On the pages where the daily incidents of the plantation were recorded, I frequently discovered entries that illustrated the “peculiar institution.” Some of them read thus:—
June 5th. Whipped Harry and Sarah to-day, because they didn’t keep up their rows. July 7th. Aleck ran away to the woods, because I threatened to whip him.
July 9th. Got Mr. Hall’s dogs and hunted Aleck. Didn’t find him. Think he is in the swamp back of Brandon’s.
July 12th. Took Aleck out of Vidalia jail. Paid $4.50 for jail fees. Put him in the stocks when we got home.
July 30th. Moses died this morning. Charles and Henry buried him. His wife was allowed to keep out of the field until noon.
August 10th. Sent six mules and four negroes down to the lower plantation. They will come back to-morrow.
September 9th. John said he was sick this morning, but I made him go to the field. They brought him in before noon. He has a bad fever. Am afraid he won’t be able to go out again soon.
September 20th. Whipped Susan, because she didn’t pick as much cotton as she did yesterday.
September 29th. Put William in the stocks and kept him till sunset, for telling Charles he wanted to run away.
October 8th. William and Susan want to be married. Told them I should not allow it, but they might live together if they wanted to.
(The above memorandum was explained to me by one of the negroes. The owner of the plantation did not approve of marriages, because they were inconvenient in case it was desired to sell a portion of the working force.)
October 1st. Took an inventory of the negroes and stock. Their value is about the same as when the last inventory was taken.
December 3d. Finished picking. Gave the negroes half a holiday.
Nearly every day’s entry shows the character and amount of work performed. Thus we have:—
February 10th. Fifteen plows running, five hands piling logs, four hands ditching, six hands in trash-gang.
In the planting, hoeing, and picking seasons, the result of the labor was recorded in the same manner. Whippings were more or less frequent, according to the character of the overseer. Under one overseer I found that whippings were rare. Under other overseers they were of common occurrence.
The individual who prepared the “Plantation Record” for the publishers, gave, in addition to directions for its use, instructions for the overseer’s general conduct.
I copy them below, preserving the author’s language throughout.
THE DUTIES OF AN OVERSEER.
It is here supposed that the overseer is not immediately under his employer’s eye, but is left for days or weeks, perhaps months, to the exercise of his own judgment in the management of the plantation. To him we would say—