Slavery in the United States/Chapter 14
I have before observed, that the negroes of the cotton plantations are exceedingly superstitious; and they are indeed, prone, beyond all other people that I have ever known, to believe in ghosts, and the existence of an infinite number of supernatural agents. No story of a miraculous character, can be too absurd to obtain credit with them; and a narrative is not the less eagerly listened to, nor the more cautiously received, because it is impossible in its circumstances. Within a few weeks after the deaths of the two malefactors, to whose horrible crimes were awarded equally horrible punishments, the forest that had been the scene of these bloody deeds, was reported, and believed to be visited at night by beings of unearthly make, whose groans, and death-struggles, were heard in the darkest recesses of the woods, amidst the flapping of the wings of vultures, the fluttering of carrion crows, and the dismal croaking of ravens. In the midst of this nocturnal din, the noise caused by the tearing of the flesh from the bones, was heard, and the panting breath of the agonized sufferer, quivering under the beaks of his tormentors, as they consumed his vitals, floated audibly upon the evening breeze.
The murdered lady was also seen walking by moonlight, near the spot where she had been dragged from her horse, wrapped in a blood-stained mantle; overhung with gory and dishevelled locks.
The little island in the swamp, was said to presenttoo horrible for human eyes to look upon, and sounds were heard to issue from it, which no human ear could bear. Terrific and ghastly fires were seen to burst up, at midnight, amongst the ever-greens that clad this lonely spot, emitting scents too suffocating and sickly to be endured; whilst demoniac yells, shouts of despair and groans of agony, mingled their in the solitude of the woods.
Whilst I remained in this neighbourhood, no coloured person ever travelled this road, alone, after night-fall; and many white men would have ridden ten miles round the country, to avoid the passage of the ridge road, after dark. Generations must pass away, before the tradition of this place will be forgotten; and many a year will open and close, before the last face will be pale, or the last heart beat, as the twilight traveller, skirts the borders of the Murderers' Swamp.
We had allowances of meat distributed to all the people twice this fall—once when we had finished the saving of the fodder, and again soon after the murder of the young lady. The first time we had beef, such as I had driven from the woods when I went to the alligator pond; but now we had two hogs given to us, which weighed, one a hundred and thirty, and the other a hundred and fifty-six pounds. This was very good pork, and I received a pound and a quarter as my share of it. This was the first pork that I had tasted in Carolina, and it afforded a real feast. We had, in our family, full seven pounds of good fat meat; and as we now had plenty of sweet potatoes, both in our gardens and in our weekly allowance, we had on the Sunday following the funeral, as good a dinner of stewed pork and potatoes, as could have been found in all Carolina. We did not eat all our meat on Sunday, but kept part of it until Tuesday, when we warmed it in a pot, with an addition of parsley and other herbs, and had another very comfortable meal.
I had, by this time, become in some measure, acquainted with the country, and began to lay and execute plans to procure supplies of such things as were not allowed me by my master. I understood various methods of entrapping rackoons, and other wild animals that abounded in the large swamps of this country; and besides the skins, which were worth something for their furs, I generally procured as many rackoons, opossums, and rabbits, as afforded us two or three meals in a week. The woman with whom I lived, understood the way of dressing an opossum, and I was careful to provide one for our Sunday dinner every week, so long as these animals continued fat and in good condition.
All the people on the plantation did not live as well as our family did, for many of the men did not understand trapping game, and others were too indolent to go far enough from home to find good places for setting their traps. My principal trapping ground was three miles from home, and I went three times a week, always after night, to bring home my game, and keep my traps in good order. Many of the families in the quarter caught no game, and had no meat, except that which we received from the overseer, which averaged about six or seven meals in the year.
