in such case, shall than the punishment adjudged to the be punished as a thief by the operation criminal? In Jamaica, the slaves are statof law, or left to be punished, at the ed by B. Edwards, to be usually emdiscretion of the master for the ex ployed out of crop time, about ten hours pense and vexation occasioned by the in the day, though I find by the conso. suit does not appear.
lidated slave law, they may be kept at
work twelve and a half. I am far from In Louisiana, some attempt appears,
asserting that slaves in the United to secure to the slaves, by legal en
States, are generally overwrought or actment, a supply of clothing:- How
too scantily fed; though unquestionaadequate this supply is, if the practice is strictly conformable to the pre
bly very oppressive cases of both sometimes occur.
This is not the great scriptions of law, will be easily seen,
and crying evil of slavery. But when when we perceive that the legal allowance is “one linen shirt and pan
they escape this species of injustice,
they are more indebted to the humanitaloons (une chemise et une culotte
ty or negligence of their owners, than de toile) for the summer, and a linen
to the efficacy of law. Unfortunately, shirt and woollen great coat and panta
almost every legal provision, designloons for the winter.” In South Caroli
ed to protect the slaves from the tyna and Georgia some enactments ap
ranny of cruel and unprincipled ownpear, ostensibly designed to restrain or
ers, and against such the laws ought punish such owners of slaves as may be
most carefully to provide, are renderguilty of withholding from them the
ed nugatory by the influence of other needful supplies of clothing and food;
provisions or principles by which the but a slight attention to the laws them.
codes of the slaveholding districts are selves and the circumstances of the par
marked. Independently of the averMeaning, I suppose, to each of his
sion almost universally felt, to any inslaves, though I do not find that it is so terference with the private concerns expressed
of others, and the antipathies, not to
say personal danger, resulting from such'interference, to which the case of injustice to slaves, is by no means an exception, the legal impediments to a successful prosecution of any suits directed to this object, are such as to render it quite improbable that the experiment, except in very flagrant cases, will often be tried. The injuries to be redressed are probably often unknown, except to the oppressor and the party aggrieved: and a stern, inAexible principle of modern slaveholding law, is that no slave, or other person of colour, can be admitted as a competent witness against a white
This principle and its necessary consequences will be reserved for future discussion. It may be just observed in this place, that, as law without an executory principle, is little more than legislative mockery, the exclusion of negro evidence from our judicial tribunals, must render every legal protection, which can be afforded them, beyond the mere preservation of life and limb, almost wholly inoperative, and leave the poor slave one of the greatest outlaws in nature.
The master's authority is little less arbitrary, in relation to the degree and kind of punishment to which the slave shall be subjected, than to the labour exacted; and this power of arbitrary punishment, is exercised not only by the master himself, whose interest, in the life and health of the slave, might assign some limits to the wantonness of power, but by a numerous class of agents and sub-agents," whose inter
ests are more dependent on the quantum of labour obtained, than on the preservation of the slave.
In the laborious employment of cultivating the sugar-cane in the British colonies, the slaves usually work in gangs, moving like a military corps, in a line, and followed by drivers armed with whips, which are often applied with tremendous effect, to those who, from sluggishness or inability, fall behind the rest.
Of all the shapes and hues which slavery has ever assumed, the driving system of the British sugar islands appears pre-eminently odious. The miserable victims are subject not only to the imperious authority of their European lords, but to the capricious cruelty of drivers, selected from the most athletic of the slaves, who are, in general, little schooled in the science of humanity, and impelled, by the fear of being punished themselves, to exact from their human herd, the quantum of labour required.
To contemplate a group of human beings, with passions, faculties, and infirmities, like our own, toiling, amid the fervours of a tropical sun, under the impetus of a drivers whip applied with little restraint or discretion, may well awaken in the benevolent mind, a train of sensations which language is too barren to express.
What man seeing this, And having human feelings, does not blush And hang his head to think himself a man?
