Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/531

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
515
THE TRANSPLANTATION OF A RACE.

been no distinct difference in their tolerance of the climate in any part of this varied district. There are still negroes in the maritime provinces who are said to be the descendants of those who came upon the ground certainly more than a century ago. They are good specimens of their stock. So, too, along the New England coast and in New York there is a sufficient number of the progeny of those once held as slaves to make it clear that the failure to become a considerable part of the population in that district is not due to any incapacity to withstand the climate. The failure of the negro to increase in this field can be accounted for in other ways—by the effects of race prejudice, nowhere stronger than in this part of the country, and by the vice and misery that overtake a despised lower class.

It early became evident that slavery was to be of no permanent economic advantage to any part of the colonies within the glaciated district, say from central New Jersey northward. In that portion of the coastal belt the state of the surface and the character of the crops alike tended to make the ownership of slaves unprofitable. The farms were necessarily small. They became in a natural way establishments worked by the head of the house, with the help of his children. Such other help as was needed was, in the course of two generations, readily had from hired white men and women. It was otherwise in the tobacco-planting region to the southward. The cultivation of that plant, to meet the extraordinary demands that Europe made for it, gave slavery its chance to become established in this country. But for that industry the institution would most likely have taken but slight root, and the territory as far south as North Carolina would have been in social order not very different from Pennsylvania, New York, and the New England settlements. But, owing to some peculiar, as yet unrecognized, adjustments of climate and soil, tobacco for pipes has a quality when grown in the Virginia district such as it has nowhere else in the world, and the world turned to smoking it with a disregard for expense that made each laborer in the field worth some hundred dollars a year. Moreover, the production of good tobacco requires much care, which extends over about a year from the time the seed is planted. Some parts of the work demand a measure of judgment such as intelligent negroes readily acquire. They are indeed better fitted for the task than white men, for they are commonly more interested in their tasks than whites of the laboring class. The result was that before the period of the Revolution slavery was firmly established in the tobacco-planting colonies of Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. It was already the foundation of their only considerable industry.