Lydia, the woman whom I have mentioned heretofore, was one of the women whose husbands procured little or nothing for the sustenance of their families, and I often gave her a quarter of a rackoon or a small opossum, for which she appeared very thankful. Her health was not good—she had a bad cough, and often told me, she was feverish and restless at night. It appeared clear to me that this woman's constitution was broken by hardships, and sufferings, and that she could not live long in her present mode of existence. Her husband, a native of a country far in the interior of Africa, said he had been a priest in his own nation, and had never been taught to do any kind of labour, being supported by the contributions of the public; and he now maintained, as far as he could, the same kind of lazy dignity, that he had enjoyed at home. He was compelled by the overseer to work, with the other hands, in the field, but as soon as he had come into his cabin, he took his seat, and refused to give his wife the least assistance in doing any thing. She was consequently obliged to do the little work that it was necessary to perform in the cabin; and also to bear all the labour of weeding and cultivating the family patch or garden. The husband was a morose, sullen man, and said, he formerly had ten wives in his own country, who all had to work for, and wait upon him; and he thought himself badly off here, in having but one woman to do any thing for him. This man was very irritable, and often beat and otherwise maltreated his wife, on the slightest provocation, and the overseer refused to protect her, on the ground, that he never interfered in the family quarrels of the black people. I pitied this woman greatly, but as it was not in my power to remove her from the presence and authority of her husband, I thought it prudent not to say nor do any thing to provoke him further against her. As the winter approached, and the autumnal rains set in, she was frequently exposed in the field, and was wet for several hours together: this, joined to the want of warm and comfortable woollen clothes, caused her to contract colds, and hoarseness, which increased the severity of her cough. A few days before Christmas, her child died, after an illness of only three days. I assisted her and her husband to inter the infant—which was a little boy—and its father buried with it, a small bow and several arrows; a little bag of parched meal; a miniature canoe, about a foot long, and a little paddle, (with which he said it would cross the ocean to his own country) a small stick, with an iron nail, sharpened, and fastened into one end of it; and a piece of white muslin, with several curious and strange figures painted on it in blue and red, by which, he said, his relations and countrymen would know the infant to be his son, and would receive it accordingly, on its arrival amongst them.
Cruel as this man was to his wife, I could not but respect the sentiments which inspired his affection for his child; though it was the affection of a barbarian. He cut a lock of hair from his head, threw it upon the dead infant, and closed the grave with his own hands. He then told us the God of his country was looking at him, and was pleased with what he had done. Thus ended the funeral service.
As we returned home, Lydia told me she was rejoiced that her child was dead, and out of a world in which slavery and wretchedness must have been its only portion. I am now, said she, ready to follow my child, and the sooner I go, the better for me. She went with us to the field until the month of January, when, as we were returning from our work, one stormy and wet evening, she told me she should never pick any more cotton—that her strength was gone, and she could work no more. When we as sembled, at the blowing of the horn, on the following morning, Lydia did not appear. The overseer, who had always appeared to dislike this woman, when he missed her, swore very angrily, and said he supposed she was pretending to be sick, but if she was, he would soon cure her. He then stepped into his house and took some copperas from a little bag, and mixed it with water. I followed him to Lydia's cabin, where he compelled her to drink this solution of copperas. It caused her to vomit violently, and made her exceedingly sick. I think to this day, that this act of the overseer, was the most inhuman of all those that I have seen perpetrated upon defenceless slaves.
Lydia was removed that same day to the sick room, in a state of extreme debility and exhaustion. When she left this room again she was a corpse. Her disease was a consumption of the lungs, which terminated her life early in March. I assisted in carrying her to the grave, which I closed upon her, and covered with green turf. She sleeps by the side of her infant, in a corner of the negro grave-yard, of this plantation. Death was to her a welcome messenger, who came to remove her from toil that she could not support, and from misery that she could not sustain.
Her life had been a morning of pleasure, but a day of bitterness, upon which no sunlight had fallen. Had she known no other mode of existence than that which she saw on this plantation, her lot would have been happiness itself, in comparison with her actual destiny. Trained up as she had been in Maryland, no greater cruelty could have been devised by the malice of her most cunning enemy, than to transfer her from the service, and almost companionship, of an indulgent and affectionate mistress, to the condition in which I saw her, and knew her, in the cotton fields of South Carolina.
In Maryland, it is a custom as widely extended as the state itself, I believe, to give the slaves a week of holidays, at Christmas; and the master, who should attempt to violate this usage, would become an object of derision amongst his neighbours. But I learned, long before Christmas, that the force of custom was not so binding here, as it is farther north. In Maryland, Christmas comes at a season of leisure, when the work of the farm, or the tobacco plantation, is generally closed for the year; and, if a good supply of firewood has been provided, there seems to be but little for the people to do, and a week lost to the master, is a matter of little moment, at a period when the days are short and cold; but in the cotton country, the case is very different.
Christmas comes in the very midst of cotton picking. The richest and best part of the crop has been secured before this period, it is true; but large quantities of cotton still remain in the field, and every pound that can be saved from the winds, or the plough of the next spring, is a gain of its value, to the owner of the estate.
For these reasons, which are very powerful on the side of the master, there is but little Christmas on a large cotton plantation. In lieu of the week of holiday, which formerly prevailed even in Carolina, before cotton was cultivated as a crop, the master now gives the people a dinner of meat, on Christmas-day, and distributes amongst them their annual allowance of winter clothes, on estates where such an allowance is made; and where it is not, some small gratuity supplies its place.