In some instances, it is true, the number of lashes to be inflicted at one
* If this delegation of absolute power is not peculiar to negro slavery, it was at least unknown to English law till introduced, with other innovations, into the system of West Indian servi
tude. The English villein, might prosecute any man but his lord, for beating him without just cause, and it was no legal defence, in such action, to plead that it was done by the command of his lord.--Coke’s.Reports.
time, or for one offence, is professedly ca in 1760:-An overseer, remarkalimited by law.
ble for his tenderness and humanity to Such limitation, however, if it could the slaves, was permitted to pass unbe strictly enforced, would evidently af molested through a band of insurgents, ford to the suffering victim, a very slen many of them newly imported, who der protection against the cruelty of carried massacre and desolation in their an irritated master, or his more unfeel course, and barbarously murdered eving deputy, when the legal number ery other white person that fell under of lashes on the naked body, with a their power! As it is no part of my long cattle whip, frequently extends || plan to harrow up the feelings of my to thirty-nine, for a single offence ; || readers with the shocking details of and this liable to repetition at short in- cruelty abounding in the narratives of tervals, at discretion. But the means
those who have visited the sugar planof securing even this slender protec tations of the British islands, I shall tion are wanting, for, as the evidence | just observe that they mostly concur of slaves, or even of free coloured in the statement, that few of the slaves people, is there, as well as in the slave are exempt from the permanent scars holding sections of the United States, left by the whip, and that in many of always excluded when white persons them, those parts of the body, to which are under trial, violations of the laws, the whip is usually applied, are comhowever enormous, where slaves alone || pletely covered with the vestiges of are the sufferers, can seldom be legal cruel and repeated punishments. Amly proved, so as to subject the white | ple as the range of the master's legal criminals to the trivial and inadequate authority, in relation to punishments, punishment which the laws have pre- || obviously is, the limits prescribed by scribed.
law are very frequently disregarded. That the punishment, to which the
R. Bickell, a clergyman late of Kingsslaves in the British islands are subject
ton, in a work recently published, ed, is not only occasionally but habitu
mentions an instance which fell under ually severe, appears from the concur
his own inspection, of a black driver, rent testimony of numberless witnesses
punishing a slave, for a trivial neglect, of unquestionable veracity. Even Bryan beyond the limits prescribed even to a Edwards, the champion of West Indian
white man's authority, and yet the ofhumanity, admits that instances of ex
ficer legally entrusted with the processive cruelty sometimes occur, though
tection of the slaves, though likewise he asserts that the general treatment is
a witness to the transaction, permitted mild, temperate, and indulgent; and
it to pass without animadversion. that instances of cruelty, when sus
A large portion of the West Indian ceptible of legal proof, are severely | proprietors reside in Europe, and enpunished.* A striking comment on
trust the management of their slaves, the general mildness, with which
to agents and overseers, who are more the slaves are treated, is furnished by
interested in the production of large the same historian in his account of an
immediate returns, than in the preserinsurrection which occurred in Jamai
vation of the slaves, or the permanent
advantage of their absent employers, *Hist. W. Ind. vol. 2, ch. 5. These overseers are very generally but
little influenced by moral or religious even in very atrocious cases, only considerations; and hence their pas. by a small fine, and imprisonment of a sions are allowed a range, of which the very limited duration. In Barbadoes, poor dependent slaves are often made it is questionable whether the mutilathe victims. Even those who retain a tion of a slave by his owner would be good share of the milk of human kind. punishable at all, or if inflicted on the ncas, must, from the influence of ha slave of another, on any other ground bit, and the frequent sight or know than a civil suit for an injury done to ledge of negro punishments, become
property. less sensitive to the sufferings of this In the United States the all compre. despised and degraded class. The hending doctrine that the slave is the mind, accustomed to sights of wo, be- || property of his master, joined to the comes gradually indurated, until treat general exclusion of negro testimony ment may be viewed as humane and from our legal tribunals, must necessariindulgent, which would once have ly place the fate of the slave, almost en. been contemplated with horror ; es tirely, within the power of his owner. pecially when the sufferers are con The authority to punish, at discretion, sidered as a distinct and inferior race. the offences of the slave, seems natu
