On the Savannah and the Peedee, 1822-1860: A Comparative Study of Material Conditions for Slaves on the Chicora Wood Rice Plantation of Robert F. W. Allston and the Silver Bluff Cotton Plantation of James H. Hammond
J. Congress Mbata
Thesis DT 3.5 1977 M998
vii, 165 leaves: maps; 29 cm.
This study explores the material conditions for slaves on two South Carolina plantations: the Chicora Wood rice plantation of Robert F.W. Allston and the Silver Bluff cotton plantation of James H. Hammond. Several historians have offered "improved" material conditions as a reason for the decline in overt black resistance in period in the period before the Civil War. The author of this study identified several indexes to examine the material conditions for slaves on these plantation: clothing, diet, food, housing, medical care and leisure time.
The data for this study was gleaned, for the most part, from the plantation papers of Robert F.W. Allston and James H. Hammond. The information revealed in these sources was analyzed along with information on material conditions for slaves as presented by Herbert Aptheker, John Blassingame, Stanley Elkins, Robert W. Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman, Eugene D. Genovese and U.B. Phillips.
Slavery in the colony that was later to become the state of South Carolina was a major force from the days of its founding. Primarily a system of forced labor, it was also a police system. The police system was deemed necessary by slaveholders for many reasons, specifically because blacks constituted a majority of the population in South Carolina throughout the age of plantation slavery. The two planters chosen for this study were both affluent members of the planting gentry with large slaveholdings and active in the political life of the state. The two plantations, one rice and one cotton, were chosen to determine to what degree, if any, the staple crop of a plantation influenced the treatment of the slaves who resided there.
The rice plantation of Robert F.W. Allston was located in the rice planting district of South Carolina. Allston's slaves were assigned work in rice cultivation under the task system of labor. The material conditions of slaves on plantations with absentee owners like Allston suffered from discrepancies between the directives of the planter and the actual practice as performed by the overseer. James H. Hammond, basically a first generation South Carolinian, planted cotton on the Savannah River in Barnwell District. Daily cotton plantation activities under the gang system of labor are elucidated in a plantation manual, "Views on Agriculture", written by J.H. Hammond's son, Edward Spann Hammond.
The author has found little evidence in the plantation journals, account books and diaries of Robert F.W. Allston and James H. Hammond to suggest that the material conditions of their bondsmen were improving on the eve the Civil War. Plantation slavery was not a static institution and cannot be viewed as such. Both of the plantation manuals used extensively in this study were written near the end of the period covered. Fragmentary information that was gleaned from earlier journals and account books would not substantiate a claim of major improvements. Minor improvements that might have occurred can be attributed to the natural order of any era over time and not to any conscious efforts of the planters.