There are cotton planters who give no clothes to their slaves, but expect them to supply themselves with apparel, out of the proceeds of their Sunday labour and nightly earnings. Clothes of a certain quality were given to the people of the estate on which I lived, at the time of which I now speak; but they were not at all sufficient to keep us warm and comfortable in the winter; and the residue, we had to procure for ourselves. In Georgia, I lived three years with one master, and the best master, too, that I ever had in the south, who never gave me any clothes during that period, except an old great coat, and a pair of boots.—I shall have occasion to speak of him hereafter.
As Christmas of the year 1805, approached, we were all big with hope of obtaining three or four days, at least, if not a week of holiday; but when the day at length arrived, we were sorely disappointed, for on Christmas eve, when we had come from the field, with our cotton, the overseer fell into a furious passion, and swore at us all for our laziness, and many other bad qualities. He then told us that he had intended to give us three days, if we had worked well, but that we had been so idle, and had left so much cotton yet to be picked in the field, that he found it impossible to give us more than one day; but that he would go to the house, and endeavour to procure a meat dinner for us, and a dram in the morning. Accordingly, on the next morning, we received a dram of peach brandy, for each person; and two hogs, weighing together more than three hundred, were slaughtered and divided amongst us.
I went to the field and picked cotton all day, for which I was paid by the overseer, and at night I had a good dinner of stewed pork and sweet potatoes.-—Such were the beginning and end of my first Christmas, on a cotton plantation. We went to work as usual the next morning, and continued our labour through the week, as if Christmas had been stricken from the calender. I had already saved and laid by a little more than ten dollars in money, but part of it had been given to me at the funeral. I was now much in want of clothes, none having been given me since I came here. I had, at the commencement of the cold weather, cut up my old blanket, and, with the aid of Lydia, who was a very good seamstress, converted it into a pair of trousers, and a long roundabout jacket; but this deprived me of my bed, which was imperfectly supplied by mats, which I made of rushes. The mats were very comfortable things to lie upon, but they were by no means equal to blankets for covering.
A report had been current amongst us, for some time, that there would be a distribution of clothes, to the people, at new-year's-day; but how much, or what kind of clothes we were to get, no one pretended to know, except that we were to get shoes, in conformity to a long-established rule of this plantation. From Christmas to new-year, appeared a long week to me, and I have no doubt that it appeared yet longer to some of my fellow-slaves, most of whom were entirely barefoot. I had made mockasins for myself, of the skins of squirrels, that I had caught in my traps, and by this means protected my feet from the frost, which was sometimes very heavy and sharp, in the morning.
On the first day of January, when we met at the blowing of the morning horn, the overseer told us, we must all proceed to the great house, where we were to receive our winter clothes; and surely, no order was ever more willingly obeyed. When we arrived at the house, our master was up, and we were all called into the great court yard in front of the dwelling. The overseer now told us, that shoes would be given to all those who were able to go to the field, to pick cotton. This deprived of shoes, the children, and several old persons, whose eye-sight was not sufficiently clear, to enable them to pick cotton. A new blanket was then given to every one above seven years of age—children under seven, received no blanket, being left to be provided for by their parents. Children of this age, and under, go entirely naked, in the day-time, and sleep with their mothers at night, or are wrapped up together, in such bedding as the mother may possess. Children under seven years of age are of little use in picking cotton, and it is not supposed that their labour can repay the expense of clothing them in a manner to fit them to go to the field—they are, therefore, suffered to remain in the house or quarter, without clothes, from October to April. In summer they do not require clothes, and can perform such work as they are able to do, as well without garments as with them.
