On the first plantation, the negroes are wasteful of their supplies, as they are not liable for any part of their cost. They are inclined to be idle, as their share in the division will not be materially affected by the loss of a few days’ labor. On the second they are less wasteful and more industrious, but the distance of the day of payment is not calculated to develop notions of strict economy. On the third they generally display great frugality, and are far more inclined to labor than on the other plantations.
The reason is apparent. On the first plantation their condition is not greatly changed from that of slavery, except in the promise of compensation and the absence of compulsory control. In the last case they are made responsible both for their labor and expenses, and are learning how to care for themselves as freemen.
RULES AND REGULATIONS UNDER THE OLD AND NEW SYSTEMS.
The Plantation Record.—Its Uses.—Interesting Memoranda.—Dogs, Jail, and Stocks.—Instructions to the Overseer.—His Duties and Responsibilities.—The Order of General Banks.—Management of Plantations in the Department of the Gulf.—The two Documents Contrasted.—One of the Effects of “an Abolition War.”
Nearly every planter in the South required the manager of his plantation to keep a record of all events of importance. Books were prepared by a publishing house in New Orleans, with special reference to their use by overseers. These books had a blank for every day in the year, in which the amount and kind of work performed were to be recorded by the overseer. There were blanks for noting the progress during the picking season, and the amount picked by each person daily. There were blanks for monthly and yearly inventories of stock, tools, etc., statements of supplies received and distributed, lists of births and deaths (there were no blanks for marriages), time and amount of shipments of cotton, and for all the ordinary business of a plantation. In the directions for the use of this book, I found the following:—
“On the pages marked I, the planter himself will make a careful record of all the negroes upon the plantation, stating their ages as nearly as possible, and their cash value, at the commencement of the year. At the close, he will again enter their individual value at that time, adding the year’s increase, and omitting those that may have died. The difference can then be transferred to the balance-sheet. The year’s crop is chargeable with any depreciation in the value of the negroes, occasioned by overwork and improper management, in the effort, perhaps, to make an extra crop independent of every other consideration. On the other hand, should the number of children have greatly increased during the year; the strength and usefulness of the old been sustained by kind treatment and care; the youngsters taught to be useful, and, perhaps, some of the men instructed in trades and the women in home manufactures, the increased value of the entire force will form a handsome addition to the side of profits.”