In most of the British Islands, the rally to result from the right of ownermurder of a slave has by recent laws ship; and any restriction on the exerbeen declared a capital crime. In Bar cise of that authority, may therefore badoes, however, their latest enact be deemed a virtual denial or limitament on that subject is so cautiously tion of that all-absorbing right. At expressed, as to furnish ground for present, the wilful, malicious, and dedoubt whether the murder of a slave liberate murder of a slave is declared there, can, even at this time, be visited a capital crime in every state of the with any greater punishment than a Union. In some of them, however, pecuniary fine. " If any person shall this general provision is strangely hereafter wilfully, maliciously, wan modified. A law of North Carolina tonly, and without provocation, kill and passed in 1798, enacts, "that if any munder any slave, such person so kill person shall hereafter be guilty of wil. ing and murlering, being duly con- fully and maliciously killing a slave, victed thercof, by the evidence of one such offender shall be adjudged guilor more white person or persons, shall || ty of murder, and suffer the same punsuffer death." There are so many
ishment as if he had killed a freeman. ways in which a slave may proroke, Provided always this act shall not excither by neglect or commission, his tend to the person killing a slave outmaster or overseer, that few convic lawed by virtue of any act of assembly tions, under this law, can be reasona of this state, or to any slave in the act bly expectedl, eren if the kgal proef of resistance to his lawful owner or could be obtained; particularly as the master, or to any slave dying under jury, whose feelings are most likely to moderate correction." A similar law sympathise with the slavehokler than and proviso erist in Lousiana. The with the slave, must be judges of the constitution of Georgia contains a proporvention as well as the murder vision nearly similar, * Any person The mulation of a seare is punishabk, who shall maliciously disakember or
deprive a slave of life, shall suffer such was repealed in 1821, and the punishpunishment as would be inflicted in ment of death prescribed as a substicase the like offence had been com tute for the pecuniary fine; but the mitted on a free white person, except same law reduced the penalty in the in case of insurrection of such slave, latter case, to five hundred dollars, and unless such death should happen with an authorized imprisonment not by accident in giving such slave mode exceeding six months. In the same rate correction.
state the barbarous mutilation of a Whatever credit we may accord to
slave, or the infliction of cruel pun. the humanity of the inhabitants of those ishment, other than by whipping or states, it is difficult to resist the con beating with a horse whip, cowskin, clusion, that if slaves are never sub switch or small stick, or by putting jected to that most terrible of deaths, irons on or confining or imprisoning “dissection of the knotted scourge," such slave is prohibited under a penalthey owe their exemption to some ty of one hundred pounds ($ 4284.) other cause than the protection of law. Where such punishments are specifi. As a proclamation of outlawry against cally admitted, what where the cruel a slave is authorized, “whenever he ties which the law was intended to re: runs away from his master, conceals dress? himself in some obscure retreat, and, In the new civil code of Louisiana, to sustain life, kills a hog or some ani the general principle is enacted, “that mal of the cattle kind," and it has the slave is entirely subject to the will been judicially determined, that it is of his master, who may correct and justifiable to kill a slave, resisting, or chastise him, though not with unioffering to resist his master by force, it sual rigour, nor so as to mutilate or is evident that the protection afforded maim him, or expose him to the danby law to the life of a slave, is of a ve ger of loss of life. If the usual rigour ry slender or questionable character. of this humane provision, is to be estiIf the law should be administered in mated by the law of South Carolina, the spirit which could suggest the above noticed, a law, by the way, belief that moderate correction could which was in force in Louisiana at the cause the death of a slave, the poor time this code was adopted, surely the slave must look for protection, against slave must be in a miserable situation the cruelty of his master, to some to need the protection of such a law. other quarter than the arm of the com In the constitution of Mississippi, monwealth.
power is given to the general assembly In South Carolina the wilful mur to enact laws to oblige the owners of der of a slave, was, by a law of 1740, slaves to treat them with humanitymade punishable by a fine of seven to abstain from all injuries to them exhundred pounds, (3000 dollars,) and tending to life and limb, or in case of incapacity to hold any office within neglect or refusal to comply with the the colony: but the killing of a slave direction of such laws, to have such “ on a sudden heat or passion, or by slave or slaves sold for the benefit of undue correction," was punishable with the owners.
Some essay has been a fine of three hundred and fifty | made to carry into effect the design of pounds. The former part of this law the convention ; but the laws hither.