At the time we received our shoes, and blankets, there was not a good shirt in our quarter—but all the men, and women, had provided themselves with some sort of woollen clothes, out of their own savings. Woollen stuff, for a petticoat and short-gown, had also been given, before Christmas, to each of the women who were mothers of small children, or in such a condition as to render it certain, that they must, in a short time, become so. Many of the women could pick as much cotton as a man; and any good hand could earn sixty cents, by picking cotton on Sunday—the overseer paying us punctually for all the cotton we brought in, on Sunday evening. Besides this, a good hand could always, in a fine day, pick more cotton than was required to be brought home, as a day's work. I could not pick as much in a day, as some of the others, by four or five pounds; but I could generally carry home as much beyond the day's work, or task, as it is called, as entitled me to receive from five to ten cents every evening, from the overseer. This money was punctually paid every Saturday night; and in some weeks I cleared, in this way, as high as fifty cents, over and above what I earned on Sunday. One of the men cleared to himself, including his Sunday work, two dollars a week, for several weeks; and his savings, on this entire crop of cotton, were thirty-one dollars—but he was a first-rate cotton picker, and worked late and early. One of the women cleared twenty-six dollars to herself, in the same way. We were expected to clothe ourselves with these, and our other extra earnings; but some of the people performed no more work, through the week, than their regular task, and would not work constantly on Sunday. Such were not able to provide themselves with good clothes; and many of them suffered greatly from the cold, in the course of the winter. When the weather was mild and pleasant, some of the children, who were not required to go to the field, to do a day's work, would go out, in the warmest part of the day, and pick a few pounds of cotton, for which their parents received pay, and were obliged, in return, to find the children in bedding for the winter.
A man can plant and cultivate more cotton plants, than he is afterwards able to pick the wool from, if the season is good, and no disaster befalls the crop. Here every effort is made, from the commencement of the picking season until its close, to procure as much work as possible from the hands; and, spite of all that can be done, much cotton is lost—the people not being able to pick it all from the stalks, before the field is ploughed up to prepare the ground for the reception of the seeds of a new crop. In such cases, every pound that the hands can be induced to pick, beyond their daily task, is a clear gain to the master; and slaves often leave the fields of their masters, where the cotton is nearly all gathered, and the picking is poor, to go to the field of some neighbouring planter, where the cotton is more abundant, to work on Sunday. It is a matter of indifference to the slave, whether his master gets his cotton all picked or not; his object is to get employment in a field where he can make the best wages. In such cases, the masters often direct the overseers to offer their own slaves one half as much as the cotton is worth, for each pound they will pick on Sunday—and this, for the purpose of preventing them from going to some other field, to work on that day.
The usual price only, is paid for extra cotton, picked on working days; for after a hand has picked his task, he would not have time to go anywhere else to work; nor indeed, would he be permitted to leave his plantation. The slave is a kind of freeman on Sunday all over the southern country; and it is in truth, by the exercise of his liberty on this day, that he is enabled to provide himself and his family, with many of the necessaries of life that his master refuses to supply him with.
It is altogether impossible, to make a person residing in any of the middle or northern states of the Union, and who has never been in the south, throughly acquainted with all the minute particulars of the life of a slave on a cotton plantation; or to give him an idea of the system of parsimonious economy, that the slave is obliged to exercise and maintain in his little household. Poor as the slave is, and dependant at all times upon the arbitrary will of his master, or yet more fickle caprice of the overseer, his children look up to him in his little cabin, as their protector and supporter. There is always in every cabin, except in times of scarcity, after there has been a failure of the corn crop, a sufficient supply of either corn bread or sweet potatoes; and either of these, is sufficient to give health and vigour to children, who are not required to do any work; but a person who is grown up, and is obliged to labour hard, finds either bread or potatoes, or even both together, quite inadequate to sustain the body in the full and powerful tone of muscular action, that more generous food would bestow. A mother will imagine the painful feelings experienced by a parent, in the cabin of a slave, when a small portion of animal food is procured, dressed and made ready for the table. The father and mother know, that it is not only food, but medicine to them, and their appetites keenly court the precious morsel; whilst the children, whose senses are all acute, seem to be indued with taste and smell in a tenfold degree, and manifest a ravenous craving for fresh meat, which it is painful to witness, without being able to gratify it.
During the whole of this fall and winter, we usually had something to roast, at least twice a week, in our cabin. These roasts were rackoons, opossums, and other game—the proceeds of my trapping. All the time the meat was hanging at the fire, as well as while it was on the table, our house was surrounded by the children of our fellow-slaves; some begging for a piece, and all expressing, by their eager countenances, the keen desire they felt to partake with us of our dainties. It was idle to think of sharing with them, the contents of our board; for they were often thirty or forty in number; and the largest rackoon would scarcely have made a mouthful for each of them. There was one little boy, four years old, a very fine little fellow, to whom I had become warmly attached; and who used to share with me in all the good things I possessed. He was of the same age with my own little son, whom I had left in Maryland; and there was nothing that I possessed in the world, that I would not have divided with him, even to my last crust.
It may well be supposed, that in our society, although we were all slaves, and all nominally in a condition of the most perfect equality, yet there was in fact a very great difference in the manner of living, in the several families. Indeed, I doubt, if there is as great a diversity in the modes of life, in the several families of any white village in New-York, or Pennsylvania, containing a population of three hundred persons, as there was in the several households of our quarter. This may be illustrated by the following circumstance: Before I came to reside in the family with whom I lived at this time, they seldom tasted animal food, or even fish, except on meat-days, as they were called; that is, when meat was given to the people by the overseer, under the orders of our master. The head of the family was a very quiet, worthy man; but slothful and inactive in his habits. When he had come from the field at night, he seldom thought of leaving the cabin again before morning. He would, and did, make baskets and mats, and earned some money by these means; he also did his regular day's work on Sunday; but all his acquirements were not sufficient to enable him to provide any kind of meat for his family. All that his wife and children could do, was to provide him with work at his baskets and mats; and they lived even then better than some of their neighbours. After I came among them and had acquired some knowledge of the surrounding country, I made as many baskets and mats as he did; and took time to go twice a week to look at all my traps.
As the winter passed away and spring approached, the proceeds of my hunting began to diminish. The game became scarce, and both rackoons and opossums grew poor and worthless. It was necessary for me to discover some new mode of improving the allowance allotted to me by the overseer. I had all my life been accustomed to fishing, in Maryland, and I now resolved to resort to the water for a living; the land having failed to furnish me a comfortable subsistence. With these views, I set out one Sunday morning, early in February, and went to the river at a distance of three miles from home. From the appearance of the stream, I felt confident that it must contain many fish; and I went immediately to work to make a weir. With the help of an axe that I had with me, I had finished, before night, the frame work of a weir of pine sticks, lashed together with white oak splits. I had no canoe, but made a raft of dry logs, upon which I went to a suitable place in the river, and set my weir. I afterwards made a small net of twine, that I bought at the store; and on next Thursday night I took as many fish from my weir as filled a half bushel measure. This was a real treasure—it was the most fortunate circumstance that had happened with me since I came to the country.
I was enabled to show my generosity; but, like all mankind, even in my liberality, I kept myself in mind. I gave a large fish to the overseer, and took three more to the great house. These were the first fresh fish that had been in the family this season; and I was much praised by my master and young mistresses, for my skill and success in fishing; but this was all the advantage I received from this effort to court the favour of the great:—I did not even get a dram. The part I had performed in the detection of the murderers of the young lady was forgotten; or, at least, not mentioned now. I went away from the house, not only disappointed, but chagrined, and thought with myself, that if my master and young mistresses had nothing but words to give me for my fish, we should not carry on a very large traffic.
On next Sunday morning, a black boy came from the house, and told me that our master wished to see me. This summons was not to be disobeyed. When I returned to the mansion, I went round to the kitchen, and sent word by one of the house-slaves, that I had come. The servant returned and told me, that I was to stay in the kitchen and get my breakfast; and after that, to come into the house. A very good breakfast was sent to me from my master's table, after the family had finished their morning meal; and when I had done with my repast, I went into the parlour. I was received with great affability by my master, who told me he had sent for me to know if I had been accustomed to fish in the place I had come from. I informed him, that I had been employed at a fishery on the Patuxent, every spring, for several years; and that I thought I understood fishing with a seine, as well as most people. He then asked me, if I could knit a seine; to which I replied in the affirmative. After some other questions, he told me, that as the picking of cotton was nearly over for this season, and the fields must soon be ploughed up for a new crop, he had a thought of having a seine made; and of placing me at the head of a fishing party, for the purpose of trying to take a supply of fish for his hands. No communication could have been more unexpected than this was, and it was almost as pleasing to me as it was unexpected by me. I now began to hope that there would be some respite from the labours of the cotton field, and that I should not be doomed to drag out a dull and monotonous existence, within the confines of the enclosures of the plantation.
In Maryland, the fishing season was always one of hard labour, it is true; but also a time of joy and hilarity. We then had, throughout the time of fishing, plenty of bread, and at least, bacon enough to fry our fish with. We had also a daily allowance of whiskey, or brandy, and we always considered ourselves fortunate when we left the farm to go to the fishery.
A few days after this, I was again sent for by my master, who told me, that he had bought twine and ropes for a seine; and that I must set to work and knit it as quickly as possible; that as he did not wish the twine to be taken to the quarter, I must remain with the servants in the kitchen, and live with them whilst employed in constructing the seine. I was assisted in making the seine by a black boy, whom I had taught to work with me; and by the end of two weeks we had finished our job.
While at work on this seine, I lived rather better than I had formerly done, when residing at the quarter. We received amongst us—twelve in number, including the people who worked in the garden—the refuse of our master's table. In this way we procured a little cold meat every day; and when there were many strangers visiting the family, we sometimes procured considerable quantities of cold and broken meats.
My new employment afforded me a better opportunity, than I had hitherto possessed, of making correct observations upon the domestic economy of my master's household, and of learning the habits and modes of life of the persons who composed it. On a great cotton plantation, such as this of my master's, the field hands, who live in the quarter, are removed so far from the domestic circle of their master's family, by their servile condition and the nature of their employment, that they know but little more of the transactions within the walls of the great house, than if they lived ten miles off. Many a slave has been born, lived to old age, and died on a plantation, without ever having been within the walls of his master's domicil.
My master was a widower; and his house was in charge of his sister, a maiden lady, apparently of fifty-five or sixty. He had six children, three sons and three daughters, and all unmarried; but only one of the sons was at home, at the time I came upon the estate; the other two were in some of the northern cities: the one studying medicine, and the other at college. At the time of knitting the twine, these young gentlemen had returned, on a visit, to their relations, and all the brothers and sisters were now on the place. The young ladies were all grown up, and marriageable; their father was known to be a man of great wealth; and the girls were reputed very pretty in Carolina; one of them, the second of the three, was esteemed a great beauty.
The reader might deem my young mistress' pretty face and graceful person, altogether impertinent to the narrative of my own life; but they had a most material influence upon my fortunes, and changed the whole tenor of my existence. Had she been less beautiful, or of a temper less romantic and adventurous, I should still have been a slave in South Carolina, if yet alive, and the world would have been saved the labour of perusing these pages.
Any one at all acquainted with southern manners, will at once see that my master's house possessed attractions which would not fail to draw within it numerous visiters; and that the head of such a family as dwelt under its roof was not likely to be without friends.
I had not been at work upon the seine a week before I discovered, by listening to the conversation of my master, and the other members of the family, that they prided themselves not a little, upon the antiquity of their house, and the long practice of a generous hospitality to strangers, and to all respectable people, who chose to visit their homestead. All circumstances seemed to conspire to render this house one of the chief seats of the fashion, the beauty, the wit, and the gallantry of South Carolina. Scarcely an evening came but it brought a carriage, and ladies and gentlemen, and their servants; and every day brought dashing young planters, mounted on horseback, to dine with the family; but Sunday was the day of the week on which the house received the greatest accession of company. My master and family were members of the Episcopal Church, and attended service every Sunday, when the weather was fine, at a church eight miles distant. Each of my young masters and mistresses had a saddle-horse, and in pleasant weather, they frequently all went to church on horseback, leaving my old master and mistress to occupy the family carriage alone. I have seen fifteen or twenty young people come to my master's for dinner, on Sunday from church; and very often the parson, a young man of handsome appearance, was amongst them. I had observed these things long before, but now I had come to live at the house, and became more familiar with them. Three Sundays intervened while I was at work upon the seine, and on each of these Sundays more than twenty persons, besides the family, dined at my master's. During these three weeks, my young masters were absent far the greater part of the time; but I observed that they generally came home on Sunday for dinner. My young mistresses were not from home much, and I believe they never left the plantation unless either their father or some one of their brothers was with them. Dinner parties were frequent in my master's house; and on these occasions of festivity, a black man, who belonged to a neighbouring estate, and who played the violin, was sent for. I observed that whenever this man was sent for, he came, and sometimes even came before night, which appeared a little singular to me, as I knew the difficulty that coloured people had to encounter in leaving the estate to which they were attached. I felt curious to ascertain how it happened, that Peter (that was the name of the fiddler,) enjoyed such privileges and contrived to become acquainted with him, when he came to get his supper in the kitchen. He informed me that his master was always ready to let him go to a ball; and would permit him to leave the cotton field at any time for that purpose, and even lend him a horse to ride. I afterwards learned from this man, that his master compelled him to give him half the money that he received as gratuities from the gentlemen for whom he played at the dinner parties; but as his master had enjoined him, under pain of being whipped, not to divulge this circumstance, I never betrayed the poor fellow's confidence. Peter's master was a planter, who owned thirty slaves, and his children (several of whom were young ladies and gentlemen) moved in highly respectable circles of society; but I believe my master's family did not treat them as quite their equals; not so much on account of their inferiority in point of wealth, as because they were new in the country, having only been settled here but a few years, and the master of Peter having, when a young man, acted as overseer on a rice plantation near Charleston.